Home > Social Issues, The Body Politic > John Key: When propaganda photo-ops go wrong…

John Key: When propaganda photo-ops go wrong…

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Desperate measures…

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Desperate to seize power from Labour, and faced with strong, experienced leadership in the form of Helen Clark and Michael Cullen, National and it’s fresh,  new leader – John Key – launched a series of public-relations  media/propaganda initiatives. One of those propaganda exercises, a photo-op with a schoolgirl, would come back to haunt  Dear Leader and ridicule one of his major pledges…

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Opening shots…

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The campaign to mark out National’s “human face of neo-liberalism” was launched  on  30 January 2007, when Key made his speech  “The Kiwi Way: A Fair Go For All” at the Burnside Rugby Clubrooms, Christchurch.

See: The Kiwi Way: A Fair Go For All

It had all the nice, warm, fuzzy sound-bites; “good Kiwi upbringing“; “betterment of all New Zealanders“, “proud of our culture and society“; “opportunity and hope“; “giving people a fair go”; “egalitarian society“; “The Kiwi Way” (mentioned ten times); “born into a struggling household“, etc, etc, etc…

Whoever wrote that speech really mined the  handbook of the Kiwi Psyche.

But the real opening shots in the political battle for the hearts and minds of New Zealanders began in the opening months of 2007 – two full years leading up to the November 2008 general elections.

Reading many of Key’s speeches and policy announcements,  was almost like tapping into a Scandinavian model of a social democratic society. Michael Joseph Savage would have nodded in approval to many of Key’s utterances.

Especially when, on 3 February 2007, Key announced the launching of National’s “Food in Schools programme“. It was pure 1930s Labour stuff,

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National Party Leader John Key has announced the first initiative in what will be a National Food in Schools programme.

“National is committed to providing practical solutions to the problems which Helen Clark says don’t exist,” says Mr Key.

During his State of the Nation speech on Tuesday, Mr Key indicated National would seek to introduce a food in schools programme at our poorest schools in partnership with the business community.

Mr Key has since received an approach from Auckland-based company Tasti foods.

“I approached Wesley Primary School yesterday, a decile 1 school near McGehan Close, a street that has had more than its fair share of problems in recent times. I am told Wesley Primary, like so many schools in New Zealand, has too many kids turning up hungry.”

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See: National launches its Food in Schools programme

Of course once National came to power twentyone months later, on 8 November 2008,  Key’s  quasi-socialistic policy of  ”  providing practical solutions to the problems which Helen Clark says don’t exist “, quietly slipped beneath the waves and disappeared from public sight.

It had achieved it’s purpose.

In fact, National’s policy stance  on any suggestion of  Food in Schools programmes, is now somewhat more hostile,

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Organisations working with the poor and opposition parties say Prime Minister John Key is in ”la la land” if he thinks fruit is enough to get a hungry child through a school day.

Labour yesterday unveiled a $10 million policy to provide free food to 650 of the country’s lowest decile primary and intermediate schools.

Key immediately rejected the idea, saying free fruit was already provided in the ”vast bulk” of low-decile schools and there was often a breakfast programme.

”Not every school wants every child to be provided a lunch,” he told reporters in Russia before leaving for Japan. ”There are many families that can provide those lunches’.”‘

See: Key in poverty ‘la la land’

And in case anyone missed the point that National was not about to follow the Scandinavian model of  helping  children living in poverty,

Prime Minister John Key says beneficiaries who resort to food banks do so out of their own “poor choices” rather than because they cannot afford food.

Mr Key made the comment when asked in Parliament yesterday about poverty levels.

When Labour’s social development spokeswoman Annette King asked about Salvation Army reports of high demand for food parcels, Mr Key responded by saying it was true that the global recession meant more people were on benefits.

“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

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Not only has National’s  “Food in Schools programme” vanished, and subsequently replaced with naked antipathy, but this blogger’s emails to the Prime Minister’s office on the issue have gone unanswered.

Too embarressing, no doubt.

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Firing Photo ops missiles…

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On 6 February 2007, National’s tax-payer funded spin-doctors organised this photo-op for Dear Leader,

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Aroha Ireland, John Key, McGehan Close, Waitangi Day

Full story

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Key was attempting to re-play  a much earlier scene on Waitangi Day in 1973, when then-Prime Minister, Norman Kirk walked onto the grounds on Waitangi, with then-ten year old, Moana Priest,

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prime-minister-norman-kirk-and-moana-priest-waitangi-day-1973

Acknowledgement:  Life and career of the late Prime Minister Norman Kirk, Herald Book

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However, it can safely be stated that the  difference between Kirk and Key was/is monumental. It was a  distance between two men that can only be measured in interstellar terms.

Kirk believed deeply  in what he was doing.

Key simply exploited a naive young girl and her family for a photo-op –  which we all now by now is something he cannot pass by.

In the Herald, on 6 November 2007, Aroha and her family expressed delight at attending Waitangi Day celebrations with the leader of the Opposition (as he was then),

Yesterday morning, Mr Key picked Aroha up in a Crown limousine and took her to Waitangi with him, discussing, among other things, her favourite band, Panic at the Disco.

She described the trip – one of the few she’s made outside Auckland and which included her first stay in a hotel – as “exciting”.

She said her family were also rapt with the visit, and felt much more comfortable when they realised National list MP Jackie Blue, who accompanied Mr Key to McGehan Close, would be with her for the trip.

Dr Blue was Aroha’s grandmother’s doctor and also attended to her mother, Joan Nathan, so “Mum said I’d be in good hands”.

The pair spent part of the day with Mr Key but slipped away for lunch at the Copthorne Hotel, where Aroha described the chips as great but said she didn’t think the fish was fresh.

“Dad always says if it doesn’t fall apart it’s not fresh.”

Aroha said she knew little about events at Waitangi on Waitangi Day, but was looking forward to finding out.

See: A day out with friends in high places

It’s somewhat disturbing to note that National list MP Jackie Blue, who had a close personal  relationship with Aroha’s family, played along with the photo-op. That was despite reservations expressed by some,

Labour list MP Dover Samuels was the only one publicly labelling Mr Key’s invitation a stunt yesterday, but others quietly voiced similar concerns.

See: Ibid

The family, though, seemed blissfully unaware that they were little more than pawns in National’s pre-election grand strategy and expressed their comfort with events,

Mrs Nathan told Close Up last night that the invitation had given her daughter a good opportunity.

She continued to disagree with some of Mr Key’s views on McGehan Close, but she believed he was trying to push for positive changes.

See: Ibid

Three months later, on 27 May 2007, Key referred to Aroha Ireland in a speech strangely entitled, “Tough on Crime”. His reference to Aroha was fleeting (as was his brief intervention in her life), barely rating a mention,

For the past six months, I’ve had the privilege of travelling New Zealand from city to town talking to the people who make our country tick. I’ve been to places like McGehan Close and met people like Aroha Ireland, a young girl with big dreams for her future. I’ve milked cows in Horowhenua. I’ve visited primary schools in Canterbury. I’ve met with iwi in Ruatoria. “

See: John Key’s speech  – Tough on Crime

Cows weren’t the only thing he milked

In the same speech, Key ramped up the aspirational rhetoric,

The first ‘E’ is the economy. National will emphasise this theme because we are committed to delivering New Zealanders the fruits of a wealthier country. Make no mistake – Labour’s policies are seeing us fall further and further behind the rest of the world. The recent Budget did absolutely nothing to alleviate that slide.

Michael Cullen has given up on growing our economy, instead he’s preparing for retirement: Labour’s retirement.

Well, National is a lot more ambitious than that. We think Kiwis deserve higher wages and lower taxes during their working lives,as well as a good retirement. That’s why we will pursue economic policies and infrastructure development that will keep New Zealand competitive on the world stage. Make no mistake – Bill English’s first Budget will include tax cuts.

See: Ibid

The rest of Key’s speech was pure knee-jerk, tough-on-crime, BS – so beloved by National’s fearful aging middle classes.

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Shots that re-bound and ricochet

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Three Years later, and Key’s visit to McGehan Close had lost it’s gloss, as the NZ Herald reported on 10 February 2010,

The mother of the 12-year-old girl John Key took to Waitangi three years ago says she has been let down by the Prime Minister, and her daughter now wants nothing to do with him.

Joan Nathan said she and her family were worse off since National won the election.

She’d lost her job with National list MP Jackie Blue, arranged by Key, and a training allowance she received had been cut.

“They gave me the job to sweeten the deal, and then as soon as they got elected I got the sack,” she said.

“I’m pretty anti-Mr Key at the moment”..

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“He’s just made everything worse for us and made it easier for ones that are higher up. I’m struggling every week.”

See: Family still on struggle street after Key leaves

The NZ Herald story went on to state,

A spokesman for Key said he had visited her home last year to try to help resolve the housing issue, and had spoken to her on the phone several times since the election. Key didn’t wish to make any further comment.

See: Ibid

Yeah. I’ll bet he didn’t want to comment.

Why should he? Aroha Ireland had served her purpose for the 2008 general election, and like some Bond Villain, Key was now disposing of his ‘puppets’ – they were no longer useful for his grand Master Plan for World New Zealand Domination.

And  Key’s crony, National MP Jackie Blue’s,  response was even more insightful,

Jackie Blue said Nathan worked 10 hours a week doing administration for Mt Roskill office up until the 2008 election.

She wasn’t re-employed because Blue merged her office with Lotu-Iiga, and didn’t need to rehire staff.

Blue said she had tried to keep in touch, but Nathan’s phone had been disconnected.

See: Ibid

Irony heaped upon grim irony… made redundant from a faux-job created specifically by the Nats as an enticing  “lolly” for Joan Nathan (Aroha’s mother)… phone disconnected as a sign of lowered income and encroaching poverty… Ms Nathan’s loss of employment symptomatic of National’s do-nothing approach to the country’s growing unemployment crisis…

Little wonder that Aroha Ireland no longer wanted to talk about Key’s visit three years ago. One cannot feel any measure of   pride in  being used.

John Key’s photo-op had gone full-circle, and was lining up to tear big chunks from Dear Leader’s arse.

If anything, Aroha’s situation was now a prime example of National’s policies (or lack thereof) – but not as the Nat’s politburo had intended.

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Shot himself in the foot…

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By November of last year, Key’s photo-op with Aroha Ireland had jumped from expressions of disgust, by her family at being exploited, to one of high farce for the Nats – and a measure of  hope for Aroha.

Ms Ireland was joining the flood of New Zealanders escaping over the Berlin Wall Tasman Sea to a Brighter Futurein Australia,

National leader John Key says the teenager he took to Waitangi Day three years ago is not leaving for Australia because life is better there.

Aroha Ireland, 16, became the face of National’s campaign to close the gap with Australia and help struggling families during the last election campaign.

Now it has been reported that Miss Ireland is headed across the Tasman.

See: PM denies teen leaving for good life

Dear Leader sez  “the teenager he took to Waitangi Day three years ago is not leaving for Australia because life is better there ” ?!

Oh yeah, spin it, John Boy, spin it!

Key went on to state (with a straight face, I hope) that  he did not think she was going because of the yawning wage gap, between our two countries,

I’m proud of the Government’s record – in difficult times, we’ve closed that wage gap with Australia. We’ve grown after-tax wages by 10 per cent in the last three years, Australia by six.”

Except… well… Yeah, nah. John Key is now piling the BS on top of his previous outrageous spin. The facts speak otherwise – the wage gap is growing, not reducing, despite what Key and his spinmeisters might want us to believe.

In fact, Key should be fully aware that he was being less than truthful by suggesting that the wages gap was closing. As right wing politician, and  ex-Reserve bank governor, Don Brash stated only two weeks earlier,

In 2008 we estimated the gap was 35% currently it’s nearer 40%.”

See: Aussie wage gap now 40% – Brash

(Unfortunately, Brash’s brief moment of lucidity was short-lived, and he thereafter  descended into right wing nuttery to solve the growing wage gap. In essence, more of the same of the last thirty years. What’s that definition of craziness; doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome?)

It was little wonder that Key claimed he had “no idea” why Aroha was escaping to Australia,

Lots of young people decide to go for an OE – I don’t know how long she’ll last. I’m not in a position to go into too much; hope she comes back.

I’m disappointed she’s going for her, because I think New Zealand has got a great future in front of it and I’d like her to be part of it.

See: PM denies teen leaving for good life

Of course Dear Leader knows why Aroha left New Zealand. But to admit it would be a colossal admission of National’s failure to address critical economic and social problems in our country.

Key’s comments are lame by any standards. We simply laugh harder and louder at his moronic utterances.

A year later, all doubt was removed why Aroha Ireland – like thousands of other New Zealanders, before and since, her voting with her feet – had moved to Australia…

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And the photo-op blows up in Key’s face…

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According to a NZ Herald report this year, Aroha’s move to Australia held no great mystery,

… Aroha Ireland has given up on New Zealand, is engaged to be married and earning good money with no plans to return to her homeland.

The 17-year-old bailed for the lucky country last year, disillusioned with her prospects in Auckland.

Miss Ireland, who is engaged to Stuart Spashett also of Auckland, did not return the Herald’s calls.

She has told family members and friends she is embarrassed by the publicity that followed her since her visit to Waitangi in 2008.

Lisa Spashett, who calls herself Aroha’s second mum, said the Government had failed people like her future daughter-in-law.

She said there was nothing for them in New Zealand to look forward to or return to.

See: Key’s poster girl finds life much better in Australia

Ms Spashett went on to say, with drilling, laser-beam, accuracy,

As far as they are concerned, no, they [the National Government] hadn’t done anything for them. I can tell you that straight up and that’s why they are in Australia.”

See: Ibid

From 6 February 2007,

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Aroha Ireland, John Key, McGehan Close, Waitangi Day

Full story

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… to 13 November 2012,

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Full story

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From self-serving exploitation by a cynical multi-millionaire-cum-politician – to an embarressing example of  National’s failure.

And the best thing about this? National has shot itself in it’s own foot, with no help from it’s political opponants whatsoever.

They did it to themselves.

Classic.

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Sources

National Party Speech – The Kiwi Way: A Fair Go For All (30 Jan 2007)

National Press Release – National launches its Food in Schools programme (4 Feb 2007)

A day out with friends in high places (6 Feb 2007)

Aroha is missing her Key friend (10 Feb 2007)

National Party Speech  – Tough on Crime (27 May 2007)

Family still on struggle street after Key leaves (7 Feb 2010)

Aussie wage gap now 40% – Brash (7 Nov 2011)

PM denies teen leaving for good life (21 Nov 2011)

Key’s poster girl finds life much better in Australia (13 Nov 2012)

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= fs =

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  1. Alan Benton
    23 November 2012 at 2:59 pm

    I love how you charaterised the jump “over the Berlin wall” … argh, so true, soooo true!

  2. Leonard Bloksberg
    23 November 2012 at 3:24 pm

    That’s not fair. Intelligent people should not be allowed to pick on John Key like this; you have an unfair advantage in that you have a brain and a concience.

  3. 23 November 2012 at 5:36 pm

    Liars gonna lie.

  4. PS
    23 November 2012 at 5:44 pm

    Thankyou Frank…excellent connections, yet again.

  5. 23 November 2012 at 5:52 pm

    I’ll readily agree with one of Dear Leader’s utterances: namely, that he has no clue.

  6. Rachel
    24 November 2012 at 1:27 pm

    Hilarious post, Frank, you documented his f@&%-ups in perfection.
    Poor Aroha, but that’s awesome she is living the dream now in Australia.
    She’s lucky to escape at only 17 haha

    • 24 November 2012 at 2:36 pm

      “Living the dream” – indeed, Rachel.

      the Kiwi Dream is fairly simple; a job with decent pay; our own home; a family maybe; and a holiday every so often.

      So why is it that whatever National touches turns to ashes in our mouths? Everything they do seems to drive ordinary folk away…

  7. Aroha ireland
    14 May 2013 at 5:41 am

    Great read :)

  1. 25 August 2014 at 6:03 am
  2. 25 August 2014 at 6:06 am
  3. 29 August 2014 at 8:02 am
  4. 27 October 2014 at 11:25 am
  5. 31 October 2014 at 8:00 am

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