New opposition party formed in Fiji, regime tightens strings

February 7, 2013
Felix Anthony

Felix Anthony

Byron Clark

After a conference in Nadi last month attended by more than 400 delegates from all affiliates of the Fijian Trade Union Congress (FTUC), Fiji’s trade unionists have begun forming a new political party. Felix Antony, secretary of the FTUC and a one time a Labour Party MP who left the party last year citing a lack of internal democracy told Radio Australia;

“The people of Fiji and the workers of Fiji have little choice and what we need really is a political voice that represents a cross section of people and more so the workers of Fiji. It’s really a necessity that drives the trade unions at this time to consider a political movement and a political party.”

Fiji’s union movement is the largest democratic organisation in the country and a truly multi-ethnic institution in a country where the legacy of colonialism has been ethnicity-based politics. The Labour Party, also founded by the FTUC and maintaining close links until recently, has been a multi-ethnic party but Anthony, who is Indian, believes that it has become an Indian party, and is now represented mainly by people from just one union, the National Farmers Union and colleagues of leader Mahendra Chaudhry.

Antony said that the meeting indicated the diversity of the union movement in Fiji; “we had a very good mix of union activists and office bearers present. In fact, unlike other political parties, there is no need for the trade union movement to pretend to be multi-racial. We’ve always been”

It’s not yet been decided if the new party will stand in the September 2014 elections announced by the interim government, or if it would cooperate with the other parties who are coordinating their approach to standing in the election. The union movement has been one of the strongest critics of the regime in Fiji.  Read the rest of this entry »

Solomon Islands calling for labour mobility

December 19, 2012

robert-sisilo2_200_200While the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) has received a lot of coverage lately, less attention has been given to the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) which is a trade agreement between Australia, New Zealand and a number of Pacific Island states.

Negotiations for a successor agreement, dubbed ‘PACER Plus’ have been on-going for years. While New Zealand and Australia want island nations to open their borders to imports, they have been less amenable to opening their own borders to borders to people.

Soloman Islands  trade negotiations envoy, Robert Sisilo is the latest to echo the call for regional labour mobility “Since all Island Countries will be expected to make binding commitments to reduce or eliminate their import duties on ANZ exports and hence lose much needed revenue, it is only fair that ANZ do likewise on labour mobility” he told the Soloman Star

Current immigration controls see workers from the Pacific bought to New Zealand to fill low wage jobs, largely seasonal jobs in agriculture and viticulture. Opening New Zealand’s borders to workers from throughout the Pacific would give Polynesian and Melanesian migrant workers in New Zealand more rights, and would be a first step toward opening borders to workers from across the globe.

Pacific migration: Climate change and the reserve army of labour

July 16, 2012

Ian Anderson

Climate change hits different regions in different ways. An area scattered with low-lying atolls, the Pacific is particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise. Environmental migration must be a key consideration for socialists in this region.

Nations such as Tuvalu and Kiribati are already affected. Coastal erosion in Tuvalu, a nation comprised of atolls and reef islands, has already forced huge resettlement. Tuvalu has the second-lowest maximum elevation of any country, and it’s estimated that a sea-level rise of 20-40 centimetres could make it uninhabitable. By 2007, 3,000 Tuvaluans had resettled, most of them settling in Auckland. Kiribati is also vulnerable to sea-level rise and extreme weather events; less than a week before the Kyoto Protocol was signed, a “king tide” devastated coastal communities.

Global warming: Responsibility and consequences
Radical labour organiser Utah Phillips is quoted as saying, “The Earth isn’t dying, it’s being killed, and those who are killing it have names and addresses.” In this case the responsibility lies with the big polluters of imperialist nations, including Australia and New Zealand. With the exception of Nauru, which is subject to heavy phosphate mining by Australia, smaller Pacific nations emit far less carbon per capita than Australia and New Zealand.

While imperialist nations produce the bulk of emissions, the smaller nations of the Pacific will bear the brunt of anthropogenic climate change. As seen in Tuvalu and Kiribati, low-lying islands will be hit particularly hard. Along with sea level rise, climate change means health conditions such as heat exhaustion; depletion of fish stocks; and crop failure, in a region where many still live off the land. Oxfam Australia predicts up to 8 million climate refugees from the Pacific Islands, and 75 million climate refugees in the wider Asia-Pacific, over the next 40 years. Read the rest of this entry »

Advance Pasifika takes living standards demands to Auckland’s Queen Street

June 18, 2012

Pasifika people have hit the streets of Auckland in large numbers for the first time since the infamous dawn raids thirty years ago. Mobilising behind the organisation “Advance Pasifika”, about 800 people marched on Saturday to demand affordable housing, better educational outcomes, quality healthcare and decent jobs with a living wage for Pasifika people in New Zealand. A fresh morning breeze raised up the national flags of numerous Pacific Island countries, the largest number being Samoan and Niuean. They were joined by the banners of trade unions as well as Mana, Greens and the Labour Party.

The march was a little bit different to your run-of-the-mill demonstration. It kicked off with songs, hymns and even an aerobics work out. At the half way point, marchers were treated to an energetic performance of drumming and dancing, turning the heads of passers by on Queen Street. When the marchers reached Aotea Square, they were greeted with a pōwhiri from Ngāti Whātua on behalf of the tangata whenua of Auckland. The overall vibe of the march was exuberant, but also angry at the impoverished position of Pasifika people and the institutional racism they face.



Seasonal exploitation by Kiwi capitalists

April 24, 2012

Yesterday marked 5 years of Vanuatu’s participation in the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme. The RSE scheme allows New Zealand employers in the horticulture and viticulture industries to bring in labour from the Pacific to fill seasonal jobs. Vanuatu is one of the biggest contributer countries to the scheme and RSE income is now the Melanesian nations second largest income earner. the Department of Labour’s National Manager, Recognised Seasonal Employment, Emily Fabling said in a press release ”RSE has been an absolutely wonderful scheme for our horticulture and viticulture industries, in terms of ensuring they have the labour force they need at specific times of the year. And of course we are delighted at the benefits the scheme brings to Vanuatu and other Pacific nations.”

This view ignores some of the more brutal realities of the scheme, which has seen migrant workers mistreated and exploited in rural New Zealand. In 2009, Workers Party activist Byron Clark spoke to Lina Ericsson, a Swedish political scientist who conducted field work among N-Vanuatu workers in the Bay of Plenty.

You can listen to the interview here:

Tonga’s new king: where next for the democracy movement?

April 21, 2012

New king Tupou VI greets NZ governor general

Byron Clark

Following the death of Tonga’s King Tupou V, his younger brother, Tupouto’a Lavaka, now known as Tupou VI, has been crowned king. Lavaka, considered to be more conservative than his brother, served as the country’s Prime Minister until his resignation in February 2006. While he gave no reason for his resignation, its generally accepted that it was prompted by the huge social unrest brought about by protests demanding increased democracy. The protests turned into riots that destroyed most of the central business district in the capital Nuku’alofa, and as a result delayed King Tupou V’s coronation until 2008. The Democracy movement can take credit for reforms under Tupou V that saw his powers diminished and the number of elected members of parliament raise from nine to seventeen in the thirty seat house. Read the rest of this entry »

New Zealand state’s oppressive international role shown in Cook Islands

August 7, 2011

 Heleyni Pratley, Workers Party, Wellington branch

In 1901 administration of the Cook Islands was handed over to New Zealand from the British with some conditions. One was that there would be no sale of land to New Zealand, with the British saying they were dissatisfied with the New Zealand government’s handling of Maori land. This meant that all Cook Islanders, including those living abroad, had land rights and native land in the Cook Islands which could not be bought or sold, except to the government for public purposes. In 1902 New Zealand set up a Land Court with the aim being to increase the commercial productivity of the land and to lease it to Europeans.

The New Zealand government believed that the native population was ‘dying out’ and it wanted Europeans to farm tropical produce for export to New Zealand. So the authorities leased land to Europeans while leaving ownership in the hands of Cook Islanders who would - according to their thought at the time - eventually disappear.

There are now approximately 130,000 Cook Islanders, and the vast majority had retained rights to their customary lands. Even those who left the Cook Islands still have land ownership and hundreds of people had rights to blocks of land.

But in 2009 new legislation was passed in regard land ownership called the Land Agents Registration Act 2009. The reason this new law needed to be passed was because the majority of the land in the Cook Islands was owned collectively by large families and community groups.

Why was this form of ownership a problem? If it ain’t broke don’t fix it right? Well it depends on who you are talking to on deciding whether this socialised ownership of land was working or not. It was working pretty well for the majority of Cook Island people but for the ruling class of the world who own big business and for government’s which look after those capitalist interests this was a big problem. Why? Well because if you don’t have an individual owner it makes it very hard to buy and strip all the assets and sell the land. And how can you build a Hilton hotel if you can’t buy the land to build it on?

In 2005 the World Trade Organization recommended that in order for pacific countries to grow ‘economically’ and become more like their ‘Asian Tiger’ counterparts ( Hong Kong, Tai Wan ), the individualising of land ownership would be an essential building block.

The 2009 law required that a family may nominate one single owner of the land and that this individual has the sole legal authority to lease the land with a maximum lease period of 60 years. If a family can’t decide which person to nominate then the government appoints someone.

From a market point of view, now the Hilton can be built on land that can be leased for very low rent. After the 50 year lease is up the family can have the land back on the condition that any assets that have been built on the land are bought as well. Pacific Island nations have a history of being dominated by imperialist powers that rip off the people. The New Zealand government is one of the worst culprits.

Interview with Lina Ericsson

September 5, 2009

In this episode of the VBC radio Wellington show “The Unnamed Show” Byron Clark interviews Swedish political scientist Lina Ericsson about her research conducted with migrant workers in rural New Zealand under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme for her thesis ‘The Ni-Vanuatu RSE-Worker: Earning, Spending, Saving, and Sending’
(Jönköping University, Jönköping International Business School, JIBS, Political Science)

Lina’s field work uncovered a number of domestic and international labour law violations which are discussed in this interview, interviews with migrant workers provide an insight into their lives working on New Zealand’s orchards.

Listen here. This is part one of a two part show.

Wednesday’s at the WEA: Migrant Workers and the RSE Scheme

September 1, 2009

Introduced in 2006 the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme provides temporary work visas for workers from the Pacific to fill vaccencies in the horticulture and viticulture industries. According to NZAid, New Zealand’s international aid and development agency, the scheme was “designed with the development of Pacific countries and New Zealand’s horticulture and viticulture industries at its heart.” Drawing on field research done by Swedish political scientist Lina Ericsson this presentation will give an insight into the experiences of migrant workers on kiwifruit farms in the rural North Island, while critically examining the RSE scheme in the context of New Zealand’s relationship with the nations of the south Pacific on the issues of trade, development and immigration.

Speaker: Byron Clark
5:30pm, Wednesday September 2
WEA, 59 Gloucester St (map)

Pacer Plus:New Zealand and Australian exploitation in the Pacific

July 12, 2009

Byron Clark
The Spark
July 2009

New Zealand and Australian trade ministers met with their Pacific counterparts in Samoa to negotiate an “enhanced version” of the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) dubbed “PACER Plus”. The negotiations have been controversial for two reasons, one is the exclusion of Fiji, which New Zealand and Australia currently have sanctions against. Fiji has been officially suspended from the Pacific Forum but not from PACER, which is a separate treaty.
The other reason is the likely possibility of increased exploitation of the Pacific by the regional powers. As Solomon Islands opposition leader Manasseh Sogavare told the Solomon Star News;

“As far as Solomon Islands is concerned, the arrangement would amount to opening up one-way traffic of trade benefits from here to Australia and New Zealand, which in any case is already in favour of these countries without the PLACER-PLUS arrangement” Read the rest of this entry »


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