National’s dirty deal gets worse and worse – see this Green press release:
National’s veto power makes SkyCity deal dirtier
SkyCity deal documents show how the National Government ignored warnings about the damage its dirty deal with SkyCity would do and instead, focused on getting itself the power to block groups it doesn’t like from using the convention centre, Green Party gambling spokesperson Denise Roche said today.
Documents released yesterday reveal how SkyCity and the Government wrangled over what kind of right the Crown would have to block events that it didn’t like from being held at the New Zealand International Convention Centre (NZICC). The final agreement gives the Government a veto right over events at the NZICC that it considers could be “materially prejudicial” to New Zealand’s international relations or national security or the NZICC’s brand, or are simply deemed not to be of a suitable “type and style” for the NZICC.
“The records of the negotiations show that National didn’t care about inflicting gambling harm on thousands of New Zealand families as a result of its dirty deal, but it put a lot of effort into making sure it can ban groups it doesn’t like from using the convention centre,” said Ms Roche.
“The New Zealand International Convention Centre must be open to all people to hold events, not just those in favour with the government of the day.
“What groups will the National Government consider “unsuitable” for the convention centre? Would anti-Trans-Pacific Partnership groups be banned from holding meetings there for the crime of opposing National’s trade agenda? Would National block a figure like the Dalai Lama from giving a speech at our country’s premier convention centre so as not to offend China?
“The right to veto events that the National Government decides aren’t ‘suitable’ or good for the convention centre’s ‘brand’ is very broad and open to abuse. Will opponents of the National Government find that they are not welcome at what is supposed to be our national convention centre? …
“These revelations add further weight to Treasury’s warning that the SkyCity deal isn’t in the public interest. It’s clear that SkyCity was focused on its own profit interests and the National Government was focused on its political interests. The interests of New Zealand and New Zealanders simply didn’t enter into their consideration,” said Ms Roche. …
For more on this, check out the (usually mild-mannered) Russell Brown in this strongly worded piece:
A different kind of country
The government’s convention centre deal with SkyCity has been giving off a bad smell for a long time now. The contents of the deputy auditor general’s report on the process were enough for the usually conservative John Armstrong to declare the government’s “shonky” selection of Sky City’s bid as “verging on banana republic kind of stuff without the bananas.” Turns out, it’s worse than that.
Yesterday’s document dump revealed that the Ministry of Economic Development, negotiating last year on the government’s behalf, wanted a government veto on the hiring out of the planned conference centre “to avoid having protest groups hiring the NZICC at the same time as a government event.” …
So the government has reserved a right to curb speech it finds inconvenient by making an agreement that allows it to control the use of a commercial facility. Worse, it has achieved that right by trading it against concessions running in favour of Sky City – concessions it has made on our behalf, and over the concerns of Treasury. The government traded away the public interest in pursuit of a curb on public expression. It’s really creepy. …
Taken as a part with John Key’s dimissive (and deceptive and bullying) swatting away of concerns about the GCSB bill from the Human Rights Commission – and the Privacy Commsssioner and the Law Society – this latest insult makes it feel even more as if New Zealand is turning into a different sort of country. And not a good sort. Singapore without the duty of care? Certainly a country that has begun to move away from basic norms of free speech. …
Brown also gives the right-wing commentators a serve for their partisan silence on these issues, noting in passing that Farrar has deleted images of his “Free Speech Coalition” billboards (comparing the last Labour-led government to various dictators) from his blog – you can still find them here.
Free speech. Use it or lose it.