Laila Harre, the leader of the newly formed Internet Party, told a September 16 stop-work meeting in west Auckland organised by the FIRST and Unite unions, that state spying was not due to concerns about terrorism, but to target people who “organise for change”.
Harre is second on the Moment of Truth public meeting, chaired by Harre, at which NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden exposed the New Zealand government’s mass spying on its own citizens, the Internet Mana candidate emphasised that the state’s real concerns were ordinary people who organised in groups like unions.
On the elections, Harre said: “We have the potential to put together the most awesome team of new members of government – and a new government that will truly represent the diverse and real interests of all of us, not just the narrow few.
“This campaign we are not just talking about policy, but integrity and leadership. About the kind of tactics we support our government using.”
Speaking to a crowd that included workers from the Skycity casino, Harre said: “Just last year, the prime minister of our country signed a contract with Skycity that agreed to change the law so that Skycity could raise more money from more gambling and more pokie machines.
“Pokie machines are a predator on low-income communities. Our PM sod our gambling laws to Skycity in order to build a convention cent that I am damn sure groups like FIRST union will not be able to hold conventions in. That will not be a place for ordinary people.
“Three days ago, Glenn Greenwald came to this country, who has been reporting on the operations of our intelligence services and the intelligence services of other countries.
“Last night, we hosted a meeting at the Auckland Town Hall where Edward Snowden, who came beaming in live from Russia where he is hiding out from the American government, because he revealed to the world hundreds of thousands of documents on how our intelligence services are spying on us.
“Now, you might not think this is an important issue, but you are here at a trade union meeting. I am going to tell you this is of vital importance for people who join and organise through trade unions.
“The reason is this: for 200 years, governments and intelligence services first objective has not been tackling terrorists — that is nonsense. Their first objective is to find out as much as possible about what their own citizens are thinking and planning and doing when those citizens are organising for change.
“I can say something with almost 100% certainty. Last year, the government admitted it had illegally spied on 89 of its own citizens. One of those people knows their name, that is Kim Dotcom [Internet Party founder]. The other 88, they don’t even know who they are.
“But I will bet my bottom dollar that three of those people — [NZ Council of Trade Unions president] Hellen Kelly, [FIRST general secretary] Robert Reid and [FIRST retail, finance and commerce divisional secretary] Maxine Gay — are on that list.
Because it is people like this, who stand up, who help you to organise for your rights at work, that the government is scared of. And these people, without a doubt in my, are being spied upon.
“And they are not being spied upon because the government is worried about them destructing our security. They are being watched because they are worried about you getting organised to change politics in this country.
“And that is what it means to be part of trade unionism. So this is not just about policies.”
Harre emphasised, however, Internet Mana’s policy of free education, saying: “Why should young people today have to borrow money just to live and to go to a polytech or university, when every single education minister we have ever had in this country got their education for free at the cost of the tax payers?
“It is time we got out priorities right. New Zealand is not a poor country, but it is a country full of poor people. And that is because the decisions of government the huge transfer of wealth to the top of the pyramid.
“Most New Zealanders are worse off than they were six years ago [when the National Party government first came in]. Most New Zealanders have not had a pay rise in a long time. Over the last six years, the average pay rise — and that includes the big ones — has been less than 1% a year.
“How much has inflation been in that time? How much have house prices gone up? This is a government that claims to be the experts at managing our economy, yet house prices have gone through the roof, rents have gone through the roof and wages have remain static, or fallen, or for the lucky few have gone up a few percent.”
When voting, Harre asked those present to “please think carefully about whose side our government is on”, concluding: “We want government on the side of ordinary New Zealanders.”
Laili Harre speaking to another FIRST and Unite union stop work meeting on September 17. Video by Unite Aotearoa.