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Archive for February, 2012

Blogger’s Lament – The Ultimate Sacrifice for Freedom

29 February 2012 3 comments

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Rami al-Said - Blogger, Citizen Journalist, and a gutsy bloke

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Last week, a Syrian blogger and citizen journalist,  by the name of Rami al-Said paid the ultimate price; he was killed by the military forces of despotic dictator, war criminal,  and disgusting excuse for a human being,  Bashar Assad.

Rami al-Said was reporting from the Syrian city of Homs – which as most of us know by now – is being pounded to rubble by a mad dictator’s army. Rami al-Said refused to leave, and instead chose to report on the genocide that was taking place.

One of  Rami al-Said’s last posts on his Facebook page stated,

“”Baba Amro [a suburb of Homs] is being wiped out now, complete genocide, I don’t want you to tell us our hearts are with you because I know that, I want projects everywhere inside and outside I want everyone to go out in front of the embassies in al…l countries everywhere because we are soon to be nothing, there will be no more Baba Amr – I expect this is a final letter to you and we will not forgive you.””

People have an instinctive fear of harm, injury, violence, and death. It’s part of our sense of self-preservation – that intrinsic, evolutionary urge to stay alive and stay out of harm’s way.

But every so often, human beings set aside that sense of self-preservation; their anger and indignation at an injustice overcomes their most basic fears (or at least pushes it to one side); and individuals and groups refuse to run away. They stand, and by the gods, they fight back.

History is full of such deeply heroic people. Whether they be poorly armed resistance fighters in various occupied countries during Europe’s darkest days under the tyranny of  Nazism; or young Hungarian teenagers facing tanks from the Soviet Red Army in 1956; or unarmed citizens in China’s Tiananmen Square in  1989 – there is an indomitable spirit that refuses to bow down and surrender.

I don’t know what it must feel like to experience such a sense of self that confronts bombs, bullets, torture, and death. Living in a comfortable, peaceful, existence here in New Zealand, it is an utterly alien concept to me. I can’t even begin to guess at how and why such ordinary, heroic, people can set aside their fear of death to stand up to bullies who can bomb a city into dust.

But I can – and do –  feel a deep abiding respect and admiration for people like Rami al-Said, who died when he could have escaped Homs; and whose only “fault” was being there, and reporting to the outside world what crimes were being committed against ordinary men, women, and children.

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Rami al-Said

1986 – 2012

Blogger & Citizen Journalist

Husband & Father

- One of the good guys  -

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Rest assured, Rami – one day Syria will be free. Your death – and those of your fellow Syrians – will not have been in vain.

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Additional

Syria blogger reportedly killed in shelling

Syrias citizen journalists: we expect to be killed

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Categories: Global Tags: , , ,

Great Myths Of The 21st Century (#2)

29 February 2012 7 comments

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Full Story

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Mana Party leader Hone Harawira accuses National of  of “beneficiary bashing”.

That’s because what Key, Bennett, et al, are doing is beneficiary-bashing.

For example,

From July, up to 14,000 teenagers aged 16 and 17 who are not in education, work or training and teen parents aged 16 to 18 will be coupled with a private provider to help them with budgeting courses, parenting courses, training or job-hunting.

Their basic costs such as rent and power will be paid by the state, and they will have a payment card for living costs that can be monitored to ensure they do not buy alcohol or cigarettes.” – Source

Strange…  I thought it was already illegal for retailers to sell alcohol and  cigarettes to 16 and 17 year olds?

What is the point of a payment card when 16 and 17 year old should not be sold these products in the first place? If retailers are breaking the law, then isn’t that a legal matter instead of a welfare issue?

Another example,

This package is about upskilling those people, getting them the right training and I just love that it’s got that incentive element to it so … instead of being punitive and sanctioning, we’re actually saying they can get up to $30 a week extra and I think that is really rewarding and what is needed.” – Paula Bennett, 28 February 2012

“Upskilling” and “training” – Righto…

In which case, Ms Bennett might care to explain why she cut back on the Training Incentive Allowance which she herself benefitted from, when she was on the DPB?

Ms Bennett doesn’t like to be reminded of her own experience on the DP,  given that she used the Training Incentive Allowance and other state assistance, to put herself through University,

I’ve always proudly stood up and said I’ve had benefit from the welfare state and I’m incredibly grateful for it. To now have that being used against me, I think is offensive to those people who are on benefits and trying to better their lives.” – 21 July 2009

Her faux sensitivity is in marked contrast to a remark she made, two years later,

I know many people are frustrated that they and their colleagues and family work hard to support themselves while people on benefits receive state assistance.” – 14 August 2011

Classic doublethink, Ms Bennett! Doubleplusgood!

John Key and his colleagues should be fully aware that there simply aren’t the jobs for the 150,000+ unemployed,

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Source

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There we have it,

New Zealand finance bosses are feeling good about the economic recovery, but research shows that optimism doesn’t extend to hiring new staff.

And when there are job vacancies, we get tragic situations like these,

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Any employment opportunity is being snapped up as the New Zealand job market continues to tighten, with a new supermarket in New Plymouth receiving almost 10 applications for every job available.  Progressive Enterprises’ new Countdown store, which is due to open in a month’s time, has created 160 new jobs, but the grocery giant received more than 1100 applications for the position.” – NBR, 25 June  2009

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“…about 1000 people applied for just 90 jobs at a new McDonald’s in Mount Maunganui, which is due to open next month.” – BoP Times, 10 June  2010

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Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Max Mason said he was not surprised at the flood of people applying for the McDonald’s jobs – about 10 people for every job available. “It’s clearly a signal that the employment market is tight,” he said.” – Ibid

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Increased competition in Nelson’s job market saw more than 100 jobseekers pack out a room and queue at a Tahunanui tavern yesterday for one of up to 20 jobs at KFC’s new store. ” – Fairfax News, 5 August 2010

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When a new supermarket opened today in Auckland it created 150 new jobs, but that was a small comfort for the 2550 people who applied for jobs there and missed out. ” – NZPA, 17 August 2010

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Applications have flooded in from jobseekers hoping to be a part of the new Bunnings Warehouse team in Glenfield.Advertisements were placed one week ago for the 124 jobs in sales, administration, customer-service and trade specialist areas, and over 1500 applications have been received so far. ” – Scoop.co.nz, 23 May 2011

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After reading about the restaurant’s open recruitment day in The Daily Post, Mr Watson joined 349 people who queued to be interviewed by Wendy’s staff on Thursday last week. He waited for almost two hours for an interview and he was contacted last Friday night to be told he had a job… Initially Wendy’s had planned to employ a crew of 45 but marketing manager Fay Stretch said yesterday the calibre was so good they had employed 51 people and were considering a further six.” – The Daily Post, 15 July 2011

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It seems fairly self-evident to all but the most ideologically brain-dead, that the large queues of job-seekers greatly outnumbers the limited vacancies available. The above cases are only the tip of the iceberg.

So for John Key to say that,

“…there are jobs out there, but people aren’t always willing to do them.” – Source

… is a gross insult. Especially when John Key’s own administration is resulting in hundreds of state sector workers being sacked on an almost weekly basis,

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Thirty-five jobs may go at Niwa

Dunne defends Greymouth IRD job cuts announcement

Air NZ may cut scores of jobs

Ministry plan puts 50 jobs on the line

Housing NZ staff face further cuts

Review suggests more part-time soldiers

Ministry to lose fifth of staff in radical cuts

‘Broken promise’ claim as frontline Defence jobs slashed

Foreign Affairs Ministry confirms 305 jobs to go

Housing NZ to cull 70 jobs in changes

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Thankfully,  National pledged 170,000 new jobs at the last election.

So far, we have this  ‘outstanding’ success in National’s job-creation policy,

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Source

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215 jobs instead of 4,000?!?! Please excuse my lack of over-enthusiasm…

The whole point of National’s welfare “reforms” is not to “incentivise” the unemployed off welfare and  into jobs. Even demonising welfare recipients is not the main goal of the Nats.

No, National is seeking an advantage in shifting blame for our stubbornly high unemployment rate onto welfare recipients.

By continually making public statements that point the finger at welfare recipients for being unemployed, they are engaging in a propaganda war to blame the jobless for their predicament.

That lets National off the hook.

This is about National shifting responsibility for the mess that our economy is in, so that the public look at the victims of the recession and government mis-management – rather than asking the Hard Questions from John Key; what are you doing to facilitate job-creation?

National cannot afford to be seen as sitting on their hands, doing nothing.

Yet, they are a neo-liberal Party that fully believes in the minimalist-government approach to employment; their core belief is that it is up to the “market” to create jobs, not government.

But in holding firm to this ideology, National finds itself trapped; the “market” is not creating new jobs; welfare numbers are still high; and the government is percieved as doing nothing, because of it’s adherence to minimalist government/free market  principles. Even the business sector, last year, was asking National; where is your plan for economic growth?

National’s “Plan B”/Get-Out-Of-Jail-Card? Shift the blame on to solo-mums; invalids, widows; and those made unemployed during four years of recession and stagnant growth.  Blame the parlous state of the economy  and limited job-opportunities on those at the bottom of the economic scrap heap?

Charming.

John Key knows all this. In fact, he has even had to admit it in the media, even while he and Ms Bennett were lambasting widows, invalids,  solo-mums, et al,  for daring to be out of (paid) work,

It’s true, ultimately if every one was to get off welfare we’d need to create even more jobs, but that’s the Government’s whole agenda is to have a vibrant economy that does produce jobs. I  certainly accept there’s not a job for every single person, but I don’t accept there aren’t some jobs out there.” –  John Key, 28 February 2012

Yes, Mr Key; there are “some jobs out there“. Just not enough.

Certainly not the 4,000 you promised through your cycleway project.

And definitely not the 170,000 you pledged last year, during the election campaign.

By blaming welfare recipients for a lack of jobs, National evades responsibility for the stagnant state of the economy. The subtext is that the “jobs are there but those lazy benes just don’t want to work – see it’s not our fault!“.

Funny isn’t it… the right wing continually demand that people take responsibility for their actions. So where is National’s responsibility in making the economy fit-for-purpose and creating jobs?

Paula Bennett said,

 “I think any jobs a good job.”

Indeed. We just need more of them.

Your call, Mr Prime Minister.

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Previous Blogposts

Unemployed job-seekers: Great Myths Of The 21st Century (#1)

Paula Bennett:  Hon. Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy

Additional

Chris Trotter: Just Leave Us Alone

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How Can A Minister of Finance Get It So Wrong???

28 February 2012 4 comments

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Five days ago, Finance Minister Bill English released a statement on the part-privatisation of several State Owned Enterprises. It is worthwhile re-printing his statement in full, and responding to it, point-by-point,

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Running up $5-$7b more debt not the answer

by Hon Bill English, Finance
23 February 2012

Opponents of the Government’s mixed ownership programme need to explain to New Zealanders why it would be better to borrow an extra $5 billion to $7 billion from overseas lenders, Finance Minister Bill English says.

Speaking to an Auckland Chamber of Commerce and Massey University business lunch today, he said the challenge was how the Government pays for forecast growth in taxpayers’ assets over the next few years.

“Taxpayers own $245 billion of assets, and this is forecast to grow to $267 billion over the next four years. So we are not reducing our assets. Our challenge is how we pay for their growth, while getting on top of our debt.”

The rationale for offering New Zealanders minority stakes in four energy companies and Air New Zealand is quite simple, Mr English says.

“First, the Government gets to free up $5 billion to $7 billion – less than 3 per cent of its total assets – to invest in other public assets like modern schools and hospitals, without having to borrow in volatile overseas markets.

“Our political opponents need to honestly explain to New Zealanders why it would be better to borrow this $5 billion to $7 billion from overseas lenders at a time when the world is awash with debt and consequent risks.

“We would rather pay dividends to New Zealanders on shares they own in the energy companies than pay interest to overseas lenders on more borrowing.

“The fact is, the Government is spending and borrowing more than it can afford into the future. So it makes sense to reorganise the Government’s assets and redeploy capital to priority areas without having to borrow more.

“Most nights on television, we see the consequences of countries in Europe and elsewhere borrowing too much. We don’t want that for New Zealand.”

Secondly, under the mixed ownership programme New Zealanders will get an opportunity to invest in big Kiwi companies so they can diversify their growing savings away from property and finance companies.

“Counting the Government’s controlling shareholding, we’re confident 85-90 per cent of these companies will be owned by New Zealanders, who will be at the front of the queue for shares.”

Thirdly, mixed ownership will be good for the companies themselves, Mr English says.

“Greater transparency and oversight from being listed on the stock exchange will improve their performance and the companies won’t have to depend entirely on a cash-strapped government for new capital to grow.

“We already have a living, breathing and successful example of mixed ownership in Air New Zealand, which is 75 per cent owned by the Government and 25 per cent by private shareholders.”

In his speech, Mr English reiterated the Government’s economic programme this term would focus on rebuilding and strengthening the economy.
It’s main priorities are:

  •     Responsibly managing the Government’s finances.
  •     Building a more productive and competitive economy.
  •     Delivering better public services within tight financial constraints.
  •     Rebuilding Christchurch.

“So there will be no big surprises from this Government,” Mr English says. “We have laid out our economic plan and Budget 2012 will focus on implementing that plan.”

Source

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Firstly, let’s call a spade, a spade here. Whilst National ministers use the euphemistic term, “mixed ownership model”, the issue here is partial-privatisation of state owned enterprises.  National’s spin-doctors may have advised all ministers and John Key to always use the phrase “mixed ownership model” – but the public are not fooled.

To begin, I take great exception to English’s opening statement,

Opponents of the Government’s mixed ownership programme need to explain to New Zealanders why it would be better to borrow an extra $5 billion to $7 billion from overseas lenders…”

Opponants of National’s part-privatisation do not “need to explain” anything. It is up to National to explain why it feels the need to part-privatise tax-payer owned corporations that are efficient and give a good return to the State.

Demanding that the  opponents of the Government’s mixed ownership programme need to explain” their opposition is the height of arrogance.  Governments in western-style democracies are accountable to the public – not the other way around.

English then goes on to say,

Taxpayers own $245 billion of assets, and this is forecast to grow to $267 billion over the next four years. So we are not reducing our assets. Our challenge is how we pay for their growth, while getting on top of our debt.”

Pardon?

“…we are not reducing our assets” ?!?!

Selling 49% of Genesis, Meridian, Solid Energy, Might River Power, Air New Zealand (from 75% to 51%) down to a 51% holding is “not reducing our assets” ?!?!

Bill English’s command of his namesake language is strange at best. I believe this is what George Orwell wrote about in his dystopian novel, “1984“, when he described “doublethink“,

To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them…”

English laments that “our challenge is how we pay for their growth, while getting on top of our debt”.

This involves two distinct issues;

Paying for the growth of state assets.

Genesis, Meridian, Solid Energy, Might River Power,  and Air New Zealand are all profitable enterprises in their own right. In the 2010 financial year, these  assets made a combined profit of $581 million dollarsNone of these five SOEs are loss-makers.

They can each pay for whatever growth programme they require, using their profits.

Where National interfered in SOE operations, the results were highly distorted,

Genesis paid out no dividend and had a zero yield on its operating profit of $293 million.

It had a 30.5% shareholder return on total assets.

Meridian had a dividend yield of 10.4%, achieved by paying out 428.8% of its profit. The increase came from the $300 million special dividend it received during the sale of Tekapo A and Tekapo B stations to Genesis, which was forced by the Government to borrow to pay for the purchase.” – Source

The reason that there is a  “challenge [in] how we pay for their growth”  is simple: National demands high dividends from these  SOEs (often by forcing them to borrow) leaving little for the companies to reinvest in their own growth.

Under-funding is a problem only because National has created the problem.

Getting on top of debt.

Linking  New Zealand’s $18-plus billion dollar debt to funding the growth of SOEs is  deliberate sophistry (ie; a deliberate deception).

The reason we have out-of-control debt is because,

As a society and as an economy, we had no control over the first two crises to hit us.

But we sure had control over our taxation policy, and doling out generous tax cuts to millionaires and wealthy businesspeople was a luxury we could not afford. (Many maintain that National was “rewarding” certain affluent socio-economic groups for electoral support at the ballot box.)

Next. English states,

First, the Government gets to free up $5 billion to $7 billion – less than 3 per cent of its total assets – to invest in other public assets like modern schools and hospitals, without having to borrow in volatile overseas markets.

???

National appears confused (as with most of its ad hoc policies) as to the proceeds it may gain from the partial sales. Only a year ago, Key stated authoritatively,

“If we could do that with those five entities … if we can make some savings in terms of what were looking at in the budget and maybe a little on the upside you’re talking about somewhere in the order of $7 to $10 billion less borrowing that the Government could undertake.” – John Key, 26 January 2011

Then again, as recently as eleven days ago, English let slip that,

I just want to emphasise that it is not our best guess; it’s just a guess. It’s just to put some numbers in that look like they might be roughly right for forecasting purposes.  That’s an honest answer.” – Bill English, 17 February 2012

The best description of Key and English on asset part-sales: clueless.

It is also worrying that National is selling state assets to pay for  “other public assets like modern schools and hospitals, without having to borrow in volatile overseas markets“.

Every householder will tell you that if  you have to sell of your furniture; whiteware; tv, family car, to pay to maintain your home – then you are in deep financial trouble.

What National is doing is “selling the household furniture to pay for painting the house”.  Selling off assets to pay for maintenance is not sustainable – eventually you run out of stuff to sell. It is a really dumb idea.

But more than that, it indicates that National is not “earning” enough, by way of taxation revenue to pay for it’s house-keeping. If we have to borrow or sell assets to do simple things like paint schools or properly resource hospitals – then it is a fairly clear indication that taxation revenue is insufficient for day-to-day operations of public services.

It also indicates that we are paying for the 2009 and 2010 tax cuts by selling state assets.

This is not “fiscal prudence” – this is foolish profligacy.

Bill English again demands, in his speech,

Our political opponents need to honestly explain to New Zealanders why it would be better to borrow this $5 billion to $7 billion from overseas lenders at a time when the world is awash with debt and consequent risks.”

No,  Mr English. Perhaps you should “honestly explain to New Zealanders” why you believe it makes greater commerciall sense to part-sell  profitable assets that are returning a higher yield on investment, than what the government pays to borrow?


The Government is estimating a $6 billion reduction in net debt after the sale of the state-owned enterprises – but concedes the savings on finance costs will be less than what it would have booked from dividends and retained earnings if it kept them.

Treasury  forecasts released today in the Government’s budget policy statement outline the forecast fiscal impact of selling up to 49 per cent in each of the four State-owned power companies – Mighty River Power, Meridian, Genesis Energy and Solid Energy – and by reducing the Crown’s current shareholding in Air New Zealand.

They assume a price of $6 billion – the midpoint in previous estimates of a $5 billion to $7 billion sale price – and a corresponding drop in finance costs of about $266 million by 2016.

But the trade-off is the loss of an estimated $200 million in dividends by 2016 and the loss of  $360 million in forecast foregone profits in the same year.

Documents supplied today state that the overall fiscal impact of selling a partial stake in the SOEs is a reduction in net debt, but the Government’s operating balance will also be smaller, because foregone profits would reduce the surplus.” – Source


Yet, only a year ago, Bill English was forced to concede that state owned power companies were indeed, highly profitable. In fact, he was complaining bitterly about State-owned generators  “earning excessive returns”,

Generally the SOE model has been quite successful in that respect. But if you look at those returns being generated particularly out of the electricity market, the Government has taken the view that that market is not as competitive as it should be.” – Source

The State will be losing money on the deal; earning less dividends from the SOEs than the cost of borrowing. The sums simply don’t add up.

There also seems to be some confusion (no longer a surprise) as to what National intends to do with sale proceeds.

On the one hand Bill English sez he wants to reduce debt,

We are firmly focused on keeping the Government’s overall debt as low as possible and that is the most important consideration over the next few years.” – 16 February 2012

And a week later, English is spending it,

First, the Government gets to free up $5 billion to $7 billion…  to invest in other public assets like modern schools and hospitals…”  – 23 February 2012

I guess Mr English is hoping that no one is paying attention?

Further in his speech, English makes this rather candid admission,

The fact is, the Government is spending and borrowing more than it can afford into the future. So it makes sense to reorganise the Government’s assets and redeploy capital to priority areas without having to borrow more.”

And there we have it, folks: the clearest statement yet from our Minister of Finance that the partial-sale of our state assets has little to do with giving “mum and dad” investors a share in our power companies; or making them more efficient; or paying down any of our $18+ billion debt; or putting a new coat of paint on your local school – the government is desperate to raise cash because it  “is spending and borrowing more than it can afford “.

The tax cuts of 2009 and 2010 were never “fiscally neutral” as National kept insisting.

The “tax switch”  left a $1.4 billion “hole” in the government’s revenue and this is how they are attempting to “plug that hole”.

We have been conned.

The tax cuts will be funded by the sale of state assets that we, as citizens of this country, already own. And because the bulk of tax cuts benefitted the highest income earners/wealthy – who are also in a better position to acquire shares in Genesis, Meridian, Solid Energy, Might River Power,  and Air New Zealand – the transfer of wealth from low and middle income earners will be two-fold.

The legacy of John Key’s government will be to make the rich richer, and for the rest of us, we can look forward to,

  • more expensive power
  • losing half ownership of our taxpayer-created state assets
  • and the top 10% to increase their wealth even more

But, to be generous, I will leave the last word to the Hon. Bill English,

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"Would you be willing to increase the mortgage on your house to go and borrow the money to buy shares on mighty river power?" Bill English, 16 February 2012

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John Key: another day, another broken pledge…

28 February 2012 1 comment

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National’s hatchet-job on our state service continues – and appears to be getting worse.

Fresh from news that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade  about to sack 305 people; and 295 uniformed personnel are to be fired from the Defence Force,  we learn that Key’s government is about to fire at least 70 staff from Housing NZ,

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Full Story

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This is on top of Housing NZ recently announcing that it will no longer assist low-income families with social needs,

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Full Story

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Worse still, on top of the redundancies, is the planned closure of offices; and replacing front-line staff with an 0800 number Call Centre.

The sackings are a direct breach of Key’s promise to New Zealanders that the cutting of the  state sector would not impact on front-line staff – and indeed he has stated that front-line numbers would be strengthened,

It’s time to focus public spending on front-line services that make a real difference in people’s lives, rather than paper-shuffling and report-writing that does not

We are not going to reduce the number of front-line staff. Let me make this absolutely clear – under National the numbers of doctors, nurses, teachers, social workers, police and other front-line staff will grow

In addition, we are not going to radically reorganise the structure of the state sector. Our focus will be on delivering services. Just as Labour has done, we will take opportunities to make changes to some agencies as part of the usual business of government. However, there will be no wholesale reorganisation or restructuring across the state sector… ” – John Key, 12 March 2008

John Key has broken every aspect of his own committments that he made to the nation, nearly four years ago, and which he has been repeating ad nauseum ever since.

Not only is his government sacking front line staff – but they are radically reorganising the state sector. Key’s most bizarre recent proposal was contracting out government services to Google. I kid you not: Rise of the Terminator Keybot!

A proposal to replace 1,000 full time soldiers in the Defence Force with “reservists”, who are “on call”, is a depletion of front-line personnel. This leaves NZ ill-equipped and ill-prepared to meet our international committments for U.N. peacekeeping duties, or local disaster relief operations.

Soldiers are front-line personnel. In fact, the term “front line” is a military term.

For those of us with fairly decent memories, we may recall the 1990s; when a Bolger and Shipley-led National governments cut the state sector until health, housing, social services, etc, were failing to meet the needs of ordinary New Zealanders.

At one stage Prime Minister Jenny Shipley was mooting moving or demolishing the Beehive Building so that an extension to the main Parliamentary Building could be undertaken. The cost to taxpayers was estimated to be in the region of $94 million (1997 dollars).

All whilst rentals for State houses were set at market prices; ex-psychiatric patients were living in public toilets; and on 3 April 1998, Southland dairy farmer Colin Morrison (42) died on a waiting list, awaiting a triple heart bypass surgery. His condition was listed as “life threatening” – but was still on a waiting list when he died.

And all during the 1990s, the wealth/income gap between the top 10%  and the rest of New Zealand widened further and further.

Sound familiar?

By 27 November, 1999, New Zealanders had had a gutsful and threw out the National government.

History is repeating.  The question is, how bad will it get this time?  Perhaps as bad as families living in caravans?

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Additional

‘Broken promise’ claim as frontline Defence jobs slashed

Review suggests more part-time soldiers

Families in caravans, cars as Housing NZ gets tough

Housing NZ proposal poses dangers for staff

HNZ: Housing New Zealand proposes changing how it delivers its services

2500 jobs cut, but only $20m saved

On Colin Morrison 1998)

Widow says little improvement seem

GP hits out at health reforms

Died waiting for by-pass

Word today on heart list

Anger on heart op delay

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Oh the irony…

27 February 2012 2 comments

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From National’s website, I found this little “gem”,

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Source

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Now, considering that the whole sorry saga of the  Leaky/Rotting Homes fiasco began with the  Building Act 1991 – when the then Bolger-led National government de-regulated the New Zealand building industry – it seems that National has not learnt a single, damned thing about that failed experiment in de-regulation.

As Auckland Mayor John Banks says, “It was a previous Government that put in the legislation that allowed for untreated timber, cavity-less walls, chicken wire and plaster. So they should at the least accept an equal liability with local government.”

Mr Banks should know. He was a member of the Jim Bolger-led National Cabinet that passed the permissive 1991 Building Act which was naively based on the premise that National’s developer mates could be trusted not to cut corners.” – Source

Fast forward from 1991 to 2012,

Fast-track building consents for standard, multiple-use building designs ” ???

Make building law changes to allow more do-it-yourself building, and to make a broader range of minor and low-risk building work consent-free “???

It is appropriate that #55 – “Leaky Homes: Develop a $1 billion financial package to help owners of leaky homes get their homes fixed” – follows on from #53 and #54. Because de-regulating Building Consents and making DIY easier, without professional over-sight, will probably end up with yet more dodgy building; more rotting  homes; and more New Zealanders having to pay thousands of dollars to repair shoddy workmanship.

Nice one, Mr Key, Mr English, Mr Brownlee, et al.

Never let it be said that you guys “waste any time”  learning from your previous mistakes…

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Additional

Wikipedia: Leaky Homes Crisis

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A job! A job! My kingdom for a job!

27 February 2012 5 comments

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“We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.” – John Key, 29 January 2008

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Despite John Key’s election-pledges in 2008 to see wages rise in New Zealand, the opposite seems to be happening; wages have either mostly stagnated, or, in some very public instances, are being actively driven down.

The maritime workers in Auckland and meat workers for meat-processing company, AFFCO, are facing an unprecendented attack on workers’ right and conditions which would see many (if not all) of them casualised and suffer a cut in wages.

This is hardly an “unrelenting… quest to lift… economic growth rate and raise wage rates“. It is, in fact, more akin to Bill English’s remarkable admission on TVNZ’s Q+A, on 10 April last year that having wages 30% lower than our Australian cuzzies was a “a good thing if we can attract the capital, and the fact is Australians- Australian companies should be looking at bringing activities to New Zealand because we are so much more competitive than most of the Australian economy.

Unions representing various  groups of workers have had a gutsful, and are asserting their right to strike,

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Full Story

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The casualisation and reduction of real wages is not just a threat to the families of working men and women – but a threat to our economy as well.

National and ACT voters might care to reflect that just recently, BERL released a report outlining the value of blue-collar workers to the economy,

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Full Story

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We simply cannot afford to lose  skilled blue-collar workers heading of to Australia, or elsewhere in the world. Australia already has plenty of our doctors, nurses, engineers, scientists, etc.

As Berl chief economist Ganesh Nana said,

If you reduce the amount of trained and skilled labour out there, not only are you reducing the quantity available to businesses, you are also increasing the cost of the labour … because it’s in short supply.”

Global finance and accounting firm Robert Half director, Andrew Brushfield, said recently,

 “Where there is currently a need for skilled people in Australia, that need is just as prolific in New Zealand.” – Source

So let’s be clear about this;

Instead of short-sighted, selfish,  employer-driven vendettas against their workers – which achieves nothing except a form of reckless  economic self-sabotage – this country should be looking at ways to increase wages, which then leads to increased business turn-over; generating greater economic growth;  and ultimately, a more prosperous society.

I do not believe – not for one micro-second – Employers and Manufacturers Association chief executive Kim Campbell, when he said,

Frankly, I think most employers would like to pay more if they can, I don’t know any employer who genuinely wants to pay less.” – Source

That is 100%, unadulterated crap.

It is crap because many employers can pay more,

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Full Story

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They just choose not to.

Once again, from Mr Key,

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"The driving goal of my Government is to build a more competitive and internationally-focused economy with less debt, more jobs and higher incomes." - John Key, 21 December 2011

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And as we all know, John Key is a Man of His Word. Right?


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Propaganda as an industrial dispute weapon?

27 February 2012 14 comments

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Whilst the Labour Party is taking great pains to keep an impartial, neutral position on the port dispute in Auckland – the PoAL (Ports of Auckland Ltd) shows no such inclination toward restrained behaviour.

According to a recent report by Fairfax Media, PoAL has taken another step to ratcheting up the dispute with a new (and somewhat bizarre) propaganda tactic,

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Full Story

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A casual check of two right wing blogs – one with strong National Party connections – yielded the following result,

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Source

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Source

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Sending out a Press Release on the progress of negotiations is one thing.

But for a company such as PoAL to send information specifically to right wing blogs, that publish material from employers on a no-questions-asked basis,  is something relatively new to our industrial scene.

This is obviously a propaganda campaign – though one wonders what might be the purpose of such a campaign. Considering that probably 99% of Auckland ratepayers have never heard of “Kiwiblog”, and even fewer  “Cactus Kate” – feeding those two bloggers might appear to be somewhat of a pointless exercise.

Unless, of course, they are expecting David Farrar to parrot that information on his column in the NZ Herald? (And what would “Cactus Kate” do with her “Ports of Auckland Fact Sheet”?)

This should give cause for concern for PoAL’s shareholders – in this case the Auckland City Council (through it’s holding company, Auckland Council Investments Limited).

Whatever actions taken by the PoAL Board and especially it’s CEO, Tony Gibson, will ultimately reflect on the Auckland City Council, and it’s mayor, Len Brown.

At this point, I am wondering what Auckland councillors and mayor are thinking, knowing that their company is engaging in some weird propaganda exercise with two right-wing bloggers? Actually, do they even know?!

Is this professional behaviour from a Chief Executive who commands a $750,000 annual salary (+ perks) – eight times the figure allegedly paid to maritime workers?

PoAL’s behaviour suggests that there is not a shred of “goodwill” on their part to resolve the port dispute with it’s workers. Any such suggestion would be laughable. Instead, the propaganda campaign marks nothing less than open warfare designed to undermine their Union, and by default, the entire employer-employee negotiations.

Not exactly the best way to engender good relations, loyalty, or productivity from staff?!

Whilst David Shearer and Len Brown have adopted a “hands-off” stance, to allow both parties to come to a resolution, it appears that PoAL have no hesitation in “getting down and dirty” in this fight. Which means that whilst the port workers are effectively on their own – the Right are mounting a more and more agressive campaign, and bringing in every ally they can muster.

Some might say this is “class war”. And to be honest, it appears more and more that way every passing day.

This is not resolution – this is escalation.

Who will PoAL call upon next?

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Sent to Mayor Len Brown

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from:    Frank Macskasy
to:    Len Brown <len.brown@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz>
date:    Wed, Jan 25, 2012 at 9:05 PM
subject:    Port Dispute – Escalation?

Sir,

As you may or may not be aware, Ports of Auckland Ltd have taken to sending information to right wing blogs – namely “Kiwiblog” and “Cactus Kate” – regarding an alleged Ernst & Young “audit” of PoAL employees salaries.

This audit was released only to right wing bloggers (as far as I am aware), and not to the media.

Questions arising from PoAL’s actions,

1. Were you and Council members aware that PoAL was engaging in the release of such an inflammatory report to selected recipients?

2. Is it policy from Auckland Council that ratepayer-owned businesses engage in such provocative and unprofessional behaviour, in the midst of an industrial dispute?

3. Do you, and Council, believe that such provocative behaviour is indicative of “goodwill bargaining” by employers?

4. Does Auckland Council endorse these tactics from PoAL?

5. What was the purpose of PoAL releasing this “audit” to right-wing bloggers?

6. After this release of information, do you and Council still have confidence in PoAL chief Excecutive, Tony Gibson, who appears to be engaging in escalation rather than negotiation?

In case you have not see the material I am referring to, the relevant information is here: http://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2012/01/25/propaganda-as-an-industrial-dispute-weapon/

It is my assessment that Mr Gibson’s position of PoAL chief executive has become untenable, as he has alienated his workforce and resorted to tactics that are inflammatory. His actions in sending material to rightwing bloggers cannot be considered anything except highly provocative. One must question Mr Gibson’s  judgement in engaging in such unprofessional behaviour.

As mayor and leader of Auckland, responsibility for resolving this confrontation devolves to you, Mr Brown. Mr Gibson seems unable (or unwilling, for reasons known only to himself) to resolve this dispute.

It is time, sir, for you to take immediate and decisive action.

It is time for Mr Gibson to step down as CEO of Ports of Auckland Ltd.

It is time for a new CEO to be appointed – one who can engage with maritime workers and act constructively to resolve this dispute.

Regards,
- Frank Macskasy
Blogger
Frankly Speaking

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from:    Mayor Len Brown Len.Brown@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz
to:    Frank Macskasy
date:    Wed, Jan 25, 2012 at 9:05 PM
subject:    Thank you for contacting Mayor Len Brown

On behalf of Mayor Len Brown, thank you for your email.

The Mayor receives a large volume of correspondence and we will respond to you as soon as possible.

Kind regards,
Office of the Mayor
Auckland Council – Te Kaunihera O Tamāki Makaurau

http://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz
Follow Len Brown on Facebook & Twitter

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After a month, the following reply is received from Mayor Brown’s office,

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from:    Mayor Len Brown Len.Brown@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz
to:    Frank Macskasy
date:    Mon, Feb 27, 2012 at 11:56 AM
subject:    RE: Port Dispute – Escalation?
    

Dear Frank,

Thank you for contacting Mayor Len Brown regarding the current dispute at the Ports of Auckland. I am responding on his behalf and please accept my sincere apologies for the delay in responding to you.

Mayor Brown’s position is to continue to encourage both sides of the dispute to return to the negotiating table and bargain in good faith on the collective agreement.

Both sides are aware of the need for a sustainable settlement because the Port is essential to the Auckland economy and delivers ratepayers a return on their investment. The two sides need to find a solution and this cannot be imposed on them from outside.

Mayor Brown supports retaining the port in public ownership and not privatising it, which means it is important that the port work as efficiently and effectively as possible for the people of Auckland.

Ports of Auckland Ltd is an independent company that is run and managed by its own board. It is not appropriate for Mayor Brown to step in on every industrial dispute as it is the two sides that need to come to agreement.

However, Mayor Brown remains concerned about the ongoing impact of the dispute on the Auckland economy, the return to Auckland Council and the working relationships on the wharves. He will continue to encourage both sides to enter mediation and resolve the dispute in a sustainable manner.

Kind Regards,
Donna Lovejoy | Mayoral Correspondence
Office of the Mayor, Auckland Council
Level 1, Town Hall, Queen Street, Auckland
Visit our website:  http://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz

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It is disappointing that Len Brown’s response addressed none of the points I raised and answered none of the questions.

If Len Brown believes that he is safe by sitting on the fence,  he should consider Humpty Dumpty’s fate. Deserting your constituents who voted for you is not a particularly smart thing to do.

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Additional

Chris Trotter: The Auckland Ports Dispute – An Open Letter To David Shearer

Chris Trotter: Equal and Opposite

Matt McCarten: It’s time to step up, Mr Mayor

Maritime Union: Ports of Auckland management “fact sheet” short on facts

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From Kid to Conman…

22 February 2012 5 comments

An honest question…

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… and a BS answer.

What more need be said on this one?

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Acknowledgement

Wells Group

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The Muppet Show – Kiwi style!

21 February 2012 5 comments

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I just want to emphasise that it is not our best guess; it’s just a guess. It’s just to put some numbers in that look like they might be roughly right for forecasting purposes.

“That’s an honest answer.”Bill English, 17 February 2012

That may be an “honest answer” – but it also has to rank as one of the dumbest in New Zealand’s political history.

To explain what Bill English was being “honest” about,

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Full Story

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That’s right, folks, our Finance Minister has just let slip that National has no idea how much money they will raise from the part-privatisation of Genesis Energy, Might River Power, Meridian, Solid Energy, and Air New Zealand.

They don’t have a clue.

The $5 -$7 billion they have been quoting pre and post election are figures seemingly plucked out of hot-air from Parliament’s oxygen-depleted atmosphere. (Oxygen depletion tends to have unpleasant side-effects on a brain such as confused, muddled, thinking.)

John Key – realising that Bill English had made National the laughing stock of the country – jumped in, changing the “best guess” to a “best estimate”,

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Full Story

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However, Key didn’t help matters much when he added,

I think they are our best estimates”.

“There are lots of variables in there … what we do know is the Crown will absolutely have a minimum of 51 per cent shareholding but could have more. We don’t know what price the market will pay at the time; we don’t know the exact timing of all these particular floats.”

So let’s see.  Key and English don’t know any of the following,

  • How much will be raised by the partial-privatisation?
  • Whether they will end up with 51% ownership – or more?
  • Or even the timing of the “floats” (sale of shares)?
  • Or what price the shares will be sold at???

No wonder Greens co-leader Russel Norman said, in utter exasperation,

That isn’t how we should be running the finances of New Zealand.”

Norman wasn’t playing usual political one-upmanship games – he was voicing the entire country’s disquiet at what is rapidly looking like mickey mouse incompetance.

Yet again this is an example of National simply not being up-with-the-play.  Much like unaffordable tax-cuts of ’09 and ’10; the Jobs Summit of 2009 that achieved very little;   the credit down-grade they “never saw coming”; the broken promise on raising gst; the $1.4 billion revenue short-fall – National’s economic policies seem to be ad-hoc at the very best.

No wonder even the business community was left wondering if National had any plan at all for economic recovery.

If this was the Muppet Show, it might look something like this,

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Instead, it looks like this,

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Full Story

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These two clowns muppets are in charge of billions of dollars worth of public property?

I am not reassured. In fact, I wouldn’t trust these two to run  a charity sausage sizzle.

I can imagine how that would end badly,

  • 1 x sausage, @ 50 cents wholesale
  • gas, onion, sauces, napkin, est. 50 cents per sausage
  • Retail price: ? 40 cents   60 cents   75 cents!

Cue: muppet theme & roll credits.

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Other Blog stories

Selling assets will cost us more than keeping them – the idiocy of National

“Best guess?” – National and Fairfax are working very hard for one another

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Authors of our own mis-fortune?

20 February 2012 5 comments

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“Those who would actively choose to drive New Zealand into further debt to pay for tax cuts lack real ambition for our economy.”Finance Minister Michael Cullen, 7 March 2008

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“…in 2005 we promised tax cuts which ranged from about $10 to $92 a week, roughly $45 a week for someone on $50,000 a year. I described it as a credible programme of personal tax cuts and I’m committed to a credible programme of personal tax cuts. I believe that an ongoing programme of personal tax cuts that delivers the sort of magnitude that we’ve had in the past is potentially possible.”John Key, Leader of the Opposition, 20 May 2008

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“National will fast track a second round of tax cuts and is likely to increase borrowing to pay for some of its spending promises.” –  John Key, Leader of the Opposition,  2 August 2008

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“Our tax policy is therefore one of responsible reform…  We have ensured that our package  is appropriate for the current economic and fiscal conditions… This makes it absolutely clear that to fund National’s tax package there is no requirement for additional borrowing and there is no requirement to cut public services… National’s rebalancing of the tax system is self-funding and requires no cuts to public services or additional borrowing.”John Key, Leader of the Opposition, 20 October 2008

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“Taxpayers do not want further tax cuts if they mean more government borrowing, a new survey shows. The survey comes as social welfare campaigners say tax cuts failed to help those most in need. The New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development survey found that while most people wanted tax cuts planned for 2010 and 2011, they did not want them if it meant further borrowing… The survey found most people would spend the tax cuts on living expenses, while others looked to credit-card debt and mortgage payments. “New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development, 11 April 2009

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In 2008, National campaigned on promises of tax cuts knowing full well this country could not afford them. By November 2008, as New Zealand went to the polls, the international global banking crisis was in full swing, and recession was beginning to hit nearly every single nation on Earth (Australia and China were the lucky exceptions).

By March 2008, the US Federal Deposit Insurance Corp had identified 76 American banks as “in trouble”.

By July 2008, US financial giants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were in trouble – and by September, both corporations were placed into a form of receivership.

A week later, and Lehmann Bros – one of the largest financial institutions in the US filed for bankruptcy. On the same day, the Russian stock market was forced to close, as shares plunged by up to 20% in a day.

On 26 September 2008, it was officially declared that New Zealand was in full recession.

(See full Time here.)

Against this backdrop, National proceeded with it’s election promises of tax cuts. As unfolding events would show, they were irresponsible promises – and carrying them out in April 2009 and October 2010 was even more reckless,

“John Key has defended his party’s planned program of tax cuts, after Treasury numbers released today showed the economic outlook has deteriorated badly since the May budget. The numbers have seen Treasury reducing its revenue forecasts and increasing its predictions of costs such as benefits. Cash deficits – the bottom line after all infrastructure funding and payments to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund are made – is predicted to blow out from around $3 billion a year to around $6 billion a year.”NZ Herald, 6 October 2008

Fast-forward four years, and we are now having to pay for those taxcuts – which were funded by borrowing other peoples’ savings from offshore banks,

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Source

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Full Story

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Full Story

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It is obvious to all but the most blinkered National/ACT supporter that our debt is growing because we have a shortfall of revenue, caused by this government’s ill-conceived tax-cuts. That shortfall is in the order of $1.4 billion.

A business columnist for the NZ Herald wrote,

“Just how much became apparent yesterday with the $1.4 billion drop in forecast tax revenue for this financial year.

The overall upshot is the Government’s cash deficit has blown out from $13.3 billion to $15.6 billion this year taking into account the unexpected expenditure and the drop in forecast tax revenue.”Fran O’Sullivan, 15 December 2010

CTU President, , Helen Kelly wrote,

“The unsuccessful tax switch (we called it a “tax swindle” at the time) last year was not fiscally neutral as was claimed. There is a $1.4b revenue hole. It wasn’t a fair switch. The gap in take- home pay between someone on $30,000 and someone on $150,000 a year grew by $135 a week as a result of tax cuts made by this Government.”Helen Kelly, 23 May 2011

And ex ACT MP, Muriel Newman said,

If we look back at the state of the books just before the last election, the impact on the country of the recession and the earthquakes become more evident. Crown revenue today is $1.4 billion lower than three years ago and Crown expenses $2.2 billion higher.Muriel Newman, 14 November 2011

Interestingly, Ms Newman blames the  blow-out in  government debt on “the recession and the earthquakes” – but makes no reference to the ’09 and ’10 tax cuts. In fact, she pours petrol on a bon-fire by saying that “ACT would lower the top rate of income tax to 25% and the company tax to 12.5%“.

One can imagine what that would do to the government deficit! (But then again, ACT would sell every single state-owned enterprise and scrap most welfare, to fund their deep tax cuts.  A society governed under ACT policies would be utterly alien to anything most New Zealanders could have dreamed of. I suspect Australia’s population would rise by four million, practically overnight.)

And, spelling it out in even simpler terms, the PSA’s analysis of the figures,

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“Tax Cuts Widen the Gap Between Rich and Poor

  • Government chose to make tax cuts in worst recession in 70 years
  • Total tax cuts worth $5.5 billion
  • Top 10% income earners got tax cuts worth $2.5 billion
  • GST increased to 15% – hurts low and middle income most
  • Tax cuts + GST left $1.4 billion hole in budget

Since 2008, National has introduced tax cuts that cost New Zealand around $5.5 billion a year in lost revenue. Most of the benefit has gone to the wealthiest.

National’s first set of tax cuts – the personal tax cuts and ‘Independent earner rebate’ taking effect in April 2009 – cost approximately $1 billion a year.

The second set of cuts – cutting the top income tax rate from 38% to 33%, and the company rate to 28% – will cost $4.5 billion a year, according to figures from the 2010 Budget. That gives a total of $5.5 billion.

National claimed that because it was also increasing GST, the tax changes would be “revenue neutral” – that is, the increase in GST would cancel out the income tax cuts. In fact, the losses from the income tax cut will outweigh the gains from GST by $1.4 billion. In other words, the so-called “tax switch” has blown a $1.4 billion hole in the budget.

The tax cuts have also made New Zealand a less fair place. According to Labour, the wealthiest 10% of New Zealanders will get 43% of the tax savings. And the gap in take-home pay between someone on $30,000 and someone on $150,000 a year grew by $135 a week as a result of the tax cuts.

New Zealand’s income tax rates are among the lowest in the OECD, as the Tax Working Group acknowledged.

In Australia , for example, income over $80,000 is taxed at 37%, and income over $180,000 is taxed at 45%.

Figures from the OECD itself show that, before National’s tax cuts, New Zealand’s “all in” top income tax rate – a measure that includes all taxes on income, including local and regional ones – was 38%. In contrast, the all in top income tax rate in Australia was 47%, and in most countries it was higher still.”PSA.org.nz

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This blog can confirm the PSA’s statement that “figures from the OECD itself show that, before National’s tax cuts, New Zealand’s “all in” top income tax rate – a measure that includes all taxes on income, including local and regional ones – was 38%“.

Why did they do it? Why did National make a $1.4 billion committment it knew we could ill-afford?

Answer:

  1. Because they could.
  2. Because they wanted to be the government. Badly. And nothing quite wins votes like promises of tax cuts (even unaffordable ones).
  3. Because they probably had no idea how bad the recession would be? Rubbish. Of course they knew: John Key’s background was in international finance. He knew precisely how bad the Recession was – and how bad it was likely to get in Europe.

The question is: why did we, the voters, do it? Why did 1,053,398 New Zealanders cast their vote for National in 2008? Why did we vote for tax-cuts – something we knew was unaffordable?

Whatever the reason, we are having to pay for those tax-cuts – or rather, the $1.4 billion in revenue short-fall that we now have to borrow from overseas.  In doing so, as this government continues to post budget deficits, it continues to cut back on services; raise government charges; and sack those state workers who have spent many years of their lives doing all the things we expect done for us in education, health, defence force, border control, conservation, etc.

It is inevitable that, unless New Zealand wins the international equivalent of Lotto, this government (or it’s successor, sometime in the next three years) will have to raise taxes again. Or, steal a page from Gareth Morgan’s book and implement a new, Land/Wealth tax. There is no other way to pay of our debt and pay for Christchurch’s re-build.

Something for all New Zealanders to ponder, next time National (or any other Party) promises us a tax cut, in return for our votes.

In the mean time, Bill English signed a document last year called a “PREFU” – Pre Election Economic & Fiscal Update,

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This document is now worthless. It may have only one use left.

And finally, will Finance Minister Bill English accept “overall  responsibility for the integrity of the disclosures within the Update“?

Does any politician ever accept responsibility for anything?

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February 15 – Protest at TPK! (Part Rua)

16 February 2012 2 comments

Continued from February 15 – Protest at TPK! (Part Tahi).

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Long time socialist and Alliance stalwart, Larry Hannah, made a firm point about the folly of selling public assets,

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi.

The media finally arrived and started filming,

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi

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Occupy Wellington unfurled their banner,

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi.

About two dozen protestors crowded around the front of TPK’s entrance,

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi

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Below; Roimata (L) and Joyce (R) had joined the protest for their own reasons,

“I’m just concerned for my mokopuna”, said Roimata.

“I’m here for the important issues that affect maoridom,” added Joyce.

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi.

Benjamin, at the doors to TPK,

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi.

Dr Peter Love, from the Tenths Trust, and Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust, made his way to TPK,

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi.

By 3pm, there were about 26 protesters and three police. By 3.05, two more Police arrived,

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi.

The newly arrived policeman had a quiet chat with Benjamin, for a few minutes,

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi

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Ian, from the Workers Party, addressed passers-by, and on-lookers. He started out by explaining that “we are here today, against asset sales.” He added, “we want to see these assets run for public benefit, not private profit.”

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi.

The media filmed Ian on the loudhailer, as he continued to make his case against asset sales, and honouring Treaty committments,

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi

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John then took the loudhailer,   and said,

This is not consultation, this is bullshit. We cannot afford to give away our country to foreign corporations! Instead of sitting on our arses, let’s show [them] this country is not for sale!”

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi

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Across the intersection, two more police officers were watching events,

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi

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They seemed bemused by the protest – unlike their colleagues who were moving freely amongst the protestors, and chatting amicably.

By 3.13pm, the number of Maori Wardens increased to eight; police numbers went up to five; and at least one Diplomatic Protection Squad plainclothesman was present,

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi

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The body language of the police (above) seemed in  stark contrast to the laid back, quiet nature of the protesters,

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi

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Warwick gave his views on state asset sales – none complimentary to the government,

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi.

TPK Regional Leader, Te Huia (Bill) Hamilton, stopped for a friendly Kiaora and  brief chat with this blogger, before proceeding on his way,

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi

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At 3.30, Hone Harawira arrived, and was well-recieved by people present,

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi

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http://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2012/02/15/rise-of-the-terminator-keybot/

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi

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A chat with a journo,

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi

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Hone was given the loudspeaker and he gave a brief address to the crowd,

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi

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Hone spoke well, addressing the issue of state asset sales, and the relevance of the Treaty.

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi

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Hone’s speech*,

Tena koe! Talofa lava!

That’s exactly what they expect to happen with these shares, and it is our duty; it is our obligation as citizens of Aotearoa, whether we are Maori or whatever, to do our best to stop this government from pushing this door open.  Because once open, these assets will be sold on the open market and our shareholdings, so-called 51%, is simply going to be a majority shareholding in a company whose primary interest is generating profit.

Nothing at all to do with the public good, only the generating of profit.  And any investor – doesn’t matter what sort of investor they are – they don’t put money into these sort of exercises because they love you and I. They put money in because they expect to get a lot of money back. And they get they money back in two ways; cutting costs, as they sack staff – or what are we doing outside Te Puni Kokiri?

The other way they do it is by raising prices! Now who’s going to pay for those higher prices in electricity? Ordinary New Zealand citizens! And who’s going to bear  the most price? The poor ones! Poor pakeha, poor pacifica, poor everybody else, poor maori. So we have an obligation to ensure that those assets are retained in the hands of the New Zealand government as trustee on behalf of the nation as a whole.

I’d like to thank the Courts for their decision today, to say to the government to put a stop to the sal of the Crafar farms. Not necessarily because they were being sold to the Chinese, but because they are New Zealand land being sold out of the hands of New Zealand citizens.

The more and more people we can bring to support this kaupapa, the greater will be our own sense of our sovereignty  and our ability to change the world. Life is not about sitting around and letting other people do to us what we wouldn’t allow to be done to anybody else. We have an obligation to our children, and our grandchildren,  to take up this stand today, here in Wellington  and thanks to [traffic noise] all of us, all around the country who’ve attended the Hui so far, and from what I understand an 88% rejection of the government’s plans to sell of these state assets.

Well, if there’s 88%, there must be a pretty low percentage in some of the other Huis because the three  Huis I attended was  a hundred percent opposition! One hundred percent!

Maori see the Treaty as a way of stopping these assets being sold on the open market until their Treaty claims are properly settled. New Zealanders should support Maori in these efforts because the Treaty exists  in this particular instance to benefit all New Zealanders…

… Tena koutou, tena koutou.”

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi

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At about 3.40, Hone entered Te Puni Kokiri’s building and Seann advised the group that all  protesters were invited to accompany him. It was agreed that all banners, placards, and loud-hailers would be left at the doorway-entrance. People were asked to behave in a respectful manner.

Maori wardens would watch over their gear, while they attended the Hui.

Mana Party member and protest organisor, Seann had said earlier  that a more radical approach to attending the Hui would be to ask polite, but firm,  questions of the politician present – and insist on straight answers. He believed it would be more productive using this approach, than yelling at English and Ryall.

One of the police constables who had stood by TPK’s door said later to this blogger that he was satisfied with the way the protestors had conducted themselves. He said, “everyone has the right to protest peacefully, and I wouldn’t want to see us become like other countries where protest was forbidden“.

His relaxed demeanour indicated that he was sincere in his views.

All in all, this was a peaceful and relaxed (not a “John Key relaxed”) protest.

Note: this Blogger did not attend the Hui because of another prior engagement. Additional commentary from attendees will be welcomed.

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***

Media reporting

  • TV1 News: nil
  • TV3 News: nil
  • Radio NZ: nil
  • Dominion Post: nil


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Copyright (c)  Notice

All images are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

  1. Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
  2. Where purpose of  use is  commercial, a donation to Russell School Breakfast Club is requested.
  3. For non-commercial use, images may be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals.
  4. Acknowledgement of source is requested.

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* Recorded and transcribed mostly verbatim.

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February 15 – Protest at TPK! (Part Tahi)

16 February 2012 3 comments

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi

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At around 2pm, 15 February, members of the Mana Party, Labour, Alliance, Occupy Movement, and other groupings and individuals assembled outside Te Puni Kokiri, on the corner of Lambton Quay and Stout Street.

The protest was organised primarily by the Newtown Branch of the Mana Party, to coincide with a hui at the TPK offices.

The Hui was one of a series throughout the country called by the government;   facilitated by Wiri Gardner; and attended by  Ministers Bill English and Tony Ryall. English and Ryall  were expected to attend to listen to peoples’ concerns about Treaty implications regarding state asset (partial-)sales, and Section 9 of the SOE Act 1986.

John Key has suggested that Section 9 – which states simply, “Nothing in this Act shall permit the Crown to act in a manner that is inconsistent with the principles of the  – might be deleted from the SOE Act 1986. Many view such a move as a retrograde step, setting Crown-Maori relations back by decades.

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi.

Above; Darren Kemp (L) from the Mana Party; Cedric, (center) and  Jonathan Elliot (R). Darren and Jonathan were the first to arrive and take up placards opposing the sale of state assets.

Below, John (L) and Warwick (R), arived soon after. Warwick is a long-time supporter of the Alliance Party,

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi.

Jonathan (L) and Ian (center) from the Workers Party, handing out leaflets to passers-by,

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi.

More people soon arrived to join the protest,

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi.

Donna was one who joined the protest. She said that “only a couple of people had been rude” to her as she handed out leaflets.  Donna was more concerned at “the apathy I find distressing. At least they should care for their children‘s future“,

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi.

Seann (holding sign), said that there should be more focus on Peter Dunne’s role in asset sales. He said that whilst it “might be a long shot“, Dunne was vulnerable because of his slim majority in Ohariu,

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi.

Ariana, from the Newtown Branch of Mana Party. Ariana said that Hone Harawira would be arriving at the Hui and would present a submission on Treaty issues surrounding state asset sales.

Ariana said that asset sales “makes this country  vulnerable to overseas corporatisation” and added that “selling our children’s assets was shameful “,

She questioned the  outcome of the Hui, “what will they do with the final consultation report?” Ariana did not seem confident that much notice would be taken of peoples’ concerns.

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi.

More people arrived, and took up placards – including some other familiar faces from the Alliance,

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi.

Seann, Donna (center), and Freda,

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi.

Buses and cars honked their support every few minutes. We noticed bus drivers especially seemed very supportive of the protest, judging by their horn-honking as they went past,

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi.

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi.

The protest group was low-key, which perhaps explained only two police office and six Maori Wardens stationed nearby. Protestors, Wardens, TPK staff, and Police mingled and chatted amicably.

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi.

The signs said it all, and elicited support from drivers in their cars, and their drove past. Even if pedestrians did not stop and take a leaflet, I suspect that the protestor’s message of higher power prices would not be lost on them.

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi.

Bronwyn, a Labour Party member, chatting with Cedric (from TPK?),

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi.

Mike, from the Alliance Party,

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi.

Bronwyn, with a very pertinent message to the government: does a one seat majority give them a mandate to pursue unpopular policies? Especially if this government is only one by-election away from faling.

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi.

Darren (L), Mike, and Len Arthur (R).

Len was visiting family, from  Cardiff, Wales. He is a supporter of Occupy Cardiff; a member of the UK Labour Party; and decided to join the protest after hearing about it from Socialist Aotearoa,

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi.

The message is simple and to the point; No asset sales and  privatisation will inevitably lead to higher power prices,

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi.

Benjamin, who describes himself as a “political busker”, held the flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand,

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi.

Warwick, Larry (background), ?, and Darren,

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi.

During the first 30 to 45 minutes,  the laid-back situation still required the presence of only two constables. A couple of Occupy Wellington supporters had arrived, to join the protest,

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi

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fmacskasy - te Puni Kokiri protest - Mana Party - Section 9 SOE Act - Treaty of Waitangi

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As the protest rally got larger, the msm arrived – as did more Police.   Word also got around that Mana Party leader, Hone Harawira would be arriving shortly…

To be continued Part Rua (so as not to overload this page with too many images).

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In a matter of days… not nine months?!

16 February 2012 2 comments

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The Crafar Saga;  a time-line on the sale process,

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5 October 2009: Crafar Farms placed into receivership, owing $216 million to creditors.

22 December 2010: Government  blocks  bid by Natural Dairy to buy the 16 Crafar farms on ‘good character’ grounds.

27 January 2011: KordaMentha accepts offer from Shanghai Pengxin International Group Ltd to buy Crafar Farms.

13 April 2011: Shanghai Pengxin lodges application with the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) to buy the Crafar farms.

26 September 2011: Crafar farms receiver KordaMentha  rejects a conditional NZ$171.5 million offer for 16 central North Island dairy farms from a group led by controversial former merchant banker Michael Fay.

26 November 2011: Parliamentary Election

27 January 2012: Government ministers approve Shanghai Pengxin’s application to purchase 16 Crafar farms.

15 February 2012: High Court over-rules  Government’s decision consenting to Shanghai Pengxin’s application to purchase

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The OIO spent nine months assessing the Pengxin bid, which is reported to have valued the farms at $210 million, some $40 million higher than the bid by a consortium of New Zealand bidders led by merchant banker Michael Fay.” – Source

We don’t have a clear timeframe for this process but expect to receive the resubmitted recommendation report from the Overseas Investment Office in a matter of days, not weeks.” –  Mr Williamson, Ibid

Interesting…

It  took nine months for the OIO (Overseas Investment Office) to report their decision to Ministers Williamson and Coleman, for their rubber stamp approval…

But Minister Williamson now reckons it will only a matter of days to receive the resubmitted recommendation report from the Overseas Investment Office?!?!

… and this is the government that swears, hand-on-heart, that the extraordinary delay (applications normally take 50 – 70 days to process – not nine months) in processing and approving the Crafar purchase by Shanghai Pengxin, had nothing to do with the November election?!?!

The only thing worse than lying politicians?

Politicians who don’t lie very convincingly.

What a shabby, shonkey, shameful  government we elected last year.

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“I dunno. I wasn’t told. I wasn’t there.”

15 February 2012 2 comments

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Last October, Dear Leader got in serious hot water over a supposed “email” he had received from “a friend”, claiming that Standard & Poors would have down-graded New Zealand’s credit-rating had Labour been in office.

This is the supposed  email,

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Key referred to the email in the Debating Chamber – and Labour called him on it.

To make matters worse (for Dear Leader), Standard & Poors called him on it.

The matter came to a head with this extraordinary, incredibly embarressing media conference,

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Now we have another email which Key has “no knowledge of”,

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Little wonder that the public do not trust Key, and that his popularity has taken a dive.

There is an old saying,

Fool me once, shame on you.

Fool me twice, shame on me!”

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Rise of the Terminator Keybot!

15 February 2012 7 comments

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Google – running parts or all of our Public Sector?!

Has our Dear Leader finally flipped out?!

If John Key is being serious, then they must be putting something in his drinking water and nanobots have slowly assimilated his fiscally-programmed  brain into the great Google Collective,

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Full Story

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All that’s missing is the laser-probe eyepiece and suitably villainous catch-phrases like,

You will be assimilated!

Resistance is futile!

and the ever-popular,

Ex-ter-mi-nate!!!

Look, I’m no Luddite – I’m all in favour of latest technology (within bounds of reason, cost, and a good dollop of common sense). But the nanobots in Key’s head have scrambled his neural hard-wiring if he thinks that handing over our public service (or great gobs of it) to multinational corporations like Google is anything remotely approaching a sane idea.

For one thing; has anyone ever actually tried to phone a living, breathing carbon-based life-form at Google?

Good luck to that  – even the “humans” there are probably androids.

Now imagine trying to phone the Ministry of Education or NZQA to query Little Johnny or Janey’s NCEA results, and the system is now fully automated? I hope you have a few hours to spare…

But more important: information. Government departments, various Crown entities, and quangos deal mostly in information. Whether IRD, Police, WINZ, etc – the State has voluminous quantities of information on all of us.

Every single man, woman, and child in this country has already been  filed, stamped, indexed, catalogued,  vetted, surveilled, and numbered.  1984 has come and gone – and we are now part of the system.

For John Key to suggest –  in broad daylight for all to hear – that this information should now be privatised and handed over to Google, et al,  is mind-boggling and beyond belief.

(When I first heard snippets of this item on Radio NZ, I thought I was hearing the tail-end of a publicity-piece for a new science fiction/drama radio series. It was only when I checked online that I discovered the awful, frightening truth of what our Dear Leader was calmly suggesting.)

Quite simply; this is not a good idea.

It is a very bad idea. In fact, it ranks right up there with the Square Wheel; using leeches to cure Black Plague in the middles ages; and having ACT in government.

Google deals in information.  It is Google’s  core business, as finance is to banks;  oil is to oil companies; and big busty blondes are to Playboy Enterprises.

“Out-sourcing” our public service to Google would be tantamount to handing over your 18 year old daughter to Hugh Hefner, so he can “look after her“.

This is the same international conglomerate that two years ago admitted to  illegally collecting private data without permission, in more than thirty countries.  Google admitted that cars sent to take photos for its Street View mapping service also carried Internet eavesdropping gear.

Jennifer Stoddart, Canada’s Commissioner of Privacy, said,

Some of the captured information was very sensitive, such as a list that provided the names of people suffering from certain medical conditions, along with their telephone numbers and addresses. It is likely thousands of Canadians were affected.”

Google’s Alan Eustace, senior vice president of engineering and research,  finally admitted  May 14 2010, that,

A number of external regulators have inspected the data. It’s clear from those inspections that while most of the data is fragmentary, in some instances entire e-mails and URLs were captured, as well as passwords.”

In other words, they were ‘caught with their pants down around their ankles’, collecting data they had no right to gather. As a  representative of Consumer Watchdog said,

Once again, Google has demonstrated a lack of concern for privacy. Its computer engineers run amok, push the envelope and gather whatever data they can until their fingers are caught in the cookie jar.”

In 2005, the online magazine Cnet, stated,

The fear, of course, is that hackers, zealous government investigators, or even a Google insider who falls short of the company’s ethics standards could abuse that information. Google, some worry, is amassing a tempting record of personal information, and the onus is on the Mountain View, Calif., company to keep that information under wraps.

The same article outlined the considerable information that Google was collecting on those using it’s services,

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What Google knows about you  may be considerably more than you might feel comfortable about.

For our government to allow a corporation, such as Google, access to our personal information is opening new doors to data-sharing that few of us would have considered feasible only a decade ago. But now, our Prime Minister is openly touting the idea.

On top of handing over our private information to IT corporations is another risk; that of becoming so “wedded” to a provider, that it becomes difficult – it not near-impossible – to de-couple that connection.  Our reliance on Google to run our government IT may become so pervasive, that no other option for information-processing is easily accomplishable. Or possible.

For most households, Google’s ease-of-use makes it the search-engine of choice.

Internet users exercise a deliberate measure of choice in using Google.

That “choice” becomes non-existent if John Key willingly hands over our information to this internet colossus.

My message to John Key: this is a dumb idea. Google ‘dumb’.

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Additional

Google faces probes over privacy issues

Google balances privacy, reach

What Google knows about you

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Thank you, now p*** off!

13 February 2012 3 comments

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When New Zealanders erupted in anger and  disgust at the sale of sixteen farms to a Chinese consortium, Maurice Williamson and his right wing groupies labelled critics of farm sales as “racists”.

When people opposed the sale of ‘Young Nick’s Head” to New York millionaire, John Griffin, and South Island high-country farms to Shania Twain – their cries to stop land sales were ignored.

We have privatised and sold dozens of former state-owned-assets to offshore investors. Australians now own half of Contact Energy and the BNZ, as well as other profitable businesses, and we lose billions annually by way of dividends remitted to overseas investors.

In the latest news, Australian-owned banks,  ANZ National, BNZ, ASB and Westpac, made a staggering $3 billion dollars in profit – most of it remitted to Australia,

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Full Story

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However, our elected representatives; our Honourable Members of Parliament; those most learned men and women; assure us that privatisation of state assets and farms is a good thing.

Privatisation, they say, creates jobs.

Yes, of course it does,

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BullshitFull Story

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No pain, no gain.

Except – we seem to be getting the pain and others are creaming the gain. How does that work?!?!

I know! Let’s ask the politicians!

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“They are not here for lands but bring the investment in, which can create jobs for us. We should not be hostile to foreign investment, whether the money is from China, Australia or America.” – Prime Minister John Key

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“Beneficial foreign investment makes a positive contribution to New Zealand through increased jobs, capital and access to export markets.” – Bill English, Finance Minister, Deputy PM, and sheep farmer

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“Not enough New Zealanders appreciate the benefits of foreign investment and economic growth. The reaction of too many people was “you can’t do this, you can’t do that, you can’t do the other thing with little thought to the impact it had on potential jobs.” – Development Minister Steven Joyce

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Are we convinced?

Ok, New Zealanders… Time to wake up to the fact we are being rorted – with the connivance of most of our elected representatives.

Wake up!

Really.

Now is good.

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The fuse is lit…

13 February 2012 2 comments

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The social bomb of poverty is lit

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One of the inescapable consequences of poverty;  over-crowding and damp housing; poor nutrition; and unaffordable healthcare,

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It is interesting that Dr Baker says,

“Maybe we should be using the same approach to deal with all infectious diseases in children.”

A basic thing would be a housing warrant of fitness that covers health, safety and sustainability issues, a bit like the five-star approach with appliances.” He believes that could be run by the Auckland Council.”

A “warrant of fitness” for rental housing is precisely what Jazmine Heka is calling for in one of her petitions. Good, decent, housing would go a long way to preventing the spread of some infectious disease. Bryan Bruce pointed this out to us last year, in his excellent documentary, last year.

Taxpayers and landlords of good housing might care to note that they are subsidising bad landlords with sub-standard accomodation. Bad landlords collect the rent – but we taxpayers foot the medical bill for their tenants who become sick.

If middle-class New Zealanders believe that this issue does not affect them -let me dis-abuse them of that delusion.

Disease bacteria and virii make no distinction between social classes.

Disease bacteria and virii do not care if you live in Epsom or South Auckland.

Disease bacteria and virii care not one jot what your income or bank balance is.

If Mr Smith from North Shore walks past Ms Jones from Otara; and one is carrying an infectious disease and coughs as you walk past each other – congratulations. You’ve just been infected.

Or, pushing a trolley through a supermarket. You’d be surprised at the grime and micro-organisms on supermarket trolley handles. So the previous handler sneezed, and gripped the trolley? Now you have the same trolley?

Congratulations. You’ve just been infected.

Your child goes to the same school as someone from an over-crowded house, where measles, rheumatic fever,  or meningitis is rampant? Congratulations – you and/or your children are  going to be sick.

Poverty related disease do not respect socio-economic divisions or suburban boundaries.

If the middle classes believe they are immune, simply because they live in a “nice street”; drive the latest model Holden; and have a very generous income – think again.

The time bomb fuse is lit. The first major outbreak of measles has already happened. The next disease may be lethal and result in many grieving families.

Unfortunately, that seems to be the way of our country. We wait for a few fatalities and rising death toll before we are spurred to action. Until then… *shrug*

This is simply not good enough.

If we aspire to be a developed, civilised society – a First World nation – then standing idly by while disease like rheumatic fever continue to spread through our community is simply unacceptable.  As a society, we are not doing enough to prevent these diseases from spreading – and we will pay dearly for our inaction.

For one thing, we need to take firm responsibility for ensuring the availability of good, decent housing,

  • Private rentals need to be maintained at a standard that is healthy for tenants. Having (some) private landlords pass-the-buck, and shove the cost of their inaction onto the public heathcare system (ie; the taxpayer) is unacceptable.
  • Government must build more State housing. Many low income families simply cannot afford private rents – the “market” has failed those at the bottom of the socio-economic heap. The State must step in and pay for new housing – or it will pay for increased health costs. One way or another, society will pay.
  • Government must implement a cross-Party action-plan to address this quietly, simmering crisis. Playing politics whilst Aotearoa burns (through rheumatic fever) is nothing less than criminal negligence. These people were elected to Parliament to work for the good of this country, and it’s time they sat down around a table and got down to some serious, constructive planning,

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John Key

David Shearer

Winston Peters

Metiria Turei – Russell Norman

Pita Sharples – Tariana Turia

Hone Harawira

John Banks

Peter Dunne

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John Key is paid $411,510 per annum. Cabinet Ministers are paid $257,800.  It’s time they started earning those very nice salaries, instead of  sitting on their hands and playing silly-buggers across the Debating Chamber.

I refuse to believe that we do not have the collective wit to address poverty in this country.

Because make no mistake; every time a child dies in New Zealand through preventable poverty-related disease, those who I hold  accountable are those who make grand pledges at  election time and promise all manner of good things to us, to win our votes.

I hold these people to account!!!

If, like me, you are feeling enough is enough, leave your thoughts on John Key’s Facebook page. (Don’t worry, the SIS won’t come after you.)

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Interview: A Young NZer’s Thirst to make a Difference

12 February 2012 7 comments

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This online interview is with Curwen Rolinson, a member of NZ First’s Board of Directors; Leader, NZF Youth;  and “one-man nationalist revolution”.

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Curwen Rolinson

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Kia ora, Curwen, and thank you for giving us your time and answers to the following questions…

Q: You’re a Director on NZ First’s Board of Directors. How long have you been a member of NZ First, and what attracted you to that Party – as opposed to, say, another Party?


I joined up a little after the 2008 election. I’d always had a soft spot for NZF’s nationalism and its anti-neoliberal economics, and these seemed increasingly relevant in the face of a looming threat from the economic vandals of the Maori, ACT and National parties.

I decided to go along to a local NZF meeting to see what the party was really like on the ground. The attendence may have been toward the gold-card end of the spectrum, but they got what I was on about. They didn’t need me to tell them that Rogernomics & Ruthanasia had ruined the country – they’d lived through it. They didn’t need me to remind them we once led the world as a humane social democracy with a brilliant budding nationhood – they built both.

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Then Winston walked in.

I’d never heard him speak before. I’d seen him on tv, but that’s a very different experience to the live act. The overall impression we got was of a man who shared our concerns, our aspirations and our vision.

Afterward, Winston and I had a chat about tertiary policy and getting a youth wing going at university. What really sold me on NZF was that Winston seemed genuinely interested in how I thought we could improve NZF’s policy for students. The end result of that conversation was a set of policies for students written by students. In what other major political party would you get that kind of consultation with membership.

As for other parties, I ruled out ACT, National and the Maori Party on principle. I also ruled out United Future on lack of principle. Labour struck me as a tired third-way party that didn’t listen to its membership, while The Greens were being somewhat confused about whether they were left or right. Neither struck me as being an especially viable opposition. Jim Anderton’s Progressive Coalition also looked pretty decrepit at that point. His party wasn’t looking too healthy either.

Q: What has been your personal best experience with NZ First thus far?

Now that’s tough – close toss-up between two I think. First, crashing the Cup of Tea and hijacking John Banks’ photo op by staging an NZF Counter-Press Conference outside the Epsom Tea Party. Second, addressing last year’s NZF Convention. I love public speaking, and for me there’s nothing cooler than getting a few hundred people fired up to save the nation!  [link to speech]

How did Banks react to your presence? He couldn’t have been too thrilled to see you there?

Haha; Banks beat a hasty retreat, and still seems shaken by his Near-Curwen-Experience. I was eating in Bellamy’s (the Parliamentary restaurant) last week with NZF’s Caucus and Banks happened to walk in. He caught sight of me, did a double-take, and spent the next five minutes giving me a very disconcerted stare from across the room.

The more amusing reaction at the Tea Party, however, was from Key’s Diplomatic Protection Squad minders who apparently thought I was the guy who’d planted the recording device.

Yes, I think I did hear something to that effect, on the Youtube-uploaded Tape. I think you may be off Banksies Christmas card list from now on…

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NZF's Curwen Rolinson stages counter-press conference outside the Cup of Tea.

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"Got The Mic Winston"

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Q: How do you feel about your Party’s success at the last election? And what do you attribute NZ First’s success to?

I’m exceptionally proud of the party, and exceptionally proud to have helped make a difference. I think it’s safe to say that our values and our mission have never been more needed than they are now. When my grandkids ask me what I did to build and save the nation they’re going to inherit, I can proudly start the tale with “well kids, I helped get NZF back into Parliament.”

I remember watching the swearing in ceremony and feeling hugely confident that the comrades I’ve come to know and respect over the last three years will do their utmost to protect and save our New Zealand.

The one thing I’m gutted about is that Helen Mulford was something like 0.1% away from becoming our 9th MP.

We’re back because we didn’t just try to recapture our old support base.

We undoubtedly had a solid core of support in electorates like B.O.P and Tauranga bolstered by strong local candidates, but we also reached out to new people and campaigned in new ways.

As an example of what I mean, two of my proudest achievements with NZF have been getting us on digital media (facebook, twitter and a new website) and crafting the best damn student policy of any serious political party.
Both of these helped us to connect with younger voters who might not otherwise have considered us. We put our message somewhere they could reach it, and we made sure they knew we’d represent their interests.
The end result of all this was polling showing something like 14.5% of first time voters were going our way.

In general, I’d put NZF’s success down to one in fifteen voters being seriously concerned about the path this country is going down on everything from asset sales to racial separatism. They’ve decided that they trust us above all others to get our ship of state back on its chartered course to prosperity. They have also agreed that (to paraphrase Helen Clark and/or Eminem) it just feels so empty without Winny.

I’ve heard an array of pundits put our resurgence down to the Tea Tape debacle. This interpretation marginalises and undermines the three years solid work we’ve all put into returning to Parliament. While the added media prominence it gave Winston was unquestionably a factor, to my mind it only served to enhance our pre-existing campaign work and solidify our role as the Anti-Key in the minds of the electorate. 

Q: Had Labour won a slightly higher poll result, and had NZ First held the balance of power, what would your personal coalition preference have been? Or would you have preferred no coalition arrangement?

Opposition. It’s what we campaigned on, it’s what the electorate has asked of us, and it’s where our Caucus’s strengths lie at the moment.

More to the point, as NZF’s record with Labour from 2002 to 2005 proves, it’s entirely possible to secure progressive policy gains like the original Foreshore & Seabed legislation and the establishment of Kiwibank without a coalition or even confidence & supply agreement.

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Q: If your option is for coalition, who would be first first preference as a coalition partner, and what bottom line(s) would you have, if any?


If I were pushed, and assuming we hadn’t tied ourselves to a previously announced position, it would have to be Labour. We enjoyed a reasonably amicable relationship with them from 2005-2008 in which they proved themselves capable of helping us govern for all New Zealanders, not a neoliberal few.

Despite Phil Goff’s past record (and I remember stumbling across some truly odious quotations of his from the Rogernomics Error), they agreed with us about improving wages, abolishing youth rates and buying back KiwiRail.

In terms of bottom lines, I’d be thinking about binding Labour to undoing some of the harm National’s wreaked over the last three years. Just off the top of my head… Reinstating the 2004 Foreshore & Seabed legislation, reducing GST back down to 12.5%, keeping the retirement age at 65, amending the Reserve Bank Act to take into account things other than inflation targetting, and a commitment to keep PHARMAC and block the sale of assets or farmland to foreigners would probably be a good place to start.
A Universal Student Allowance wouldn’t be too bad either.

However, what we bring to government is not just a series of bottom lines to horse-trade – Peter Dunne and Pita Sharples seem happy to merely do that; but rather a nationalist vibe that guides our decisionmaking. With this in mind, perhaps we should once again demand the position of Treasurer to ensure we can hold government economic policy to account. 

I’m wondering if we can afford to keep retitrement at 65, or maybe push it out to 66 or 67, so we can fund social policies at the other end of the scale; early childhood education, school lunches, etc?

The way I’d approach this is by asking which you’d prefer to fund – pensions for hardworking Kiwis over 65, or unemployment benefits for same. Nobody in favour of raising the retirement age by two years has ever explained how exactly they intend to keep Kiwis in work for those additional two years. I’m quite in favour of incentivising people to put off retiring for a few years, but still believe that 65 is a fair and sustainable age for New Zealanders to retire at.

More to the point, this doctrine of “either-or” provision of social necessities doesn’t strike me as a sensible way to govern a nation. What your question effectively asks me is “do I prioritize looking after the elderly or the young”; and I cannot in good conscience give any answer other than “both, man, both!”

If we’re serious about having a decent society for all Kiwis regardless of age, then I suppose we’ll just have to once again get serious about having the fair taxation regimen to fund it, rather than looking to unfairly pull the rug out from beneath the feet of entire generations at either end of the spectrum.

Fair point about not pitting one sector of society against another. The Right seem to be quite adept at using that tactic.  (Bomber Bradbury often refers to  workers pitted against beneficiaries, solo-mums against families, etc, on ‘Tumeke‘.)

Q: Do you have a top three list of priorities that NZ First should focus on, this Parliamentary term?


1. Keeping the Bastards Honest. 2. Ensuring someone in the House actually stands up for the vocally expressed will of the people. 3. To echo Muldoon, Leaving New Zealand a better place than we found it.

Q: Have you read or heard of Gareth Morgan’s “Big Kahuna”, and his proposal for a Universal Basic Income/negative tax for the first $11,000?


I haven’t read the book, but I am aware of the idea of a universal basic income – if memory serves, it’s something Roger Douglas proposed back in the 80s. While he’s right that our present welfare system could use some substantial improvement (and arguably broadening of service), I find myself alarmed by the idea of a flat tax rate and a capital gains tax including the family home. Further, the movement away from targetted state assistance to a nonspecific, very generalised apprach arguably allows for far more wasted welfare than is currently the case.

Q: Taxes. Are the top earners/wealthy paying their fair share? Too much? About right?


No. It’s common knowledge that successful economies tend to have progressive taxation structures. We regressivised ours by giving tax cuts to the wealthy and then trying to pay for them by making everyone else shoulder the burden. Even the OECD thinks we went the wrong way on that one.
The end result of this is that many Kiwis are paying more than their fair share of tax to subsidise someone else’s perks.

However, I want to approach taxation fairness from a different perspective.
We pay taxes in part for what we and our families use. For most Kiwis that means paying to cover our kids’ education, ACC and medical services we might use, and more day-to-day things like infrastructure.

For our top earners, it’s a bit different. To amass that kind of income, you have to use the resources of the state a bit differently. Rather than worrying about your children getting an education for their sake, you want an educated workforce to staff your factories and offices. You don’t just want personal transport – you want infrastructure that can carry your products all over the country and further afield.

The question I’d be asking myself is whether the far right’s doctrine of tax cuts at any cost is really the most sensible, sustainable way to keep this going. We want to ensure our next generation of entrepeneurs and high earners enjoy the same if not better opportunities to do business as their predecessors enjoyed.

With this in mind, one of the core concerns for a taxation regimen of the wealthy should be ensuring they “pay it forward” to the next guy.

Q: Just briefly, what are your personal views on,

* private-run prisons?

There are some areas of human activity that I don’t believe a businessman should be able to turn a profit on. The incarceration of our fellow citizens would have to be one of them. This is not running a hotel or a half-way house for people who might have gone a bit off the rails. This is a matter concerning some of our most fundamental human rights. Just as we cannot allow the state to give up its monopoly on legitimated violence and killing to the private sector, we should also not allow the abjuration of our right to personal liberty by the market. 

More to the point, a cursory examination of the track record for private prisons in America is alarming. They seem to cost exhorbitantly, tend to have strikingly high inmate suicide and abuse rates, allow for effective slave labour; and, most chillingly, can produce huge conflicts of interest in the parole process. If you’re being paid a premium per prisoner per year, you’re hardly going to want to release anyone early. Allowing justice to take its course at a parole hearing would harm your bottom line. 

Our existing prisons are not perfect, however and I appreciate the arguments behind allowing non-state third parties a role in providing things like rehabilitation programmes.

* Charter schools?

I’ve yet to see compelling evidence that allowing McDonalds or the Destiny Church to open up a high-school will improve our kids’ educational outcomes.
Most of the points about distinctiveness are already adequately met by provision for ‘character’ schools, while the American experience with charter schools appears to have produced inferior outcomes at greater cost.

* minimum wage?

The expression “if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys” springs to mind – although a cursory examination of any corporate boardroom appears to prove that ridiculously overinflated pay packets have much the same effect.

There is something manifestly wrong with a poverty-line wage that doesn’t even cover the costs of keeping you in the job you’re doing (transport, accomodation, food and child care being the most obvious ones).

This was one of the things I initially loved about NZF. They understood the perils of being a low income earner in a low wage economy and had a $15 an hour minimum wage stance years before the other big parties got on board.
I think offhand we increased the minimum wage for youth more in a single year than National has done over the last three.

* waterfront dispute? Do you think the  Labour Party has done enough on this issue?

The Maritime Union should ask for its donations back. Shearer’s stuck in 1951, and Tony Gibson’s attitude to his workers seems to be stuck in the 1800s.

It’s childish brinksmanship to threaten to sack one’s entire workforce as a bargaining tactic, and it’s dangerous dehumanisation to insist on the casualisation of said workforce to cut costs.

Whether or not there’s a privatisation agenda afoot, Tony Gibson is not the sort of man I’d like looking after one of Auckland’s greatest assets.

Indeed – sacking an entire sklled and highly experienced workforce doesn’t seem particularly bright.  I think more than one person has suggested that Gibson is not the right person for the job.

What about ACC – to de-regulate or not to de-regulate, that is the question?

As with Privatization, it’s a case of “we’ve been down this road before”.  It didn’t work in 1999, and I see absolutely no reason to assume ordinary Kiwis are going to get anything worthwile out of this. The insurance companies are no doubt licking their lips in eager anticipation for a cash-cow to offset Christchurch.

* Ok, fair ’nuff. What about mining? Especially of conservation lands?

Now let’s be honest. Mining can be great for an economy; it garners resources and is a major employer in some parts of the country.
However, I am absolutely not OK with mining the conservation estate which is in my eyes a precious resource all its own.

Here’s a simple political axiom – when guys like Rodney Hide think something’s a great idea … that is the time to start fighting vigorously to oppose it. This, after all, is a man who thought an open-cast strip mine would be more worth to the tourism sector than our present unspoilt wilderness.

* climate change?

Whether you believe in anthropogenic climate change or not (and I strongly do), reducing pollution and energy efficiency are good things.

It would, however, be refreshing to see some change in the political climate about things like the Emissions Trading Scheme. Letting derivatives traders like our Prime Minister make a quick buck off pollution is not part of the solution.

Good point about reducing pollution – that’s not something that the Right Wing can readily address. I  mean, who could possibly be in favour of more air pollution?

And your thoughts on deep sea oil drilling? Especially after the ‘Rena’ stranding?

Heck, Yeah! Parata reckons “we have a sufficient legislative and regulatory regime in place to cover the permit that has currently been made available to Petrobras.” Terry Pratchett (whom I have rather more respect for) reckons “when nothing can possibly go wrong and every avenue has been covered, then is the time to buy a house on the next continent.”

We are not equipped to handle a substantial oil spill, as recent events have made unconscionably clear. We have also been steadily weakening the Crown Minerals Act to make ourselves a more enticing prospect to foreign oil companies. We are thus hardly legislatively equipped to handle oil drilling anyway.

You may be right, Curwen.  I think sf writers may be more credible and insightful than many politicians. At least sf writers have more believable fiction. But I digress, let’s carry on…

Should Kiwisaver be compulsory? Should there be an opt-out option?

My gut instinct is that it should be compulsory. Sovereign wealth funds and forward planning for retirement are vital components in many successful economies – Norway, Singapore and Australia being the standout examples.

However, the problem is without substantial increases in wages and employer contribution, a good number of workers can’t afford to belong to the scheme.
The reason I say that is because when it was first introduced, I was the only guy in my workplace to sign on. Everyone else had mortgages, bills or children to support so couldn’t afford it.

So, if we’re serious about having a national saving regimen, we should probably sort out our wages first.

With regard to the opt-out clause, while I’m tempted to say I support one (remembering that Kiwis seem to have an innate fear of anything containing the word “compulsory” – as proven to Bill Rowling’s horror in 1975 and Winston’s in 1996), it has occured that many of the circumstances that might cause one to want to opt out are probably covered by the provision for a “contribution holiday”.

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* Roads or rail? Which should have priority?

Rail, both for mass transit and for goods. I can’t get my head around the logic that people are better moved around our cities by creating multi-billion dollar traffic jams than by doing what every other first world city out there does and investing in rail. As petrol prices increase, it makes less and less sense to move large numbers of people or produce over long distance by road.

* School meals – should they be introduced in all schools? Just low-decile shools? Or not at all?

I can definitely see a place for them in low-decile schools; and, on a needs basis could well see them implemented across the board. Just because one is attending a decile 10 school does not mean one’s parents have a decile 10 income.

I’m frankly appalled by National’s Mike Sabin who claimed we shouldn’t be providing school lunches to our vulnerable kids because “then mothers and fathers would never have to do it”. That, to my mind, isn’t a child-friendly argument.

As far as I’m concerned, a malnourished child is probably not getting all they can out of either schooling or life. It will be through no fault of their own, and petty political point-scoring at the child’s expense is repugnant.

* Republic or not?

My big issue with New Zealand becoming a republic is that there’d be an immense temptation to shoehorn a new constitution into the process.

Thus, the best argument I’ve yet heard against becoming a republic, is the fact that Bill English & Pita Sharples are writing the constitution that would form the basis for it.

Whichever way we go, I hope it’s as the result of a binding referendum on the subject. This should be a matter for the people to decide – not a few hundred elites.

Q: What, in your opinion, has been the worst aspect or single thing, about John Key’s government?

The duplicity. A far better Prime Minister than Key (one Benjamin Disraeli) once noted that there were lies, damned lies and statistics.

Every number this government puts out – from unemployment rates to growth figures and from asset sales revenue to the 170,000 jobs we keep hearing about suggests that this is a government whose economic forecasting makes astrology look respectable.

Yeah, whatever happened to that 170,000 “new jobs”  promised by Key?? It certainly seems to have been quietly dropped.

Q: What, in your opinion, has been the best aspect, or single thing, about John Key’s government?

I love political satire. It’s certainly a treat having an entire government writing for you.

Q: How do you feel about our current media? Do you have a favourite media that you feel stands above others? Which, in your view, is the worst?

Up until relatively recently I was frankly appalled by our mainstream domestic media on a seemingly daily basis.

It’s probably cliche for an NZFer to claim we don’t get a fair go, but I’ve watched it happen. On numerous occasions, I’ve seen journalists attempt to take on Winston in a manner that’s more bull-fight than interview so they can get an aggressive 5-second soundbite to play on the 6 pm news.
Thankfully, they’ve started to change their tune.

On a more positive note, the best media in the country is the blogosphere.

Gordon Campbell is, in my eyes, a national treasure. In few other places do you seem to get the hard questions asked and information presented in a manner that’s insulting to neither truth nor the intelligence of the reader.

Internationally, I love Al Jazeera and I detest the Economist.

Their respective coverage of the Honduras coup a few years back probably explains why. Al Jazeerah was first in, and reported in an unbiased way about a reasonably popular and progressive President who’d just been illegitimately overthrown by legislative elites.

The Economist, by contrast, seemed to be reporting about a completely different coup in which an overwhelmingly unpopular President was legally overthrown by a coalition of concerned citizens and lawmakers with the country’s best interests at heart.

Needless to say, the weight of history, and virtually every other source I came across did not side with The Economist’s manifestly counterfactual interpretation of events.

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Q: If NZ First was in government as the major coalition Party, and you were an MP offered a ministerial role, what portfolio would you want? And why?

Hahaha. Once upon a time I, like almost every other young politico with a smattering of an economics education, wanted to be Finance Minister.

These days, I’d probably consider Minister of Education.

Oh? Why is that?

I’m really passionate about ensuring Kiwi kids get the best start in life. My parents are both teachers, I work in the education sector, and for years I’ve seen first hand the effects of flawed education policy.

At the moment, our education policy seems to be decided and implemented by people whose relationship with the educational professions seems to have moved from “arms length” to “armed standoff”.  
The previous Minister of Education, for instance, was the only Minister in Cabinet lacking a degree and seemed to think her role in government was to play Thatcherite strikebreaker rather than improving the future prospects of our next generation. NZQA’s head office seems quite literally to be staffed with accountants rather than teachers, the end result of which being ongoing shambles like the NCEA and the soon-to-be-upon-us debacle that will be the implementation of National Standards.

I’m not sure about the National Party, but when something like 90% of the paid professionals who’ve spent several years training to teach our kids think something’s a bad idea … I’m inclined to listen. 

Better be careful, Curwen – you could end up the most popular Education Minister since… since… Actually, have we ever had one?!

Which leads us on to,

Q: In your opinion, what is the single most critical problem affecting us as a society? How would you address that problem? And what time-frame would you give yourself?

The apparent lack of any compelling vision or plan by our government to leave New Zealand a better place than they found it.

We have three years to contribute our ideas and convince our government to do better.

After that, we must seek to change the government. 

Q: Are your friends and family political? How do you relate  to those friends and family who aren’t political?

Good question. The closest my family got to politics before me was my father’s vocation as a Reverend. Perhaps that’s where I get the faith & fury rhetoric about social justice from.

Deep down, I think everyone cares about politics. They might not be die-hard supporters of a particular cause or party, but we all want to leave a better New Zealand to our children than the one we inherited.

The trick is to bring that out in people – and I’d like to think that it’s pretty close to the surface in most of my friends.

Or, to put it another way, if they weren’t political before meeting me, they certainly are now. A case in point for this would be my long-suffering girlfriend Anya, who went from being apathetic about politics to the point of libertarianism to evangelising the Bengali community and shooting television commercials for us.

I think my partner would sympathise with you on that one, Curwen.

On a more personal level…  What are some of your most favourite things,

* food?

Shapes, sour-worms and ginger ale.

In terms of actual meals, I’m highly partial to that traditional Kiwi repast of lamb & mint sauce; although I’ve recently developed an insatiable taste for home-made chicken curry. 

Currwen, I must introduce you to ‘ The Curry Shop‘, in Upper Hutt. Their Chicken Saag  is mana-from-heaven.

What about  place to live? What is your favourite turf?

Mt Eden. I love my mountain and my valley.

* movie and/or tv programme?

“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”

* book?

I don’t really have favourite books per se. My favourite author’s probably Terry Pratchett, but what I’m reading currently is Bruce Jesson’s “To Build A Nation”.

* prominent historical person you admire the most? And why?

Hunter S Thompson. This was a man whose dual personal maxims of “when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro” and “some may never live, but the crazy never die” have proven of great personal inspiration to me. 


His uncompromising political principles, flair for the eccentric, and conviction of life-as-art-worth-doing are things which I hope to bring to my career.

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Well, I see he’s still popular with the ladies…

Q: And your Last Word is on;


NZF’s role in Parliament this term strikes me as remeniscent of Gandalf confronting the neoliberal Balrog in The Fellowship of The Ring.

When National puts forward its bills to privatize our future, I look forward to hearing a clarion voice from the House yelling “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!”

Sounds damned good to me.

Thank you, Curwen,  for sharing with us!

Folks wishing to contact Curwen can email him at;  curwen@nzfirst.org.nz    or alternatively Facebook him, on his page; Curwen Ares Rolinson; or blog on puttingnzfirst.blogspot.com, or on Twitter @ huntersrolinson.

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Disclaimer

This blog is not affiliated to NZ First in any way, shape, or form.

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Petition opposing child poverty gains strength

12 February 2012 3 comments

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Support for Jazmine Heka’s petition is still growing  in the community, and shows no sign of fading. At a Market in the Hutt Valley, Karen  spent several hours collecting signatures for Jazmine’s petition,

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Because of the nature of the petitions, the Organisor of the Market refused to accept any fee for hiring the table.

The three petitions called for

  • We request that the House of Representatives pass legislation to provide free healthy school lunches to all children attending schools
  • We request that the House of Representatives pass legislation to provide free healthcare  for all children including prescription costs
  • We request that the House of Representatives pass legislation to introduce warrant of fitness’s for all rental houses

Karen said there was considerable support for the petitions, and said there was only one person who commented negatively about poor families.,

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Karen had four food items on the table;  a packet of 750gm  “Pam’s” ‘weetbix'; 500gr ‘Budget Spirals’ dried pasta; a can of 420gr Watties of spaghatti; and 250gr Sanitarium “Marmite”. The four items came to around $10 from a supermarket.

She described the growing cost of food as hard for low-income families.

One person who signed the petitions agreed, and said that buying milk and bread to go with those four staples would  easily add another $5 to $7 to that purchase,

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Another signature being added to the three petitions,

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Karen later advised that she had collected approximately 70 signatures, and that some had requested blank copies to take away, to gather their own signatures.

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Previous Blog post

Kiwi Hero: Jazmine Heka

Additional

Radio NZ: Teenage child poverty activist (31 January 2012)

Girl with a mission

Teen becomes leading voice on child poverty

Teen’s voice reaches MPs

Contact Jazmine

Email: childrenagainstpoverty@hotmail.co.nz

Facebook: Children-Against-Poverty

Snailmail: PO Box 585, Whangarei 0140

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Christchurch – Picking the bones clean?

11 February 2012 2 comments

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It is fast becoming apparent that this government is eyeing up Christchurch’s community-owned assets, to “help” pay for the costs of that city’s re-build.

Gerry Brownlee recently  stated,

“Let me tell you, when the Government is spending $5.5billion anywhere, we expect the recipients of that to have some plan for how they will participate in what will be a very, very expensive recovery. And that plan has to be a lot better than ‘we’re just going to put up the rates and we’re going to borrow a lot more money’.” – Source

Which, strangely enough,  is pretty  much what National has done in the last three-and-a-bit years; raise gst; raise ACC premiums; raise EQC levies; and borrowed $380 million a week until we were (last reported) over $18 billion in debt,

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So it’s ok for Central government to raise taxes/charges/levies and borrow like crazy – but not Christchurch!?

Ok, got it.

So what alternatives are  Gerry Brownlee and John Key expecting of Christchurch City Council?

It appears that Key and Brownlee are indeed pressuring the Christchurch Council to privatise  it’s community-owned assets to raise $1 billion for re-building. Chief amongst these, I suspect would be the Orion Power company – one of few in New Zealand still in public ownership. (Orion is 89.3% owned by the Christchurch City Council and 10.7% owned by the Selwyn District Council.) Red Bus Ltd, Lyttelton Port Company, and Christchurch airport could also be privatised if Brownlee gets his way.

Brownlee stated,

“”We have asked Treasury, obviously, to give us advice about what the capacity is for Christchurch’s rating base to take on the extraordinary expense they have to face in the future,” he said.

”It is a $1billion-plus bill that they have to face and we are very interested, given that we are putting up $5.5b, as to how they might meet that cost.” ” – Source

Which is ‘code’ for “how are you guys going to cough up $1 billion for your re-build”?

It would be crazy  to expect the people of Christchurch to rebuild the second largest city in this country. After enduring so much devastation; the death of 184 loved oved ones; thousands of people leaving the stricken city; losing teaching staff and other skilled workers – expecting the local people to weather such an onerous billion-dollar cost is  patently unjust.

And it would be commercial insanity to privatise Council-owned assets at a time when, due to Christchurch’s current state, would constitute ca “fire sale” and not fetch the best possible prices.

As Gordon Campbell wrote on Scoop.co.nz.,

Please. It would be idiotic to force Christchurch to sell its assets to pay for its rebuild, under present conditions. Given the current state of the city, those assets would earn only fire sale returns. Hocking off the city’s assets dirt cheap is yet another version of the destruction of its legacy – and while it may make sense to Brownlee to sell off that legacy to any of his government’s real estate speculator mates who may be waiting in the wings, it would be a betrayal of the people of Christchurch who as [Lianne] Dalziel says, have been through enough: “What they don’t need are backroom deals being done on the future of their city and their city’s assets.”  – Source

As for the government’s financial problems – these are of John Key’s own making. Cutting taxes (April 2009, October 2010) during a recession, when we most needed to stimulate the economy via encouraging strong infra-structure investment was just irresponsible,

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Bill English may have “expected the “tax switch” to be revenue-neutral” – but his ‘expectations’ are not part of reality. Instead, National has left a gaping hole of several billions of dollars in government revenue. No wonder we’re borrowing $380 million a week – and paying hefty interest amounts on those borrowings!

Refusing to raise   taxes (except gst, which impacts mostly on the poorest) to finance the rebuild  of our second largest city simply defies logic. But then, I, and others, have long since given up trying to figure out this governments plans.

Even the business community said as much,last year,

Business NZ also released the results of its election survey of more than 1300 small to large businesses. While almost all believed it was important for the government to have a co-ordinated plan of action that raised economic performance, little more than a third thought John Key’s Government had one.

Deloitte chief executive Murray Jack said the finding was “disturbing” and the plan Mr Key had earlier in the day confidently spoken to the conference about “was obviously news to most people in this room”.” – Source

It’s fairly obvious that this government is relying on short-term “gains” (asset sales) to achieve long-term results. Applying “free market” policies to rebuild a crippled city is simply more right wing craziness.

A far better option would be the Green Party proposal for an Earthquake Levy. Such a levy would spread the cost of Christchurch’s re-build; take unnecessary financial pressure off Christchurch citizens; preserve Council-owned assets in public ownership; and retain the income stream – $100 million per annum – from these assets.

It’s a win-win-win scenario.

Does this government have the wit to investigate this, and/or other options?

Or does John Key really looking to buy into yet another fight with another community over another sensitive issue?

Your call, Mr Key.

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Additional

The Press: Brownlee turns up heat on council over rebuild

Green Party: How an earthquake levy could look

Scoop: On bank profits, and Gerry Brownlee’s asset sales plans for Christchurch

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Dominion Post – asking the wrong questions?

10 February 2012 5 comments

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Today’s Dominion Post has highlighted Hone Harawira’s travel costs, incurred from 1 October 2011 to 31 December 2011,

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The article state,

Mana Party leader Hone Harawira topped the list at $54,961, followed by Labour leader Phil Goff with $32,566.” – Ibid

Blah, blah… blah, blah, bah… … … … …blah.

The article then repeats Harawira’s travel expenditure, for good measure – just in case we missed the statement at the beginning, plus the photo with the comment,

TOP DOLLAR: Mana Party leader Hone Harawira topped the list of MP travel expenses during election time.

Obviously, this article is a thinly-disguised attack on Hone.  It’s called  “having a go at someone” since Harawira is an easy target for lazy journos, right wingers, and racists.

Otherwise, Ms Vance has missed the real story relating to the release of  MP’s travel costs, to whit,

Hone Harawira’s travel costs,

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John Key’s travel costs,

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Source: Members’ expense disclosure from 1 October 2011 to 31 December 2011

Hang on a mo’…

$1,710 spent by John Key on all domestic and air travel?!?!

How does that work???

Especially when National MP, Nikki Kaye (immediatly above Key) spent $14,569 and National MP, Colin King (immediatly below Key) spent $20,037?!?!

After all, Key was all over the country in the run-up to the election – especially his little “day excursion” to Epsom, to have a cuppa tea,

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Who paid for Key to travel to Epsom?

And shouldn’t that question be a matter of interest to journalists?  Or is it much easier to simply pluck the highest figure from the list, and repeat it without any context or analysis at all?

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As an aside, Hone Harawira is MP for the Te Tai Tokerau electorate – one of the biggest electorates in the country.

Also, Te Tai Tokorau takes in the general  general electorates of  East Coast Bays, Helensville, North Shore, Northcote, Northland, Rodney, Te Atatū, Whangarei,  part of Waitakere and some  islands located within the Auckland Central electorate.

Harawira is therefore covering an area which, in the General Electorates, is covered by ten MPs.

 

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It would be remarkable if Harawira didn’t incur a larger-than-normal travel bill. His electorate is larger-than-normal.

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Minister for whut?!?!

10 February 2012 6 comments

It appears that ACT is  in a world of it’s own…

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Don Brash resigned as Leader of ACT on 26 November – about two and a half  months ago.

But perhaps even more curious is this,

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There is no such portfolio as “Minister of Parliament for Epsom”.

At best, John Banks is the MP (Member of Parliament ) for Epsom.

And of course, there was this little item I blogged about back in December, last year,

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It’s interesting that ACT has managed to “update” the above page by adding a Facebook  “Like” button, and a Google “+1″ button – but have not yet figured out that they have only one MP (John Banks) – not five, as pictured.

This would be mildly amusing (and not really worthwhile to blog about) – except that ACT is now on course to implement it’s unpopular and ideologically-based, “Charter Schools” policy (which was never mandated by voters, as it was never raised as a public issue), and has appointed Catherine Isaac (ex-ACT President, and ACT List candidate for 2011 Election) to oversee the implementation of Charter Schools.

This re-structuring of part of our education is a major change to our education system, and has the potential to impact on the lives of an entire generation of children.

It seems inconceivable that the implementation of this radical, controversial policy, is in the hands of people who don’t know how many MPs they have in Parliament; who their Leader is;  employ Parliamentary titles that don’t exis; and can’t be bothered to update on-line information.

What, exactly, should we trust about ACT?

This should be cause for concern for all New Zealanders.

For the record:

  • John Banks is not the “Minister” for Epsom – he is the Member of Parliament for Epsom.
  • The term “Minister for Epsom” does not exist.
  • ACT has one MP, not five.
  • None of the five persons depicted on the ACT webpage as “MPs” are MPs  (none stood for re-election in 2011).
  • Don Brash is not the Leader of ACT.

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Acknowledgements for this story

Previous Blog post

ACT woefully behind the times?

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Fifty cents an hour? I’m under-whelmed by Dear Leader’s Generosity…

8 February 2012 5 comments

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Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson today announced a 50 cents per hour  increase in the minimum wage, from $13 an hour, to $13.50 an hour.

Our Dear Leader says,

Between making sure that people can feed their children and look after their families and themselves and also ensure that they keep their job…

“…We’re on our way to the magical $15 people talk about, but we can’t get there in one step.” – John Key, 8 Feb

Dear Leader is now saying that families  “can feed their children and look after their families” on minimum wage?!

That’s not what Bill English said last year.  When questioned by Q+A’s Guyon Espiner on this issue, English responded,

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GUYON:  Okay, can we move backwards in people’s working lives from retirement to work and to wages?  Mr English, is $13 an hour enough to live on? 

BILL:  People can live on that for a short time, and that’s why it’s important that they have a sense of opportunity.  It’s like being on a benefit.

GUYON:  What do you mean for a short time?

BILL:  Well, a long time on the minimum wage is pretty damn tough, although our families get Working for Families and guaranteed family income, so families are in a reasonable position.Source

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In today’s “Dominion Post“,  Kate Wilkinson says that, “Government was advised raising the minimum wage would result in up to 6000 job losses“.

Noticeably,  she does not disclose what advice, or from whom, she is referring to. It can’t be Treasury advice, because as TV3’s Patrick Gower reported on his blog last year,

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“…research from the United Kingdom suggests minimum wages may have no effect on employment, or that minimum wage effects may still exist, but they may be too difficult to detect and/or very small.” – Source

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NZ  Treasury stated that “…the claim a minimum wage rise may cost jobs has not been true in the past“. – Ibid

In other words, Wilkinson and Key are making it up as they go along. And finding it increasingly difficult to keep their ‘stories’ straight, it would seem.

On the other hand, there is little ambiguity in this story from a couple of years ago,

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It beggars belief that New Zealanders – a national once proud of their  egalitarian society – can view this situation with anything but angry disdain.

When did it become socially acceptable that the richest 1% increased their wealth by a massive 20%, as well as gaining the greatest benefit  from the 2009 and 2010 taxcuts, whilst those on the minimum wage increase their income by a measely 50 cents an hour?

50 cents an hour. Or $20 a week.

By contrast, our elected representatives did very well last year from their pay increases.

Do you want to know what MPs, Ministers, and the P.M. are now paid?

Click here

John Key’s words continue to  echo throughout New Zealand,

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We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.” – John Key, 29 January 2008

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Here’s a thought, Dear Leader; if the top 1% could increase their wealth by 20% – why not increase the Minimum Wage by precisely the same amount?

That would raise the minimum wage to $15.60 an hour.

Still not as high as our Aussie cuzzies enjoy – but getting there.

So what about it, Dear Leader, are you keen to share the wealth around a bit?

Show us how “unrelenting” you really are.

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Previous Blog post

Bill English: Minimum Wage Not Sufficient to live on!

Treasury’s verdict on raising the Minimum Wage? – Part II

Additional

Minimum wage rising by 50c

Other Blogs

NZ Govt celebrate Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday with 50 cent increase in minimum wage

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February 7 (Part Toru)

8 February 2012 6 comments

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Continued from February 7 (Part Rua).

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With the main Party speakers finished, others from the rally had an opportunity to make their views known. It was open, transparent and democratic (take note, National Government),

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february 7 protest at planned SOE sales

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Madd Hatter spoke of the danger to the environment caused by fracking – including contamination of underground water-tables which has caused extensive pollution in the United States,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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And the thing is? She’s 100% right. Fracking uses toxic chemicals which contaminates water tables – water which people use for drinking, cooking, feeding to farm stock, etc. Doesn’t it strike governments as somewhat daft that we’re poisoning ourselves?

Hell, why not just cut out the middle-men (oil drilling companies) and  issue every citizen with a litre of  disulphides, benzene, xylenes, methane,  and naphthalene to drink?

Meanwhile, the crowd listened, continuing to  hold signs that expressed our collective disgust at what this shabby government was intending to foist upon us,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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And the media continued to record the event,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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The protest continued,  making their point peacefully,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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A sentiment 99% of us would whole-heartedly agree with,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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Mana’s flag flew proudly in the chill breeze,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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The red and black Tino Rangatiratanga flag flew proudly as well. This flag is quickly becoming the de facto syymbol for the poor, the dis-possesed, and the alienated in our society. It is the flag of resistance that corporate interests and their political cronies do not want to see,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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Dawn Shapira came from Huntly specifically to join the Rally. She rode all the way on the back of a motorbike – and says that she felt it. (Her return trip will be done in better comfort, in a bus.)  That’s dedication. That’s committment. And 80% of New Zealanders share her anger at John Key’s planned asset sales,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

(L) Dawn Shapira and (R) Tania Tewiata

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Finally, the most important folk at this protest were not the politicians; nor the media; nor the organisers. Instead, the VIPs were the children – they are the ones who will inherit the society that we build (or sell off) for them. Will we leave them a mess, or success?

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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Media reporting

  • Radio NZ reported 30 to 40 people in their audio report, but increasing the number to 60 on their website. This is a somewhat conservative estimate, and I put the number somewhere around 100 to 150.

Copyright (c)  Notice

All images are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

  1. Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
  2. Where purpose of  use is  commercial, a donation to Russell School Breakfast Club is requested.
  3. For non-commercial use, images may be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals.
  4. Acknowledgement of source is requested.

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February 7 (Part Rua)

8 February 2012 6 comments

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Continued from February 7 (Part Tahi).

A security guard from a private security firm had attempted to stop me from photographing the protest rally from a vantage point that was near other media personnel. I explained I was a blogger; was merely taking photos to record the event; and that I had a right to be standing where I was.

The guard refused to step out of my way, and blocked me from the rally. I became vocal, and insisted that he step out of my way; let me do my job; and then I would return to the crowd.

The media took an immediate interest in what seemed to be an escalating fracas, and started filming us.

At that point, the security guard’s superviser intervened. He demanded I leave. I insisted on my right to stand peacefully in a spot shared by other media. I gestured at the cameras pointed at us and reiterated; “let me take my photos, and I will leave peacefully. You do not want to make a ‘scene’ in front of  all these  cameras“.

Some in the crowd began shouting, “Leave him alone!” and “Let him take his photos!

Obviously I was not carrying weapons of mass destruction (or even light destruction)(maybe an unbent paper-clip in my pocket), and he agreed to allow me to proceed. I thanked him, and the security guard (who was only doing his job).

It seems a sign of the times that here in New Zealand, a small crowd of (mostly) middle-aged protestors required the presence of  security guards;  barriers; and half a dozen police to contain the situation.

What are our elected representatives so afraid of?

With the situation de-fused, the media returned their attention to the actual protest rally,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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Some of the signs held aloft by ordinary folk who have no desire to see our public assets sold off. This one has an “air of truth” about it,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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Possibly because it reminds me of this, from the late 1990s,

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Max Bradford

The Promise of cheaper power...

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Back to the rally,  and one of our best known activists and expert on our energy industry, attended the protest,

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Molly Melhuish february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

Molly Melhuish, Energy Campaigner

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This gentleman insisted he was not a member or supporter of NZ First – but still shared the sentiment expressed on the placard,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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This photo, to me, speaks volumes. These two elderly gentlemen represent an age from when New Zealanders worked hard to build the state assets which we now enjoy. It must grieve them to see their foolish children auction them off, so casually, without considering the true worth of what is being  given away.

To me, it feels akin to a betrayal of what our parents and grandparents left us,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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Amazing isn’t it – that ordinary kiwis understand the true ramifications of asset sales. Our elected representatives (or rather, some of them) seem to take us for fools. But we understand economic realities only too well,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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This image alone, should wipe the smirk of John Key’s face.  Contrary to his little “teapot chat” with John Banks, elderly voters are not “dying off”. In fact, I think they’ve postponed any impending “coach-tour to the Pearly Gates”, so as to vote in 2014. They have a “date” with the ballot box in three years hence, and have no intention on missing it.

Take note, Mr Key; you are annoying the voters,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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Perhaps one of the guttsiest people at the rally had to be ” Madd Hatter “, who convened the Rally. Make no mistake about the weather – it was wet and cold. Yet, covered in “oil” (a mixture of  mollasses and other stuff ) she braved the Wellington weather to make a point about fracking and deep-sea oil drilling of our coastline.

With the cost of the ‘Rena‘ clean-up now estimated at $130 million, it seems that some of our elected representatives are still entertaining lunatic notions that could result in the  polluting of  our underground water-table (“fracking“) or endanger our coastline with deep-sea drilling. (See previous blog-piece here, on this issue.)

Cheers, “Madd Hatter” – you deserve to be in Parliament. (And I say that in a nice way.)

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

"Madd Hatter"

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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And addressing the rally,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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Jonathan then advised us that various Party leaders would address the Rally,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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From the Labour Party, Charles Chauvel (L) and Deputy Leader, Grant Robertson (R). Note the media-scrum around them, and successive Parliamentary speakers,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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Green Party co-leader, Russell Norman. For some unfathomable reason, Norman attracted derisory calls from one (possibly two?) individuals in the crowd. Like, who can possibly dislike the Greens? (As our mums kept reminding us; Greens are good for us! Very wise, our mums!)

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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Hone Harawira recieved the loudest applause – and not without good reason. Leaving the Maori Party – that is now so closely wedded to  National – has  cemented his credentials as an opponant of Right Wing ideology. In these times of myriad shades of gray and ambiguity, I think it fair to say that we know where Hone stands,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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When it came Winston Peter’s turn to speak, there was a briref, two-minute vocal exchange between him And Jonathan Elliott. Regardless of who was in the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, we need to remember that the media will report on such ‘exchanges’ rather than the full message of the protest rally,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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Sometimes, we just need to bite our collective tongues, and  on message. Otherwise, certain folk on the Ninth Floor will simply rub their hands with glee at our dis-unity. When Peters spoke, it was… vintage Winston,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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(Damn, I wish I had his hair.)

Following the main political speakers, came Katherine Raue, from Transparency nz. It is unfortunate that as Katherine took the microphone, the media pack melted away,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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Despite losing the interest of the media (who can be seen in the background, interviewing one of the politicians – Winston Peters, I believe), Katherine spoke eloquently on John Key’s broken promises – especially the impact broken promises has had on the families of the Pike River miner’s families.

Katherine made a strong, impassioned plea for Key to honour his promises to recover the bodies of the 29 dead miners. As we can all recall, John Key was highly prominent on the West Coast soon after the disaster. He made reassuring noises, promises, and committments – saying all the things that the dead miners’ families wanted to hear.

None of which came to pass.

In case anyone thinks that this protest-rally was “side lined by irrelevent issues” – think again. The committments that our elected representatives make – whether  to recover dead miners, or create jobs, or to make government transparent – is something that impacts on us all.

Even if we believe that something that government does doesn’t affect us – it does. Well done, Katherine – we need more Kiwis like you,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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Katherine was followed by Green MPs Catherine Delahunty and Gareth Huges. Both spoke well, though again, the media pack had deserted the area,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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Then it was Molly’s turn. Molly Melhuish is a long-time energy campaigner. She has seen decades of change, from the Muldoon era of the Electricity Department – to post-Rogernomics electricity corporatidsation. What  she doesn’t know about the industry probably isn’t worth knowing,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

From L to R; Peter Redfern, Molly Melhuish, and Betty Redfern

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Greypower, more than any other group of New Zealanders understand only too well the severe impact that privatisation of our electricity will have on our elderly. For many, the price of electricity is a matter of life and death.

Note the policemen in the background. They were posted to guard the steps of Parliament in case Greypower decided to storm the House of Representatives. Good show, chaps – democracy is safe.

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To be continued Part Toru

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