Government documents reveal money can open restricted NZ borders

STUFF

The decision to let the Avatar crew into New Zealand has irked those unable to get loved ones home.

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Money can’t buy you love but it may help grease the rusty hinges of New Zealand’s borders.

Government briefing documents released amid New Zealand’s post-Covid immigration quagmire show that those wanting an exemption to enter New Zealand look set to get an easier ride if they earn a salary of $106,000 – twice New Zealand’s average wage – or more.

The documents, compiled by officials, tell Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway and Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford that there is a need to clarify just what an “other essential worker” is.

So-called “other essential workers” so far given exemptions to enter New Zealand, while borders are largely closed amid the Covid-19 pandemic, include workers for two films, including the Avatar sequels, a mushroom expert, critical infrastructure workers, a specialist veterinarian, and those delivering a naval vessel.

READ MORE:
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Coronavirus: Government makes changes to border exemptions, plans phased approach for re-opening

Officials have now proposed that essential workers could be put into two groups – workers here less than six months and those here longer.

Those planning to stay longer than six months would have to fit one of three criteria.

Top of that list was that they earned at least twice New Zealand’s average wage – at least $106,000 per year. The wage was an indicator of “high skills”, the documents say.

Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford has been told that those earning twice the average wage should have an eaiser path into NZ.
DOM THOMAS/RNZ
Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford has been told that those earning twice the average wage should have an eaiser path into NZ.

They could also be granted exemptions if their role was essential for government-associated science projects, or essential for a government-approved major event.

The documents further revealed government officials were reviewing criteria to ensure high-value workers were not being kept out.

“We will also consider how border exemptions could apply to high-value investors and our trade obligations related to the entry of business people into New Zealand.”

They outlined the criteria that those wanting short-term exemptions would need to meet.

Sheryn and Charles Scanlan can not be reunited until Immigration NZ lets him into New Zealand.
SUPPLIED/STUFF
Sheryn and Charles Scanlan can not be reunited until Immigration NZ lets him into New Zealand.

They needed to have a “unique experience and technical or specialist skills” such as having a key role in a film, an Antarctic specialist, or a yacht designer for an America’s Cup team.

They could also get in for a project that was “significant” – such as a $100m-plus infrastructure project, and the project would be stopped or severely compromised if they were not allowed in.

That will likely be of little help to Masterton woman Sheryn Scanlan’s 81-year-old husband Charles, who is stuck in England, with Immigration New Zealand not allowing him to change his visa to allow him to join his family.

Scanlan was upset that the Government seemed to be going to great lengths to allow essential workers into the country but was happy to continue to keep families split apart.

“It makes me feel very angry because surely people come first.”

Charles Scanlan, a UK citizen, had plans to join his Kiwi wife and adult daughter in New Zealand in March but was stopped at Heathrow Airport the day we closed our borders.

Sheryn and Rachel Scanlan of Masterton can't understand why Immigration NZ won't let husband and father Charles Scanlan into the country.
PIERS FULLER/STUFF
Sheryn and Rachel Scanlan of Masterton can’t understand why Immigration NZ won’t let husband and father Charles Scanlan into the country.

Sheryn Scanlan said it was not just a fairness issue, but in her husband’s case, a welfare concern as he was rapidly losing weight and his isolation in coronavirus-ravaged UK was affecting his mental health.

“They’ve got to be fair across the board. He’s all on his own and I’m really concerned for his health.”

An Immigration NZ spokeswoman said the changes to border exceptions, that were announced on Friday, came into effect the end of this week. Some changes to maritime border rules would come into effect later in June.

Lees-Galloway replied that the “‘other essential worker’ category is focused on those roles that can have a significant economic benefit to New Zealand, where a New Zealander is not available.

“The salary is an indicator of the level of skills required,” he said. “The vast majority of people allowed in on border exceptions are families reuniting, humanitarian and health workers – around 90 percent at present. These exceptions are not linked to salary.”

Stuff

Green MP Golriz Ghahraman smiles in photo alongside Rwandan convicted for inciting genocide

Green MP Golriz Ghahraman pictured with Rwandan singer-songwriter Simon Bikindi, who was convicted of inciting genocide in his country.
SUPPLIED
Green MP Golriz Ghahraman pictured with Rwandan singer-songwriter Simon Bikindi, who was convicted of inciting genocide in his country.

OPINION: Simon Bikindi is a singer-songwriter who composed songs inciting Hutu to slaughter their Tutsi neighbours during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

He was duly convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), but not before he enjoyed the services of a volunteer intern, now a member of the New Zealand Parliament, who has portrayed herself as a champion of human rights.

The photo of the two of them beaming at the camera has sent shockwaves through the Rwandan Twittersphere.

Golriz Ghahraman at the defence table (left).
TWITTER/GOLRIZ GHAHRAMAN
Golriz Ghahraman at the defence table (left).

“This picture of a laughing genocidaire and his apologist,” Serge Kamuhinda tweeted from Kigali “just shows how vigilant we all have to be for evil will find friends”.

“This whole picture is disgusting” said another.

It rightly horrifies Rwandans that a New Zealand politician didn’t simply work for war criminals, but went out of her way to do so as a volunteer.

Not, mind you, volunteering to build homes for widows and orphans. Not working with Rwandan law firms to help build capacity in human rights law. Not spending one moment in the presence of the families whose loved ones were slaughtered at the behest of her clients.

Instead, she chose to use her time as a volunteer in Africa defending some of the worst criminals of the latter part of last century.

A free agent, Golriz Ghahraman is entitled to make that choice, just as we are entitled to assess her suitability for public office as a result.

Before the Greens deploy their troll army, I need to stress that, of course, accused war criminals deserve legal representation – a straw man rebuttal if I’ve ever seen one – and, at the ICTR, they had the best our money could buy.

The UN spent $2 billion during the life of the tribunal. They had 200 accredited lawyers. By the end, there were only 61 convictions – or $32 million a pop.

The notion that the ICTR was under-resourced, as Ghahraman claimed in the NZ Herald on Monday, is laughable.

As with most UN edifices, the ICTR is famously well-appointed.

What’s more absurd is the contention that Ghahraman played any notable role at all.

Facebook posts literally describe her as a “volunteer intern”.

I cannot stress enough how troublesome these choices were.

The genocide in Rwanda took place over 100 days, beginning on April 7th, a day after the plane carrying former Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana crashed near Kigali Airport.

It had been struck by a missile that French ballistics experts concluded came from the Hutu Power barracks nearby.

It was an inside job by extremists alarmed at Habyarimana’s willingness to negotiate with the Tutsi forces known as the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA).

From hours after the plane was struck, Hutu propagandists began to spread the theory that it was the RPA who shot down the plane.

Despite being thoroughly discredited, this theory lies at the heart of genocide denial.

Denial doesn’t mean people refuse to accept killings occurred, but it usually takes the form of victim-blaming and muddying the historical waters so outside observers conclude each side is as bad as the other.

That was the precise strategy employed by the defence at the ICTR.

Their whole case hinged on historical revisionism, which is widely accepted by experts in the field as a form of genocide denial or diminution.

Why would Ghahraman work a case predicated on such an errant view of history?

There are clues to her thinking.

Ghahraman co-authored a paper with another lawyer, Peter Robinson, that revisited this same dark, debunked conspiracy theory.

Shooting down the plane “may have been a war crime” committed by the liberating Tutsi forces, she wrote.

Turning victims into perpetrators is Exhibit A in the genocide denial playbook and Rwanda is no exception.

Ghahraman has consistently referenced her work as a human rights lawyer in such a way that audiences would naturally assume her work was with victims and survivors. In both Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, this was not the case.

Until a month after the NZ election, Ghahraman’s Wikipedia entry claimed outright that she worked for the prosecution in both Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

The claim has also found its way into some media puff pieces. But it is a bald-faced lie, and a revealing lie as well.

It makes clear Ghahraman understood the political risks inherent in telling the truth.

Her Greens’ website profile says this: “Golriz has lived and worked in Africa, The Hague and Cambodia putting on trial world leaders for abusing their power, and restoring communities after war and human rights atrocities, particularly empowering women engaged in peace and justice initiatives.”

Admittedly, this will get you elected, whereas “Golriz worked in The Hague and Arusha to voluntarily assist in the defence of war criminals” will not.

There are three issues here.

First off, the fact she opted to spend a year defending mass-murderers when she was under no obligation to do so, and was clearly not required given the stupendous resources available to the ICTR.

Second, her willingness to collaborate with known genocide deniers like Peter Robinson to write papers that attempt to rewrite history and cast aspersion on the victims.

And, thirdly – and politically the most risky for her – she has established a pattern of embellishment and self-aggrandisement that is bound to curtail what might have been a promising career.

A critic on Twitter claimed I was opening old wounds by discussing the genocide.

Aside from reflecting a bizarre sense of what is likely to be offensive to Rwandans, it shows how little most Kiwis understand the great sensitivities that surround post-genocide reconciliation.

If wounds were opened, it wasn’t by me. And Rwandans are nothing if not vigilant when it comes to tackling genocide denial whenever it raises its head, as the flurry of outrage on my Twitter feed attests.

I lived and worked in Rwanda for three years, and I’ve been pushing back against genocide denial ever since.

If my life has a purpose, this is it. So I acknowledge my own bias when I say that Ghahraman should resign – for embellishing her credentials, lying about her prosecutorial role, collaborating with deniers, as well as showing the appalling judgment to spend months interning for mass killers.

But I concede most Kiwis won’t see the need for such extreme action.

At the very least, however, Ghahraman’s much-vaunted virtue has taken a well-deserved hit.

If I were her, I would take some time to read and reflect on the experiences of people like my good friend and former colleague Noel who lost every single member of his extended family in the genocide – and only survived because he was disguised in girl’s clothes.

Today he is married with a beautiful child.

Noel is full of optimism for his future, and the country’s. After all, life expectancy has doubled since the genocide, communicable diseases are on the run, extreme poverty levels have dipped sharply and economic growth is lifting millions into the middle class.

But he will never forget what happened to him and his family, or forgive those who make excuses for it – or, worse, use their limited time on Earth to help killers and not their victims.

* Phil Quin is a former Labour Party staffer. He ran a public sector project in Rwanda between 2012 and 2015, during which time he worked on the 20th commemoration of the genocide against the Tutsis.

It’s important to understand what drives the prime minister

To understand the idealogical beliefs of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern we can look back to her time as president of the International Union of Socialist Youth, writes Steve Elers.

OPINION: It is important to understand political ideologies because they provide a lens into the underpinning beliefs and values that guide political goals and decision-making.

We would be fools to believe political decisions are primarily evidence based. Given we are facing what is likely to be many years of economic turmoil and hardship, the political ideology of our Government needs to be laid bare so we can gain insights into what a post-Covid-19 New Zealand economy might look like.

Arguably, the Government revolves around Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern – she calls the shots.

It’s a fair assumption to suggest that at the time of entering Parliament, an MP’s political views and beliefs are set and are the motivation to enter politics in the first place. Accordingly, to understand Ardern’s political ideology it is important to revisit 2008, when she entered Parliament as a Labour list-MP.

Earlier in 2008 Ardern was elected president of the International Union of Socialist Youth. In early 2009, just two months after becoming an MP, Ardern presided over the union’s World Council annual meeting in her capacity as president.

Official records of that meeting give us insights into Ardern’s political ideology. For example, the meeting documents state the aim of the union is to “defend and spread our core socialist principles”.

The 2009 union meeting is relevant not just because Ardern was president, but because the official resolutions outlined “progressive answers to the financial crisis” – aka the global financial crisis or GFC. Given Ardern and her comrades had “progressive answers to the financial crisis”, those answers might now be used to guide us through the turmoil and hardship of post-Covid-19.

By the way, I have used “comrade” because it is how union members referred to themselves throughout the 2009 meeting.

The definition of “comrade” from An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Marxism, Socialism and Communism is as follows: “Originally, one who shares the same chamber. The term has been adopted by socialists and communists for party members.” I do not use “comrade” disparagingly here, as indeed Ardern herself used the term 15 times in just seven minutes at this public event.

So, what “progressive answers to the financial crisis” did Ardern and her comrades come up with? Did they propose ideas that would stimulate the economy so businesses could thrive thereby creating job opportunities?

Not quite. Instead, Ardern and her comrades stated: “Redistribution will lead to more financial stability and justice. As IUSY we struggle for redistribution between the north and the south and for redistribution between the poor and the rich, because we believe in equality and justice.”

On the same trajectory, Ardern and her comrades said: “Human beings are born with unequal resources available. We as young socialists believe in a social democratic system which secures a redistribution of resources.”

Oh, I get it now. Ardern and her comrades think it’s best that everyone is equal and this is achieved through securing a “redistribution of resources”.

After resources – aka your income and wealth – has been “redistributed’” what happens when some people start accumulating more income and wealth than others? Does that mean that the clock needs to be reset so everyone is equal again? And how often should the reset occur?

For example, if Ardern and her comrades take away your income and wealth and give it to me, but through either hard work, initiative, entrepreneurial spirit and luck you manage to have more income and wealth than I have in say a year from now, does that mean I get to have more of your income and wealth so we become equal again?

I suppose that is exactly what Ardern and her comrades mean because they further stated: “Today’s dominating economical system of Western capitalism has contributed to the unequal distribution of wealth worldwide.”

I wonder then what is the exact point whereby “inequality” becomes acceptable? For example, is a 20 per cent gap of “inequality” acceptable? Or does it need to be closer, like 10 per cent? Or do we all need to have the exact same amount of income and wealth?

I don’t know. But what I do know is Ardern and her comrades provided the above answers in 2009 and now she is leading us into the economic recovery of post-Covid-19.

Leak: Jacinda Ardern gags ministers on discussing COVID-19 response

Newshub has been leaked an internal memo sent to all ministers from the Prime Minister’s office instructing them not to speak to the media about Friday afternoon’s document dump.

It directs that ministers instead respond with brief written comments that must be signed off by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

The gag order was sent ahead of a Friday afternoon document dump of official papers relating to the Government’s COVID-19 response.

“If you do get a media query on this please provide a written response,” it reads. “I would like to sign off and see all written response (sic). Do not put Minister up for any interviews on this.”

The documents were released at 2pm – after the Government’s only press conference of the day.

Newshub requested an interview with Health Minister David Clark – it was declined.

Leak: Jacinda Ardern gags ministers on discussing COVID-19 response
Photo credit: Supplied

The leaked memo provides specific talking points to keep them on message, including: “Perfect would have been the public enemy of the good,” and, “Tough calls had to be made and we stand by them.”

It says due to public buy-in the Government doesn’t have to explain its response.

“There’s no real need to defend. Because the public have confidence in what has been achieved and what the Govt [sic] is doing. Instead we can dismiss.”

It lists talking points by topic – including one for “Opposition” which points to a press release from National leader Simon Bridges on March 23.

“We won’t regret moving quickly to stop this virus spreading. We may have regrets if we don’t,” it attributes to the leader of the Opposition.

The Elimination ‘Strategy’ = a Bullet to the Stomach for NZ

April 21, 2020

UPDATE: As of Monday 26 April 6pm this article has had 60,000 views. The mainstream media refused to publish it. But the message is getting out there. You can make a difference. PLEASE share, tweet and post on FaceBook if you care about our country. The strategy the government is following will be disastrous for New Zealand and is increasingly about politics, not logic or science. Please share. 

Thank you, Alex Davis. 

In late March, just days after first denying she was going to force the country into lock down a lugubrious looking Jacinda Ardern waved around the “flatten the curve” graphic and told us that if covid-19 was unchecked “our health system will be inundated and thousands of New Zealanders will die” and that consequently New Zealanders now needed to sacrifice fundamental civil liberties and their livelihoods to “save lives.”

There are two critical observations from that press conference.

First, it is now increasingly clear that Ardern misled the country with the claims that tens of thousands of deaths. In an excellent and courageous piece of research (read it here) economist Ian Harrison (who has worked for the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Bank for International Settlements and specialises in risk modelling) demolished the fundamental research on which the government relied for compelling the country into lock down.

No doubt the Ardern government will first dissemble, distract and deny this fact. If that doesn’t satisfy the usually quiescent media expect to see the University of Otago Covid-19 Research Group go under the bus as the government claims it simply “relied on the advice it was given.”

Except this is either a bald-faced lie or chronically incompetent. Let’s be charitable and assume it’s the later: Ardern’s incompetence stems from that fact that no oneanywhere, in any position of authority, ever should take a decision of that magnitude without double and triple checking the facts on which you are relying. Ardern didn’t. If one-man band economist Harrison can figure this out why couldn’t the government’s army of advisors?

Nevertheless, emboldened by a public terrified by hysterical, wall to wall reporting from the legacy media, the government doubled down and so we found ourselves locked into lock down, with all its unintended consequences. Consequences which will be severe, long lasting and almost certain to do more damage than Covid-19 will or could.

Which brings us to the second point from that infamous press conference. The lock down we were told was all about “flattening the curve”, to stop our health system from being “swamped.” But then a funny thing happened: the health system (like those offshore here and here and here) didn’t end up getting overwhelmed at all.

So, like slaves chiselling a pretender pharaoh’s name from the pyramids the flatten curve graphics were quietly removed from the press conferences and in the legacy media. They were replaced with a new message – this time “elimination.”  The Prime Minister stated: “We will step down to level 3 in a way that is consistent with our goal to eliminate Covid-19 in New Zealand.”

To be fair to Ardern you could justify the change in course if it was going to work, no one should expected to pursue a strategy that is clearly flawed solely for political expediency (except of course she has before – see here)

The problem of course is that this new strategy is a), as hopelessly flawed in its empirical justifications as the original strategy, and b) worse, even if succeeds it will cripple New Zealand for years to come.

First, elimination means just that, elimination, and no one outside New Zealand is taking that possibility seriously. Brendan Murphy, Australia’s chief medical officer, told a New Zealand parliamentary committee April 14 that eradicating the virus is a “nirvana” scenario. The reasons the elimination strategy is extremely unlikely to be successful are surprisingly simple:

  1. The R0 value of the corona virus is high and its spreads asymptomatically, so in short it spreads extremely easily, making containment with anything short of a lock down impossible.
  2. upwards of 80% of those who contract the virus have no symptoms (ie never feel sick at all) which makes tracking the virus extremely difficult unless you implement mass population testing and contact tracing at a level far beyond New Zealand’s capacity (our contract tracing system has been described as a dinosaur).
  3. The tests the government plans to rely on to identify Covid-19 are well known to generate both false negatives and false positives.
  4. It is estimated the number of unidentified cases is between 8 and 10 times the real figures, meaning New Zealand is likely to have tens of thousands of people carrying Covid19 with no symptoms.

In short it is almost inconceivable that New Zealand can eliminate Covid19 without maintaining a permanent lock down. Which begs the question: if weren’t flattening the curve and we can’t eliminate it why did we go into an economy crippling, poverty inducing, long term public health damaging lock down?

But, just for the sake of argument, let’s pretend that somehow New Zealand achieves the impossible and we do eliminate Covid19 – what then? What happens when the dog chasing the car actually catches the car?

The rest of the world will still have Covid19. As mentioned, no one, anywhere else in the world is even considering this strategy. New Zealand will become a de facto prison for its 4.9M “citizens.”

Large scale in-bound travel to New Zealand will be effectively eliminated, and with it the tourism sector, our largest export earner, contributing $45 billion to GDP annually. Without offshore tourism Air New Zealand will become a domestic only airline, so expect few flights to or from our fair shores (great news if you are a hard-green environmentalist, curtains for tens of thousands of employees).

With few onshore flights the opportunities for New Zealanders to travel offshore will become few and expensive – say goodbye to that holiday in Europe or 2 weeks in Fiji and look forward to 2 weeks quarantine when you return home. It’s also very difficult to grow an international business entirely through Zoom so expect the slow but steady strangulation of New Zealand’s export orientated businesses. Likewise expect prices of imports to surge and with the virtual elimination of immigration and a collapsing economy, walled off East Germany-like from the rest of the world, property prices to fall.

And all this assumes that there are no slip ups. But as Peter Collignon, an infectious diseases physician at Canberra Hospital who advises the Australian government on Covid19 states: “the reality is this virus is everywhere, it’s all around the world. So even if you’re successful for a short period of time, how long do you do this for? Six months? Two years? Invariably, you’re going to get the virus re-introduced.” As Steven Joyce succinctly put it the “idea that we would get rid of Covid-19 is pie in the sky fantasy”

Proponents of the elimination strategy argue that “Colditz New Zealand” won’t be needed for more than 18 months and all we have to do is wait for a vaccine. However, there is no guarantee we will get a vaccine. As David Nabarro, professor of global health at Imperial College, London, and an envoy for the World Health Organisation on Covid-19 states: “You don’t necessarily develop a vaccine that is safe and effective against every virus. Some viruses are very, very difficult when it comes to vaccine development – so for the foreseeable future, we are going to have to find ways to go about our lives with this virus as a constant threat.”

Neither will anti-body testing be anymore effective, with even the World Health Organisation warning that “there is no evidence that people who have recovered from coronavirus have immunity to the disease [and] there is no proof that such antibody tests can show if someone who has been infected with COVID-19 cannot be infected again.”

In short, there is a very, very real risk that the cavalry is not coming for New Zealand. We could be trapped here for a very long time – like Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings – “we cannot get out.”

Finally, we need to consider even if an effective vaccine was developed just how high up the priority list is New Zealand really going to be? If you are handing out vaccines do you prioritise the 5M people at the bottom of the world who are at no immediate risk or other 7.5 billion who are? The US and China are already hoarding and interdicting Personal Protection Equipment – what makes us think a vaccine will be different?

In short, the government’s whole Covid-19 “strategy” from start to finish has been flawed. It was based on flawed modelling and amplified by hysterical media reporting. And now New Zealand’s plan to “eliminate” the virus looks more like a bullet wound to the stomach, the result of which will be long, painful and lonely death.

If you enjoyed this article please share across on FaceBook, Twitter etc. These articles take a long time to research and your support in getting the message out there is greatly appreciated.

Both the NZ Herald and Stuff originally indicated they would publish my Covid-19 articles but then pulled the pin at the last moment, I suspect (with some evidence) under political pressure.