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US lobbied NZ over copyright laws - WikiLeaks cables

Published: 11:13AM Monday May 02, 2011 Source: ONE News/Fairfax

WikiLeaks cables have revealed the US offered to draft new copyright laws for New Zealand.

Whistleblower Wikileaks published around 1500 more cables over the weekend, written by the US Embassy in Wellington. Some of the more controversial cables have already been leaked to media outlets but this is the first release of all of them on a single Wikileaks site.

The cables also show that the US offered to spend more than $500,000 to fund a recording industry-backed IP enforcement initiative.

According to the cables, the US actively lobbied several cabinet members while New Zealand was working through its copyright reform in 2008.

The attention was similar to that shown to Canada, Sweden and Spain.

Canada was shown particular interest for the government's "continuing failure to introduce - let alone pass - major copyright reform legislation that would implement and ratify the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) Internet Treaties."

As a result Canada was placed on the Special 301 list in an attempt to embarrass them into passing the new law.

New Zealand was not placed on the same list, with the US saying it would be a "counterproductive" move.

A February 2008 cable notes that Consumer Affairs Minister Judith Tizard and Trade Minister Phil Goff were presented with a list of shortfalls to submit as the legislation was being drafted.

"Post has presented the list of noted shortfalls in the draft legislation to Minister Tizard (Consumer Affairs), Minister Goff (Trade) and to officials within the Ministry of Economic Development, the agency primarily responsible for drafting legislation and monitoring IP enforcement.

"Post remains engaged with Bronwyn Turley, Senior MED Policy Advisor for IP issues to maintain a dialogue to address the needed technical corrections," the cable noted.

New copyright laws were passed in April 2008.

Much earlier, an April 2005 cable reveals America's willingness to fund a recording industry enforcement initiative.

The project was backed by the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ) and the Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (AMCOS).

The proposed budget included four salaried positions, legal costs for investigation and prosecution, and training programmes.

The organisation would have been responsible for enforcement operations and seizures.

RIANZ still runs an anti-piracy site, but it does not include disclosure about the source of funding.

In 2009, the US also offered to help NZ with drafting its three-strikes legislation, a form of which was recently made law under urgency.

But the US approved of New Zealand's redrafting of the law.

"This particular section of the copyright law deals with provisions to terminate repeat copyright infringers who use the internet to illegally download copyrighted material. The GNZ plan looks to be well thought out and with the assistance of a panel comprised of five of NZ's leading intellectual property experts, the redrafted provision looks positioned to avoid the earlier pitfalls and criticism of poor draftsmanship," the cable said.

Contributors to discussions on the subject say the cables are confirmation that the US has long been pushing countries all over the world to draft heavier copyright legislation.

"Our government recently passed the mentioned changes to S92A in an urgent session of parliament which was called for the purpose of funding the disaster recovery in Christchurch," said Peter Ajamian, Pirate Party president.

"So we now have the government sneaking underhanded legislation through the backdoor to avoid the public comment period which got the legislation delayed before," another post said.

The said bill, which repealed Section 92A of the Copyright Act, comes into effect from September 1.

It means from September 1 downloading copyright-protected material will be punishable with fines of up to $15,000, and copyright holders will be able to approach Internet Service Providers (ISPs) if they believe an ISP's client has been illegally downloading their material.

The bill's passing led to an online black-out campaign with many protestors claiming that vulnerable users would be unfairly targeted.

Greens appear easy to please

Meanwhile, a diplomatic lunch, a free trip to Washington and assurance of "assistance" from the US Embassy in Wellington have been used to blunt the Green Party's "radical positions on many issues", other cables reveal.

The Americans seduced Green co-leaders Metiria Turei and Russel Norman, the latter with a free trip to Washington, and managed, over a lunch, to get a commitment from list MP Kennedy Graham "to turn (to the embassy) for any assistance he made need in the future".

The American diplomatic cables show New Zealand has been unsuccessfully pressuring Asian nations on behalf of the United States to get them to put military forces into Afghanistan.

On the July 15, 2009, lunch between Graham and US mission head David Keegan, the cable said:  "The overarching purpose of the July 15 lunch was to establish the beginnings of a warm and respectful relationship with Graham," Keegan cabled home.

"By lunch's end, an open dialogue and a mature relationship with Graham going forward were highly probable."

He said Graham displayed an "extensive knowledge and understanding of global affairs", was "an evident multi-lateralist" and a "moderating influence on his frequently radical party".

Graham (brother of former Justice Minister Sir Doug Graham) "does not appear to be bogged down in the left-wing dogma which imbues many of his Green Party colleagues.

"He revealed that he does not always subscribe to the majority view of his party's caucus.... Graham has the potential to be a moderating voice within the Green Party, synonymous with taking radical positions on many issues."

While the Greens had been a strong critic of US policy, Keegan said they had held "a highly successful call on the Green Party's new co-leader, Metiria Turei" and they had got Russel Norman into the US under its visitor programme.

Norman had reported on the "great value" he got out of going to the US.

In an earlier cable Keegan said the Labour Party needs to "revamp its current parliamentary list, which is replete with tried, tested, and largely defeated Labour Party stalwarts".

In April 2009, Keegan reported he had delivered "requested needs and specific asks" of New Zealand for Afghan forces. The cable did not list them.

He said New Zealand had been trying to get Japan to provide support "but to little avail". New Zealand believed "Japan's security forces lack self-confidence and worry they may not be able to perform adequately in international security operations".

But New Zealand had "shamed" Malaysia into contributing a warship for pirate patrols after China and Korea did so. A month after his cable, Keegan filed Prime Minister John Key's announcement that the Special Air Service would return to Afghanistan.

Breeding ground for Islamic extremists

In 2006 US Ambassador Bill McCormick assessed the impact of Wahhabism on New Zealand's Muslim community. The 18th century doctrine is now the dominant form of Islam in Saudi Arabia and is regarded by Washington as extremist.

The embassy said Saudi Arabia was funding Wahhabism in New Zealand.

An embassy official visited the Ponsonby Mosque in Auckland which, he said, provided a mixed picture.

"The imam wore traditional Arabic garb, sometimes indicative of Wahhabi leanings, but he followed orthodox, non-Wahhabi methods...

"However, of the approximately 300 worshippers attending the day's services, about 20 per cent, mainly young adults of Arab appearance, were following Wahhabi-style worship methods."
McCormick said recent migration had seen "immigrants with limited language and educational backgrounds" enter.

"If not carefully managed, this could lead to the kind of insulation seen in some Muslim populations in Europe that can potentially serve as a breeding ground for home-grown extremists."
US concern about the state drug-buying agency Pharmac featured throughout the cables and it was clear that Washington was under pressure from American drug companies to make the issue a central part of any free trade deal.

In 2004, US Ambassador Charles Swindells said the embassy was "attempting to make inroads against a government mindset that is hostile to the drug industry" and tried to "educate New Zealanders on the benefits of gaining access to a wider range of effective pharmaceuticals".

The embassy noted an unexpected side effect from Pharmac, which it said denied cutting-edge drugs to New Zealanders: "Ironically, New Zealand presents a small but optimal environment for clinical trials of pharmaceuticals because of its population's lack of exposure to newer medicines."

Kahui family hid behind Maori grieving custom

The 2006 murders of infant twins Chris and Cru Kahui drew a cable saying it "highlighted the growing problem of welfare dependency, drug and alcohol addiction and child neglect within the Maori community". 

McCormick said the Kahui family had hid "behind a traditional Maori grieving custom" to stonewall police investigations. 

He noted Maori Party leader Pita Sharples expressed "open indignation at the actions of the Kahui family and his efforts to address social problems within Maori have broadened his political appeal".

The cables point to a high level and continuous New Zealand concern over Fiji ruled by military strongman Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama who seized power in a coup in 2006.

Both Australia and New Zealand have tried to have Fiji troops removed from United Nations peacekeeping forces, but the cables showed "Washington's concern that parties not rush to remove Fiji's participation in UN peacekeeping operations, noting the importance of Fiji to UN peacekeeping operations in Baghdad and elsewhere."

In a cable written in February 2006, the US Ambassador in Suva, Larry Dinger wrote of meeting the New Zealand High Commissioner to Fiji, Michael Green, who reported that Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters had met with Bainimarama.

"Green noted that Peters and Bainimarama know each other well, and had spent considerable time together in Wellington pubs during the Wellington 7s rugby tournament a few years back," the cable said.

Aucklanders 'materialistic and unfriendly'

The most bizarre assessment of New Zealand came in a 2006 cable by McCormick reporting on the proposal to build a stadium on the Auckland waterfront for this year's Rugby World Cup.
Written before Auckland became a single city, McCormick said the city has a "testy relationship" with New Zealand.

"Auckland is wealthier, far larger, and much more multicultural than other NZ cities.

"Aucklanders are seen as money-focused, materialistic and unfriendly and those who live outside Auckland believe the city absorbs more than its fair share of government resources."

But McCormick reported to Washington that "Aucklanders resent the tight-fistedness of their fellow countrymen, who seem willing to fund prestigious but money-losing projects in other cities".