New Zealand

The maintenance workers responsible for safety checks on Auckland Transport passenger trains have been locked out for 30 days, from 13 May, following industrial action. The dispute came about because of the difference in pay between the workers – contracted by Spanish multinational CAF (Construcciones y Auxiliares de Ferrocarriles) – and Kiwirail workers. The technicians receive about $7000pa less than Kiwirail workers doing the same job. The workers are asking for a 13 percent pay increase over two years. The counter-offer from the company is 5.5 over two years.

Strike action was taken by over 50,000 teachers throughout New Zealand on 29 May to demand a 16 percent pay increase and improved working conditions. Their strike is the result of a breakdown in pay talks between the New Zealand Educational Institute, the Post-Primary Teachers Association; and the government Ministry of Education.

The barbaric attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand by a far-right fascist terrorist – indiscriminately shooting men, women and children, killing 50 and injuring many more, live streaming his bloody actions as he carried them out – comes at a time of deepening economic crisis and heightened social and political tensions around the world. All decent human beings are rightly condemning the attack, but we have to ask ourselves: why are such acts of terrorism taking place, and what can be done to end this barbarism?

The 2017 general election resulted in a hung parliament on 23 September election night. Under the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) electoral system, this is not a surprising result. Now that the special votes have been counted, the National Party, under proportionality, lost two list seats awarded to them on election night, with Labour and the Greens picking up one list seat each.

John Key has announced that he his standing down as Prime Minister on 12th December. This has sent shock waves through the National Party. He stated family reasons and getting out whilst he is ahead. These reasons are flimsy ones and bear no serious scrutiny.

A demonstration of 10,000 took place last Thursday in Auckland (big for New Zealand which has a population of only 4.5 million) against the TPPA [Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement]. There were also smaller rallies in more than 20 towns and cities. [Watch the video]

New Zealand's economic situation is changing for the worse, as the general crisis of world capitalism is unravelling and China's growth is slowing down affecting the whole of the Pacific and Austrialia in particular. Austerity policies are being carried out by the National Party-led government, undermining the political support for the right wing and creating the conditions for an intensification of the class struggle in the period ahead. This perspectives document should be viewed as an addendum to the 2014 document, as the general processes outlined in the previous document are apparent in the present situation.

“Dirty politics” is the name of a book by investigative journalist Nicky Hager. In it he claims that New Zealand government ministers, including Judith Collins, passed on intelligence and other private communications about certain individuals to the controversial right-wing blogger Cameron Slater, known by his blog name Whaleoil. The book has highlighted a lot of the dirty and underhanded techniques used by this National-led government to undermine their critics.

New Zealand perspectives 2014 should be read in conjunction with previous years' perspective documents as they are a continuation from them.  In addition these perspectives should be read in conjunction with the latest World Perspectives analysis and associated material from the International Marxist Tendency (IMT) and Socialist Appeal NZ.

This year sees the centenary of one of the major strikes in New Zealand. It lives on in the memory of the Labour movement along with the years 1890 (Maritime), 1906 (tram workers), 1908 (Blackball miners) and 1912 (Waihi miners).  Already planned are commemorative walks to the most important sites of the dispute in Wellington along with a re-enactment of clashes between workers and “Masseys Cossacks”. Socialist Appeal highlights the important events and the lessons of 1913 that was described as the year that revolution came to New Zealand!

As the world economic crisis continues its squeeze and the bosses continue their offensive, the next period is set to see sharpened class struggle in New Zealand. In this document the comrades of Socialist Appeal, the New Zealand section of the IMT, explain the main contradictions in New Zeland society today.

I begin this article on the Christchurch earthquakes and the rebuild by discussing a very different disaster that took place five years earlier in New Orleans. In 2005 New Orleans was severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina and an official count of over 1,800 people (1,500 of them in New Orleans) died primarily as the result of the failure of the levees that were supposed to protect the city from severe flooding. Many more died in the aftermath of the disaster because of appalling  neglect on part of the authorities and lack of health care and assistance.

The dramatic events that have been witnessed on the world stage; whether it be the marvellous beginnings of the Arab revolution, the upswing in the class struggle in Europe due to the euro crisis or the re-awakening of the class struggle in the United States have been seen by most New Zealanders, until recently, as being very distant affairs.

In a major victory for the Maritime Union of New Zealand, the Employment Court ruled on March 21st, 2012, that Port of Auckland were no longer permitted to continue with redundancy proceedings against union workers and they were no longer permitted to advertise for contract workers or hire contract workers from Drake Personnel Limited or Allied Workforce Limited. The Employment Court ruled that the workers who lost their jobs had to be reinstated and their wages backdated to the time strike action began.

The Port of Auckland announced on March 7th, 2012, that it was making the 300 striking workers at the Port of Auckland redundant and contracting out their jobs to scabs (contract workers).

The Maritime Union Of New Zealand  (MUNZ) is involved in a bitter dispute with Ports of Auckland (POAL) management. At the centre of the dispute is an attempt by the POAL management to bust the union and casualise the workforce, as part of a drive towards privatisation. If the POAL management succeed in busting the union it will have serious implications for all workers in New Zealand. 

For the Labour Party the 2011 general election defeat was the worst since 1928. The main factor for this was the historic low turnout as many workers stayed at home and were not enthused enough by the right-wing leadership of the Labour Party to go out and vote. The turn out was down from (what was considered then a low turnout) 79.46% at the 2008 general election to 73.83%. This was the lowest turnout since 1878!

General Elections can be an indicator of many things within a country. As Marxists, it is necessary to view the result of any election within the overall balance of forces between the classes. So after the tremendous defeat of the Labour Party and victory of the conservative National Party in New Zealand, what is the situation of the working classes there and where does the Labour Party go from here?

The grounding of the 236m MV Rena on the Astrolabe Reef in the Bay of Plenty exposes the lack of maritime regulation and unpreparedness of the government to respond to such a disaster.  This is New Zealand's worst environmental disaster with oil washing up on once pristine beaches destroying both wildlife  and important ecosystems.