Gordon Campbell: Foreshore and Seabed deals & dealing with Iran

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So today, the government formally agrees to dump the foreshore and seabed legislation. On one level, this means karma retribution for National, which made so much of the iwi vs kiwi billboards in 2005 – since it will now fall to a National-led government to sort out a lasting solution. So far, the only consensus from the hui consultative process this year has been about the easy part – scrapping the status quo.

All the divisive, contradictory parts remain. Any solution has to recognize customary rights for iwi and hapu, while not making access for everyone else in any way conditional. Good luck with that. In all likelihood, the government’s ‘solution’ will be to do nothing – and let the issue go back to the courts for the judges to make a ruling, based on the pre-foreshore and seabed legal framework. The gist of any such ruling will not be whether customary rights exist so much, as to define their scope – and whether they include the equivalent of ordinary property rights.

In truth, it would be helpful – as well as politically expedient – for the Key government to have that legal landscape clarified by someone else before it acts. Yet act it must, ultimately– if only because it is unlikely that the courts will have been able to tidily square the circle. Looking ahead, it seems clear that neither customary rights nor free access can continue to have their current meaning, not if a workable compromise is to be achieved. That will mean political headaches all around.

The obvious problem will be for the government of the day. The public is likely to react badly to any solution that requires permission from Maori before anyone can visit the beach. Any compromise on its very raison d’etre would also be very difficult for the Maori Party, which – regardless – may have to evolve, and show that it is more than a one trick pony, fighting only for its corner.

To date, the Maori Party love affair with National has been conducted on the basis of the old Bob Dylan song : “I can’t help it if you think I’m odd / if I say I’m loving you not for what you are /but for what you’re not.” So far, National has been the NOT the foreshore and seabed option for Tariana Turia and her colleagues – yet soon, they will find out where National really is on this issue, and not just where it isn’t. Will the love be able to endure ?


Anti America Day (Again)

On Wednesday, the Iran will mark the 30th anniversary of the seizure of the US Embassy by Islamic students. A pretty hollow carnival seems likely, given the trifecta of problems staring the regime in the face. Firstly, the government has banned any demonstrations on Wednesday concerning this year’s disputed election. Two, it gets to decide this week on its response to the ingenious deal being offered by the International Energy Agency to ensure its right to peacefully pursue a nuclear capacity.

The final issue – which is likely to cause the most problems for the government in Teheran – concerns the level of compensation the poor will; get for the neo-liberal economic reform programme that Prime Minister Mahmoud Ahmedinejad wants to carry out, and which involves the elimination of subsidies for basic food and energy.

Yesterday, the Iranian parliament voted to extend the subsidy compensation to all Iranians, and not simply to the poor. Since the amount budgeted will not change, this means less for the poor. This could really stoke social unrest, as this Reuters report suggests, since even the earlier compensation package offered nothing for the likely rise in food prices:

The business daily Sarmayeh said a family of four with a monthly income of about $400 would receive $68 under the plan, but that this would only cover the expected increase in gas and electricity prices. Its report preceded the parliamentary vote.

There were riots in 2007, Reuters points out, over gasoline rationing plans. Perhaps the crushing of the election protests has emboldened Ahmadinejad to proceed, on the basis that a similar expression of sheer force will intimidate anyone seeking to protest over his economic policies. Thus, any claim by the Iranian government to moral legitimacy continues to unravel.

As for the IEA…this plan would essentially see much of Iran’s nuclear activity transferred overseas, for other countries to peacefully process on Iran’s behalf, in order to meet the country’s valid energy needs. Unfortunately, the co-incidence of the 30th anniversary of the US embassy seizure has made Wednesday a virtual “anti-US day “ in Teheran, and that bodes badly for the deal’s acceptance. Hard to see the hardliners in Teheran taking such an escape route, at the very moment it is celebrating its most successful historical example of tweaking the nose of the Great Satan.

Especially so, when the world continues to remain selectively blind to Israel and its store of nuclear weapons, within the region. As even this Voice of America news report said a few days ago:

President Mahmoud [Ahmadinehad] said when an ‘illegal regime’ has nuclear weapons, it is impossible for other countries to be denied the right to have ‘peaceful nuclear energy.’

Well, exactly. As with the foreshore and seabed, everyone has to compromise, not just a designated few. Oh, and in a related newsflash : the Obama administration has just dropped its prior demand that Israel must cease building settlements in disputed territories before ‘peace’ talks begin. What a farce.


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