Life During Capitalism- one history student's perspective on life during capitalism

"To omit or to minimize these voices of resistance is to create the idea that power only rests with those who have the guns, who possess the wealth, who own the newspapers and the television stations. I want to point out that people who seem to have no power, whether working people, people of colour, or women-once they organize and protest and create movements-have a voice no government can suppress." Howard Zinn

Monday, June 11, 2007

A Radical Media for A Radical Movement - A Personal Account of the Aotearoa Indymedia Convergence


Around fifty-five people turned out to the evening of political documentaries that was the Antidote #15. Smush, premiered the first cut of his 30 minute documentary from Tonga which he peppered with his own insights from his experiences traveling around Tonga in the aftermath of the pro-democracy riots and subsequent repression. We also showed Whose News?, a 30 minute film produced by the Auckland Indymedia Collective in 2004 about the corporate media and the independent alternatives. However our feature was Tuhoe: History of Resistance, an hour long collection of footage and interviews from a people who have long had their views distorted, ignored and misrepresented in the corporate media. Meanwhile in Oamaru, as Indymedistas gathered APN owned Oamaru Mail broke the law and used scabs to undermine a workers strike.

Aperture, radio goon squads and Zorro? All at the AIMC Convergence

One of the most enlivening/exciting/good for something parts of the convergence was the hands-on workshops provided by people wit experience in their fields. Convergence attendees learnt why Aperture is critically important to taking good photos, how broadcasting on the wrong frequency can get you into trouble with the local Low Power FM posses, and that even if your dressed up as Zorro at an anti-GE protest, you still need an escape route when you decide to trespass on McDonalds property to get that beautiful Birds Eye View shot of the crowd coming up Queen Street.

“In March let’s all just drink lots of coffee, take party pills and stare at a screen for hours”

Funnily enough this seems to have been one of the best things to come from the conference. During Senchehes workshop on then state of the website, it was decided that we need more Indymedia folk to have tech skills so they can contribute to the maintenance of the indymedia website. From this was born, IndyGeek Boot Camp, a proposed weekend long intensive geek training school where revolutionary anti-capitalists go survivor style for 72 hours in Oblong (Wellington’s anarchist run infoshop/netcafe), to learn cool shit about software, programming, websites, etc. I think it is going to be March 9 to the 11. Better hurry and book a place now. We all know how popular this is going to be.

Another cool idea, I thought, is to display prominently on the site helpful “How to” guides to do with posting articles, writing html code, uploading video, photos, audio, editing the wiki and not turning indymedia into an uncritical PR site for big city, left wing activists.

Air, Moving and Still

Obviously the worst thing about the convergence for many people was the utter lack of air-conditioning in our relatively small and hugely sunny room with up to 25 bodies crammed inside. However one of the more productive outcomes is that Wellington Indymedia’s long running publication Windy will have it’s distribution, and coverage expanded to Auckland and hopefully around the country.

Even through the heat, people soldiered on and a reborn Auckland Collective has emerged that will look at setting up an Auckland Mult((i))media Group get more people excited about the potentials of multimedia technology, sharing their own stories and empowering their communities, the AMG was formed cause we needed a group that could act as a base in Auckland where people who want to change the world and also want to shoot video/make radio shows/take photos can come to and borrow technology, gain skills, and coordinate on projects.

Onwards and Upwards

Which is a suitably motivating title to remind you all to go and clean up the wiki and update the links section. Also maybe it will also inspire you to check out or email Baraka, and find out about the fantastic Peace Not War project to use music, dance and creativity to support the liberal peace and green movements. It also is a good title to explain our decisions to remove the Full Copyright option from the options for contributors to our website (You can still, post articles, photo, video under a Creative Commons license). We’ve also now got the skills to push through the translation of Aotearoa Indymedia’s, base documents (Mission Statement, Points of Unity, Ed. Policy) into Te Reo Maori. And well also look into setting up a temporary Independent Media Center at the Umukai over Labour weekend, and supporting any efforts by South Island collectives to reform as part of the Aotearoa Indymedia network. And maybe, just maybe, the site will get a blogwire on the front page, able to syndicate the best of New Zealand’s left wing blog’s onto our site.

Thanks to:

Cooks and chopping helpers throughout the weekend

Dave B. for use of University space for the Antidote

Donators of money cause we came out of the Convergence with a net profit of $80

Freedom Shop folk who came and brought knowledge to the masses

Workshoppers who put in all the time and energy to prepare workshops and give them for nothing more than a free feed.

Unite for putting up with us on Saturday and Sunday

All those who attended cause without you it would have just been me and Strypey, wondering what we’d do with all the food we bought and what we’d say to all the workshopers we’d invited.
Plus, anyone, anywhere, who has ever had anything to do with Aotearoa Indymedia cause you are the folk that are the spirit of the movement for a free, for a democratic and for a revolutionary media that keep us all going.

P.S. See you all in Poneke/Wellington in early ’08 for the next one.


Apocalypse Now?

Apocalypse Now?

Climate change. The two words that just will not go away. They may come to mean in this century what Auschwitz and Stalag meant last century.

I don’t want to frighten anyone. No seriously. Don’t panic. Whatever you do, do not panic. The future of civilization itself rests on the fact that as many people as possible do not panic in the coming years. This may very well be the last five minutes of game time. Just like any sports match we cannot lose sight of the goal, even though the odds may be stacked against it.

Since the industrial revolution the amount of carbon dioxide that we are emitting into the atmosphere has increased astronomically as we pump huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere through everything from cars to fireplaces and fridges and petrochemical use. Gases such as methane, emitted by fertiliser use and animal flatulence help speed up the greenhouse effect. Due to the heat trapping blanket effect of the earths atmosphere the heat of the earth from the sun will be trapped inside the atmosphere unable to be naturally lost into space. The result: the climate will change- it will warm- global warming.

We have reached a critical time with climate change. Either we see what is staring us in the face, act now and attempt to do as much as possible to avoid catastrophe or we go on with our normal lives continuing to treat the earth as an infinite resource and as an infinite garbage can.

The facts we need to see are in the newspaper, on television, on the Internet, in movies, books and in the world around us. Most of them are by now widely known. They include say the makers of the film An Inconvenient Truth; in 25 years 300,000 people will die from global warming a year; global sea levels could rise by more than 20 feet with the loss of shelf ice in Greenland and Antarctica, devastating coastal areas worldwide; heat waves will be more frequent and more intense; droughts and wildfires will occur more often; the Arctic Ocean could be ice free in summer by 2050; and more than a million species worldwide could be driven to extinction by 2050.

However, the worst effects of climate change can be avoided if the world responds quickly. The global future of this problem means that a global movement will have to develop to confront the issue. At all levels of society we must act now to tackle the root cause of climate change; the global addiction to fossil fuels and emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, CFCs and water vapour.

Around the world the emergence of a mass movement is beginning. In businesses, governments, schools, communities and wherever humans are found living together people are trying to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and fast.

People are planting trees, riding bikes and reusing, refusing and recycling in their communities. Organisations are taking the message to the streets; they are reusing those old tactics of non-violent direct action that have been around since as long as people power. Across the globe people are occupying, marching, picketing, sitting in, dancing in the streets, locking down and rallying for a world safe for humanity and our eco-systems. People are waking up to the fact that climate change will radically affect our ability to live on earth, and the people who are to suffer the most, of course are the most marginalised; poor and indigenous peoples in developing countries, such as our Pacific neighbours.

In New Zealand the Save Happy Valley Coalition have been occupying a remote South Island valley on the west coast since January to stop it being mined for coal, which would be mostly sent to be burnt in China to fuel industrial growth. The pollution caused by the proposed mining of 500,000 tonnes of coal from the mine each year for 10 years by government owned corporation Solid Energy is unnecessary and short-sighted when Aotearoa has such abundant amounts of renewable energy; wind, solar and hydro-electric. On the North Island Greenpeace New Zealand is campaigning to stop another government owned company, Mighty River Power from opening a coal fired power station north of Auckland at a never used power plant called “Marsden B”. The plant if opened would release over 2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in its lifetime.

In Tamaki Makaurau/Auckland, climate change group, ClimAction, has taken to the streets in a Carnival Against Climate Change on Queen Street and protests at petrol stations. Across the city, people are realising the immensity of the situation and organising to change it by supporting cycling, planting trees, developing community gardens, raising awareness and promoting recycling among many other initiatives.

If you do nothing else this summer then do this. Join the movement against climate change! Without you and everyone else like you, then we have little hope of more than a bleak future beyond this century.

Get clued up and roped up for humanity’s most pressing task:

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The Dummies Guide to Hitchhiking

What’s hitchhiking got to do with the environment?

Well if more people hitchhiked, there would be less cars on the road, thus less choking exhaust fumes silently heating up our fragile planet. So I figure that if I can convince a few of you to hitchhike instead of taking a car on your next long distance trip then I’ve done my bit to educate people on both the great experience that is hitchhiking and to cut down on the greenhouse gases being emitted.

But isn’t hitchhiking dangerous?

No, not nearly as much as you would imagine. I’ve been hitching around the country since I was fifteen and have hitched everywhere from Invercargill to the Bay of Islands and from the East Cape to Milford Sound and have never felt in any danger. I don’t know what the situation is like in other countries but in New Zealand hitchhiking is fairly safe. However I would recommend that females don’t travel alone. Men are pretty safe; only one male hitchhiker has ever been killed in New Zealand and that was around thirty years ago or so. But if you are nervous about hitchhiking then buddy up with someone, or text the number plate of the cars you get into to a friend or family member. And always remember you can turn down rides.

Do people still pick up hitchhikers?

Yeah, its pretty easy to get a ride and although the trip usually takes about 10% longer than a trip in your own car, your always faster hitching than you are catching a bus or train somewhere. Don’t get disheartened when you first start hitching as it can take up to half an hour to be picked up sometimes. However 95% of the time you’ll get picked up a lot faster than that. The longest waits I have ever had for a ride were two three-hour waits. Both of those times were on the west coast of the south island. However quite a few times the first car that drives past’ll pick you up.

Don’t only freaks and weirdoes pick up hitchhikers?

Not in my experience. All sorts of people pick you up. If you want to meet and talk to people you generally wont come into contact with during your life; then hitch hiking is the way to go. People pick up hitchhikers for all sorts of different reasons, but the most common one I feel is that they want someone to talk to while they drive. Often you can learn the most fascinating things while hitching from people. People tell you all sorts of interesting stuff about themselves, what they do, their life experiences and anything you care to ask them about. In a way it is sort of voyeuristic, as you get a chance to look into someone’s life for a short period of time.

Isn’t hitchhiking illegal?

Nah its definitely legal, except if your trying to hitchhike on a motorway. If you’re in a big city like Auckland the best way to get out is to hitchhike from a motorway onramp. Some people who stop to pick you up will only be going halfway down the motorway but that’s okay as you can just hitch from the next off-ramp they drop you off at. If you’re hitching from the CBD and going south, I recommend Symonds St. off ramp; which is right by Grafton Bridge. If you’re going north take the Northern Express bus to Orewa and hitch from there. If you’re hitching out of Wellington I recommend catching a train to Plimmerton, which is out on the Kapiti coast. Most other places are fairly easy to hitch out of.

Should I use a sign?

I hardly ever use signs as I’m pretty lazy but some people reckon they are useful. One advantage of a sign is people who see it and pick you up cause they are going to the same place but one disadvantage with signs is that if you think a ride is dodgy you can’t pretend you are going to a different place they are. I also find I tend to forget my signs and leave them in peoples cars, which I’m sure they find annoying.

Do people still pick you up if it’s raining?

Yeah, I reckon standing in the rain earns you a sympathy vote in a lot of people’s minds, but it sucks being wet s remember your raincoat! Also you want to be as mobile as possible as you can get dropped in out of the way locations and hitching also means you have to do some hiking. So make sure your wearing decent footwear and have your stuff in a pack or backpack.

What’s the proper hitching etiquette?

I like to introduce myself and shake the drivers hand when I hop into their vehicle. Also try not to fall asleep. I find I always fall asleep in the backs of campervans, especially if you’ve been sleeping on just a ground mat for a couple of nights. Don’t be rude to your ride or make fun of them; however quaint and bizarre they are. Remember that you have a duty to all the other hitchhikers this person will drive past in their life to make their ride with you as pleasant as possible.

Is it better to stand in one spot and hitch or hitch while walking?

Most of the time I would recommend just standing and waiting, especially if you are in a good spot with lot’s of room for people to see you and space to pull over. It is often good to stand under signs, and try and be as visible as possible. Smiling is another good thing to do to convince people that you’re friendly to pick up.

Anything else people need to know about hitching?

Be courteous and respectful at all times. Avoid hitching at night. Be safe. Pick hitching places that give people lots of room to stop and pull over. Listen to what your ride says. Ask them questions and think about what they say. The accumulated lessons these people can offer you are worth every moment standing on the edge of a highway in the middle of nowhere.

Have fun!

Published in Craccum, Semester 1, 2007

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The Dummies Guide to Bumming Free Food

The Dummies Guide to Bumming Free Food

What’s this about free food?

Not too many people know but it is relatively easy to get free food when you’re living in the city. Three methods to grab a meal are dumpster diving, shoplifting and table topping.

Dumpster what?

Dumpster diving. Literally jumping into a dumpster filled with food and helping yourself. Because of the fucked up way our economy works (thanks capitalism) tones of good food is put into dumpsters across the city every night by bakeries, fruits shops and supermarkets. A lot of this food is still sweet as to eat. For example lots of food gets thrown out because the packaging is ripped or torn, it is just past its used by date, one piece of fruit is spoilt among a whole bag of perfectly good fruit, the bread/bagels are a little hard, or any number of slight imperfections that relegate food to the dumpster.

Surely it’s illegal?

Technically you can get done for stuff like trespassing and stealing but its pretty uncommon. Make sure you go dumpster-diving at night though and go in a group so one person can watch out for cops and security guards. A couple of years ago in Wellington a whole bunch of dumpster-divers got arrested when they were in this supermarkets backyard. A lot of the best dumpsters these days have locks on them and others are behind fences so I’d recommend that if you don’t want to get arrested to be stealthy. (If you are reading this and work at a supermarket/fruit shop/bakery and your boss has a lock on the dumpster, you should leave the lock unlocked at night if you can ; ) )

Isn’t the food gross and /or have diseases?

A lot of the food in the dumpster is useless and people have different limits as to what they will eat from a dumpster. As long as stuff is still in a packet its sweet as, but make sure you give fruit and veges a really good wash at home. Also try to avoid dumpsters with meat in them; cause it smells fucking horrendous and also can give you some pretty harmful food poisoning if you eat it. Other than that enjoy reaping a whole lot of sweet as food for nothing!

What’s table topping then?

Table topping refers to the art of cruising in restaurants and foodcourts and picking over the let overs of people’s meals once they leave their table. Do this surreptitiously to avoid being kicked out and you can usually get yourself some pretty sweet meals, as a lot of people don’t eat half of what they buy. Shame for it to go to waste. If you don’t like the idea of left overs you can always try shop lifting. However I don’t recommend shoplifting as if you do it for a decent amount of time you will get caught and I don’t want you coming and blaming me. But if you do want to find out more about shoplifting or any of the other ways to get free food that I have mentioned in this article check out:

Published in Craccum Issue 1 2007

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A Citizen’s Guide To An Emerging Empire

A Citizen’s Guide To An Emerging Empire

By Omar Hamed
“Old colonial powers, freed from their responsibilities for poor and vulnerable former colonies, are flexing their muscles and building new empires”
– Jane Kelsey

No one can doubt that we live in an age of empire and imperialism. The neo-liberal World Trade Organisation (WTO), the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) stalk the planet complimented by regional and bilateral free trade agreements. The attempts by the imperialist nations to open up new markets and new resources to their trans-national corporations (TNCs) are intensifying daily. A global trade system is being forced onto the world by the central capitalist nations to secure a flow of wealth and natural resources from the less developed to the developed world.

In the south Pacific the global pattern is repeated. The dominant wealthy nations are seeking to re-colonise what they see as their “patch”. Australia and New Zealand have been colluding to turn the Pacific into their captive market for low value goods, source of cheap and disposable labour and plentiful natural resources.


PICTA stands for the Pacific Islands Countries Trade Agreement. PICTA is a trade agreement between 14 Pacific Island countries in the Pacific Forum; it does not include Australia or New Zealand. PICTA was designed by Australia and New Zealand to lead to a free trade area between Pacific nations sometime in the near future by eradicating the barriers to free trade between member countries. Barriers such as tariffs and quotas, and import and export licences. It will in the future provide for neo-liberal structural readjustment and fiscal reform to provide for smoother access for TNCs deep into the public and private sectors of Pacific nations.

PICTA came into force in 2003 but is yet to be fully implemented. There has been little public consultation or debate about this agreement. The negotiations are carried out in a secretive and undemocratic way. No thorough or satisfactory social impact assessment of PICTA has been carried out. Amongst many of the negative impacts that PICTA will have the Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG) point out that, “Far from furthering co-operation among Pacific Island states, PICTA will encourage competition between them and could provoke unanticipated discord and tension among them and their peoples.”

…to PACER…

If the future of Pacific trade seems concerning then wait till you meet PACER. PACER is the next step on from PICTA. PACER stands for the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations and is the regional trade agreement that includes the 14 Pacific nations in PICTA as well as Australia and New Zealand. PACER is about creating a free trade agreement in the south Pacific that would allow Australasian TNCs to dominate across the Pacific. PACER will provide for free trade in goods before also developing into a Pacific free market for trade in services.

Law Professor Jane Kelsey wrote in 2004 that, “PACER is based on an individualised, competitive, self-maximising and exploitive model of free market capitalism.” It isn’t hard to see why. PACER and PICTA will inevitably lead to a loss of Pacific nations revenue from tariffs. For many islands tariffs on imports make up more than half of government revenue. Pacific governments will be forced to seek out alternative ways of income generation. Western consultants are quick to recommend taxes on goods and services like New Zealand’s GST, which will “punish the poor”, and allowing foreign corporations greater access to natural resources and land ownership.

…to the WTO…

PICTA and PACER are only the beginning. They are stepping-stones towards a common Pacific market that in reality will be dominated by corporate power and characterised by a loss of indigenous sovereignty and “marginalisation and impoverishment of vulnerable sectors of [Pacific] populations” as the nation-states involved move towards full compliance with the World Trade Organisation’s neo-liberal trade regime.

The recently averted accession to the WTO by Tonga demonstrates the disastrous consequences that joining the WTO has for the Pacific. Oxfam New Zealand in its report, Blood from a Stone, exposed the reality of Tonga’s accession, which will result in tariff cuts that would, “affect Tonga’s ability to provide basic health care, education, water supply and other essential services for its people.”

…and all the way back home.

“There were times that I felt ashamed to be a New Zealander”, wrote one New Zealand trade negotiator involved in the PICTA and PACER. In fact, New Zealand’s entire role in regards to Pacific trade is something to be ashamed of. Not just something to be ashamed of, but something to change.

It is our role in Aotearoa to echo the noise being made toady and tomorrow in the Pacific, such as the Nadi Statement of the Pacific Regional Civil Society Forum Meeting, held between October 20th and 23rd, 2006, which recommended, “Negotiations on [PACER] should not be initiated unless there has been a comprehensive impact assessment, full consultation and democratic decision making.”

If we seek to build with our Pacific neighbours a fair-trading system that promotes development and sustainability then it is time to mobilise, to organise and to educate. As the cry of the World Social Forum goes, “another world is possible.” Our role as members of civil society is to exert our influence over the government to such an extent that they no longer find it in their interests to pursue trade injustice in the Pacific.

Claire Slatter, Will Trade Liberalisation Lead to the Eradication or the Exacerbation of Poverty?, Wellington, February 21, 2003.

Pacific Civil Society Forum, Nadi Statement of the Pacific Regional Civil Society Forum Meeting, Nadi, October 23, 2006.

Pacific Network on Globalisation, A Critical Response to the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA), Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) and the Pacific Islands Forum's Social Impact Assessment, Suva, February, 2002.

Professor Jane Kelsey, A People’s Guide to PACER, Commissioned by the Pacific Network on Globalisation, Suva, August, 2004.

Oxfam International Briefing Note, Tonga: Blood from a Stone, December 15, 2005.


Friday, October 27, 2006

Auckland University’s Dirty Laundry

Auckland University’s Dirty Laundry

by Omar Hamed

How much do you think one of Auckland University’s cleaners is paid? Take a guess. Then ask yourself, how much is a living wage in Auckland? A lot more than the $10.95 (70 cents above the minimum wage) most of the cleaners at Auckland University are paid that’s for sure.

The University of Auckland contracts it’s cleaning work to three large multi-national corporations. Spotless, the largest cleaning company in Aotearoa makes multi-million dollar profits and although the Spotless cleaners on campus, some of whom have worked here for eight years, have petitioned for decent hourly rates Spotless ignores them and continues to pay them at $10.95 including people who have been cleaning on campus for years. If you've ever tried living on $10.95, now think about trying to pay the rent, feed your kids and fund your petrol and upkeep on a car (which you will need to get to and from the CBD from Otara or Mangere to do your job). Now think about the debt you'll be in when you have to take a high interest loan to cover your bills... sound fair to you?

Spotless workers work between 11pm and 7am so the chances are that you have never seen them. On the other hand you will have seen their coworkers in Fresh and Clean who work between 6am and 3:30pm. Cleaners who work for Fresh And Clean are paid slightly more than those who work for Spotless. Some of the cleaners who work with Fresh and Clean then head down to the city at 3:30pm to start their secondary jobs cleaning the CBD offices blocks at 5pm. So after they finish their eight hour shift at Auckland University they head down to start another long shift because the university administration allows it’s contractors to get away with paying poverty wages. The third cleaning company is City Cleaning which pays it’s workers $10.95 as well.

Cleaning isn’t easy, as anyone who has done it will tell you. Campus cleaners work extremely hard and the work is difficult to fit into the hours they are paid for; many end up doing extra unpaid work to finish their floor quotas. Unrealistic work rates are a big problem in the cleaning industry because every time a contract changes, the company who wins the tender usually wins because they offer to do it for less than the existing contractor. This means that fewer cleaners are employed and fewer hours are given to fulfill the same contract.

The contracts change pretty regularly so it's a race to the bottom in the cleaning industry and it's the cleaners who bear the brunt of this. In Australia cleaners mostly earn between $17 and $20 per hour. If you compare this to what cleaners get paid in Auckland then you understand why this really is the university’s dirty laundry.

“My socks have holes in them. That's because I have to buy my socks from the second hand shop. I can't even afford the two-dollar socks from K-Mart," said Sue Lafaele, an Auckland cleaner. Sue asks, "Cleaners need respect for our work and to be paid a living wage - why shouldn't I be able to buy new socks like everyone else?"

The union representing the low paid, predominantly Pacific Island and Maori cleaning workforce is campaigning to change the cleaning industry. They need student support and solidarity. The campaign is a simple matter of social justice. If you work for 40 hours you should be able to afford to live. Cleaners want decent jobs, decent hourly rates and recognition of their experience and skills. Most of all they want respect for their work and for their lives, and an hourly rate that recognises their hard work.

There are three ways you can support cleaners on and off campus in their struggle for wage justice.

  1. This one is really easy. Come to the Anti Poverty Day rally cleaners are organising - it's on Tuesday October 17th at 5pm. March up the street with cleaners and other low paid workers coming in to support their call for an end to poverty wages in New Zealand.
  2. Tell the cleaners you support their campaign for better jobs and better pay - tell them they deserve it. It's a tough job. They appreciate your support.
  3. Sign the petition calling on cleaning firms to be responsible contractors - to treat their workers with respect. A copy is available at the AUSA reception for people to sign.

The cleaner’s Clean Start: Fair Deal for Cleaners is a global campaign working to make sure cleaners get respected for their work. Be a part of it and help us clean up this dirty industry. On the net:

Published in Craccum 16/10/06


The TXT generation, Young workers and anti-capitalist struggle

The TXT generation, Young workers and anti-capitalist struggle
The title for this article was going to be “THE NEXT GENERATION: Young workers come into the struggle” but it seemed a bit disingenuous as its for the most part not true.

Sure, there have been massive successes in organising young people both here and overseas. Unite Union and Radical Youth are organising and mobilising low paid youth workers who have been leading strikes and pickets, as well as organising two big rallies down Queen Street and a one thousand student strong walkout. In France as I write the struggle is continuing against the CPE’s replacement law after mass mobilisations of students and the unemployed defeated the probationary employment law. In the US there has been mass mobilisations against a proposed immigration law, which has seen organisation and mobilisation unheralded of before in the Latino communities these demonstrators are coming from.

This is all fantastic action and a huge step for young people, but I can’t lie. Young people are still the TXT generation; they still spend more time sending text messages on their mobile phones than they do thinking let alone acting on political issues. Everything that’s been happening with youth over recent weeks is really inspiring especially in Latin America, the Philippines, Thailand and Nepal, but is it enough?

Young people, youth workers and students must come into the anti-capitalist struggle if we are to be effective in the long term. I look around my university and its easy to get depressed, corporations have put down roots in the student union buildings and its easy to think that rather than in the quad your actually in a mall. That’s because the student union lets businesses come in and set up stalls in the middle of the student area, turning a human space into the realm of capitalism. The social science departments are floundering as the business school grows and grows. Indoctrination is nearly complete, for example a student in my sociology class said, “I can’t imagine a world organised without hierarchy.”

Anti-capitalist activists need to reaffirm our commitment to promoting the self-organization of youth and students, this can be done through sharing with younger activists the skills and analysis that older activists take for granted, by providing resources for young activists and incorporating a diverse approach to incorporating young people into the struggle. I don’t think they were organizing union rallies by text message ten years ago and I certainly don’t think that many of the older generation of anti-capitalist activists grew up communicating via email either. However we as youth and students organize, one thing is for sure: the need to organize. Michael Albert wrote on the anti-capitalist struggle and I’d like to offer it here as a vision for the next generation of activists,

“If movements for social change unswervingly seek diversity, solidarity, equity, and self-management--peace and justice--and if they do it in a manner and with a tone and with tactics all of which seek to empower the weak and to meet the needs of the poor, they/we can win this struggle--and the struggle I have in mind to win, the one I think we are all in, is not just over a reform here or there--and it is not just over peace now and then--it is a struggle over who will decide the future and who the future will serve. Showdown indeed."

Published in Unity#2 Strikes: the Workers Weapon. Top photo of a masked activist at the annual Weapons conference, Te Papa, 17/10/06 by Juan Mon. Second photo of students at radical Youth walk out 21/03/06


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Many Peoples, One Struggle

Many Peoples, One Struggle
By Omar Hamed

The Palestinian victims of Israel's war of occupation and settlement since the 'withdrawal' from the Gaza Strip on August 20, 2005, now number 572 Killed. Israeli tank shells in Palestine killed a fourteen year old the day before I wrote this.

The recent intifada or conflict in the occupied territories has dragged on for six long years now with many innocent people on both sides of the border killed. However a new current in Palestine and Israel is emerging, which views the struggle against the occupation, the annexation wall, the confiscation of Jerusalem and the displacement of millions of Palestinian refugees as a human rights struggle not simply religious fighting or a land dispute.

In Palestine and Israel organisations dedicated to non-violent resistance to Israeli occupation and the continued building of the 670km separation wall which criminally annexes large portions of the West Bank are building a movement of solidarity and humanity to try and break the cycle of violence and hatred in the promised land.

Israeli organisations like the Committee Against Home Demolitions (ICAHD), Anarchists against the Wall (AATW) and Gush Shalom frequently take part alongside Palestinians in non-violent direct action and symbolic demonstrations. In Bil’in, in the West Bank, Israeli soldiers have injured and killed many Israelis and Palestinians taking part in the joint struggle against the apartheid wall. In August an Israeli anarchist was permanently disabled while taking part in a peaceful demonstration.

The International Solidarity Movement (ISM) is another organisation that uses non-violent direct action against the occupation. International activists under Palestinian leadership take part in direct action; dismantling checkpoints, tearing down illegal Israeli roadblocks, acting as human shields and helping Palestinians harvest their olives on their confiscated lands. ISM, AATW and ICAHD represent the new resistance to occupation who many believe hold the key to both Palestinian and Israeli hopes for a just and peaceful situation in the Middle East.

Ali from Aotearoa Jews from Justice and ex-pat Israeli said at a demonstration in Wellington three weeks ago, “Israel does not speak for all Jews. There are Jews all over the world who oppose the Israeli government’s dispossession of Palestinian people… They’re the people refusing to serve in the criminal Israeli Defence Force, they’re the people who go to the West Bank to protest Israel’s annexation wall, designed to separate Palestinians from their land and livelihood, they’re the people who rebuild the homes of Palestinians after the Israeli government demolishes them.”

Her words remind us that in Palestine and Israel today there are many peoples and one struggle.


Student Unions: Would you like change with that?

Student unions: Would you like change with that?
By Omar Hamed
Left: Greek students fight the police in 2006.

It is always interesting times when I start agreeing with anyone from Act on Campus. But the times are indeed interesting and I do indeed find myself agreeing with David Seymour from Act on Campus. I wouldn’t agree with all of what he wrote in his article A New Way for AUSA, (Craccum #18) but for the most part he spelt out a phenomenon that anyone with one or more eyes is able to see.

Seymour spelt out how the Auckland University Students Association (AUSA) has become a “service model union” and is engaged in a “partnership” with the University administration. What Seymour described can be summed up using these terms, which describe types of unions. Basically these terms originated in trade union circles to describe unions which offer services to their members by working in partnership with employers. Instead of organising workers to campaign for better conditions, as had traditionally been the role of unions, the “service model” focused on providing services to their members such as life insurance, subsidised health care and holiday homes on the Gold Coast.

Well the same terminology can be used to explain students associations. AUSA as Seymour pointed out is “in the University’s pocket” just like any good service-model union should be. This allows it to focus on what it perceives as its real job; making sure orientation is cool and that our radio station, student magazine, cheap beer, free events keep on flowing. I heard Dan the Prez himself say exactly that at a SRC meeting this year. Someone got some debate going about the Louise Nicholas rape allegations and Dan moved to shut it down stating that AUSA is about providing services rather than “wasting time” on issues like women’s rights. (Interestingly and sickeningly enough I heard that Victoria University Student’s Association President Nick Kelly has opened up betting on whether the Womensfest down there will make a profit.) So you see, that students associations now see themselves as merely service providers making sure we get as much change as possible from a fiver when we ask for a beer at Shadows rather than trying to change anything themselves.

Now I thoroughly agree with Seymour when he says we have to be more like the Unite! Union and stop letting AUSA be a “training ground for the politically ambitious”. Unite! is one of the foremost exponents of the “organising model” in Aotearoa and their embracing of this style of unionism is the reason their members in KFC, Pizza Hut and Starbucks were able to “beat the brands” as one Unite! organiser put it.

The organising-model in contrast to the service-model is about giving power to union members and a strong focus on recruiting and creative militant and high profile campaigning that seeks to build community support for unionism and build a strong community base for workers rights and support to struggle for improved conditions. This model, while not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, is much more preferable to the service model.

This year I watched in horror as AUSA went through the motions of unionism without actually doing anything. Our campaign against international students fee raises was a joke, which amounted to putting up a thousand posters and issuing a media release. That’s not even a campaign! However the AUSA executive are much too busy working on increasing student services to run proper campaigns. A better strategy would have been an occupation of the entire campus followed by mass marches through the city center and roadblocks surrounding the campus. That’s what student unions do in places like Chile where students have been fighting running battles with riot police as part of a campaign for subsidised bus travel. They (the students) are armed with homemade rocket launchers not “Just say No!” posters and a badly written media release. Neither do the supermarket distribution workers I’ve just spent the afternoon with in South Auckland, where we were picketing supermarkets and blockading illegal distribution depots.

In order to reclaim our student union from the aspiring politicos we need a grassroots network of students who believe in union democracy and organising campaigns that are relevant to students. The organising-model is also tied closely to progressive social movements like the anti-war movement, the global justice movement and the environmental movement, which would help dispel all those folk who go around shouting “student apathy” everywhere as organising for change helps promote collective identity and politicisation.

The 2007 bunch of AUSA executives seem much like the old and the only hope I would see for next year is from a grassroots student uprising against union bureaucracy and for a program of social change and student involvement. Pressuring AUSA for campaigns, building strong clubs that organise students for progressive causes like Students for Justice in Palestine and Greens on Campus do, building the student movement off campus in workplaces and communities and never giving up hope of having a student union based around people not profit. We can all contribute to a better student union if we remember that those on the executive are our delegates and not our representatives and ultimately it is the people who have the power.
Published in Craccum September 11


Friday, September 08, 2006

We really are everywhere

We really are everywhere
By Omar Hamed
"It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a human stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, they send forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centres of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance." - Robert F. Kennedy
Out here in the middle of the south Pacific, thousands of miles from the daily bombings, shootings, demolitions and harassment that occurs in the occupied territories it can sometimes seem like what we do in this small corner of the world will have no impact on stopping the Israeli apartheid. The reality is very different however. Across the globe people have been coming together and resisting this injustice. These people seek out one another, smashing down walls that separate people and meeting more people and breaking down bigger, stronger, more oppressive walls. The struggle for liberation in Palestine is a global one and those who walk with the Palestinians are everywhere.
In 2003 a group of students at a university near Washington, D.C. hosted what they called a "Week of Awareness for Refugees of Palestine." Events during the week, held at the University of Maryland campus, included an art exhibition, music concerts and a film festival. The centrepiece of the week was a Palestinian refugee camp constructed in a high traffic area in the middle of the campus. "Basically we have four huts constructed of wood, and the four huts are about 4 feet [1 meter] deep and eight feet [2.5 meters] tall," said Sami Meaddi, 18, a freshman at the school who has spent a lot of time at the refugee camp. "It pretty much simulates what refugee camps are like. Some of them leak, and they are very cold at night." The university supported the construction of the camp, which was surrounded with information displays, articles and lists statistics about Palestinian refugee camps and included a huge wall, nine meters long and 2.5 meters high.

Last year SJP at DePaul University in the US organised a hip-hop lyrics for liberty concert with all proceeds going to the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund.

On May 15th in 2002 a small group of protesters from Jews For a Free Palestine protested against the Jewish Community Federation meeting inside by unfurling inside the conference a banner protesting aid to Israel and linked arms. Police arrived and the protesters were taken away.

At Berkley University in 2002 the University suspended SJP, after hundreds of students occupied a building and demanded a meeting with the school chancellor to force the Uni to stop investing in and supporting Israel. Police dragged protesters out of the building and over 79 people were arrested. The group was suspended for “disrupting classes”, disruption that included Palestinian children's art, so people could see what the kids there are drawing, what's on their minds and a big white roll of butcher paper that went from the plaza all the way down the street, with the names of all the villages destroyed in 1948 in the founding of Israel. Some students put on kaffiyehs, bound our hands, and were blindfolded, and had a grocery bag with clothes. People walking by said `who are these people?' They were representing people who were told by the IDF to grab a few things before they destroyed their homes and detained them. One science Professor even told his “disrupted” class to go out and join the protestors.

In 2005 a group of sixty prominent British architects and planners threatened to boycott the Israeli construction industry over the erection of the Occupation Wall and practices in the occupied territories. Following a meeting hosted by the architects behind the Millennium Dome, Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine announced its plan. The group called for an economic boycott of Israeli construction industries in protest of the building of the settlements and the separation wall in the Occupied Palestinians Territories.

At the same time the Church of England's overwhelming vote in favour of divesting its £2.2 million shares from bulldozer manufacturer Caterpillar. The vote, supported by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, sends a clear message to Caterpillar that profiting from human rights violations is not compatible with socially responsible business practice.
Keeping with the good news, seven activists who blockaded the British distribution centre of Israel’s biggest state-owned agricultural export company Agrexco in November 2004 with chicken wire fences and bicycle D-Locks were acquitted of all charges on January 26. The activists had been charged with aggravated trespass. According to Agrexco, it lost £100,000 as a result of the eight-hour blockade. The international campaign to boycott Israeli goods is growing across Europe. In December 2005 a whole region of Norway voted to cut economic relations with Israel. One of the more bizarre acts of resistance to Zionism must be from the San Francisco group Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism (QUIT) which “settled” a downtown Starbucks in a protest against Starbucks founder and CEO, Howard Shultz, a major supporter of the Israeli state. “Since Mr. Shultz clearly believes it is okay for one group of people to grab land belonging to another and say they have a right to it, we figure he won’t mind if we take some of his,” a QUIT leaflet explained.

In Auckland when we blockaded Oscmar, a weapons training manufacturer that exports to Israel we caused economic damage by emptying the offices for three afternoons in a row. All those on the blockade knew we were not alone; from San Francisco to Sweden resistance is fertile. We who today are ripples of resistance will tomorrow be the tidal wave that knocks down the walls of oppression and injustice. The question is-will you be a ripple or a wall?
Published in Intifada September 2006


Auckland University should cut its exchange program with Israel

Auckland University should cut its exchange program with Israel
By Omar Hamed

Auckland University Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) began a campaign on Thursday the 3rd of August to call on the University of Auckland to cut its student exchange program with Technion, the Israeli Institute of Technology.

The campaign is in support of the over 170 Palestinian political parties, unions and other organization including the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions who issued a call in July 2005 for a global campaign of boycotts and divestment against the brutal policies of the Israeli occupation and the separation wall.The campaign is designed to educate students and faculty about the human rights abuses and disregard of international law that the state of Israel is committing in south Lebanon and the occupied Palestinian territories.SJP are calling for a termination of the student exchange program as a way of applying moral and political pressure on the inhumane policies of Israel. The war crimes being committed by Israel in Lebanon and Palestine yesterday, today and tomorrow mean we can not sit idly by as innocent people are turned into corpses by the Israeli war machine.
On 30 July, during the Israeli attack on Lebanon, Israeli airstrikes hit an apartment building in Qana. It has been confirmed by the Lebanese Red Cross that at least 28 people were killed, 16 of which were children. This attack provoked the campaign but it is also a channeling of our grief and anger over the many thousands more innocent Palestinians and Lebanese who would still be alive today if Israel abided by international law, United Nations resolutions and the Geneva Conventions. Israel has proved to the world that it is a rogue nation and a law unto itself. For this reason we must bring the full force of our moral condemnation against its barbaric actions.

SJP was inspired to do this action by the largest Canadian labor union the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) who on May 27, 2006 decided to “Support the international campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law, including the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.”

After CUPE was accused of anti-Semitism, there was an outpouring of support from Jewish and Israeli peace activists with hundreds signing petitions in support of CUPE. The group Israeli seekers of Peace and Justice said to CUPE that they “honour your courageous initiative, and fervently hope that it will set an example for many others to follow.”

We at Students for Justice in Palestine have taken the advice of the Israeli anti-war movement and Palestinian civil society to heart and will using tactics that make the world’s attention focus on the brutal occupation of Palestine until there is a peace with justice in Palestine.

Twenty five years after the Springbok Tour shook New Zealand join us in ending Israeli apartheid:

Published in Intifada September 2006


Dancing Poverty Wages into History

Dancing Poverty Wages into History
By Omar Hamed

In New Zealand, 16-17 year olds can be legally paid $8.20 an hour for the same work as an 18-year- old who gets at least $10.25. Under-16-year-olds can be paid whatever the employer decides. When myself and a ragged bunch of young workers and students grouped together we came to one conclusion.

Enough is Enough! Paying young people a lower wage for equal work is discrimination pure and simple. The issue of youth rates is similar to that of pay equality for women with men. In both cases, a member of a social grouping is discriminated against in the workplace because they are a member of that social grouping.

Over the last few months thousands of students and young people have taken to the streets to demand “Equal Work for Equal Pay”. We have marched, danced, sung, laughed, cheered and pulled together all our meager resources to create a campaign designed to abolish youth rates.

On Monday, March 20 at noon in the heart of Auckland¹s Central Business District, one thousand high school students who had walked out of school that morning rallied and marched up and down Queen Street. The students were demonstrating the power of collective direct action; using their feet to vote for the Green Party initiated Minimum Wage Amendment Bill that will scrap youth rates for sixteen and seventeen year olds, to be passed.
500 youth and their trade union allies marched down Queen Street to mark International Workers Day on May 1 this year to demand an end to discrimination based on age.

Just three days later the Ministry of Justice advised the government that youth rates is an abuse of the Bill of Rights Act, news that has been greeted with pleasant surprise from the emerging youth movement against low pay and discrimination.

The youth rates campaign has proved that youth do have the power. They have the power that rests in wrestling back control of our cities, communities and culture back from those who seek to turn us in to wage slaves, good for nothing but slaving away in McDonalds or Pizza Hut.
I am hopeful that youth rates will be history by the end of the year.
I am hopeful that this is just the beginning.

Published in Morph #1 Community Arts Youth magazine of the Devonport Depot


Thursday, August 24, 2006

Work Rights, Our Right

Hello. Yeah. I can see you there in the Quad. Cigarette held neatly between your fingers. Yep I can see you now. Expertly flicking away the ash at the tip, looking up and staring out over the empty coke bottles and chocolate wrappers that share this patch of campus with you. Or are you in a crowded lecture hall crammed in next to two kids who sit there furiously scribbling in their books whatever garbage comes out of the lecturer’s mouth? Or are you on the bus home, as the sun sullenly dips behind a row of deep gray clouds hanging over the Waitakeres?

Anyhow wherever you are it is important that you read this article. You’ve got the time to pick up Craccum for a quick flick through at least so you may as well read something worthwhile. I’ll tell you now that by reading this article you could affect the course of millions of New Zealanders lives. Or maybe you knew that already…

To fill you in: National Party MP Wayne Mapp has a bill before parliament that would leave workers with no employment rights in the first 90 days of any new job. Because in any 90 day period 297 000 New Zealanders change jobs that means nearly 300 000 of us will be without rights at work at any one time. This bill will make it perfectly legal for bosses to fire workers on the spot for any reason they like or simply for no reason at all. For seasonal and temporary workers this means no rights at work…ever.

But don’t be tricked by the propaganda. This bill isn’t about “probationary employment”, because we already have legislation that provides for employment on a probationary basis. Nor is this bill about reducing unemployment. We already have extremely low unemployment levels and this bill will just make it easier for workers to end up on the sack heap by stripping them of all legal protections from unfair employer practices like 89-day contracts. Now Mapp reckons we should look to the United States and Australia as a model of industrial relations law. But we need to see however the dangers of replicating Australian or US law. The US has this type of legislation and around 200 000 workers get the sack a year unfairly! In Australia they’ve just brought in this type of law and an engineer was fired for “smirking at the boss”. This isn’t really the kind of law we want in New Zealand if you ask most people.

“How did this get into New Zealand?” I hear you asking. Because the National Party and Act, NZ First, United Future and three Maori Party MPs (Tariana Turia, Te Ururoa Flavell and Pita Sharples) supported it. Pita Sharples has recently, however confirmed he will vote against the bill when the bill makes it to the second (and final) parliamentary reading. It’s now at the select committee stage. Labour and the Greens are staunchly against this, which means that whether the bill goes through or not largely depends on the vote of one or two MPs in the Maori Party. AUSA has policy against this bill but is yet to really raise its voice against the Bill.

However there is hope! A national campaign to “Kill the Bill” is in progress. There have been big rallies in Christchurch and Wellington. Workers unions are mobilising to meet the threat this bill poses to peoples work rights if it passes especially the threat it poses to students like you and me who hold down part time jobs, which usually don’t last longer than three months. The campaign will only succeed if students get involved and actively fight back and stand up for our rights! In France, students were able to defeat similar legislation with massive mobilisations and confrontations with riot police. They showed the way forward in how to fight injustice with mass direct action and a strategy, which required that the government back down. Luckily we don’t have to do anything as drastic as riot (just yet) to have our voices heard in Aotearoa. We do need to get out and join workers when they protest this attack on our work rights this week.

On Wednesday, August 23 there is a mass rally against the bill in Aotea Square at 12:30pm followed by a march down Queen Street. The rally is being organised by the Engineering Print and Manufacturing Union with participation from other community groups. So if you’re free on Wednesday make your way down to the rally or come at 1:30pm for the march if you’re planning on going to AUSA’s AGM. If we value our jobs and our communities we can’t let this bill go through. Anyhow. Thought I’d warn you now because if you decide not to get out there on Wednesday with the rest of us to protect our rights and this bill does pass don’t come blaming me when you get the sack for smirking at your boss next year. Cause I’ll be there. Rain or shine.For more information on the bill see
Published in Craccum August 20, 2006



Ngā iwi e, Ngā iwi e
O people, O people
Kia Kotahi ra, Te Moana-nui-a-kiwa
Join together as one the Pacific Ocean.
Ngā iwi e, Ngā iwi e
O people, o people
Kia Kotahi ra, Te Moana-nui-a-kiwa
Join together as one, the Pacific Ocean
Kia mau ra, kia mau ra
Hold fast, hold fast
Ki te mana motuhake me te aroha.
To self-determination and to love.
Kia mau ra, kia mau ra
Hold fast, hold fast
Ki te mana motuhake me te aroha.
To self-determination and to love.
Ngā iwi e. The song of the Pacific. Originally a Kanaky song from New Caledonia, it was translated into Maori in the 1970s and entered New Zealand by way of Greenpeace, who sung it on board the Rainbow Warrior while protesting French nuclear testing at Muroroa in French Polynesia. It is as Pacific as the wide blue ocean in which we all live.
A Report on the Pacific Youth Festival 2006
Read more (includng photos)


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

New Caledonia: Workers versus Globalisation

Workers in New Caledonia are Fighting Globalisation

“We all have the same goal and that's to fight globalisation wherever it hits us. It's only by joining our struggle together that we will stop globalisation”, wrote the spokesperson for the Union of Kanak and Exploited Workers (USTKE) Pierre Chauvat, a day before his union went to blockade the port in Nouméa, New Caledonia, where one of the largest multinational shipping corporations was planning to unload its cargo, guarded by armed forces.

The USTKE is fighting back at two multinational shipping corporations the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) and Maersk Shipping who are attempting to force local shipping out of the Nouméa to Sydney shipping market at the cost of around 200 local jobs. The USTKE wants the freight volume to be restricted by a quota but the French colonial government and the shipping corporations aren’t going to step down without a fight. MSC is operating from Australia and Maersk from New Zealand.

USTKE have shown the Pacific the power of direct action, occupying the port for three weeks to prevent MSC and Maersk ships from docking and unloading their cargo. The struggle has involved twenty-four hour general strikes and dangerous skirmishes with police on the picket lines.

On the 22nd of June a general strike was on again for 24 hours with blockades of companies that use MSC for freight container transport. Coca Cola was closed by 300 strikers. Food distributors and paper industrial complex in the city were also shut down. Around 1,000 strikers held 4 blockades points, while discussions took place with an MSC manager that arrived from France yesterday.

Pierre Chauvat wrote before the blockades began that, “So far the USTKE rally and mobilisation is strong and continues to develop. People are now fully aware that globalisation is a real danger for the small Pacific Island economy and some commercial protections must be taken into account to allow New Caledonia economy to grow with local controls. The amazing thing to mention is that the local government is completely out of the matter, which means that politically, this local government is detached of crucial internal affairs of the country and all elected representative of house of Congress have shirked responsibilities.”

The USTKE is active in other struggles in New Caledonia as well its fight for workers rights. It is involved in the struggle against a Canadian mining giant's nickel project in the South of New Caledonia, which has encountered strong Kanak resistance including sabotage of about US $10 million worth of mining equipment. The mine site was occupied for several weeks until police evicted them. On the fourth of June eight thousand people rallied against the mine project and were addressed by anti-globalisation hero, radical French farmer and self described anarcho-syndicalist Jose Bove. Bove spent three weeks in jail for his part in the dismantling of a McDonalds restaurant to protest globalisation.

The struggles of the USTKE are one ripple of the continued resistance of Pacific people to colonisation in whichever form it takes; economic, political and environmental. Pierre Chauvat and the USTKE are on the frontlines of a struggle that affects everyone in the world as he points out, “Our struggle is a big one. MAERSK and MSC are very strong and it seems to be that they will not give up easily. Nor we. I hope your fights succeed. I believe that the social movement is on its way, especially if we look at what's happening in South America. Hope is in front of us.”

Published in the July issue of Workers Charter, Green Left Weely and on


Youth Pay Rates-Polling the People

The polls have almost closed and the government will soon be deciding whether to do away with the youth minimum wage through the Minimum Wage (Abolition of Age Discrimination) Amendment Bill. OMAR HAMED of Radical Youth reflects back on the campaign and hits the streets one final time to see what youth have to say about their pay.

In New Zealand, 16 to 17-year-olds can be legally paid $8.20 per hour for the same work as an 18-year-old who gets at least $10.25. Under 16-year-olds can be paid whatever the employer decides in this country, as there is no set minimum wage for this age group.
When myself and a ragged bunch of young workers and students grouped together, we came to one conclusion.
Paying young people a lower wage for equal work is discrimination – pure and simple. The issue of youth rates is similar to that of pay equality for women with men. In both cases, a member of a social grouping is discriminated against in the workplace because they are a member of that group.

Standing up for a buck

Over the last few months, thousands of students and young people have taken to the streets to demand ‘Equal Work for Equal Pay’. We marched, danced, sung, laughed, cheered and pulled together all meagre resources to create a campaign designed to abolish youth rates.
On Monday March 20 on the stroke of noon in the heart of Auckland’s CBD, 1000 high school students rallied and marched up and down Queen Street.
They demonstrated the power of collective direct action; using their feet to vote for the passing of the Minimum Wage (Abolition of Age Discrimination) Amendment Bill that will scrap youth rates for 16 and 17-year-olds.
This stance was backed up on International Workers Day on May 1 when 500 youth and trade union allies marched again down the main strip to demand an end to discrimination based on age.

Forward Movement

The Ministry of Justice has since advised the government that youth rates are an abuse of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 – news that has been greeted with pleasant surprise from various youth movements.
In addition, Minister of Youth Affairs Nanaia Mahuta advocated for the abolition of youth rates earlier in the Tearaway May 06 issue.
“MYD has long advocated equal pay for equal work. I suspect there’ll be a number of factors that will effect the outcome and those will include how the economy is going and whether there are employers who can support a universal minimum wage.”
She adds that she will be watching with interest as for the outcome of the Transport and Industrial Relations select committee's deliberations on this issue
The ministry has been conducting a nationwide ‘tick-the-box’ campaign in an effort to give young New Zealanders a strong voice on the issue. The polls officially close on June 30.
Over 100,000 freepost postcards were distributed to secondary schools, technical institutes and through Tearaway magazine asking 12 to 24-year-olds what they think about youth minimum wages.
Green Party Industrial Relations spokesperson Sue Bradford – who first tabled the private members’ bill to parliament in December 2005 – pointed out that youth pay rates may already be illegal as a breach of the Bill of Rights.
She backed up the Ministry of Justice’s advice to the Attorney General, saying she would continue to “vigorously pursue (the) Bill to end discrimination based on age.”

The cost of change

Meanwhile, Employers and Manufacturers Association (Northern) employment services manager David Lowe warns that the removal of youth rates would result in an increase in teenage unemployment.
“The abolition of youth rates means a lot more teenagers would find work harder to get. School leavers already find it hard enough to get started. The option to pay minimum youth rates often gets teenage careers underway,” he says.
Citing a survey undertaken last year by the association, in which 14% of employers reported they were paying youth rates, Mr Lowe adds further weight to the opposing argument.
“Abolishing the youth rates would hurt teenagers more than help them, especially with the present economic outlook, because if an employer has a choice between a school leaver with no work experience, and a more experienced worker, they will choose the worker with more experience every time – unless there is an incentive to do otherwise.”

The Final Frontier

Regardless of the outcome, this campaign has proved that youth do have the power. They have the power that rests in wrestling back control of our cities, communities and culture.
Watch this space.

Published in the July issue of Tearaway


Saturday, June 03, 2006

Refugees-We are Everywhere

Where should we go after the last frontiers,
where should the birds fly after the last sky?

Mahmoud Darwish, poet

In 1851 my great-great-grandfather and his family boarded a ship in London and set sail for Christchurch. They were fleeing the dire poverty of industrial Britain for freedom in the new British colony that is now my home. In 1967 my father and his family left their village and walked down a dusty road heading for a refugee camp across the Jordan border. They were fleeing the advancing Israeli army that had threatened to kill my grandfather. They were refugees. They were not the first and they wont be the last people to be displaced, to find themselves on the margins of history, unable to return home.

Today there are officially 19.2 million refugees in the world. That’s about five times the population of Aotearoa. Our country has long been seen as a refuge for those who flee war, poverty and persecution in their own countries. In recent times we have had some headline grabbing encounters with the refugee problem like when Algerian asylum seeker Ahmed Zaoui arrived at Auckland airport in 2004 fleeing political persecution and was promptly labeled a “threat to national security”. Just last month a Burmese community leader called Mang Za Khup was very nearly deported back to Burma, where he would have almost certainly been jailed by the Burmese military regime. Both of these men are still in Aotearoa, thanks to the efforts of NGOs and the general public, who put pressure on the government to allow them to stay.

In 2001, New Zealand accepted hundreds of Afghani refugees who had been stranded off the coast of Australia, after the boat they were traveling in started to sink off the Australian coast. They were resettled in New Zealand by the volunteer organisation RMS Refugee Resettlement. A friend of mine in Wellington has been volunteering her time to help an Afghani family settle down into life in New Zealand. Jen spends time with them doing everything from shopping and pay bills to taking them to the hospital and helping them learn English. She told me that, “The family I work with are awesome and I really enjoy working with them, although I find it hard when the mother asks me why social welfare does not give her enough money to cover the costs of feeding and housing her four children.”

Refugees are everywhere, in every country and often coming to live in our neighborhoods and communities. They need support and understanding, they need people to give them a chance to live happily in their own country. On June 20, World Refugee Day, you can help support refugees by volunteering your time or money to RMS or spread the message around our schools and communities, that refugees are human beings who like us deserve respect and dignity and like us deserve a home.

Published in the Ministry of Youth Development's Provoke Newsletter No.2 May 2006


Saturday, May 20, 2006

Global Uprising: from Guantanamo Bay to No. 20 Symonds Street

As I write this I send my thoughts to those struggling against the Halliburton built torture camps at Guantanamo Bay. They are an inspiration. To the six men who rebelled this week against their jailors I lend my strength. Their actions carry within them the flame of all humanity that resists injustice. However, before you read this article I will warn you. It is in unequal parts a film review, an open letter of protest, an eyewitness account of campus life, a corporate accountability report, a message of solidarity, a note of thanks and a declaration of war.

On Monday I read in the Craccum editorial (#10, pg. 4) that US corporation Halliburton was coming sometime soon to the Faculty of Engineering to recruit students. On Tuesday I received the following message concerning the Halliburton visit in an email from a friend, “Pity we didn't have more warning. Could have organised an awesome anti-war profiteering protest.” On Wednesday I went and saw A Letter to the Prime Minister: Jo Wilding’s diary from Iraq. On Thursday morning I woke up and rode my bike into university and decided to do a bit of investigating into this Halliburton visit. No one seemed to know for sure when and where the visit was taking place. After a bit of legwork I finally found what I wanted on one of the Engineering Department’s notice boards. A glossy promotional poster that read, “Reaching for the future? Think red.” Just in time. Overlaid on top of a picture of a massive oilrig was the notice that Halliburton’s presentation was the very same day.

In A Letter to the Prime Minister Wilding chases the “destruction of the lives of ordinary people during the bombing campaign and their subsequent neglect by Occupation forces and the interim authorities.” She travels to bombed out houses, crowded hospital operating theatres and through the US sniper haunted streets of Falluja to seek out the victims of Western imperialism. The film is a testament to the courage and endurance of the Iraqi people and a reminder to those in the West that for many in the Middle East resisting the colonialism that came in our name is part and parcel of everyday life.

I always seem to leave those sorts of film’s with either a feeling that A) I need to be doing more to help these people or B) Despair. We’ve travelled to far down the path towards a world of hate, violence and bombed out rubble that there isn’t a thing we can do to change anything of significance. A week ago I had dropped a friend at the airport. He was on his way to the United States for a memorial service for a friend who had been murdered in Baghdad. The two of them were part of a four-person team who were in Iraq to support the non-violent Iraqi resistance to the US led occupation. For that reason I was caught between my two available emotions. Even as the occupation was producing more chaos and more uncertainty for the Middle East’s future the sacrifices some were prepared to make in the search for peace with justice was also escalating.

By the time I walked out of class on Thursday morning my resolve had set. No way could I allow Halliburton to come into my turangawaewae and recruit for its imperialist projects.

Now a lot of people might say “Why all the fuss? Why make a big deal about something that’s none of your business?” That’s what they were saying when white people started sticking up for blacks, when straight people started backing up their queer friends and what they said to me when I joined other Pakeha marching in solidarity with Maori against the racist Foreshore and Seabed Bill. It’s the same logic. It’s an argument that makes up the first part of a long slippery slope towards fitting the locks on the gates of concentration camps.

And it’s an argument I didn’t have time for last Thursday. There were posters to make. Emails to send. Requests for banners and megaphones had to be typed out quickly and texted to various activists. By the time the two-dozen or so students and faculty members had assembled on Symonds Street sixteen activists had been arrested in Duncan, Oklahoma at Halliburton’s annual shareholder conference, which was coincidentally being held at the same time as our attempt to disrupt Halliburton in Aotearoa. Without realising it we were a solidarity action with the American arrestees who included Hiram Myers, a 74 year old member of Veterans for Peace and with the activists from Peru and Nigeria who went inside the meeting as Halliburton shareholders and raised concerns about Halliburton's bribery of government officials in Nigeria and about a pipeline constructed through pristine rainforest in the Peruvian Amazon.

The protest itself seemed to me very surreal. Looking back on it now vivid images stick out. Myself and three other students walking to the front of the quite full lecture hall and holding banners that read “No Wars for Fuel; No Fuel for Wars” and “No Blood for Oil” as students both clapped and jeered. One student launched into a very angry attack on us, swearing and shouting at us to, “F*** off”. (It was only later that I was told he was the son of the Halliburton rep whose presentation we were gate crashing.) The apple core flying through the air then landing at the feet of a member of the Student Association Executive as we stood silently at the front of the hall. The security guard’s pulling me towards the door even as I still tried to read to the lecture hall from the piece of paper I held detailing the long list of Halliburton crimes. The Faculty’s registrar calling for order, as I slipped back into the hall, to join other students expressing their disgust at Halliburton’s presence. The police cars and extra security guards turning up to enforce our eviction.

Halliburton is the company that is rebuilding Guantanamo Bay, the American prison camp renowned the world over for torture and illegal detainment. The company that is stealing the oil wealth of the Iraqi people, that keeps the military infrastructure alive and well in Iraq, that uses slave labour, that is run by those behind the drive to war in Iraq, that sells polluted water to working class communities, that used worker’s pensions to pay for management benefits, that feeds US soldiers spoilt food, that is accused many, many times over on accounts of fraud and bribery in the US, Iran, Nigeria and across the world.

So, thank you to all the students who braved the chill Auckland night to hold banners up against windows overlooking the buffet of booze and cocktail food the engineering students were being fed. Cheers to the other students who resisted being thrown from the lecture hall. Thank you to the Asian Studies Professor who came late, long after we’d been kicked out but was still keen for us to all together rush the lecture hall door. Thanks to the members of the Campus Greens for smuggling out Halliburton beer for us to enjoy. Thanks to the many engineering students who after the lecture came and thanked us for protesting. Thank you to the other engineering students who walked out of the presentation after we had been kicked out.

In 1968 hundreds of people occupied Columbia University to protest its links with the war in Vietnam. The university administration called in the police by cover of night to evict the hundreds of students and staff with massive violence. A student at the time recalled the sight of police beating and evicting protestors. “At that point I realized the administration of this university is the enemy. They’re part of the military-industrial complex. These people are not supporters of learning. They are not my friends.” Ditto Auckland University, 2006. Or as folk singer Ethan Millar puts it,

“It's been said before and I'll say it once more, let's bring the war home
And battle the forces of greed and injustice wherever they may roam
No more will we stand idly by
While they ravage the earth and hurl flame from the sky”

For more information on Halliburton see and Download Ethan Millar on

Published in Craccum, May 29 2006