Gordon Campbell on Labour’s polling, Rio Tinto, and why the Swiss are worse than Luis Suarez

The latest 3 News poll results has the combined Labour/Green bloc struggling at exactly 40%, still almost ten points behind National’s tally. (The poll recorded a 2.2% drop in Labour’s support to 27.3% and a similar-sized rise for the Greens to 12.7%, as centre-left voters appeared to shuttle between the two.) Some members of Labour’s caucus may even be feeling a bit relieved at these results, given that the polling period coincided with the worst of the Donghua Liu affair. The spin will undoubtedly be that clearly, the absolute rock bottom for Labour is still a bruised but battling 27% so…it can only be onwards and upwards from here. To paraphrase Megyn Kelly of Fox News, this is the sort of thing Labour supporters say to each other to make themselves feel better.

If only, if only…Labour must also be legitimately thinking. Pick up three or four points on the centre-left and this election is still conceivably a contest, rather than a rout. So far, National has been adept at keeping the focus on the Opposition. Yet on the campaign trail, the policy agenda for a third term National-led government – currently that’s a mystery wrapped in an enigma – will become a live issue. Voters will also be facing the prospect of several Conservative Party MPs entering Parliament, given the current poll rating of 2.8% and rising, plus the almost-certain electorate gift of East Coast Bays to Craig.

Who else will be on the Conservatives list, and will they make Craig look like a beacon of sanity by comparison? More to the point, what policy demands will the Conservatives and Winston Peters be making of National, and what will such a socially conservative administration look like? Because a centre-right coalition infused with Craig and Peters doesn’t seem like a recipe for a modern, innovative social democracy – it looks more like a taxi to the dark side of the Victorian era. Obviously, much will depend on the ability of Labour and the Greens to shift the arguments back onto National’s litany of failure – the asset sales, the unmet needs in health education etc – and the concessions it will have to make to the misfits with which it is currently consorting.

Corporate welfare redux
So nice to see that the Tiwai Pt aluminium smelter is back in the black, again. Looks like Prime Minister John Key didn’t really need to give them that $30 million handout (not to mention the cheaper power deal that reduced their power bill to pre-2013 price levels) after all:

The annual report shows that if Rio Tinto publicly announces a review of the ongoing viability of the smelter before the end of June 2015, it needs to pay back the $30m….But even so, the Government only has a commitment from the company to stay until January 2017….The annual report just out shows Rio Tinto had positive operating cashflows of $30m in the 2013 year, including $23.8m in the taxpayer “incentive” payment. But the positive cashflow was a sharp improvement on the $50m negative cashflow in the year before.

That’s sweet. And oh, get this:

Rio Tinto’s financial report filed with the Companies Office shows a net profit of $66.7m for the 2013 December year.

Rio Tinto appear to be dab hands at extracting ransom payments from the governments they hold hostage. They got $30 million plus power price concessions from New Zealand, but across the Tasman…Australia got taken to the cleaners for over three times what we paid them. A cool $A100 million, no less.

Australian taxpayers will lend $US100 million ($110.6 million) to a mining joint-venture run by BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto in Chile, under the latest funding deal by Australia’s controversial Export Finance and Insurance Corporation.

The loan to two of Australia’s largest and most profitable companies comes despite recent criticism of EFIC from the Productivity Commission, which advised the corporation to focus more on small exporters unable to secure finance, rather than big multinationals.

Socialise the risks, privatise the profits…Such is the invisible hand of the market at work, when it’s reaching into our pockets.

The Suarez Factor
Biting is bad, and Luis Suarez deserves his four month, nine international matches ban – whatever Uruguay may think about it. Yet IMO, what happens on the pitch seems less important than what happens off the pitch. On that score, Switzerland annoys me a lot more than an isolated villain like Luis Suarez. In its game against Honduras a few days ago, Switzerland’s terrifically talented 23 year old striker Xerdhan Shaqiri scored a hat trick of goals, and propelled Switzerland into the last 16. Fine. Yet Shaqiri is an Albanian migrant, born in Kosovo. He is also a Muslim, and judging by this Youtube video – he prays publicly before at least some of his games.

Why is this relevant? Because Switzerland is a hypocrite. It has passed laws intolerant of Islam. It has banned the wearing of the burqa, and it has outlawed minarets on mosques, which it seems to regard as violating its skyline. The anti-Muslim law passed in 2009 with the support of 57% of votes, and 22 out of 26 cantons (or provinces) voted for the ban. Switzerland didn’t stop there. In February this year, a national referendum very narrowly voted in favour of putting curbs on immigration, despite the fact these quotas will violate EU rules against such measures.

Immigrants? Xerdhan Shaqiri isn’t the only immigrant on Switzerland’s World Cup football team. Reportedly, 15 members of the 23-player squad have parents or grandparents who weren’t born in the country:

That’s more than any of the other 31 nations competing in Brazil — ahead of the U.S., which has 14 players born abroad or with a foreign parent or grandparent.

The Swiss national squad’s reliance on immigrants comes as the country is introducing quotas for foreigners after voters in February passed a measure to “stop mass immigration” by a majority of less than 20,000 ballots.

Frankly, what Switzerland is doing to its migrant and Muslim populations off the field strikes me as worse than what Luis Suarez did on the field – where his offence began, and ended. BTW, here’s what the Swiss World Cup team would look like without its immigrants.

The Angel Band
I’ve written elsewhere in Werewolf about how great Angel Olsen is. Yet over the last few months, her acoustic Half Way Home album has lasted the course better than the new electrified album Burn Your Fire For No Witness. Both albums are exceptionally good, mind you. Today, here are a couple of the easily overlooked older songs, “Miranda” and “Acrobat”.