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Archive for August, 2012

Selling state assets: it’s a crappy commercial decision – The Voice of Business

31 August 2012 12 comments

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Full story

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An under-reported recent story in the media revealed that 54% of small/medium sized businesses in New Zealand oppose the partial privatisation of state owned enterprises.

As  Mathew Gilligan, of chartered accountants Gilligan Rowe and Associates, demanded to know,

Why do we need to sell them when we can borrow at very low interest rates and continue to receive the dividend and interest in New Zealand rather than letting that potentially escape offshore in the future.”

See: Ibid

*Badaching!!!*

This is precisely one of the strong arguments used by opponants of asset sales. Leftist political parties; community groups;   other organisations; and even a certain well-known Prime Minister,  have made precisely this point since National announced it’s privatisation agenda.

The Green Party;

The four energy companies had an average return on investment of 18.5% per annum over the last five years, including both equity gain and dividends. This is more than four times higher than the Government’s cost of borrowing at 4%. Would you borrow money on your credit card at 18.5% to put in a savings account for 4%? Of course not. It doesn’t make sense. But giving up returns of 18.5% to save 4% is the same thing, and that’s what National is planning to do. In the long-run, selling highly profitable companies for a one-off gain would mean more government debt, not less.

See: Why Keep Our Assets?

Clayton Cosgrove, NZ Labour Party

I’m calling on him now to pull the plug on it. What we are now down to is the Government defending John Key’s pride and his political vanity in respect of these sales…

... John Key is well experienced at floating companies. He is the financial whiz kid and anyone with half a brain could have worked out that because China is slowing down, their appetite for natural resources is slowing down and commodity prices are decreasing, that Solid Energy would come under pressure.

See: Halt asset sales, say opposition MPs

Bryan Gould,  former UK Labour MP,  former Vice-Chancellor of Waikato University

The Government’s commitment to public asset sales, in other words, is driven by the need to raise the money to offset its failure to get the economy moving again. But there are also reasons for resisting the sale of our national assets to what will inevitably be overseas owners.

Those reasons relate to the degree of control we exercise over our own destiny. We have already sold a greater proportion of our assets to overseas owners than any other advanced country; every time we sell another important national asset to overseas owners, we lose a little more control over our own future. ”

See: Maori leaders have the right idea

Grey Power;

“ Grey Power calls on Government to slow down the asset sales process, and engage properly with household consumers to find practical solutions to power price rises, cold houses, and long-term energy sustainability…

… All householders, particularly those on fixed or low incomes, will be prejudiced by asset sales because privatisation will lock in today’s industry-friendly pricing. Last year prices rose only a little, but as soon as the asset sales bill was passed we saw the highest-ever price increase in a single quarter – a 5% price rise averaged nationwide…

… Today’s regulation actively promotes wealth transfers to big businesses at the expense of small consumers. Price rises are like a tax but worse, because much of the profit would go to the private sector instead of cutting the national deficit or funding healthy homes programmes. Government has removed. ”

See: Grey Power Statement on Asset Sales

Hone Harawira, Mana Party

“ Assets owned by the state on behalf of all New Zealanders should not be sold to pay off a debt that was created not by NZ citizens, but by bad governance and a devotion to economic values which lead to “the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.”

See: No to asset sales – Hone Harawira

NZ First

“ State asset sales will be disastrous for electricity consumers. At present the market is distorted with domestic consumers subsidising commercial and industrial users. Privatising power generating and retail companies will make this situation worse as investors seek to push up profits. New Zealand First firmly believes that any profits should stay at home to benefit the local economy.”

See: NZ First – No Asset Sales

Rod Oram, Financial Commentator

The harder John Key tries to sell voters on reducing Crown ownership of five state-owned enterprises (SOEs), the deeper the hole he digs for himself and National. Here are the main arguments. None stack up…

…   So, given the economics of SOE sales are so poor and the politics so unpalatable, judging by voter resistance expressed in the polls, it remains a mystery why Key is exercising such bad economic and political judgement.”

See: SOE sales an election punt

Dr Brian Edwards, Broadcaster, Media Specialist

Well perhaps I can use myself as an example. I’m against the sale of state assets. I think selling them can’t be justified on economic grounds; and I share the nationalistic sentiments of so many Kiwis that they’re ours and we should keep ownership and control of them here.”

See: Why Labour is both right and wrong about asset sales.

Chief Ombudsman Beverley Wakem

They will carry on the same operations as they do presently which have significant scope to impact on individuals and communities and the environment. It’s not just about commercial interests, the impact of these companies goes much wider than that and all of those interests ought to be protected…

However state-owned enterprises are different from private enterprises by necessary definition of their ownership and purpose – that is to make profits for the Government and to expand and promote the interests of the public.”

See: Ombudsman warns on power selldown

CTU President, Helen Kelly

The Government does not have the mandate to sell our strategic assets and it is time the public had their say.”

See: Grey Power, CTU: Campaign for Referendum on Asset Sales

Waitangi Tribunal

In the national interest and the interests of the Crown-Maori relationship, we recommend that the sale be delayed while the Treaty partners negotiate a solution to this dilemma.”

See: Waitangi Tribunal: Asset sales must halt

John Key, Prime Minister;

Now they’re highly profitable companies, the Crown’s dividend stream from Mighty River and Genesis are large so on both motivations we don’t have a debt problem and they’re acting highly effectively as companies. There is no motivation to sell assets; actually we’re about creating assets not selling assets...

Nor am I hell bent on selling assets, actually in the world of making the boat go faster, actually, I don’t think selling assets actually makes the boat go faster.”

See: TV3 -  Key promised no job cuts, asset sales in 2008 speech

With business opposed to asset sales as well as a myriad of political, sector groups, and prominent citizens, this country is fairly well united with a single opposing voice; people reject privatisation, whether in part or in full. Especially when those assets are highly profitable and benefit the entire country as a whole.

The MYOB Business poll simply adds an extra dimension to the clamour to half asset sales. These are New Zealand’s businesspeople speaking out – not leftists or “intellectuals” or community groups – but hard-nosed businessmen and businesswomen who understand black and red ink at the bottom line.

When MYOB managing director, Julian Smith, says,

Businesses do not buy the return on investment argument that the Government is running. They can’t really see how it is going to practically improve the economy or help the country.”

- then National would be foolish to ignore that opinion.

Certainly SOE Minister, Tony Ryall’s gormless comment,

What it reflects is a wider understanding that what the Government is doing with the partial asset sales is about controlling debt.”

- is nothing more than mindless drivel.

How can Ryall claim that 54% opposition to asset sales demonstrates “a wider understanding that what the Government is doing with the partial asset sales is about controlling debt” ? Has the man actually read the poll figures before blurting out that non-sequitur spin?

With the majority of businesspeople now firmly in the anti-asset-sales camp, National has few allies left. ACT’s John Banks  and Peter Dunne are it. One is a chronic amnesiac – the other a political prostitute. Not exactly a Broad Front, by anyone’s definition.

Time to call it a day, Dear Leader. When your own business allies reject your agenda, you know you’ve totally lost the battle.

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Postscript: Another  lesson in National Party double-standards…

According to Dear Leader, the Greens’ $75,000 spending of taxpayers’ money to stop asset sales, and thereby protect taxpayers’ assets, was a heinous crime…

In two interviews about asset sales this morning, Key attacked the Greens for using $75,000 of its taxpayer-funded leaders’ budget to hire staff to collect signatures towards a citizens initiated referendum on the issue.

“These are the people that said they don’t have enough money to pay for (deaf MP) Mojo Mathers’ technology in Parliament but have enough money for a citizens initiated referendum,” he told Newstalk.

“This is a politically-motivated referendum.”

See: Key ‘desperate’ over asset sales: Greens

Meanwhile, National’s spending of $100 million of taxpayers’ money to flog off our state assets seems perfectly acceptable to Dear Leader and his cronies…

Treasury has announced it’s appointing a panel of firms to sell 49 per cent of the shares in Mighty River Power, Meridian Energy, Genesis Energy and Solid Energy.

It expects as many as 250,000 investor applications and fees charged by brokers will run to about $100 million.”

See: Taxpayers to foot $100 millon asset sale bill

$75,000 to save our state assets vs $100 million to flog them of, against public opinion.

Gee, that’s a ‘toughie‘.

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Additional

Asset sales will leave Govt worse off

Asset sales plan frustrates business owners

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Guest Author: Stop me if you’ve already heard this one

- Rob, The Standard blog

21 May 2011

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Time for a bit of in depth analysis of some of the key phrases in Bill English’s budget speech:

This Budget restricts the increase in public debt to manageable levels. Treasury’s December forecasts showed a dramatic and indefinite rise in debt levels. This is unacceptable to this Government because we do not want to saddle future generations with the cost of short term policies.

We will initiate a programme to lift productivity, improve competitiveness and sharpen New Zealand’s future economic performance.

We will consolidate the Government’s fiscal position, keep debt under control and ensure that Crown finances are properly managed.

This Government came into office with a plan to lift New Zealand’s economic performance.

I move on to our plan to balance the Government’s books. … This Budget will begin to restore the Crown balance sheet to its previous health.

The measures I have outlined will form key elements of our strategy to ensure that New Zealand emerges from the downturn stronger than it entered it.

The Government is determined that future taxpayers will not be burdened with higher debt which is unmatched by increases in productive assets.

To achieve this, the Government has made some difficult decisions.

The measures outlined this afternoon, the expenditure restraint shown by this Government, deferment of the tax cuts and deferment of Super Fund contributions, will keep the increase in public debt within acceptable levels. …

[This Budget] marks a turning point for New Zealand. Ten years of economic growth and expansive appetites for debt and Government spending have ended. Today we have outlined the challenge to rebalance the economy from debt and consumption to investment and exports.

The Budget will improve New Zealand’s international competitiveness.

It will get our debt under control and turning down.

It starts to create a government sector that provides better services and delivers better value for taxpayers.

It will help create new and sustainable jobs.

It will begin to build a platform for a much more ambitious New Zealand.

Mr Speaker, I commend this Budget to the House.

Ooops – Dammit! Sorry, my mistake. Wrong speech. That’s the budget speech from 2009. This is the one I meant:

The worst of the global crisis has for now passed and the economy has begun to grow again. In fact, New Zealand has weathered the economic storm better than many other developed economies.

Government policy struck the right balance between blunting the sharp edges of recession and maintaining control of public finances.

The Government is committed to policies that will reduce our vulnerabilities by tilting our economy away from debt and consumption toward savings, investment and exports.

These policies underpin the updated Treasury forecasts showing steady growth of around 3 per cent over each of the next four years.

The forecasts also show that this growth will raise real incomes of the average household by about $7,000 over the next four years, and create 170,000 jobs.

I now turn to the Government’s fourth objective, that of maintaining firm control of the government’s finances, so we can return the budget to surplus and reduce our rising debt.

The fiscal outlook has improved from last year, due to the economy returning to growth and the positive impact of Budget 2009 decisions.

The projected operating deficit for the next financial year is $8.6 billion or 4.2 per cent of GDP.

It is projected to improve steadily in each subsequent year, and to reach surplus in 2015/16, three years ahead of last year’s projection.

As a result of this improved outlook the debt projections have also become more favourable

We now have our debt under control and unemployment is beginning to fall.

We will emerge as one of the countries that other nations aspire to be more like.

There are risks to the recovery. A mountain of debt hangs over a number of our export destinations, and will also influence the markets that lend to New Zealand.

We cannot take for granted the contribution that the Australian and Chinese economies have made to our growth.

However, we are on track to a position most developed economies will envy.

This includes more new jobs, falling unemployment, rising family incomes,
quality public services and sound public finances.

Mr Speaker, This Budget continues to build a platform for a much more ambitious New Zealand.

Mr Speaker, I commend this Budget to the House.

Oh My. I really don’t know what’s wrong with me today. That’s the wrong speech again! That was the 2010 speech. This is the 2011 speech. Really this time:

Today I introduce a Budget that will further strengthen the long-term performance of the economy.

It supports economic forecasts that show growth returning to its highest in over five years and 170,000 net new jobs being created by 2015.

Our main task remains to return New Zealand to sustained prosperity. The economy has been underperforming since before the global financial crisis. Indeed, per capita GDP has not grown since 2004.

The OECD, the Savings Working Group and others have pointed out that we need to make the economy more competitive and lift national savings.

Currently, most businesses and households have successfully lifted their own savings. While that has hurt retailers for now, in the long term it is a good thing.

The main sector not saving is the Government.

The deficit in 2010/11 will be large, at $16.7 billion or 8.4 per cent of GDP. This includes a range of one-off costs, including the earthquakes.

The measures announced in this Budget will put both the Government’s finances and the economy on a much sounder footing despite a series of adverse events and a slower economic recovery.

The projected operating deficit will fall dramatically over the next three years. It will be in significant surplus from 2014/15.

This is a year sooner than the position forecast last year.

Budget 2011 shows how, from the depths of the global financial crisis when a decade of red ink was in prospect, and despite the devastating Canterbury earthquakes and other setbacks, the Government has laid the basis for future prosperity.

It is within sight of budget surpluses and falling public debt.

It has funded reconstruction of Christchurch, our second largest city.

It has in prospect the strongest growth for a decade.

It has materially improved the tax system.

It has placed KiwiSaver onto a sounder, more sustainable footing, and instilled a culture built on savings rather than debt.

And it will provide future New Zealanders with real choices about further lowering taxes, adding quality public services, or both.

We set a path for responsible government spending from the start of our term, and we maintain that path in this Budget.

This Budget continues to build a platform for a much stronger, more ambitious New Zealand.

Mr Speaker, I commend this Budget to the House.

Sounds awfully familiar doesn’t it. Right down to the recycled prediction of 170,000 new jobs. Why are the promises and predictions of 2011 any more realistic or believable than the failed promises and predictions of 2010 and 2009? How can anyone listen to Bill English, John Key and the Nats making these abundantly meaningless claims time after time without laughing? Know what they say eh. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…

 

 

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Acknowledgement

Reprinted with kind permission by Lprent, The Standard

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“Dopey is as dopey does”, according to Dear Leader

31 August 2012 20 comments

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For a man who was raised in a state house; in a single-parent family; and who had all the benefits of a free tertiary education, John Key’s attitude towards those at the bottom of the socio-economic scale leaves a lot to be desired.

Let’s re-cap,

  • John Key’s father died, leaving his mother a solo-mum, to raise children by herself,
  • She would have received the DPB or widow’s benefit (and quite rightly so)
  • She would most likely have been eligible for the Family Benefit, paid to families with children until Ruth Richardson scrapped it in her  1991 “Mother of all Budgets”
  • John Key’s family  enjoyed a state house, with low-rent and security of tenure
  • And lastly, John Key was given a free, tax-payer funded University education (no student fees or debt)

When the Children’s Commissioner’s Expert Advisory Group (EAG) report was released, it’s recommendations included,

First, the group will call for a Warrant of Fitness for landlords. Given John Key has this weekend stressing the success of the Green-inspired home insulation scheme, but the disappointing uptake from landlords, it’s a timely bit of advice.

A WOF on rental homes would ensure poor kids don’t grow up in leaky, cold and unhealthy homes. Really, a safe, warm house should be a basic requirement if you’re going to charge rent. Who can argue with that?

Second, it’ll call for meals to be provided more widely in schools. Some, such as Deborah Morris-Travers from Every Child Counts says that’s a no-brainer. Children need food if they’re to learn and deal with the social demands of school. Some are less keen, however, arguing it takes the onus off parents and puts more pressure on teachers to feed as well as teach our children.

But another study shows this could just be the thin end of the school wedge. Every Child Counts’ Netherlands study this week talked about schools becoming a community hub, with not only meals but before and after school care, nurses, social workers and clubs.

It’s a bold prescription, but one that works overseas by helping working parents and keeping families connected to their schools.

Third, the EAG is expected to call for some form of long-term and universal state assistance for kids – maybe a Universal Child Benefit, or some money every week for every child born. Until 1991 we had such a thing – a Family Benefit. That went in the Bolger/Richardson years.

See: Tim Watkin: It’s time to talk about child poverty again

These three options could put a serious dent into child poverty. A Universal Child Benefit – along the lines of  the old Family Benefit – could add an extra $150  and  extra food on the tables of low-income families.

John Key’s response? In Parliament, responding to a point made by Greens co-leader, Metiria Turei [error correction], he bellowed with great gusto,

We are in an unequal society in New Zealand in her view because the rich are getting richer. And now she is on her feet telling me ‘give the rich families even more for their kids’. What a dopey idea that is.”

See: Key dismisses payment for all parents as ‘dopey’

What a mean-spirited, shallow-thinking man we have as a leader of our nation.

without a  doubt, John Key has a constituency of many other selfish, mean-spirited, short-sighted people in this country. There are a fair number of ill-educated and self-centered who think that the only solution to poverty is to do nothing, and let the poor struggle on. These people have no compassion.

That is the kind of  shallow-thinking that will eventually  doom a society to growing income-disparity; increasing gap between the Haves and Have Nots; and eventual social dislocation and violence.

Such people who think that the poor are poor because they deserve it are a far greater menace to the fabric of our social cohesion, than all the patched gang-members in our community.

For John Key to dismiss a proposed  Universal Child Benefit as “dopey” shows us only one thing; he has forgotten his roots. He has forgotten where he came from. He has forgotten not just the sacrifices of his family – but the strong community support that he benefitted from, and gave him the opportunity to make himself rich.

John Key is where he is because other taxpayers contributed to his housing, education, healthcare, and well-being.

He did not do it by himself.

This blogger does not begrudge Dear Leader’s bulging bank account of $50 million.

What I find reprehensible  is that he would deny other families the chance to access similar support to give their children a decent start in life.

Paula Bennett did the same with the Training Incentive Allowance. Bennett used the TIA to gain a free tertiary education for herself – and then cut the Allowance in 2009. Other solo-mothers can no longer use the same TIA to put themselves through University, and get of the DPB.

See: Bennett rejects ‘hypocrite’ claims

This blogger wonders at the like of John Key and Paula Bennett,  and  how they can deny others the same state-funded assistance that they themselves benefitted from.

What kind of human beings are these people?

How can they forget the assistance that they received when in need?

And what possible satisfaction  do they get when they deny state assistance to their fellow New Zealanders? Especially the same assistance that Key and Bennett personally benefitted from?

The greatest poverty that a society can endure is not monetary. It is a paucity of leadership. It is a lack of hope. And it is a disconnect in social compassion.

When we allow cruelty over compassion, then we are in deep trouble.

It is said that when facing a problem, the three challenges are,

  1. Identify the problem,
  2. Come up with solutions,
  3. Have the Will to implement those solution.

We know the problem.

We have the solutions.

Our leaders are still looking for #3.

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Previous related blogposts

Once upon a time there was a solo-mum

Hypocrisy – thy name be National

Hon. Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy

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Drug Testing the Unemployed – National’s Epic Fail at Job Creation

29 August 2012 31 comments

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This blogger has three questions for John Key and  the National Party,

1. Is is true that Paula Bennett made a correct statement when she  admitted on TVNZ’s Q+A, on   29 April 2012,

No. There’s not a job for everyone that would want one right now, or else we wouldn’t have the unemployment figures that we do. ” – Source

2. If National can claim the Global Financial Crisis as the reason for New Zealand’s low economic growth – why does the same rationale not apply to the unemployed, and if it does, why spend an estimated $14 million on drug testing when joblessness is a result of economic circumstances, and not drug-induced laziness?

3. How is National’s pledge to create 170,000 new jobs – made in November last year – working out? Especially when unemployment recently increased from 6.7% to 6.8%?

A day after National announced it’s intentions to drug-test the unemployed, Solid Energy broke the news that it was planning to make up to 263 of it’s miners, contractors, and other staff, redundandant.  Workers from Huntly East Mine and Spring Creek on the West Coast will lose their jobs.

See: Beneficiary drug testing plans unveiled

See: Spring Creek mine work suspended

This follows on from other redundancies announced just this year alone,

How many of the above redundant workers will Bennett insist be drug-tested?

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But more to the point – is this really a problem? Or, as is likely, is this a shameful attempt by National to deflect attention away from rising unemployment; their failure to manage an economy to generate new jobs; and to deflect blame onto the unemployed?

Because any sane, dispassionate analysis of this problem does not indicate that drug taking is the cause of 162,000 people currently out of work.

See: Unemployment rises: 6.8pc

Especially when in 2007, unemployment stood at 3.4%  – or 77,000 people!

See: Household Labour Force Survey December 2007 quarter

What has changed?

As National ministers  like John Key, Bill English, Gerry Brownlee, et al  like to consistently remind us – when their economic track record is held up for scrutiny – it’s called the “Global Financial Crisis”,

We did inherit a pretty bad situation with the global financial crisis. ” – John Key

See: View from the Top

In the midst of a very deep global downturn we expect volatility and low growth, as we are seeing around the world economies.” – Steven Joyce

See: Parliamentary Questions and Answers – August 29

However, the government deferred the increase due to the challenging economic circumstances New Zealand was experiencing as it continued to recover from the global financial crisis and the Canterbury earthquakes.” – Gerry Brownlee

See: Petrol excise, road user charges increases

The global economic situation is like a dark cloud on the horizon and it’s not going to go away possibly for a generation – certainly for 15 or 20 years.” – Bill English

See: English warns of financial crisis lasting a generation

It’s abundantly clear that National has no reservation in blaming the Global Financial Crisis for the sad state of our economy.  They refer to overseas influences time and time again.

So why does the same economic situation not apply to other economic indicators – like unemployment?

Why try to smear unemployed – who up until recently were in full-time, paid, employment – and brand them as drug-taking, lazy, “bludgers”?

Why did Bennett make this statement,

Recreational drug use is simply not an acceptable excuse for avoiding available work. Thousands of working New Zealanders are in jobs requiring they be clean of drugs; it’s reasonable to expect someone looking for work to do the same.”

See: Beneficiary drug testing plans unveiled

Bennett is implying that someone looking for work must be on drugs? Why?

The answer, I submit to the reader, is that National is playing to it’s audience of middle class, low-information voters; right wing extremists; and the plain crazy nutjobs. These are the target demographics for the Nats.

Because any sane person will look at the above list of redundancies from the likes of Brightwater Engineering, Telecom, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, etc,  – and wonder – WTF?! Why is National spending $14 million of my tax dollars on drug-testing redundant engineers, telecommunication workers, diplomats, etc?!

Because it plays to an audience of predominantly middle class (and quite a segment of the working class), who find it all to easy to believe the cliched  stereotypes  that depict  All Welfare Beneficiaries Are There By Choice. Internet fora are full of uninformed, prejudiced, and outright  crazy ‘trolls’ who revel in their distorted view of those on welfare, or low-paying jobs.

Never mind that four years ago we had half the unemployment we do now.

Do those ignorant fools believe that unemployed are out of work by choice, having given up their average wage/salary of $800 to $900 per week, so they could live in luxury on $204.96 (net, weekly unemployed benefit)?

See: WINZ Unemployment Benefit (current)

Drug testing the unemployed has nothing to do with any perceived problem with drug abuse.

This is a carefully constructed, skillfully diseminated, lie.

National is spending $14 million on a problem that does not exist.

National is desperate to turn public attention away from,

  1. Increasing unemployment
  2. Increasing poverty levels
  3. More and more New Zealanders heading overseas
  4. A stagnating economy
  5. National’s lack of traction in creating the 170,000 new jobs they pledged last year

Middle Class voters are being targetted by National’s tax-payer funded spin doctors and political strategists. Their agenda is clear and simple;

  • Brand  the unemployed as “lazy” and “on drugs”.
  • So it can’t be a failure on the part of National to create the 170,000 new jobs they promised us.

See: Budget 2011: Govt predicts 170,000 new jobs

Above all else, National’s nasty little strategy is an admission of failure on their part. They have failed utterly to,

  • grow the economy
  • create jobs
  • raise wages
  • stem the flow of skilled New Zealanders to Australia

Because clearly, if a government was building an economy that was generating more and more jobs, then what would be the need to create a bogeyman of lazy, drugged unemployed?

Especially when Labour presided over a growing economy with low unemployment,

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There was no talk of “lazy/drugged unemployed”  in 2007.

No Global Financial Crisis either.

Truly, National has hit rock bottom with this vile strategy. How long, one wonders, before the middle classes out in Voterland realise that they are being conned by some very cunning politicians and their back-room strategists?

A question for the Middle Classes;

We live in uncertain times. Any one of us are only one step away from being unemployed ourselves. How  would you feel being branded a possible drug-user by the likes of Paula Bennett and John Key?

Not too happy I’d suspect?

And one final question for the Prime Minister,

Where are the jobs?

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Previous related blogpost

Jobs, jobs, everywhere – but not a one for me? (Part Toru)

What’s up with the Nats? (Part rua)

Related Information

Employment-Unemployment Fact Sheet #1: Queues for Vacancies

Other blogs

Tumeke: What the real aim of drug testing beneficiaries is

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Guest Author: Reactionary distractions hide NZ’s 9.1% unemployment

- Neil Watts,  Blogger, Fearfactsexposed

28 August 2012

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Shocking new unemployment figures hidden by hard-Right red herrings.

Damning new unemployment statistics released by Roy Morgan Research yesterday reveal that the true rate of unemployment in New Zealand is much greater than the official 6.9% claimed by the Government.

According to Roy Morgan’s figures, unemployment is sitting at 9.1%, with a further 9.6% under-employed and looking for work.  That’s almost 20% of New Zealanders not achieving their productive potential and not contributing to the economy.  These figures are an economic disaster, and point to the single worst management of the economy in New Zealand’s history.  Little wonder the Government were busy rolling out Paula Bennett’s latest poor-hate policy this week, to give their friends in the mainstream media something else to talk about.

And, of course, John Key’s favourite Rightwing propagandists at Fairfax Media were more than happy to ignore the shocking new figures and concentrate instead on National’s latest initiative to demonise the poor;  forcing beneficieries to take complulsary drug tests.

Here we go yet again.  It’s as predictable as the sunrise – as soon as National are likely to be tarnished by bad news, they simply get Herr Paula to pull out another piece of dog-whistle poor-hate to remind the rest of the proletariat that all of our problems are caused by the dirty, filthy, lazy, unemployed, and not by the failed free market dogma that crashed the world’s economy, and is now being touted as the only way to fix it.

There isn’t a single word on Stuff about the Roy Morgan report, which is interesting, considering that when their polls show National doing well with voters, Fairfax struggle to find a font big enough.  Instead, they do National the usual courtesy of focussing on the distraction, with the bold headline “Beneficiery drug testing plans unveiled”.  They are effectively making scapegoats of the most vulnerable to justify the unthinkable. Now, in what kind of historical regimes have we seen this strategy before?  It’s a dangerous and morally bankrupt Government that attempts to blame soaring unemployment on the unemployed themselves.

While unemployment is an increasingly worrying issue for struggling New Zealanders, Fairfax revealed their abject contempt for our concerns, by making a facetious joke out of the Opposition’s attempts to save jobs at Dunedin’s Hillside manufacturing plant.  Labour Leader David Shearer’s visit to the plant yesterday and his calls to save New Zealand’s manufacturing industry might be serious to ordinary Kiwis, but Fairfax didn’t even bother reporting his comments, instead publishing the following maliscious, poor taste comments:

LABOUR MPS CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF HILLSIDE

Office sceptics are wondering . . . would productivity rise at Dunedin’s Hillside engineering workshops and would they get more contracts if Labour MPs would just leave them alone to do their jobs? Labour leader David Shearer was the latest to visit yesterday, and our reporters can recall two visits by former leader Phil Goff and one by David Cunliffe in the past year.

Mr Shearer said the workshops were “a national asset” and their future had to be secured to protect skilled jobs and flow-on economic benefits to other businesses.”

Clearly, New Zealanders losing their jobs is something of a big joke to Fairfax.  It certainly isn’t a big deal to their mega-wealthy shareholders, like climate change denying serial polluter Gina Rinehart, who owns most of the corporation’s shares.  Perhaps that’s why big news today of a record Arctic ice melt, resembling a giant slushie, hasn’t been reported by Ms Rinehart’s own personal propaganda company.   According to the story published on the more reliable New Zealand Herald’s website:

“Michael E. Mann, a lead author of a major UN report in 2001 on climate change, said the latest data reflected that scientists who were criticised as alarmists may have shown “perhaps too great a degree of reticence.”

“I think, unfortunately, this is an example that points more to the worst-case scenario side of things,” said Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University.   “There are a number of areas where in fact climate change seems to be proceeding faster and with a greater magnitude than what the models predicted,” Mann told AFP.  “The sea ice decline is perhaps the most profound of those cautionary tales because the models have basically predicted that we shouldn’t see what we’re seeing now for several decades,” he added.”

Outrageous isn’t it?  But, what can you do about it?  Well, you can share this page, you can join our ever-growing protest on Facebook , you can boycott Fairfax’s publications, and you can avoid stuff.co.nz.  Oh, and please tell your friends!   Kia ora New Zealand.

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Links

Roy Morgan: New Zealand unemployment was 9.1% with a further 9.6% of workforce under-employed

Scoop.co.nz:  New Zealand Real Unemployment at 9.1%

Tumeke: NZ real unemployment rate 9.1%?

NZ Herald: Record Arctic ice melt ‘like a giant slushie’

Fairfax Media: Today in politics: Tuesday, August 28

Fairfax Media: Beneficiary drug testing plans unveiled

Radio NZ: Hillside shouldn’t be broken up – Labour

ODT: ‘Crying shame’ if Hillside closed

Acknowledgement

Fearfactsexposed

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EXCLUSIVE STORY: Anti-asset sale Flash Occupation at Clemenger BBDO offices!

28 August 2012 23 comments

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Background: The Company

Clemenger Group Limited is the holding company of a group of companies involved in advertising and marketing communications services throughout Australia and New Zealand. It is the largest communications group in Australia and New Zealand. Clemenger Group Limited has about 1500 employees and is headquartered in Melbourne, Australia. 26% of the shares are held by Clemenger Communications staff and 74% by BBDO Worldwide. BBDO Worldwide is in turn part of the Omnicom Group, which the largest communications group in the world.”

Source:  Wikipedia Clemenger Group

Source: Clemenger Group/About CGL

Background: Asset Sales

Last year, National opened a tender for companies which might be interested in a multi-million dollar contract to handle an advertising/publicity campaign for up-coming asset sales,

Advertising agencies are working through the Christmas holiday period to meet a Treasury request for proposals to provide the advertising and communications campaigns that will accompany the Government’s partial privatisation agenda over the next three years.

While no budget is given for the contract, it is likely to be one of the largest new pieces of Government-funded advertising work agencies have seen for some time, but they have been given just 28 days to respond over the traditional shutdown period of Christmas and New Year.

See: TVNZ News: Ad agencies scramble for asset sales contract

On at least two fronts, the tender process was seen as dubious by various groups.

Firstly,

A formal Request for Proposals was issued on Decermber 15, with a deadline of January 9 for responses, leading industry veterans to suggest the Treasury has already made a choice of agency, but needs to follow Government rules requiring a tender process.

Advertising consultant and agency developer Mike Hutcheson says it is likely the Treasury already knows who they will give the job to, and this kind of fast-tracking is typical of such Government contracts.

“It’s a bit of a charade that Government departments and local authorities always go through because their choice is quite limited. There will be relatively few who can actually handle it,” said Hutcheson.

“Government departments have to go through a process and in fact it’s meant to be quite a transparent process, but usually it’s pre-determined.

“There will be someone in Government who would favour someone for sure. They’ll want someone to win, and whoever it is generally knows in advance”. “

See: Ibid

Secondly, the Green Party pointed out that seeking tenders for contracts over the December/Christmas and Easter period contravened Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) Guidelines for best-practice. The Guidelines states,

Unless it is unavoidable, government entities should be sensitive to the needs of busy people and not initiate tendering processes in the three weeks before Christmas, the week after Christmas and around Easter.”

See: Asset sale contract ‘broke rules’

So, not only was the timing of the tender process seen as disturbingly hasty by some – but it was held over a period which the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet guidelines itself stated quite clearly, should be avoided.

A spokeswoman for Treasury, Chris Major, said whilst Treasury was ‘mindful’ of DPMC’s guidelines, that,

Those guidelines note that RFPs should be avoided at Christmas if possible; in the case of the Mixed Ownership Model programme it was deemed necessary and unavoidable to proceed with procuring advertising and communications services in December/January.”

See: Ibid

It’s hard to understand why Treasury wanted “to proceed with procuring advertising and communications services in December/January”  – no advertising or publicity has taken place either last year or this year.  Only a website has been put up, and there is no apparent reason for urgency in that regard.

Someone, it appears, was in a hurry to award this particular contract.

The tender process closed on 9 January 2011, and the lucrative contract was awarded to Australian-based company,  Clemenger BBDO, thereafter,

State-Owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall said Treasury made decisions about contracts.”

In which case, why have a Minister of the Crown?  Why not have Treasury run the country (gods forbid)?

Is this  the sort of  “personal responsibility” that National continually demands from the public – but not from themselves?  The “Buck Does Not Stop Here”, obviously.

Clemenger BBDO will be paid a multi-million dollar sum for the contract, but National has refused to disclose the figure, citing “commercial sensitivity”,

Finance Minister Bill English yesterday told Parliament the cost of the contracts were commercially sensitive but the Government would release figures ”in due course”.”

In effect, politicians are handing over unknown  millions of dollars of our money, to corporates,  to sell our own state assets, to corporates.

Al Capone was in the wrong job.

Tuesday, 28 August: Aotearoa is Not For Sale organised another ‘Flash Occupation’ – this time targetting Clemenger BBDO in Kent Tce, Wellington.

At around 2pm, the small group of a dozen activists – some in corporate attire – met at Te Aro (Pigeon) Park, in Manners St. The group discussed tactics; reaffirmed a committment to non-violence; and practiced singing several anti-sale songs. The songs were popular titles such as “Down by the Riverside“, which had been adapted for the current situation, and re-titled, “We’re gonna stop the asset sales“,

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Placards and banners were prepared, including this new one, “No Asset Sales – No Higher Prices – No Corporate Welfare“,

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All in readiness, the group set off to Kent Tce, a ten minute walk from the Park,

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The group was in good spirits, and continued practicing singing the songs we would soon be sharing at the offices of Clemengers,

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Target dead ahead; the corporate offices of Australian-based, Clemengers BBDO. Interesting to note that being an overseas-owned company, any fees paid to this company will be remitted offshore, to foreign shareholders.

The sale of our state assets was already resulting in the outflow of profits to overseas investors,

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A brief demonstration took place outside the company’s doors. Considering the honking of car horns, it was evident that the public supported our presence, and more importantly, the message we were conveying,

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The group then headed into the building,

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The target of our ‘Flash Occupation’, emblazoned on the wall of the ground floor foyer,

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And into the Reception Area, where a startled receptionist was the first to see the messages we had brought to Clemengers,

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The Flash Occupation broke into song, as we moved through the offices,

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At all times, the event was recorded. Not just to spread the event through on-line video, but to protect against mischievous allegations of violence or damage,

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As the protestr moved through the offices, leaflets were distributed outlining why we were there and explaining why Clemenger’s participation in asset sales was unacceptable,

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We sang our protest songs with gusto, and this blogger noticed more than a few office workers smiling to themselves. (Ok, we won’t be appearing any time soon on the next  “New Zealand’s Top Idol“…)

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But we gave the Clemenger’s staff seated behind the activists entertainment, and a clear message: Aotearoa is not for sale!

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At this point, Clemenger’s Wellington Managing Director, Andrew Holt (center, white shirt), appeared and advised us that the police had been called and that we should leave.

We stood firm. We had more songs to sing, and a final message to read out,

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The singing continued. We would not move on until our message had been delivered, in full, and understood by everyone at Clemengers,

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Andrew Holt  (standing behind banner) stood with some of his staff (unseen, behind banner), as the singing came to an end,

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Shane read out a message, as Andrew Holt looked on, and  listened,

“The power companies Mighty River Power, Genesis Energy, and Meridian Energy belong to those who built them from scratch, benefitted from them in the past and benefit  from them today;

all New Zealanders.

The proposed sale of these State Owned Assets means the transfer from public into private ownership of these essential national services. We know that this will result in higher power prices for thepublic and loss of control of our electricity-generating capacity.

We think your role in this process is outrageous and we, as members of the public, object to paying fees to you to help sell what we already own.

No sale of state assets!”

In the background, another Clemengers staffer can be seen on the phone – talking with police?

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Having delivered the message, the ANFS activists departed from the building peacefully, and with no damage or mess  left behind.

Another Flash Occupation peacefully and successfully completed, the group separated and departed.

Clemengers was now the second corporation, connected to asset sales, that had been visted by a Flash Occupation.

See: Anti-Sale protestors invade Bell Gully offices

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Copyright (c)  Notice

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

  •     Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
  •     Where purpose of  use is  commercial, a donation to Child Poverty Action Group is requested.
  •     For non-commercial use, images may be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals.
  •     Acknowledgement of source is requested.

Additional

NZ Parliament:  Questions for Oral Answer: State-owned Energy Companies and Air New Zealand, Sales—Contracts for Related Services

Scoop.co.nz: Govt ignores ad guidelines for SOE contract

Fairfax: Asset sale contract ‘broke rules’

Contact

Aotearoa Is Not For Sale – Facebook

Aotearoa Is Not For Sale – Website

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A solution to John the Fibber…

28 August 2012 2 comments

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This, folks, is our Dear Leader, John Key

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Dear Leader sometimes has a problem differentiating between making a statement that is true – and one that is not quite so true.

This gadget, below,  is a lie detector, also known as a polygraph,

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They even come as hand-held versions. This one is called a de-FIB-ulator (clever, eh?),

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Now with a bit of judicious wiring… some strapping to his  clothing… and someone to monitor inputs/outputs…

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Sorted.

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 = fs =

Tobacco Corporations are interested only in our “intulecktualul property rights” – agree/disagree?

28 August 2012 13 comments

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Some (most?) folk will have seen an advert currently running on television, featuring the above image.

It is part of a campaign by tobacco companies to oppose plain packaging here in New Zealand. In Australia, recently, a million-dollar law suit brought by tobacco companies against the Australian government was fought on this specific issue.

The tobacco companies lost.

See:  Tobacco packaging: cigarette companies lose Australian court case

This trans-Tasman conflict was viewed closely by National and it’s coalition-partner, the Maori Party. Especially by Associate Health Minister, Tariana Turia.

See: Tariana Turia welcomes Australian plain packaging decision

Plans for a similar law are being mooted here in New Zealand; to replace the glamourous, brightly-coloured cigarette packets with plain packages featuring mostly the usual ghastly images of cancer victims.

In response, British American Tobacco New Zealand, the biggest tobacco company in the country  launched a counter-campaign on 23 August, called Agree-Disagree.

Part of that campaign is a short, animated advertisement running at prime time on several (?) television networks. The campaign pushes the proposition that if a business creates “intellectual property” then it should be free to use it.

This blogger has seen the ad.

It’s rubbish.

If the aim of the campaign is to mobilise public opinion to log on to the Agree-Disagree website, then they pushing poo uphill with a garden fork. Ain’t gonna happen, sunshine.

This is the New Zealand public we’re talking about here. A million of my fellow Kiwi brothers and sisters couldn’t be stuffed voting at the next election. If  apathy had been a political party, it might’ve beaten National comfortably.

At the same time, we have pressing issues such as chronic alcohol abuse (which most of the country is in denial about); child abuse (except for a small group prone to moral panic attacks); child poverty; growing unemployment; a stagnant economy; blah, blah, f*****g  blah.

Unless it’s a stranded penguin or some big white letters on a cliff-face overlooking a Wellington suburb or some silly bint making unwise comments on a Facebook page about dead soldiers – the public is too ‘busy’ to care.  Hey, the latest episode of “The Block”, “The Voice”, “The Latest Really Exciting Cooking Show”, etc, etc, is on – and people are positively mesmerised by 21st century junk-TV.

By the time their particular favourite  Reality-show porn is over, folk will have forgotten that ad, plus fifty others that might’ve flashed across our screens during that time.

Thank you, Television, for turning our minds into short-term attention spanners.

Sorry… um, what was I writing about?

Either tobacco companies have wasted their hard-earned cash (derived from customers just dying to enjoy their products) on a disastrously mis-judged campaign – or this blogger is missing something.  If the public are not going to rear up on their collective hind legs in moral outrage that innocent drug peddlers tobacco giants are being treated unfairly – then what is the point of these adverts?

On another excellent blog – Tumeke – well-known left-wing commentator, Chris Trotter made this interesting comment,

The ads aren’t aimed at us, Bomber, they’re aimed at the newspaper publishers and broadcasting networks.

Add up the amount of money being spent – then look at the response from editors and columnists.

See how it works?

See: Dear Big Tobacco – why I refuse to agree to disagree

Well, that’s as valid as any interpretation, I guess.

Because otherwise, BAT has just wasted several hundreds of thousands (millions?)  of dollars on a campaign  that is futile and doomed  to be forgotten.

One final question to tobacco companies…

They make the point,

If I create it, I should own it.”

Can that same statement be applied to everything else that tobacco companies created?

Like the millions of cancer sufferers who are dying from use of their product?

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Dear Leader – fibbing again?!

27 August 2012 14 comments

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In the 1960s TV science fiction series, ‘Star Trek‘, a sub-theme of humour ran through some of the episodes. The young ‘Mr Chekov’ – a proud Russian character played by American actor, Walter Koenig – would often claim several inventions, cultural icons,  famous historical figures, as being of Russian provenance,

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“Perhaps you have heard Russian epic of Cinderella?”

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It was a comic sub-text that ran through the series and we smiled at the subtle mocking of nationalistic fervour.

Not quite so funny, though, when our own Dear Leader John Key does it,

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Full story

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By any measure, the National Government’s home insulation scheme launched in 2009 has been a success…

… We set up the scheme as a four-year programme to insulate 188,500 homes – but we are now doing an extra 40,000 thereby taking the total to around 230,000.”

See: Ibid

Say whut?!

Who set up the home insulation scheme, Mr Key?

If I may jog peoples’ memories,

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Full story

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Why yes – it was a Green Party initiative! John Key is claiming credit for another Party’s policy initiative!?

National did refer to home insulation in their Policy 2008: Environment document. The sum total their “policy” on  home insulation consisted of twenty words,

National will:

… Work with councils to provide financial assistance to help low income households change to clean heating and improve their insulation.”

See: Policy 2008: Environment – Environmental Standards

The same document that stated, that National would,

• “Honour New Zealand’s Kyoto Protocol obligations.
• Support international efforts to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, including working to achieve further global alliances that build on the goals agreed at Kyoto.
• Legislate for a well-considered, carefully balanced emissions trading scheme (ETS) for efficiently reducing emissions across the economy”

None of which it has achieved. Our ETS is certainly not “carefully balanced” as farming and other industries are exempt until 2015, with taxpayers having to foot the bill for those exemptions.

See:  Slow economy puts ETS plans on hold

By the 2011 General Election, National had appropriated the Green Party’s home insulation initiative entirely,

Key facts

• Over 130,000 homes so far are warmer, drier, and healthier thanks to our Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart scheme.”

See: Policy 2011 ENERGY & RESOURCES

And the tobacco companies complain of their intellectual property rights being ripped of?!?!

When Key writes,

We’ve also worked with the Green Party on the insulation programme as part of our Memorandum of Understanding.”

… he is taking credit where none is deserved.

Following Key’s piece in the Herald, a reader posted this comment,

Ennill (Beach Haven)

01:13 PM Sunday, 26 Aug 2012

Are you also proud of other government progress?

A “Best of.” list might include:

1. Making more people redundant than any other employer
2. Growing the exodus to Australia of our best and brightest
3. Maintaining zero growth for New Zealand
4. Making 90% of New Zealand poorer by restricting wages and raising GST
5. Selling off New Zealand’s laws to the highest bidder
6. Taking away basic rights and protections for workers
7. Supporting John Banks
8. Spending hundreds of millions of dollars on consultants
9. Not sacking Paula Bennett and Judith Collins for leaks of private information
10. Pushing ahead with asset sales when 85% of the country are against them
11. Charter Schools – a failed experiment elsewhere that have been introduced for ideology and not for the benefit of our kids
12. Ignoring the advice of experts when it doesn’t suit policy such as National Standards
13. Cutting Health spending to such an extent that they are struggling to deliver on anything except government-imposed targets
14. Making dodgy deals that are described by legal experts as ‘riding rough-shod over New Zealand’s laws’ such as the Sky City pokie deal
15. Encouraging mining on National Parks

Ennill’s  criticism of Key and National is damning. It is also accurate.

S/he points out one salutary fact; National has failed to achieve anything except   tax cuts in 2009 and 2010. And even those are now being paid for by increased borrowing and asset sales.

National’s failure in managing the economy is so dire  that it has taken to resorting to stealing policy successes from other political Parties it has worked with.

Why not?

They are about to steal our billion-dollar state assets and flog them of to already wealthy buyers and corporate investors.

I wonder if the Greens could sue for theft of intellectual property?

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The more things change…

27 August 2012 4 comments

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From 1999, the final year of  the Shipley-led National government…

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Source: Otago Daily Times

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To 2012 – some thirteen years later – and now led by a smiling, waving shark from  the commercial sector that kindly gave us the Global Financial Crisis and fifteen million unemployed, worldwide,

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Full story

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Some things that we can always rely on, when National is elected into power; poverty will worsen; unemployment remains high;  taxes will be cut for the rich, and welfare beneficiaries – the victims of National’s policies – will cop the blame.

Eventually,  the realities of National’s mis-management filters through to the television-distracted middle classes and a mixture of guilt and fear prompts them to switch their votes from the Tories to Labour/Greens/NZ First.

Thus it was in the 1990s – and thus it will be in 2014 (if not earlier).

In the meantime, while it takes umpteen bad news-stories to awaken the TV-addled brains of  baby-boomers, we continue to waste lives and the locked-in potential of people trapped in poverty, unemployment, and a stagnant economy. Child poverty remains New Zealand’s dirty little secret, to the rest of the world.

For National and their rabid ACT supporters, the fault lies elsewhere,

See: Poor better off than before: Kerr

See: Where is welfare policy heading : Muriel Newman

The Right is very ‘big’ on personal responsibility. Except when it comes to failed Right Wing policies. Then it’s someone elses’ fault.

Meanwhile, the real bludgers in our society continue to live their lives, enjoying the fruits of a developed nation, but not paying their fair share of taxes,

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Full story

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One of the constant refrains of the neo-liberal establishment and sycophants for the rich & powerful is that New Zealand society cannot afford things like decent housing and school meals for our children.

Of course not.

When the rich are not paying their fair share, they are denying society of the means to address poverty-related issues.  At the same time, they enjoy living in a society built up with the taxes paid by others.

That’s bludging.

See previous blogpost:  Greed is good?

In the meantime, our society income/wealth gap widens and we move further and further away from any notion of egalitariansism we once had.

If  that’s the sort of society New Zealanders want, then let’s be 100% up-front and honest about it. Let’s prepare ourselves for outbreaks of disease; increased crime; drugs; beggars in the streets; and eventual outbreaks of mass violence.

See: England riots: was poverty a factor?

I doubt, though, that Middle New Zealand could stomach an overtly class/wealth-stratified society – especially if poverty becomes so entrenched that it becomes more visible and inescapable. We prefer our poor to be out-of-sight and out-of-mind, so we can focus on who is going to win “The Block” or “The Voice” or “The Whateverthefucktelevisionisdishinguptoustotakeourmindsofreality“.

As long as Middle New Zealand is prepared to accept such a bleak future, then the rest of us can plan and prepare accordingly.

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Or, we can turn our backs on that vision, and instead look elsewhere for inspiration.

The Scandinavians and French may be a good start.

Or are we, as a nation, so gullible and thick that we keep going around in circles, decade after decade?

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Additional

Baby boomers clogging the job market

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Haven’t we been down this track before?

25 August 2012 11 comments

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The Situation

In a further sign that National is dusting off more of it’s failed policies from the 1990s, Kiwirail recently made this startling announcement,

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Full story

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In fact, the planned multi-million dollar cutbacks were so startling that Kiwirail tried to gag Radio NZ and other news media from reporting on this issue.

See: KiwiRail accused of gagging media

Kiwirail’s business plan had suddrenly become so “contentious” that National even prevented the Labour Opposition from tabelling it in Parliament.

See: NZ Parliament:  KiwiRail—Tournaround Plan and Confidence in Board

Evidently, National was unhappy that this document was now in the public arena.

In short, Kiwirail’s business plan calls for $200 million to be cut from their spending,  over the next three years. This involves cutting track maintenance crew.

Kiwirail CEO, Jim Quinn, says,

In terms of our network, we have reduced our network spend over the next two or three years by $200 million. That is not to say we are going back to the bad old days where the business was not invested in.”

See: KiwiRail plan revealed: $200m must be cut

Where have we heard all this before?

History

New Zealand Rail Ltd (NZRL)  was privatised in 1993 by the Bolger-led National government. It was sold for  $400 million to a consortium of Wisconsin Central Railway (40%), Berkshire Partners (20%) and Fay, Richwhite & Company (40%).

The company was renamed Tranz Rail in 1995, with urban passenger trains rebranded Tranz Metro, long-distance passenger Tranz Scenic, and freight Tranz Link.

In 2004, Tranz Rail was purchased by Toll Holdings  and renamed Toll NZ.

In 2008, the Clark-led  Labour Government announced  that the rail and sea operations of Toll NZ Limited, less its trucking and distribution operations, was to be purchased for $665 million. After re-nationalisation, the  company was renamed KiwiRail. 

The Labour government and KiwiRail  planned to spend an estimated $1 billion, over five years,  upgrade the  rail system. Most of this expense was geared toward purchasing new rolling stock.

During rail’s fifteen years in private ownship, this blogger can find no evidence that any investment was made in any new rolling stock. The only capital purchase was the new interisland ferry, ‘Kaitaki‘, in 2005.

By 2008, the rail network was badly run-down, as very little had been invested in anyt form of maintenance with regard to rolling stock, tracks, stations, etc.

Breakdowns became common.

Eventually the LTSA (Land Transport Safety Authority) had to step in,

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During the summer of 2002, when a mini-heatwave hit the country, rail tracks were buckling to such a degree that trains were running at a much reduced speed.

Track de-stressing staff were working hard-out to prevent a situation where de-railment became inevitable,

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The rail network was close to collapse in many areas,

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By 2008, the Labour-led government had decided that the Great Experiment in privatisation had failed, and was delivering the country a spectacular mess.

Enough was enough, and re-nationalisation went ahead.

In the ensuing years, millions were poured into upgrading the rail network; new rolling stock was purchased; stations were renovated (many having been badly vandalised with  no identifying signage for several years); and signalling equipment upgraded.

As Micharel Cullen said in June 2008,

We will now be able to make the investments necessary to develop a world-class 21st century rail system for New Zealanders.”

See: Trains now called KiwiRail

Which now seeminbly brings us, full circle, back to National – the same Party that privatised railways in 1993.

Full Circle

In another act of futile penny-pinching, National has demanded that KiwiRail cut it’s budget by a whopping $200 million.

This will involve cutting rail workers -many of whom are responsible for rail track  maintenance (remember 2002 and 2003, above?),

Kiwirail workers are warning the Government that they or the public may die because of poor maintenance on the main trunk line.

It comes as 181 workers face losing their jobs, but Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee says their claims are “a beat-up”.

Kiwirail workers in Hamilton arrived late today for a stopwork meeting, angry 181 workers are being laid off nationwide. Many do maintenance work on the main trunk line, which they now claim is dangerous as sleepers are loose and rotting.

“We don’t want to see any one get killed, it’s as simple as that,” says Paul Spanswick. “We don’t want to see anyone die.”

The workers say there have been six derailments in six weeks.

“A train could come off and be derailed,” says Mr Spanswick.

At a level crossing at Ruffel Rd, north of Hamilton, that 3 News was taken to today sleepers are loose and the line moves.

“It’s a ticking time bomb,” says Mr Spanswick.

One of the workers who arrived for the stopwork meeting today told 3 News: “These sleepers are bouncing up and down like a trampoline. Something will give, a wheel will jump off the track. I’m concerned for our workers and for the public – someone could die”.

See:  ‘Someone could die’ – rail workers speak out

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee’s response?

I think the issue about the sleepers is being over beaten-up.”

Unbelievable.

National is so hell-bent on it’s fiscal policies that it is prepared to allow our rail system to run down again, and possibly endanger lives.

National’s low-information supporters often deride Labour governments for spending money.

This is correct: Labour governments do tend to spend money on state services and infra-structure.

That is because irresponsible, short-sighted, foolish  right wing governments inevitably constrict investment and allow services and infra-structure to be run down – often to the point of  endangering lives.

In the 1990s, the running down of railways was left to the ineptitude of private corporations.

Now it is the turn of National.  Their track record, quite simply, has gone off the rails.

Something else for Labour to fix (again!) in 2014.

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Additional

News & Views: Railways

Wikipedia: New Zealand Railways Corporation

Radio NZ: Listen to more on Morning Report (24 Aug)

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John Key – Practicing Deflection 101

24 August 2012 1 comment

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Full story

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As much as this blogger wholeheartedly  supports  the concept of legalised euthanasia – with safeguards similar to that in The Netherlands – I view Dear Leader’s comments on Newstalk ZB earlier this week with contempt and disdain.

This is a shameful attempt at using a highly emotive issue for political ends to deflect from National’s on-going political ineptness and mis-management of the economy.

Let’s not forget;

  • unpopular asset sales
  • growing inequality in incomes
  • rising unemployment
  • on-going victimisation of unemployed, solo-mums (but never solo-dads), and other welfare beneficiaries
  • rising number of fatalities in Afghanisatan
  • cutting the state sector and social services
  • privatisation-by-stealth of our prisons, schools, and other state services
  • inability to address alcohol abuse by not implementing all 150 recommendations from the Law Commission
  • more people leaving New Zealand
  • a stall reconstruction of Christchurch
  • falling wages
  • and increasing child poverty

These are the matters that National is trying desperately to deflect our attention from.

These are the issues that National is failing badly to address.

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Asset Sales: all down?

24 August 2012 10 comments

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Continued from: Asset Sales: two down, three to go!

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As predicted, the Waitangi Tribunal has issued a report endorsing a delay to asset sales until the issue of water rights can be resolved,

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Full story

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Specifically, the report recommends,

  • Maori have long established property rights over water bodies
  • Ownership precedents date back to 1929 when Nga Puhi was granted ownership of Lake Omapere
  • Maori culture and rights should not be relegated and ignored.
  • The claim is not opportunistic
  • Offering shares in the companies to Maori is not a remedy
  • Shares in conjunction with enhanced power on the boards of these companies could provide meaningful recognition
  • It is impossible for the Tribunal to recognise all Maori water rights across the whole country
  • It is possible to devise an appropriate scheme for Maori affected by the sale of the assets but more time is needed

Source

If, as Dear Leader John Key stated on 10 July, that National could decide to  ignore the Tribunal’s findings (because they are non-binding), then the matter will head to the High Court.

Either way, the asset sale process has been stalled.

The Tribunal’s decision is yet another nail in the coffin of this wretched privatisation agenda.

As pointed out in a previous blogpiece ( Asset Sales: two down, three to go! ), the process has been hampered by corporate interests; low shares prices (Air New Zealand); poor international commodity prices (Solid Energy’s coal); and lower than anticipated revenue from certain electricity companies.

This blogger sez; thank god for the Treaty of Waitangi. We may yet save our state assets from being stolen from us, the people.

Who would have thought that the Treaty – designed in 1840 to protect Maori assets from ruthless activity by colonials – would 172 years later protect the assets owned by ALL New Zealanders.

National and it’s redneck supporters may object with shrill hysteria.

Tough.

These assets belong to all of us. Not just those with the money to buy them.

And it’s a bit rich for National politicians and their sycophantic supporters and fellow travellers to now be insisting that “no one owns the water”.

Especially since the concept of private ownership for land, trees, fishing quota, airwaves, etc, etc, etc, was inytroduced by Pakeha to New Zealand.

Now the architects of the capitalist notion of private ownership are screaming for collective ownership over water?

Get real, you rednecks.

Vocal right wingers and anonymous commentators on various internet fora are simply livid that Maori are exercising the same rights that Pakeha themselves have used for their own benefit and wealth-accumulation for the last two hundred years.

National may well begin to comprehend that it is on a hiding to nowhere on this issue.  It is time for John Key to comprehend,

  • The majority of New Zealanders do not want state assets privatised
  • Maori have a legitimate intrerest in water rights if states assets are privatised
  • Privatisation is opening a can of worms with corporate vultures circling overhead, looking for cheaper power deals
  • The State will not earn anything near the $5 to $7 billion that Bill Enlish has been anticipating

John Key, it is time to knock asset sales on the head.

You’ve lost.

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Additional

Asset sales in Air New Zealand also doubful this term

Solid Energy revenue slump could delay sale by years

Tribunal finds SOE share sales a breach, but offers solution

Energy float may turn into a s(t)inker

Other blogs

No where to go on Maori water rights

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Asset Sales: two down, three to go!

22 August 2012 21 comments

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Oh dear, National seems to be in a spot of bother over it’s planned partial privatisation of  five SOEs…

Earth, Air…

One state owned enterprise, Solid Energy, appears now to be off the sales list. According to Finance Minister Bill English,

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On top of that, there appears to be a real questionmark over the sale-value of Air New Zealand, as well, according to outgoing chief executive Rob Fyfe,

However, outgoing chief executive Rob Fyfe has said he would be “surprised if the Government would be wanting to sell” at the current low share price.

The company was in the midst of a “cyclical low” on its share price, Fyfe said in June.”

See: ibid

Fyfe is correct.

A look at Air New Zealand’s recent and longer term share price history shows that it has been badly affected by the Global Financial Crisis (GFC).

In 2007, Air New Zealand’s share price stood at $2.47 a share,

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Source: Google Finance – Air New Zealand Ltd

At the end of trading (22 Aug), today, that share price stood at 92.5 cents each. That’s a loss of  $1.545 per share,

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Source: Google Finance – Air New Zealand Ltd

In fact, the share price dropped from 94.5 cents a share yesterday (21 Aug) to it’s current level of 92 cents.

Looked at another way; it’s like having your home valued at $247,000 in 2007, prior to the onset of the GFC – and having it valued at only $92,500 today.

Not a good environment to be a seller.

NOTE: It is interesting that, of all the SOEs, Air New Zealand is the only one that has a small, privately-owned component. The state owns 73.13% of Air New Zealand, other investors own 26.87%.

See: Air New Zealand – Shares on Issue

This situation is a ‘quirk’ of Air New Zealand’s re-nationalisation in October 2001, when it faced collapse under a massive $NZ1.425 billion operating loss incurred by then-private owners.

See: Wikipedia – Air New Zealand, Re-nationalised era

So it’s current share value is a relatively true reflection of it’s present market-value.  There is no “guesswork” involved, as Bill English revealed in February this year, with the other four SOEs,

See: English admits his SOE figures just a guess

Helluva way to run an economy…

Most sane people wouldn’t sell at such a ridiculously low price and would wait for the market to recover.

However, despite misguided belief, National’s commercial nous is vastly over-rated. In fact, some of their commercial decisions have been absolutely apalling.

The most famous being that these assets – especially the power companies – actually return a higher dividend to government than would be the cost of borrowing that same money. As BERL reported in May,

Partial asset sales will do nothing to curb New Zealand’s growing debt problem, a new report by economic analysts Berl says.

The Berl report, commissioned by the Green Party and released today, says the Government’s partial asset sales programme to build new assets would leave the Crown accounts ”permanently worse off”.

Government debt, the ratio of debt to assets, net worth and total assets would all be worse off after the programme was carried out, Berl found.

”The interim loss of earnings resulting from reduced dividends and the period of time before the new assets reap benefits is never recouped,” the report said.

”Subsequently, the option of asset sales can only significantly improve the Government’s accounts if a set of assumptions are adopted that are at the extreme ends of plausibility“.”

See: Asset sales will leave Govt worse off – BERL

Madness.

The up-shot?  Unless the global economy stages a miraculous recovery in the next two years (about as likely as The Second Coming or Klingons camping out in my backyard),  and National ministers are dumber than I thought, Solid Energy and Air New Zealand can be scratched from the privatisation agenda.

Added to this, is a brewing toxic mess involving commercial interests and  Treaty claims over water rights…

Water…

At the beginning of August, Key realised that the partial-sale of SOEs was not going to go smoothly.  Until now,  state owned power companies were exploiting water resources for the benefit of the nation as a whole.

Maori were content with that status quo; for as long as no one owned the power companies – they were owned by us all – the same could be said of water.

But the moment that private ownership of  hydro-power generation was mooted – the situation changed. Water would be used to generate power, which would be sold, and would deliver profits to private owners.

Saying that “no one owns the water” that hydro-power stations use is akin to saying no one owns the coal or gas that are used in coal-powered and gas-powered stations.  Ridiculous.

The Waitangi Tribunal will shortly be delivering it’s response to Maori Council claims over water rights.

Most likely, the Tribunal will find in favour of Maori. This blogger can conceive of no reason why this should not happen, and just as land can be owned – so can water rights.

It’s a bit late-in-the-day for capitalist National voters and politicians to now be claiming socialist principles of  “collective ownership”. That just ain’t gonna wash, Jethro.

If National over-rules the Tribunal findings, then Maori will go to Court – the High Court to be precise. Of all Pakeha institutions, Maori have a great affinity for the legal system. They know how to use it for greatest advantage.

Going to Court will have one result; a lengthy delay in the asset sales programme.

On 22 August, National admitted what the rest of us already knew,

The Government says it is going to have to start making judgments about how much of its partial asset sales programme can be completed in this term of office…

[abridged]… Finance Minister Bill English says the Government also has to deal with other issues, such as the Waitangi Tribunal report on water rights relating to the partial sale of Mighty River Power, and possible legal action.

Mr English says he is not taking it for granted that the Government will be able to complete the full programme this term. “

See: Govt less bullish about partial asset sales

Fire…

And as if that was not enough to put a spoke in the wheels, two corporate interests have recently made announcements that could have a significant impact on share prices for the remaining three SOEs; Mighty  River Power, Meridian, and Genesis.

Norske Skog Tasman

Norske Skog Tasman’s plan to halve newsprint production at its Kawerau mill will have implications for the power generation industry if it goes through with it, says an industry analyst.

The company, which accounts for about 2.9 per cent of New Zealand’s power demand, is looking at cutting its annual production to 150,000 tonnes from 300,000 tonnes because of dwindling domestic and offshore sales.

The analyst, who requested anonymity, said the partial closure would further extend the “significant” generation over-capacity in the New Zealand electricity market.

A 50 per cent reduction in Norske Skog Tasman’s electricity demand would equate to about one year of demand growth estimated in Ministry of Economic Development forecasts. “

See: Paper mill cuts threat for power industry

By coincidence, Norske Skog buys most of its power from Mighty River Power, which is the first SOE that National  plans to partially privatise.

Any potential “mum and dad” investors may be warned off from investing in MRP shares. If  Norske Skog proceed with their plans, power consumption will decrease dramatically – and so will profits.  Which will mean a cut in dividends paid to shareholders.

Tiwai Aluminium Smelter

Perhaps the ‘nastiest’ surprise for National and it’s Dear Leader was this announcement on 11 August from multi-national conglomerate, Rio Tinto,

Meridian Energy’s announcement that it had been approached by New Zealand’s biggest power user, Rio Tinto, to discuss potential changes to its supply contract has created uncertainty for the Government’s plans to partly privatise the three power generators, analysts said.

State-owned South Island power generator Meridian said it had been approached by Pacific Aluminium, a business unit of Rio Tinto, the majority shareholder of New Zealand Aluminium Smelters (NZAS), to discuss potential changes to the electricity contract with the smelter.

The statement comes a time when Rio Tinto is assessing its options for the NZAS smelter at Tiwai Pt.

Tiwai takes about 15 per cent of New Zealand’s electricity, so the prospect of changes to the contract between Meridian and Rio was enough to send Contact Energy’s share price down 20c to $4.80 on Thursday.

Few in the financial markets expect Tiwai Pt to close, but if it did, much more power would be added to the national grid, depressing prices and affecting the profitability of all the power generators. “

Rio Tinto’s announcement immediatly  sliced 20 cents off  Contact Energy’s share price. What will it do to the three state owned power companies?

It’s hardly surprising, really. Everyone else appears to be putting their hand out, or up, to gain benefit from the asset sales – why not multi-national corporations who are already parked here in our country?

The Herald report goes on to say,

Morningstar analyst Nachi Moghe said there was ongoing concern about the feasibility of Tiwai Pt and the possibility that it might eventually shut down.

“Obviously, if that happens it will hurt everyone, but it will hurt Meridian the most,” he said.”That additional supply will throw the supply-demand balance out of kilter.”

One fund manager said the news was a “bolt from the blue”.

In the contract negotiations, he said, the pressure could go on Meridian to reduce its price, or to reduce the volume of power it supplies, which would have an impact on the wholesale electricity market.

“It’s poor timing but great timing on behalf of Rio Tinto as we go into the mixed ownership model process,” said the fund manager, who did not want to be identified.”

See: Smelter power review ‘bolt from blue’ for asset sales

Rio Tinto appears to be exploiting current uncertainties and confusion in  the current  environment.  As pressure mounts on National from every direction, this appears to be an opportune moment for corporations to start  flexing their own muscles.

Just what the Nats needed – their own corporate allies to shaft them at the worst possible moment.

Capitalism. Ya gotta laugh.

Weather

And the most critical factor to impact on the electricity generation industry: the weather.

This is something that even the “invisible hand” of the free market is utterly powerless to influence. Meridian’s profits have already been affected,

The worst inflows into its hydro lakes for 79 years took a toll on Meridian Energy’s earnings in the year to June 2012.

The state-owned generator and electricity retailer yesterday reported a net profit after tax of $74.6 million, down from $303.1 million the year before.”

See:  Dry year helps knock 28%  off Meridian profit

At this point, Dear Leader John Key might be starting to wonder. With all these ‘forces’ ranged against his Party’s plans to flog off our state assets – perhaps the Fates are trying to tell him something?

What next?

This blogger is surprised that China and Australia – both nations with which we have Free Trade Agreements – have not put their hands up to line up and buy shares.

After all, that is what FTAs are about. Legally, we might not be able to stop them.

Will we be hearing from our Chinese and Aussie cuzzies next?

Watch this space.

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Additional

Tiwai Pt threat could delay Mighty River sale

Energy float may turn into a s(t)inker

Other blogs

No where to go on Maori water rights

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= fs =

Cigarettes – now THIS takes political courage!

22 August 2012 7 comments

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In a radical move that can only be described as extraordinarily bold, Tasmania has begun to address the problem of tobacco addiction, head-on. No faffing about; no tip-toeing around,

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One of the constant whinges from some cigarette smokers; mis-guided libertarians, and their supporters, is that tobacco is a legal product and therefore it is unjust to target it with restrictions, higher taxes, control of advertising, availability, etc.

However, if the product is banned for people born after a certain time-period, then that product is illegal.

Problem solved?

I believe so.

Of course, there will be those rugged individualists who think it is unjust to discriminate between those who are born before and after 2000.

Nonsense.

We already discriminate on legal grounds.

For example, certain medicines are only available to certain individuals, for those  in-need.  Potentially addictive medicines are not available to everyone irrespective of medical circumstances.

Same for firearms; not all people can have automatic access to guns.

Emergency services are allowed to exceed government-imposed speed limits – the rest of us are not.

Sexual predators/paedophiles are permanently banned from working with children, even long after their court-imposed sentences have expired.

And tobacco is already a highly controlled substance.

So there is precedent for  laws in our society which impose controls and conditions, based on circumstances.

If we can stop our children from taking up a habit that will end up killing many of them in horrible, painful circumstances – then our elected representatives should be mandated and supported to do so.

In this respect, every single politician who voted in favour of this proposal should be given a medal for service to their community.  This is courage I would never have dreamed possible for politicians – people whom we often deride for evading difficult issues and avoiding making hard calls.

Outstanding!

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Acknowledgement

Matthew

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Meanwhile, back in New Zealand,

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Source

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Mr Ryall – stand your ground!

And let no one in the Opposition deride National’s resoluteness as “nanny statism”. This is too important to play childish political games with.

Quite literally, the lives of our young people and future generations are at stake here.

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Citizen A – 16 August 2012 – Online now!

Cigarette plain-package – “unintended consequences”?

22 August 2012 10 comments

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com

 

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British American Tobacco Australia spokesman Scott McIntyre said the industry was “extremely disappointed” by a decision upholding a bad piece of law that would have serious unintended consequences.”

See: Cigarette ruling to light way for others

Yeah, “unintended consequences”.

Like cutting down tobacco use and saving lives?

I can see how tobacco companies are up in arms on this issue. They are so concerned for our welfare that they are fighting to save their branding.

It’s critically important that when a 14 year old looks at a packet of cigarettes, that they can choose between Brand ‘X’ and Brand ‘Y’ to kill themselves.

Pretty pictures on cigarette packets help kids make that all-important decision.

Tobacco companies.

Here to help us.

 

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Dollars and common sense – raising the minimum wage.

22 August 2012 2 comments

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Full story

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Well reasoned -  David Clark has reasoned the issue very nicely.

Of course, those who argue that raising the minimum wage would harm our economy should consider two things;

1. Our best and brightest will leave NZ for where wages are higher. THAT will harm our economy.

2. If raising the minimum wage is a “bad thing”, consider the converse; dropping the minimum wage to $1 an hour. What would that do to our economy? Wreck it for sure.

Raising the minimum wage means people can share in the “economic pie” and buy the services and products that businesses have to offer. Keeping wages low may mean that ‘Acme XYZ Ltd’ has a lower wages-bill to pay it’s staff – but it also means that other low-paid workers can’t buy ‘Acme XYZ Ltd’s’ products and services.

Meanwhile,

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Interestingly, if those on minimum wage ($13.50) had a 20% wage increase, as did the Top 150 Rich Listers – that would raise their hourly wage to $16.20 an hour.

Question: why is it ok for the Top 150 Rich Listers to increase their wealth by a staggering 20% (during a global recession, no less!) – but not ok for the lowest paid to have a better wage?

Can any National Party supporter explain this anomaly in New Right dogma?

In 2008 and again in 2011, Dear Leader John Key promised to raise wages to match Australia,

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

See:  2008: A Fresh Start for New Zealand – John Key

“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, Prime Minister, 21 December 2011

See:  Speech from the Throne

Instead, the converse has proven to be the reality,

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And it’s a funny old world, really.

Voters abandoned the government that gave them this…

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… for this,

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Never let it be said that some New Zealanders don’t enjoy a bit of masochism every so often, and vote National for a sound bout of  self-whipping.

Unfortunately, it’s the rest of us that end up paying for that self-indulgent choice at the ballot box.

Here’s a clever idea – all those people who vote National should have a wage/salary freeze during the term of that government.  After all, as some National supporters keep insisting, raising the minimum wage “harms the economy”. (I assume the same holds for all  wages and salaries?)

The rest of us, who vote for Labour, Greens, Mana, et al, can have our wages/salaries linked to Australia’s pay rates.

Now I ask you – what could be fairer than that?

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Frank Macskasy - Blog - Frankly Speaking

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Previous related blogposts

Bill English: Minimum Wage Not Sufficient to live on!

Treasury’s verdict on raising the Minimum Wage?

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

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

“It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash”

Jobs, jobs, everywhere – but not a one for me?

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Mischief making with Matthew Hooton?

21 August 2012 7 comments

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Matthew Hooton is a right-wing blogger, political commentator, and National Party fellow-traveller.  He has been an occassional  guest panellist on Martyn “Bomber” Bradbury’s excellent “Citizen A”, as well on as Radio New Zealand’s late-Monday morning slot, “Politics with…”.

In his favour, he is one of the more coherent from the neo-liberal camp and can present a reasoned opinion without resorting to cliched, right-wing rhetoric or blame-speech. In short, you can listen to him without groaning; face-palming, and eventually reaching for the “off” switch or the Remote channel-changer.

Lately though, this blogger has been hearing something unusual from the man who is a self-professed fan of the original, neo-liberal, ACT Party.

It turns out that Matthew Hooton is either a closet Winston Peters fan, or has been up to  a subtle piece of mischief-making  lately…

On Radio NZ’s  political segment  on Monday late-afternoons, hosted by Kathryn Ryan, Mr Hooton has been making some very strange noises about a National-Conservative Party-NZ First coalition.

Those with a fair memory will recall that NZ First has been in coalition with National once before, in 1996.

See: 45th New Zealand Parliament

To put it mildly,  Peters’ decision to go with National was unpopular with the public. The coalition deal did not last long and neither did it  end well.

But considering it was New Zealand’s very first coalition government under MMP,  Peters might be forgiven. It was a steep learning curve for the entire country.

So why has Mr Hooton been saying things like,

If you assume that this report makes it much more likely that the Conservative Party will come into Parliament, and if you also assume that Winston Peters  would prefer not to be  a third wheel on a Labour-Green government , then National really  can get it’s support down as low as say 40% now, and with New Zealand First and the Conservatives be assured of forming a government.

[abridged]

But if the government does accept these, then National now knows very clearly it’s  path to it’s third term is through that Winston Peters-Colin Craig deal.” – 13 August

Listen:  Politics with Matthew Hooton and Josie Pagani

Then, forget about all this nonsense  flirting with these one-MP parties, and focus on forming a government – god help me for saying this – with New Zealand First and the CCCP [Colin Craig's Conservative Party - not the USSR].” – 20 August

Listen:  Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams

It seems fairly clear that, having learned the lessons  of the late 1990s, it seems highly unlikely that Peters would risk another public backlash by coalescing with National. It would  be annihilated in the following election…

… which, may give us a clue why Matthew Hooton has been dropping little “hints” about a potential National-NZ First-? Coalition arrangement.

Could it be that, like this blogger, Matthew Hooton has seen and understood  the portents in the political tea-leaves, vis-a-vis latest political opinion polls, which show a steady decline for National?

Could it be that Mr Hooton understands that ACT and Peter Dunne are dog-tucker – especially once MMP reforms are implemented?

And could it be that a third term for National can only be guaranteed if,

  1. Colin Craig’s Conservative Party breaks the new 4% threshold, and,
  2. NZ First does not make it back into Parliament?

Without NZ First, a Labour-Green-Mana Coalition may be unable to beat a National-Conservative Coalition. It may come down to a simple one or two seat majority, as happened last year.

So why would Mr Hooton be touting a National-Conservative-NZ First Coalition?

Because, traditionally, supporters of NZ First tend to be disaffected voters.

They vote against the incumbent government (in this case National), just as  voters cast their ballot for NZ First in 1996, believing it to be a vote against the incumbent Bolger-led National government.

If a meme can be developed that  there is a possibility that NZ First may opt to join a National-Conservative Party coalition (even though there is zero indication of this happening), then that may alienate potential voter-support for Peters.

After all, what would be the point of voting for Peters if he simply props up the current government? That would be the subtle, psychological message that Hooton may well be trying to implant in Voterland’s collective psyche.

It’s a kind of reverse psychology; “a vote for NZ First is a vote for a John Key-led government”. Which would put off voters who don’t want a Key-led National coalition, thereby reducing NZ First’s chances of breaking the 4% threshold.

They may instead vote for the Conservative Party, which presents itself as the new “maverick kid on the block”.

(And yes, I know the Conservative Party is most likey to coalesce with National. But, like voters who opposed asset sales still voted for John Key, those who vote for Colin Craig may not consider that eventual outcome. All they see is an new Alternative Option.)

So when the likes of Matthew Hooton drop little hints of a National-NZ First deal – just ask yourself; what’s Matthew up to?

Is he happily fomenting mischief?

Or is he really a closet fan of the Dapper Suited One?

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Tracey Watkins on John Key – Surprised?!

21 August 2012 21 comments

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Media3 host, Russell Brown, talks with Fairfax political reporter, Tracy Watkins

Source

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Tracy Watkins is the Dominion Post’s political editor and has been reporting on politics from the parliamentary press gallery for over a decade.  She writes many, if not most, of the political stories for Fairfax Media (the Australian owner of the Dompost and other newspapers).

So she’s no ‘newbie’ and should know what’s going on politically.

Last weekend (18/19 August), Ms Watkins was a guest on Russell Brown’s “Media3“,  and top of the discussion was Fairfax’s new pollster, Ipsos, one of the biggest polling corporations on the planet.

Ipsos delivered it’s first poll-results at the end of July,

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This blogger wrote an analysis of the Fairfax/Ipsos poll, and concluded that we are still on-track for a change of government in 2014 – if not earlier.

See: On course for a change in government (Part Rua)

One of the most interesting aspects of the poll was the ‘revelation’ that John Key was becoming a polarising figure amongst the public,

A new poll has found Prime Minister John Key is increasingly becoming a polarising figure – especially among women…

[abridged]

… Left wing commentator Bryce Edwards said there was a noticeable hardening in attitudes against Key, in line with the perception of a growing ideological divide with the Left, which opposes the sales.

“I sense more hostility towards him than there was, but I get the sense it’s among those who are predisposed to be against him.”

But after a year with the headlines dominated by asset sales, ACC, Nick Smith’s sacking, class sizes and the economy, Key is even losing his gloss among National voters, with one in four saying they hold a worse opinion of him than a year ago. “

See: ‘Polarising’ PM losing gloss

Russell Brown raised this issue with Ms Watkins,  @ 12.40 into programme.

Most interesting was this exchange  between Russell Brown and Tracy Watkins,

Russell Brown:  ” Was there anything in that first round   about how people were feeling  that surprised you?

Tracy Watkins:  ” There was actually and that was as a journalist it was a big call for me.

We had a story in the Sunday Star Time talking about how John Key had become more polarising. And I sort of struggled with that one because as a journalist you would say, ‘Ok well it’s not surprising that, y’know, people who don’t vote for national don’t like John Key’.

But we had the benefit of the open ended questions and the thousand responses from people. And Duncan Stuart , who’s a really amazing pollster who works for Ipsos , he made the call that Key was becoming more polarising on the basis that some of the comments about Key were very strong and very  disparaging and that was something that as a political commentator I hadn’t really come across before.”

(@17.57 into the programme)

It seems unbelievable. Tracy Watkins  who, as one of Fairfax’s most experienced political journalists, viewed  Key’s increasing polarising effect as something she “hadn’t really come across before” ?!?!

Where does Ms Watkins live – the dark side of the Moon?

It seems astounding that a journalist of Ms Watkins’ long service could be so out of touch with public sentiment. Indeed, she went on say,

And about Ipsos, behind it, I might’ve gone out into the street and asked ten  people; what do you think about John Key, but I still wouldn’t have written saying he’s become polarising…”

(@18.40 into the programme)

Whut?!?!

You wouldn’t have written a story about John Key becoming more polarising, even with public feedback telling you directly how people were feeling?!?!

Little wonder, Ms Watkins;  you seem to be out of touch with public sentiment.

There is no secret here and growing  public dissatisfaction with Key has been blindingly obvious, especially since last years’ elections. A cursory look at blogs;  internet fora; and the proliferation of anti-Key/anti-National pages on social websites should be enough to offer a clue that Dear Leader is no longer quite so beloved by many New Zealanders.

When Key was first elected as Prime Minister, those who had no love for National waited with bated breath as to how he would perform.

As time went by, and with an inept government that seems to be incapable of generating the jobs that they promised us last year, that nonchalence slowly morphed into an irritation; and then  resentment; and now outright anger.  This feeling has been generated by implementation of hardline policies that voters had only a barest understanding. It is a feeling that has been growing for the last nine months, and which was reflected in steadily dropping polls and weakening support for Key as  preferred Prime Minister.

How could Tracy Watkins have missed all this?

It should not take a polling company from overseas to acquaint a seasoned political reporter with over ten years’ experience as to what her own countrymen and women are feeling. When politicians lose touch with the public, we view that with distaste.

When a journalist loses touch, that is cause for grave  concern.

What else is she missing?

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Dear Mr Putin…

20 August 2012 5 comments

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привет President Putin,

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What kind of a “girl’s blouse” are ya?

I mean – really? Imprisoning three women because they sang a punk song in one of your Churches?!?!

F*****g get real and release Pussy Riot!! Because, Mr President, as things stand right now, it looks like you and the entire Soviet Russian military-state complex is so shit-scared of three women that you feel the need to have them  locked them away.

Now, I’m aware that Russian women are tough. (God help western men, looking for Russian mail-order brides, thinking that they are ‘subservient’?! Nyet! These women fought alongside their menfolk against Hitler’s hordes, and kicked Nazi arse from Stalingrad back to Berlin!) Yes, tough.

But are three women so much of a threat to your authoritarian decisive rule that you’re imprisoning them for two goddamn years?!?!

Get a grip, comrade!

Stop being such a neo-fascist twat and let them go. Then maybe listen to their music and chill. ‘Cos, dude, the world thinks you’re acting like a пенис !

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Categories: The Body Politic Tags: , ,

What’s up with the Nats? (Part wha)

20 August 2012 4 comments

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Continued from: What’s up with the Nats and ACT? (Part toru)

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The Tories are slipping.

Firstly, if you’re a politician representing an actual electorate, and you promised to do something for your constituents (remember them – the folk who were nice enough to elect you into Parliament?) – then you damn well  do it

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Source

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Secondly, if you decide at the last minute to back out – because you realise that representing your constituents conflicts with your ultra-cosy relationship with you corporate backers – then make sure that everyone is telling the same lie.

Because it ain’t a good look, Mr English, when one of your cronies fellow MP’s  explanation for your absence conflicts with that given by your office;

Eric Roy:  “Apparently the acting Prime Minister has just been caught up with something that’s captured his time and he’s asked me to accept it on his behalf – which I’m very happy to do. We kind of work together a bit in the South.”

- vs -

Mr English’s office:  “He pulled out at the last minute because the Government must be seen to be objective, and he would meet petition organisers later in the day“.

And politicians wonder why we don’t trust them?!

Well, wonder no more, Member for Clutha-Southland.

Just as well that Clutha-Southland is a National safe-seat. Voters there would probably vote for a piece of furniture if it had the blue “N” logo stamped on it.

So not much hope there that voters would take umbrage at being lied to, Mr English.

Just don’t do it again.

(Or at least, hide it better.)

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= fs =

What’s up with the Nats and ACT? (Part toru)

20 August 2012 2 comments

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Continued from: What’s up with the Nats? (Part rua)

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If there’s somethin’ strange in your neighborhood

Who ya gonna call?

Natbusters!

If it’s somethin’ weird an it won’t look good

Who ya gonna call?

Natbusters!

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Intro

Ever since the National Party conference at the end of July, the National Party has been strutting the political stage like a bunch of patched gang-members, strutting about the main street of some small town in the back-blocks.

Key, Bennett, Joyce, Collins, Parata, Banks – even lowly backbenchers like Maggie Barry – have been obnoxiously aggressive in policy announcements and dealing with the media and critics.

The Nats have been unrelentingly in our faces ever since John Key uttered the threat,

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Full story

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This is not just about confidence.

This is something new. This is about a new, hyped-up, aggressive style of taking criticisms and failings, and turning it back on the critic.

Steven Joyce was on-style on TV3′s “The Nation” (19 August), when he belittled and badgered two journalists (John Hartevelt and Alex Tarrant)  who asked him pointedly about National’s short-comings. Joyce’s response was typical Muldoon-style pugnacity.

This interview with Joyce is charachteristic of how National Ministers have been belligerent in their responses.  It is singularly  instructive,

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Full story

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Interestingly, Joyce has a “go” at Labour; then the Greens; and even Hone Harawira throughout the course of the interview.  He even blames the global financial crisis and throws that in the face of Alex Tarrant, as he responds to a point.

Everyone gets a dose of blame – except the one party that is currently in power. So much for National’s creed that we should all take personal responsibility for our actions.

It appears that  National’s back-room Party strategists have been analysing the first few months of this year and have realised that when things go horribly wrong, or the latest string of economic indicators reveal more bad news, the relevant Minister(s) responds  with  aggression and with defiance.

If the old say “explaining-is-losing” is a truism, then any explanation offered automatically puts a Minister on the back-foot.

The best way out of such a sticky moment; take a page out of Rob Muldoon’s book, ‘How To Win Friends/Enemies and Influence the Media‘.

And National’s Ministers (and coalition partners) have been playing this ‘new’ game perfectly…

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John Banks

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It would be fair to say that John Banks’ parliamentary career has been a disaster since before he even won the seat of Epsom. The Tea Pot fiasco was but a prologue to the man’s uncanny, magnetic ability to attract scandal, pratfalls, and sheer incompetance.

The donations scandal involving Sky City and Kim Dotcom was another insight into his ‘shifting sands of morality‘.

See previous blogpost: John Banks – escaping justice

See previous blogpost:  “He will be a very good friend for you when he is in Parliament”

See previous blogpost: Money in the Banks (Part #Wha)

See previous blogpost: Key on Banks; Staunch, stupid, or stuck?

It seems that the police decision not to prosecute has emboldened Banks, and he is “fighting back – hard“,

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Full Story

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First, Banks adopts a macho,  Tough Man role,

It’s called fight back. It’s called fight back – hard“.

Banks then takes on the wounded victim role,

I found it deeply offensive, much of what was said, written and broadcast during that time because, for all my faults, anyone who knows me would never believe I would go out deliberately and falsify a return.

I told everyone who would listen on day one that I had nothing to fear or hide from the inquiry.”

He may’ve had “nothing to fear or hide from the inquiry ” – but he sure seemed to have a heckuva lot of amnesia?

See: Banks – I didn’t lie, I simply forgot

Then Banks launched into a spiteful attack on  his 2010 mayoral rival, Len Brown,

From where I come from it is hurtful when wild, reckless and untruthful allegations are made about you … There wasn’t a squeak about how Len Brown raised and [filtered] money through a trust. Not a squeak. Not a police investigation. No wild and reckless allegations.”

Banks is correct.

There was no police investigation into SkyCity’s donation to Len Brown’s mayoral campaign.

Do we know why?

Yes, we do: because Len Brown openly and honestly declared his donation,

SkyCity gave $15,000 each to Len Brown, now mayor, and Mr Banks, his rival, during that campaign.

Although Mr Brown’s donation return listed SkyCity as a donor, Mr Banks’ listed an anonymous donation of $15,000. It did not mention SkyCity. “

See: Banks did not reveal SkyCity as big donor

No matter how often Banks tries to reinvent himself;  re-write recent history;  to shift blame on to others;  and refuses to take responsibility for his actions (yet again), the Court of Public Opinion has passed judgement.

John Banks will never again be elected to any public office in this country.

Try not to forget that, Mr Banks.

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Continued at: What’s up with the Nats? (Part wha)

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= fs =

What’s up with the Nats? (Part rua)

20 August 2012 12 comments

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Continued from: What’s up with the Nats? (Part tahi)

.

.

If there’s somethin’ strange in your neighborhood

Who ya gonna call?

Natbusters!

If it’s somethin’ weird an it won’t look good

Who ya gonna call?

Natbusters!

.

Intro

Ever since the National Party conference at the end of July, the National Party has been strutting the political stage like a bunch of patched gang-members, strutting about the main street of some small town in the back-blocks.

Key, Bennett, Joyce, Collins, Parata, Banks – even lowly backbenchers like Maggie Barry – have been obnoxiously aggressive in policy announcements and dealing with the media and critics.

The Nats have been unrelentingly in our faces ever since John Key uttered the threat,

.

Full story

.

This is not just about confidence.

This is something new. This is about a new, hyped-up, aggressive style of taking criticisms and failings, and turning it back on the critic.

Steven Joyce was on-style on TV3′s “The Nation” (19 August), when he belittled and badgered two journalists (John Hartevelt and Alex Tarrant)  who asked him pointedly about National’s short-comings. Joyce’s response was typical Muldoon-style pugnacity.

This interview with Joyce is charachteristic of how National Ministers have been belligerent in their responses.  It is singularly  instructive,

.

Full story

.

Interestingly, Joyce has a “go” at Labour; then the Greens; and even Hone Harawira throughout the course of the interview.  He even blames the global financial crisis and throws that in the face of Alex Tarrant, as he responds to a point.

Everyone gets a dose of blame – except the one party that is currently in power. So much for National’s creed that we should all take personal responsibility for our actions.

It appears that  National’s back-room Party strategists have been analysing the first few months of this year and have realised that when things go horribly wrong, or the latest string of economic indicators reveal more bad news, the relevant Minister(s) responds  with  aggression and with defiance.

If the old say “explaining-is-losing” is a truism, then any explanation offered automatically puts a Minister on the back-foot.

The best way out of such a sticky moment; take a page out of Rob Muldoon’s book, ‘How To Win Friends/Enemies and Influence the Media‘.

And National’s Ministers have been playing this ‘new’ game perfectly…

.

Paula Bennett

.

Of all National ministers, Bennett’s  behaviour has become  most  irrational,  offensive,  and just downright bizarre.

Not content with “offering” sterilisation to  solo-mums (but never solo-dads)  and their daughters, her views on poverty are so breathtakingly, woefully ignorant that this blogger has come to the conclusion that her tax-payer funded tertiary education was a complete waste of time and money.

See:  Hypocrisy – thy name be National

Bennett’s latest weird comments raised eyebrows and and a few hackles,

Get in the real world.

One week they can be in poverty, then their parent can get a job or increase their income and they are no longer in poverty … This is the real world, and actually children move in and out of poverty at times on a weekly basis.”

See:  Bennett slammed over child poverty claim

Bennet then lashed out, saying she “wasn’t interested in measuring child poverty“, and instead her government was more focused on addressing the problems,

Of course there is poverty in New Zealand. This has been acknowledged by the Government but it’s not a priority to have another measure on it.”

See: scoop.co.nz – Combating poverty more important than measuring it

How can National “combat poverty” if they are not aware of the scale of it? How can a government budget appropriately, without knowing the numbers involved?

Are they just going to guess?

Which then brings us to the issue of Bennett’s instance that the unemployed be drug-tested,

There is certainly a line between recreational use and addiction and that is challenging in itself and it’s something we’ll have to work through.

“At the end of the day you’ve potentially got thousands of New Zealanders who are unable to work because of recreational use and this paper also identifies that as a real problem, so we need to keep working our way through a solution“.”

See: Bennett ignored advice from Health Ministry – Logie

Again, the question needs to be asked – how many unemployed are on drugs?

Is it 99%?

Is it 50%?

Is it 10%?

Is it 2%?

Is it 0.00001%?

We need to know this, because National may be about to throw $14 million of our tax dollars at this “problem”,

The plan to cut benefits for job seekers who fail drug tests has been met with criticism by the Ministry of Health, saying it could cost up to $14 million a year.

[abridged]

Ms Bennett told Radio New Zealand she would not reconsider sanctioning only drug users based on the Ministry of Health’s concerns and said she was going ahead with the policy.”

See: Bennett ignored advice from Health Ministry – Logie

Bennett’s response?

I just don’t feel that we need to trawl through evidence and give that much kind of evidence to something that is just so obvious.

And added, that she was acting on information from,

“…the visits, from face to face meetings, I don’t know, from some of the international research I’ve seen.”

See: Paula Bennett so sure she’s right

Never let facts get in the way of some damned good prejudice, eh, Ms Bennett?

National’s intention to throw millions of our tax dollars at a problem that may or may not exist, and has not been quantified, beggars belief. It also makes a hollow mockery of John Key’s 2008 pledge to spend our money wisely,

We will be more careful with how we spend the cash in the public purse, monitoring not just the quantity but also the quality of government spending.”

See:  John Key – A Fresh Start for New Zealand

National was in opposition when Dear Leader made that pledge. Things change, I guess, when a Party becomes government and has access to our taxes.

The ‘bullishness’ of a cornered National Minister is clearly coming through on this issue.

So if Paula Bennett is ignoring Health Ministry advice,

  1. Where is she getting her advice and data from?
  2. Does she know the number of unemployed who are using recreational drugs?
  3. How much has National budgetted for this programme?
  4. If National has budgetted for drug testing – they must have an idea how many unemployed will be affected?
  5. In which case, we’re back to #1; Where is she getting her advice and data from?

Would Bennett know, for example, how  many of these recently-made redundant workers are on drugs;

See previous blogpost: Jobs, jobs, everywhere – but not a one for me? (Part Toru)

The answer, my friends, is not blown in the wind – it’s blown out her —- !

Let’s dispense with  the bovine excrement and stop the tip-toeing on this issue.

National was elected in 2008 on a pledge to raise our wages to parity with Australia.

See: John Key – A Fresh Start for New Zealand

Not only have they failed, but our wage-gap with our Aussie cuzzies is actually widening.

See: Wage gap grows $1 a month – Labour

National was elected in 2011 on a pledge to create 170,000 new jobs.

See: Budget 2011: Govt predicts 170,000 new jobs

Instead, our unemployment has risen to 6.8%.

See:  Unemployment rises: 6.8pc

In almost every respect, National’s policies – which are heavily reliant on the free market to deliver desired outcomes like growth and jobs – have failed.

John Key is presiding over,

  • a stagnant economy
  • rising unemployment
  • a low wage economy
  • wide gap with Australia
  • rising government debt
  • more New Zealanders escaping to Australia
  • and no plans to fix this mess except cuts to the state sector, asset sales, charter schools, crushing cars, and “reforming” the welfare system

That’s it. The “Grand Plan”. That’s as good as it get’s folks.

With more and more redundancies (see above) and  unemployment continuing to creep upward, Bennett’s plans to drug test the jobless is a deflection – an attempt to blame the victims of National’s (lack of) policies.

Drug testing the unemployed  is a ploy.

The unemployed are victims of the global financial crisis. Just  as National likes to make out that that it’s economic policies are also impacted by the recent GFC and resultant recession. It’s obscene that National uses the GFC as an excuse for their failings – and yet deny the unemployed the very same rationale for having lost their jobs.

By demanding drug testing, Bennett is sending a clear message to National’s redneck constituency, and to low information voters, that all unemployed are drug-addled, lazy,  ne’er-do-wells.

Because as we all know, being on the dole on $204.96 (nett, weekly) is a “lifestyle choice”, rather than working and earning the average wage; $800.

National has no idea how many unemployed are on drugs.

But they are still prepared to waste millions of dollars on pursuing a policy of drug testing.

All because they have failed to create the jobs they promised.

All because they need a scapegoat to show their dim-witted constituents that it’s the welfare beneficiaries at fault.

The Nazis used the scapegoating technique well well in the 1930s, when they blamed Jews, communists, gypsies, trade unionists, etc, for Germany’s economic problems.

National’s strategy here should be crystal-clear to us all; they are dangling the unemployed as scapegoats to the ill-informed; the prejudiced; and  low-information voters, for whom unemployment is a vague concept; the Global Financial Crisis happened “somewhere else“; and the dole is some unimaginably generous payment.

Very few low-information voters understand that the dole for a single person is only $204.96 (nett, weekly).

Very few National supporters understand that unemployment was 3.7% in 2007 and is now 6.8% because of an event that was sparked thousands of kilometres away in Wall St, USA.

And very few low-information and National voters want to understand this. Because to understand the realities of unemployment means that the next step is; what are they going to do about it?!

Like, this gentleman, posting on Facebook, who had no interest in anything except spouting his own narrow, ill-informed,  prejudice. I thought I’d share his “considered opinion” with the reader,

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These are the people that Paula Bennett, and National, are pandering to.

Prejudice is easier.

It means they can blame someone else.

It means not having to think about the issues involved.

Because it’s always someone elses’ fault.

Like Steven Joyce, who blamed Labour, the Greens, and Hone Harawira on TV3′s ‘The Nation‘, on 19 August. It’s always “someone elses’ fault”.

Unfortunately for Bennett, though, her  repugnant behaviour has become so entrenched that she is unable to behave appropriately even to her own colleagues,

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Source

Listen: Listen to more on Checkpoint

The more that National fails to deliver results, the more they will blame others.

Why should National take responsibility for a lack of jobs and rising unemployment? After all…

… they’re only the government.

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Continued at: What’s up with the Nats? (Part toru: John Banks)

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= fs =

What’s up with the Nats? (Part tahi)

19 August 2012 3 comments

.

.

If there’s somethin’ strange in your neighborhood

Who ya gonna call?

Natbusters!

If it’s somethin’ weird an it won’t look good

Who ya gonna call?

Natbusters!

.

Intro

Ever since the National Party conference at the end of July, the National Party has been strutting the political stage like a bunch of patched gang-members, strutting about the main street of some small town in the back-blocks.

Key, Bennett, Joyce, Collins, Parata, Banks – even lowly backbenchers like Maggie Barry – have been obnoxiously aggressive in policy announcements and dealing with the media and critics.

The Nats have been unrelentingly in our faces ever since John Key uttered the threat,

.

Full story

.

This is not just about confidence.

This is something new. This is about a new, hyped-up, aggressive style of taking criticisms and failings, and turning it back on the critic.

Steven Joyce was on-style on TV3′s “The Nation” (19 August), when he belittled and badgered two journalists (John Hartevelt and Alex Tarrant)  who asked him pointedly about National’s short-comings. Joyce’s response was typical Muldoon-style pugnacity.

This interview with Joyce is charachteristic of how National Ministers have been belligerent in their responses.  It is singularly  instructive,

.

Full story

.

Interestingly, Joyce has a “go” at Labour; then the Greens; and even Hone Harawira throughout the course of the interview.  He even blames the global financial crisis and throws that in the face of Alex Tarrant, as he responds to a point.

Everyone gets a dose of blame – except the one party that is currently in power. So much for National’s creed that we should all take personal responsibility for our actions.

It appears that  National’s back-room Party strategists have been analysing the first few months of this year and have realised that when things go horribly wrong, or the latest string of economic indicators reveal more bad news, the relevant Minister(s) responds  with  aggression and with defiance.

If the old say “explaining-is-losing” is a truism, then any explanation offered automatically puts a Minister on the back-foot.

The best way out of such a sticky moment; take a page out of Rob Muldoon’s book, ‘How To Win Friends/Enemies and Influence the Media‘.

And National’s Ministers have been playing this ‘new’ game perfectly…

.

John Key

.

Key has always played the part of the arrogant, born-to-rule Tory well.

Despite trying to put across the meme that he has never forgotten his “working class/beneficiary” roots (See:  Reflections from New Zealand: Address to the Menzies Research Centre John Howard Lecture), his obvious disdain for those who are the  most deprived and powerless in our community occassionally slips out, as when he derided the poor for being… well, poor,

But it is also true that anyone on a benefit actually has a lifestyle choice. If one budgets properly, one can pay one’s bills.

And that is true because the bulk of New Zealanders on a benefit do actually pay for food, their rent and other things. Now some make poor choices and they don’t have money left.”

See: Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key

That attitude came to the fore recently when Key decided that attending his son’s baseball game in the United States was a more pressing engagement than attending the funerals of two Kiwi servicemen killed in Afghanistan,

See: Key to miss soldiers’ military service

Key gave an explanation that, well, frankly astounded most New Zealanders,

In the end it’s a very, very difficult decision. I’ve got to let somebody down, but my son makes huge sacrifices for me and my job and, in the final analysis, I’ve just decided it’s probably the right thing to do – to go and support him.”

See:  Commitment to son will keep PM from funerals

“Sacrifice”?!

It’s hard to see how Key’s son has made a “sacrifice” that is more “huge” than two soldiers who gave their lives in the service of their country.

For good measure, Key then had a ‘go’ at our Hungarian allies – also serving in Afghanistan – and who have lost seven of their own troops in the neighbouring Baghlan province,

As far as I’m aware, the Hungarians don’t go out at night. Not in Afghanistan anyway – they might in Budapest.”

See: Hungarians condemn Key’s jibe about troops in Afghanistan

A nice bit of deflection there, from Dear Leader. What better way to evade his responsibilities in an apalling decision not to attend the two funerals, than to point the finger at somone else.

It’s not often that one of our Prime Ministers has successfully disrespected the fallen soldiers of not one – but two nations. Quite a feat – even by arrogant right wing stands.

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Postscript 1:

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SIDELINE SUPPORT: Bronagh and John Key on the first day of the Senior Little League World Series at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor, Maine.

.

It seems that Dear Leader is not above a bit of “embroidery” when it comes to singing the praises of his son’s involvement in the game of baseball,

Prime Minister John Key has told United States media his son’s baseball team’s appearance at an international little league  tournament is “big news back home”…

[abridged]

His support for his son caught the attention of the local Bangor Daily News. He told the paper his son’s team making the tournament was big news back home, and might spur growth in a sport that was already “growing reasonably rapidly”.

“I think over time there’s a chance baseball might be a much bigger sport relative to softball in New Zealand,” he said.

“But competing with big sports like rugby I think is a long way down the road.” About 4000 people are involved in the sport in New Zealand and Baseball New Zealand said it was the “fastest growing summer team sport” in the country. “

See: Little leaguers ‘big news’, says proud Key

Postscript 2:

The deaths of three more New Zealand soldiers was announced on the morning of  Monday, 20 August.

On Radio NZ, John Key stated that he would be attending their funerals. Apparently he has no other pressing engagements coming up.

Listen: Radio NZ Prime Minister John Key on Morning Report (@  8.10 )

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*

Continued at: What’s up with the Nats? (Part rua: Paula Bennett)

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= fs =

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