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Posts Tagged ‘asset sales’

Letter to the Editor: what is a politician’s promise worth?

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FROM: 	"f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT: Letters to the Editor
DATE: 	 Sun, 16 Mar 2014 21:10:15 +1300
TO: 	"Sunday Star Times" letters@star-times.co.nz 

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The Editor
Sunday Star Times

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Winston Peters has pledged that his Party's bottom line is
the re-purchase of all shares in Meridian, Genesis, and
Mighty River Power at "a price no more than that initially
paid for them".

This is stated on NZ First's website, and Peter's reiterated
his pledge on TV3's 'The Nation' on 15/16 March.

I sincerely hope that Mr Peters' promise to buy back the
powerco SOEs fares better than his pledge in 1996, to buy
back Forestry Corp's timber cutting rights. Forestry Corp
was privatised by the Bolger-led National government for
around $1.6 billion to a consortium made up by Fletcher
Challenge Forests, Brierley Investments Ltd,  and Chinese
state-owned company,  Citifor Inc (now known as CITIC
Group).

Peters promised during the 1996 general election;

“I want to tell the Chinese buyers and I want to tell
Brierleys that they had better not make any long-range plans
because the day after the election is over we will be
sending them an emissary to them them exactly what is going
to happen, that is, that we are going to keep out promise,
they can give back the asset and we will give the money
back.”

The buy-back never happened, despite Mr Peters becoming
Treasurer and Deputy PM on 11 December 1996. His pledge
quietly disappeared.

Let's hope the same fate does not befall his pledge to buy
back the powerco shares.

-Frank Macskasy
(address  & phone number supplied)

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Related blogposts

Fool me Once, Shame on you

Winston Peters recycles pledge to “buy back state assets” – where have we heard that before?

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Tiwai Point – An exercise in National’s “prudent fiscal management”?

26 February 2014 Leave a comment

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corporate welfare 1

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Timeline

3 October 2007: Meridian and NZAS/Rio Tinto sign agreement for the continuous supply of 572 megawatts of power to the Tiwai Point smelter for 2013 to 2030.

30 October 2011: National government announces partial asset sales, of Genesis, Meridian, Mighty River Power, Solid Energy, and a further sell-down of Air New Zealand.

9 August 2012: Meridian Energy (electricity supplier to Rio Tinto) announces that Rio Tinto/Pacific Aluminium is demanding to renegotiate its electricity supply contract between the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter and Meridian.

10 August 2012: Rio Tinto CEO, Tom Albanese, warns that the smelter will be closed “if they cannot be viable, we have difficult decisions to make”.

7 September 2012:  Rio Tinto/New Zealand Aluminium Smelters  announces it will  make 100 workers redundant by November 2012.

7 August 2013: Rio Tinto/New Zealand Aluminium Smelters  announces 30 maintenance workers to be made redundant at the Tiwai Point smelter.

8 August 2013: National government announces agreement to give cash subsidy of  $30 million  to Rio Tinto, and Meridian Energy to supply the smelter with cheaper (price undisclosed) electricity than agreed in 2007.

9 August 2013: Bill English confirms that he has not sought a guarantee from Rio Tinto that jobs will not be lost at the smelter.

20 August 2013: National government announces details to sell 49% of Meridian Energy.

14/15 February 2014: Rio Tinto announces a   $4.43 billion ($US3.7 billion) annual after-tax profit. Rio Tinto shareholders recieve a 15% increase in dividends.

An exercise in National’s “prudent fiscal management”?

We were conned.

There is no other way to describe events between October 2007 and February this year; we were conned by a multi-national mining/metals giant that exploited National’s core-policies, for their own gain.

How else to describe the above events?

Once National announced their intention to partially-privatise Meridian Energy and float it on the New Zealand  (and Australian) stock exchanges – Rio Tinto realised that the price of Meridian shares would be determined by the income they derived from selling electricity.

As Green Party co-leader, Russel Norman stated,

”Rio Tinto took advantage of Mr Key’s obsession with asset sales by threatening to derail the sale of Meridian by closing the Tiwai smelter, so Mr Key gave them $30 million of public money.”

Rio Tinto was Meridian’s biggest customer, supplying  Tiwai Point  with approximately 15% of New Zealand’s total  electricity output. As such, Rio Tinto had Meridian  (and by proxy, the National Government) by the balls. And on 7 September 2012 and 7 August 2013, Rio Tinto squeezed.

By making  130 workers redundant, it sent National, and it’s compliant  leader, a clear message; “Don’t f**k with us, Johnny-boy. These 130 plebes are an example of what we can do to screw you over“.

Had Rio Tinto followed through on it’s threats (and make no mistake – they were threats), it would have brought down the government. That would have ended Key’s career and his reputation would have been in tatters. No Knighthood or beersies for Johnny-boy!

Key had no choice but to capitulate. Key admitted as such when he said on 14 February,

“At the end of the day I think the Government took a modest step to ensure there was a smooth potential transition there – that we didn’t have a glut of electricity we couldn’t use or that thousands and thousands of Southland jobs are out at risk.”

The resulting loss of 700 jobs at the smelter,  and a further 2,500 downstream throughout Southland, would certainly have been embarrassing for Key and damaging to National .  But this is a government that has overseen the sacking of approximately 3,000 state sector workers (up to August 2012) and 29,472 few jobs in the manufacturing sector, since 2006 (2013 Census results), so unemployment per se is not a problem that overly concerns right-wing government ministers.

What really threatened this government was Key’s reference to a “glut of electricity” – note the words. A glut of electricity would have de-railed the entire asset sales programme. Result; end of National; end of asset sales programme (and the neo-liberal agenda on the whole), and the end of Key’s career.

This shabby, self-serving, politically-expedient exercise, has cost us – the tax-payer – $30 million, plus an even cheaper electricity deal than probably anyone else in this country gets. No wonder the contract price is even more uber secret than the goings-on at the GCSB – the public would erupt in fury if they came to know what our electricity was being sold for, whilst the rest of us have mounting power prices, year after year after year.

Meanwhile, the lowest paid workers in New Zealand’s rest homes are paid just barely above the minimum wage;

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Resthome spy hails saint-like workers

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To which our well-heeled Prime Minister responded thusly,

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PM  No money for aged care workers

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To quote Dear Leader,

“It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash. As the country moves back to surplus it’s one of the areas we can look at but I think most people would accept this isn’t the time we have lots of extra cash.”

Interesting. Key and his Cabinet cronies found $30 million to throw at a multi-national corporation – which only six months later posted a $4.43 billion ($US3.7 billion) annual after-tax profit.

But no money for the lowest paid, hardest-working people (predominantly women) in our community. Key responded to Russell Norman’s criticism of the $30 million welfare handout,

“If Tiwai Point had closed straight away then hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of jobs would have disappeared and the Greens would have said the Government doesn’t care about those workers and is turning their back on them so they really can’t have it both ways.”

If only we could believe Key. But considering that thousands  lost their jobs since the Global Financial Crisis, and National has not bailed out any other company, the Prime Minister’s protestations ring hollow.

In fact, it’s fairly well obvious that the taxpayer-funded payout to Rio Tinto had nothing to do with jobs or the Southland economy – and everything to do with the state assets sales. As David Hargreaves wrote on Interest.co.nz,

“So, it will cost you, I and him and her a combined NZ$30 million of our hard-earned to keep the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter open just long enough so that the Government can flog off 49% of Meridian Energy.

That’s about the size of the deal struck between Meridian and the company controlled by global giant Rio Tinto, with additional sugar coating supplied by the Government, courtesy of us.

From the point the Government first stepped in earlier this year in an attempt to ‘help out’ it was always obvious tax payers were going to be forced to front up with some readies for the pleasure of keeping the always controversial smelter running for a while longer.

I have no doubt that the smelter will be closed in 2017, which is now when the owners get the first chance to pull the plug.”

The most asinine aspect to this deal (and there are many) is that Finance Minister,  Bill English, told Radio New Zealand on 9 August 2013 that “ensuring the safety of those jobs was not part of the deal and no undertakings were sought on the operation of the company”.

No guarantee for preserving jobs?!

Question: So what, precisely, did $30 million buy?

Answer: Rio Tinto not rocking the boat and upsetting National’s asset-sales programme.

This was a most odious, repugnant deal.

Every New Zealander contributed some of their hard-earned cash, which ended up in Rio Tinto’s shareholder’s pockets.

All done to achieve the sale of state assets which we own.

John Key gave away our money; which ended up in shareholder’s pockets; to sell assets we own; to other share investors.

This is the crazy side of National’s economic policy. This is  corporate welfare and crony capitalism rolled into one. Which begs the question to National’s supporters; is this what they see as “prudent fiscal management”?

How “prudent” is it to pay a subsidy to a multi-national corporation, that posted a multi-billion dollar after-tax profit,  that will most likely close the smelter regardless in some near future date (2017?)?

And why was that $30 million not invested in other job creation industries in Southland, so that a multi-national corporation could not hold this country to ransom? After Rio Tinto and Warner Bros – who is next to hold a gun to our collective head demanding a taxpayer subsidy/payout?

This was an odious, repugnant and wasteful deal.

This should not be allowed to be forgotten this election.

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John Key says I'd like to raise wages but I can't

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References

NZ Herald:  Meridian boss hails deal with smelter

Radio NZ: Details of Meridian share offer announced

Radio NZ: National announces plans for asset sale profits

TV3: Rio Tinto seeks new Bluff smelter terms

TV3: Rio Tinto eyeing smelter closures

Australia Mining: Rio Tinto’s New Zealand smelter to axe jobs

Fairfax Media: More jobs to go in smelter revamp

Interest.co.nz: Govt pays NZ$30 mln to smelter owners in a deal that will clear the way for the float of Meridian Energy

Radio NZ: No job guarantees sought in smelter deal

Otago Daily Times: Rio Tinto profit more than $4.4b

NZ Herald: PM defends $30m payout to Rio Tinto

NZ Statistics: 2013 Census QuickStats about national highlights

Dominion Post: 555 jobs gone from public sector

Fairfax media: Resthome spy hails saint-like workers

Fairfax media: PM – No money for aged care workers

Interest.co.nz:  Opinion: There was a certain inevitability the long-suffering taxpayer would be ‘invited’ to cough up for the pleasure of keeping the Tiwai Point smelter open

Previous related blogposts

John Key’s track record on raising wages – 4. Rest Home Workers

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

2013 – Ongoing jobless talley

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The Cost of Living

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 18 February 2014.

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Radio NZ: Nine To Noon – Election year interviews – David Cunliffe

26 February 2014 Leave a comment

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- Radio NZ, Nine To Noon -

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- Wednesday 25 February 2014 -

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- Kathryn Ryan -

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On  Nine To Noon, Kathyrn Ryan interviewed Labour’s leader, David Cunliffe, and asked him about coalition negotiations, policies, polls, and other issues…

 

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Radio NZ logo -  nine to noon

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Click to Listen: Election year interviews (27′ 50″ )

A major policy statement by David Cunliffe;

@ 22.00:  “We will create incentives for private employers to be certified living wage employers, who pay the living wage  to all their employees, by giving them a preference in  Crown contracts.”

This will not only support firms that pay their staff properly – but will de facto give preference to local businesses to supply goods and services!

If this doesn’t motivate Small-Medium Enterprises to switch their allegiances from the Nats to Labour, I don’t know what will!

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Has Key just insulted 1,058,638 National voters?

21 December 2013 Leave a comment

As was predicted, Key’s response  to voter turnout to the asset sales referendum has been dismissive and derisory,

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PM playing down voter turnout - 13.12.13

Source

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With “only” 1,297,281 voting papers returned,  Key was obviously unimpressed,

Well the numbers don’t look like they’re that significant. I mean at the moment it’s sitting at around about 40 per cent.

Key added that the number was ” not absolutely amazing, it’s not overwhelmingly opposed“.

Considering that 1,058,638 people voted for National in 2011, does that also mean that Key is dismissive of National’s electoral support in 2011 as “ the numbers don’t look like they’re that significant“; “not absolutely amazing“; and not “overwhelmingly opposed ” to the Labour Party’s anti-asset election campaign?

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electoral result 2011

Source

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Because from where I stand, 238,643 more people participated in the  asset sales referendum  than voted for National, two years ago.

I’m sure 1,058,638 National voters would be unimpressed at the suggestion that they “don’t look like they’re that significant “.

That’s the trouble when a Prime Minister casually describes nearly a quarter of the country’s population as not “significant”. That’s a lot of people to dismiss out of hand.

And a lot of aggrieved voters.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 14 December 2013.

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References

Wikipedia: 2011 Election results

Fairfax media: PM playing down voter turnout

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Radio NZ: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams – 16 December 2013

16 December 2013 2 comments

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- Politics on Nine To Noon -

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- Monday 16 December 2013 -

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- Kathryn Ryan, with Matthew Hooton & Mike Williams -

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Today on Politics on Nine To Noon,

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radio-nz-logo-politics-on-nine-to-noon

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Click to Listen: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams ( 22′ 37″  )

This week:

  • Len Brown

Listen to Matthew Hooton’s surprising analysis of Len Brown’s hotel room upgrades.

  • Paula Rebstock and the MFAT Inquiry
  • Asset sales referendum
  • Christine Rankin vs Paula Bennett

en Brow.

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Letter to the Editor: Key’s arrogance shines through

16 December 2013 2 comments

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FROM:    "f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT: Letter to the Editor
DATE:    Mon, 16 Dec 2013 08:09:19 +1300
TO:      Dominion Post < .co.nz >

 

The Editor
DOMINION POST

As predicted by many, Prime Minister Key has been busily
dismissing and deriding the results to the recent asset
sales referendum with comments like these;

"Well, the numbers don’t look like they’re that
significant. I mean at the moment it’s sitting at around
about 40 per cent.     That’s not absolutely amazing,
it’s not overwhelmingly opposed. But the people who are
motivated to vote will be those who are going to vote
against." 

And,

"They were expecting a big turnout, they were expecting a
big vote in their favour and they didn't get either of
those. Overall what it basically shows is that it was a
political stunt."

John Key's increasingly strident utterances and arrogant
nature is becoming more public with each passing day and it
has become abundantly clear to New Zealand how casually he
dismisses public opinion.

So be it.

At the next election I hope no National candidate has the
cheek to say that their party listens to public concerns,
because we will know that is a barefaced lie.

-Frank Macskasy
(address & phone number supplied)

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Email address

Dominion Post:   .co.nz (max 200 word limit)

References

NZ Herald: Asset sales proceed in spite of referendum

Fairfax media: PM playing down voter turnout

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Letter to the Editor: Key responds to the asset referendum voter turnout

14 December 2013 3 comments

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old-paper-with-quill-pen-vector_34-14879

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FROM:    "f.macskasy"
SUBJECT: Letters to the editor
DATE:    Saturday, 14 December 2013 12:07:32
TO:      NZ Herald <letters@herald.co.nz> 

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The Editor
NZ Herald

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Predictably, Key has dismissed the asset sale referendum,

    “Well, the numbers don’t look like they’re that
significant. I mean at the moment it’s sitting at around
about 40 per cent.     That’s not absolutely amazing,
it’s not overwhelmingly opposed. But the people who are
motivated to vote will be those who are going to vote
against.” 

Let's be clear here: 1,297,281 voting papers were returned
in the Referendum.

If  1,297,281 referendum votes are not signficant - contrast
that to the 1,058,638 who voted National in 2011. Are they
also not "significant" or "absolutely amazing"?

Not very bright of Dear Leader Key to so casually dismiss
1,058,638 National voters. Come the next election, those
voters may look elsewhere where their support is more
valued. And listened to.

Because one thing seems fairly clear; Key has stopped
listening.

-Frank Macskasy
(address & phone number supplied)

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Reference

Fairfax media: Two-thirds of voters oppose asset sales

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Radio NZ: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams – 9 December 2013

10 December 2013 Leave a comment

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- Politics on Nine To Noon -

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- Monday 9 December 2013 -

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- Kathryn Ryan, with Matthew Hooton & Mike Williams -

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Today on Politics on Nine To Noon,

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radio-nz-logo-politics-on-nine-to-noon

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Click to Listen: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams ( 25′ 53″  )

This week:

  • The political ramifications of Nelson Mandela’s death and the NZ delegation travelling to South Africa,
  • the Green Party’s new policy for the Meridian share float,
  • and leadership changes within New Zealand’s smaller political parties.

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I’ve voted – have you?

5 December 2013 2 comments

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no to asset sales 13 feb

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Despite John Key’s open disregard for public opposition to asset sales, the referendum is a vital means by which we, the people, can let him know how we feel.

Public opinion polls have already indicated that the majority of New Zealanders want our state assets kept. This referendum will confirm it.

Key may be dismissive of this CIR, as it is non-binding.

But at the next election, he and his fellow National Party MPs, will not be able to claim that they “listen to the people”. Their contempt for public opinion will remain a bitter memory for too many voters.

This will be the legacy that Key takes into the next election; that he thumbed his nose at the voice of the people.

So is it worthwhile voting in this CIR? You bet it is.

Whichever way Key jumps – whether he ignores the result or not – we win.

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referendum voting paper

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 28 November 2013.

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Radio NZ: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams – 25 November 2013

25 November 2013 1 comment

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- Politics on Nine To Noon -

 

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- Monday 25 November 2013 -

 

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- Kathryn Ryan, with Matthew Hooton & Mike Williams -

 

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Today on Politics on Nine To Noon,

 

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radio-nz-logo-politics-on-nine-to-noon

 

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Click to Listen: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams ( 23′ 15″  )

 

This week:

  • Electorate boundary reshuffles,
  • new party leaderships,
  • government share sale policy,
  • and offshore drilling.

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Why a Four Year Parliamentary Term is not a Good Idea

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it's time to meet the muppets of the government

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Three years or four?

John Key has made suggestions to  reform certain  aspects of the Parliamentatry electoral cycle,

  • A fixed date for elections, such as our American cuzzies have
  • And extending the Parliamentary term from three to four years

The first suggestion – having a fixed date for elections – is sound. Anything that takes a wee bit of power away from politicians should be welcomed.

On that basis – anything that takes a wee bit of power away from politicians should be welcomed – extending the Parliamentary term from three to four years is one that fills me with disquiet.

I’ve heard the arguments for extending the Parliamentary term,

  1. It’s more efficient
  2. It gives government more time to achieve things
  3. Governments spend the third year of their current term in election mode to win the next election

None of those three arguments convinces me.

1. It’s more efficient

So is the One Party State; an autocratic ruler; or a  Parliamentary term of ten or twenty years . But would we be any better of, in terms of  public participation democracy? (Think: Putin in Russia.)

2. It gives government more time to achieve things…

That statement is never completed. It gives government more time to achieve - what? What incredibly complex, radical reforms are there that require an extra year (or more) for a government to have more time? What does Key have in mind that demands a four year term?

Remember that Select Committees work in unison, not one at a time, and Legislation can be passed in as little as 48 hours – as “The Hobbit Law” showed us (see: Helen Kelly – The Hobbit Dispute) – not that I’m advocating legislative changes conducted at warp speed.

Perhaps governments might have “more time to achieve things” if time wasn’t wasted with petty point-scoring in the Debating Chamber?

3. Governments spend the third year of their current term in election mode to win the next election

Perhaps a government might not have to spend the entire third year in “campaign mode” if, in the preceding two years,  they worked with the people and not against them?

A phrase comes to mind…

By their works ye shall know them.

A good government shouldn’t have to spend the entire third year in “election mode”. A bad government will never have enough time to campaign for re-election.

It’s not the length of time that should matter to a government, but what they achieve with it. If the people approve, a good government will be returned with a decent majority. A good government should have nothing to fear from the electorate.

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beehive

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Looking at the last 30 years, would I be inclined to give politicians (of all hues) an extra year?

Not bloody likely.

And I’m not referring to the scandals; the cronyism; unpopular asset sale programme; rising unemployment; cynical beneficiary bashing; growing child poverty and widening  income/wealth gap.

I’m referring to attitude.

John Key wants us to trust him with an extra year in power.

But has he given us reason to trust him?

If anything, Key’s attitude of dismissive, casual arrogance does not reassure us that he (or his successors) would use additional political power without a corresponding rise in said arrogance.

To remind the reader of what John Key really thinks of us and his critics…

1. Critics

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key stephenson

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In May 2011, journalist journalist Jon Stephenson, wrote a scathing expose of New Zealand’s involvement in Afghanistan and questioned whether they were complicit in torture.

The article outlined two instances last year where SAS forces allegedly captured suspects and handed them to Afghanistan authorities, including the Afghan secret police, the National Directorate of Security, which has a reputation for torturing prisoners.

New Zealand has signed several international conventions outlawing the inhumane detention of prisoners, including torture.

Source: PM attacks journalist over SAS torture claims

When challenged, Stephenson offered,

“I’m happy to put my information before an inquiry. Any fair or impartial inquiry will show that they are the ones misleading the public. Not me.”

Source: IBID

It which point Key jumped in with this derisory response,

I’ve got no reason for NZDF to be lying, and I’ve found [Stephenson] myself personally not to be credible.”

Key then attempted to smear Stephenson’s character by accusing him of making a bogus phone call.

We should not forget John Key dismissal of  Nicky Hager’s book, on CIA involvement in NZ military activities in Afghanistan. Key said,

I don’t have time to read fiction.”

Key claimed  that the book contained “no smoking gun”, just supposition, which, “makes it business as normal for Nicky Hager”. (Despite the book having 1,300-plus footnotes to referencing documentation.)

National ministers also seem to have little hesitation in attacking their critics in quite nasty ways. Remember Natasha Fuller,  Jennifer Johnston,  Bradley Ambrose, and even Bomber Bradbury who fell foul of the system when he dared criticse Dear Leader?

If there are “trust issues” here – they seem well founded.

2.The Poor & Unwise “life” choices

Key’s disdain of those who do not meet his world-view was perhaps best summed up on 17 February, 2011, when he was reported as making these comments,

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.

Source: Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key

Well, at least we know the real thoughts of the boy from a subsidised State house, raised by a solo-mum receiving state assistance, and who had the benefit of a free, taxpayer funded University education.

3. Public Opposition

On 4 May 2012,  over five thousand people took part in a peaceful,  anti-asset sales Hikoi to Parliament,

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Aotearoa is not for sale hikoi - anti asset sales march   - wellington - 4 May 2012

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Key’s response was instructive,

How many people did they have? John Key asked reporters. “Where was it? Nope wasn’t aware of it.”

Key says the National Party has a clear mandate to proceed with privatising some state assets.

“Well over a million New Zealanders voted for National in the full knowledge we were going to undertake the mixed ownership model,” he said.

“So look, a few thousand people walking down the streets of Wellington isn’t going to change my mind.”

Source: Key unfazed as protesters descend on Parliament

Nearly a year later, on 12 March, a 392,000-plus signature petition was presented to Parliament. The petition  was  signed by ordinary New Zealanders who wanted nothing more or less than a say in their future.

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12-march-2013-presentation-of-anti-asset-sales-petition-parliament-referendum

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Key’s response?

Key said of the opposition petition you could be as sure as little green apples [that] huge numbers of them are not bona fide names on the list” and would have to be struck off.

“They’ve probably taken over a year to get maybe 300,000 names, we’ve had 285,000 pre-registrations in a matter of days”.

Source: Government to ignore asset sales referendum

And according to Green Party co-leader, Russell Norman, Key further disparaged New Zealanders who signed  the petition by saying,

…that the Prime Minister has said the people who signed this are children and tourists….

Source: IBID

Charming.

Key forgot to add, “let them eat cake”.

Unbridled Power?

Never forget that we are governed by an “elected dictatorship”,

  • There is no Upper House to scrutinise legislation from governments.
  • There is no written constitution to safeguard our interests.
  • Referenda have all the ‘bite’ of a toothless octagenarian (not that I support binding referenda – especially without Constitutional safeguards to protect the rights of minorities).
  • There are no mid-term elections; right-of-recall; Presidential Veto; or any other controls over elected representatives.

Once elected, unless a Member of Parliament is found guilty of a criminal act, we have zero control over them.

The upshot?

Just because this  government  is still (apparently) popular with the aspirationists and middle classes, is not a reason  to trust Key – or any other politician for that matter.

There have been too many broken promises; secret agendas; and bitterness from raised expectations that were soon dashed.

It is a truism that trust has to be earned.

And thus far, the glimpse that we’ve had into our current Prime Minister’s persona, is not one that fills me with confidence or trust.

New Zealanders may wish to reflect carefully before giving politicians any more power. It may be ok when it’s “your man (or woman) in power”. You may feel different if it’s the Other Guy running the country.

The issue simply boils down to one simple question;

How far do you trust the buggers?

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 15 March 2013.

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References

Wikipedia: Election Day (United States)

NZ Herald: Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key (17 Feb 2011)

NZ Herald: PM attacks journalist over SAS torture claims (3 May 2011)

NZ Herald: Charities’ food handouts at record after Govt cuts (18 Oct 2011)

TVNZ: Key unfazed as protesters descend on Parliament (4 May 2012)

Fairfax media: PM John Key Wants Four-Year Term For Parliament (7 Feb 2013)

Fairfax media: Government to ignore asset sales referendum (12 March 2013)

 

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Why a Four Year Parliamentary Term is not a Good Idea – Part Rua

29 March 2013 18 comments

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NZ_001

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On 7 February, Key called for the Parliamentary term to be increased from three to four years.

This issue was canvassed in two previous referenda in 1968 and 1990. More than two-thirds of voters wisely voted to keep it at three years.

According to polling, the public response is narrower this time. Perhaps in part to the same polling method that seems to show National with 50%-plus support amongst the public.

This blogger thoroughly rejects any notion  to increase the Parliamentary term.

As I wrote previously in The Daily Blog, there are compelling reasons to deny politicians an additional year in office;

1. Attacks on Critics

Governments become arrogant over time, and National’s (mis)-treatment over it critics should give us great cause for concern.

The following is a  list of just  some of the people who have criticised this government and been abused or derided in return;

July, 2009

Natasha Fuller &  Jennifer Johnston, solo-mothers

Personal WINZ details released to the media by Social Welfare Minister, Paula Bennett, to discredit both women after they criticised National for canning the Training Incentive Allowance (which Bennett herself used to pay her way through University).

May, 2011

Jon Stephenson, journalist
John Key derides Stephenson’s research into NZ activities in Afghanistan: “I’ve got no reason for NZDF to be lying, and I’ve found [Stephenson] myself personally not to be credible.”

September, 2011

Nicky Hager, writer, researcher
John Key dismisses Hager’s book, on CIA involvement in NZ military activities in Afghanistan:  “I don’t have time to read fiction,” quipped the Prime Minister, adding that the book contained “no smoking gun”, just supposition, which, “makes it business as normal for Nicky Hager”. (Despite the book having 1300 footnotes to referencing documentation.)

October, 2011

Martyn “Bomber” Bradbury, broadcaster, blogger
Criticised John Key on Radio NZ. Subsequently banned/ “uninvited”  from returning to Radio NZ as a panellist for the Afternoons with Jim Mora segment.

November, 2011

Robyn Malcolm, actor
Criticises the John Key led National government for it’s failures at a Green Party campaign launch, and is, in turn, vilified by the ‘NZ Herald’, and by one-time National Party aspiring-candidate, Cameron Brewer.

November, 2011

Bradley Ambrose, journalist/photographer
Investigated by police after complaint laid by the Prime Minister, over the “Teapot Tape” affair. Ambrose investigated and interviewed by Police. Media office raided. Property seized. Eventually, no charges laid. Government considered seeking costs of $13,669.45 from Ambrose – but eventually decided not to.

March, 2013

Annette Sykes, lawyer, activist, President of Mana Party

When Annette Sykes criticised the ppointment of sportswoman Susan Devoy to the role of Race Relations Commissioner, Minister Judith Collins responded with “Annette Sykes is a stupid person”. That’s how National views critics.

There is a degree of  vindictiveness to how National ministers deal with their criticism – and it ain’t pretty, Billy-Bob.

In addition, John Key’s response to  anti-asset sales opposition has revealed glimpses of his arrogance and dismissal of public concerns.

2. Public Opposition

As I wrote in The Daily Daily, on 4 May 2012,  over five thousand people took part in a peaceful,  anti-asset sales Hikoi to Parliament,

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Aotearoa is not for sale hikoi - anti asset sales march   - wellington - 4 May 2012

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Key’s response was instructive,

“How many people did they have? John Key asked reporters. “Where was it? Nope wasn’t aware of it.”

Key says the National Party has a clear mandate to proceed with privatising some state assets.

“Well over a million New Zealanders voted for National in the full knowledge we were going to undertake the mixed ownership model,” he said.

“So look, a few thousand people walking down the streets of Wellington isn’t going to change my mind.”

Source: Key unfazed as protesters descend on Parliament

Nearly a year later, on 12 March, a 392,000-plus signature petition was presented to Parliament. The petition  was  signed by ordinary New Zealanders who wanted nothing more or less than a say in their future.

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12-march-2013-presentation-of-anti-asset-sales-petition-parliament-referendum

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Key’s response?

Key said of the opposition petition you could be as “sure as little green apples [that] huge numbers of them are not bona fide names on the list” and would have to be struck off.

“They’ve probably taken over a year to get maybe 300,000 names, we’ve had 285,000 pre-registrations in a matter of days”.

Source: Government to ignore asset sales referendum

And according to Green Party co-leader, Russell Norman, Key further disparaged New Zealanders who signed  the petition by saying,

“…that the Prime Minister has said the people who signed this are children and tourists….”

Source: IBID

Charming.

We should be under no illusion that National ministers view any form of criticism or opposition with disdain. Key himself is contemptuous of  anyone who dares cross him.

Who in their right minds would want to give politicians an extra year to look down on us, as if we were grubby peasants, not worthy of their time and attention?

3. Unbridled Power?

Never forget that we are governed by an “elected dictatorship”,

  • There is no Upper House to scrutinise legislation from governments.
  • There is no written constitution to safeguard our interests.
  • Referenda have all the ‘bite’ of a toothless octagenarian (not that I support binding referenda – especially without Constitutional safeguards to protect the rights of minorities).
  • There are no mid-term elections; right-of-recall; Presidential Veto; or any other controls over elected representatives.

Once elected, unless a Member of Parliament is found guilty of a lewd act with a sheep, we have zero control over them.

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In conclusion

One of the main arguments in support of a Four Year Term is that three years is not sufficient time  for a government…

To which I respond with this;

That statement is never completed. It gives government more time to achieve - what? What incredibly complex, radical reforms are there that require an extra year (or more) for a government to have more time? What does Key have in mind that demands a four year term?

Remember that Select Committees work in unison, not one at a time, and Legislation can be passed in as little as 48 hours – as “The Hobbit Law” showed us (see: Helen Kelly – The Hobbit Dispute) – not that I’m advocating legislative changes conducted at warp speed.

Perhaps governments might have “more time to achieve things” if time wasn’t wasted with petty point-scoring in the Debating Chamber?  (see: Making Bold With The Speaker’s Chair)

As National-aligned blogger, David Farrar,  said in the NZ Herald on 25 March,

“People do feel three years is not long enough to judge. With a four-year term, more Governments might get chucked out after one term because people would say, ‘It’s been four years, we should have seen some impact.”‘

Really, Mr Farrar?

Funny thing…

National has now been in power for over four years.

What have they achieved in that time?

  • growing child poverty?
  • rising unemployment?
  • large numbers continuing to migrate to Australia?
  • wage cuts for 16-19 year olds?
  • taxpayer funded subsidies for Big Business?
  • taxcuts for the rich?
  • increased GST and other government charges for the poor?
  • lowing environbment standards and more pollution?
  • continuing attacks on the unemployed, solo-mums, etc?
  • no job creation policies?
  • continuing attacks on worker’s rights?
  • no comprehensive training for 85,000+ unemployed youth?
  • importing foreign workers instead of training our own unemployed?
  • state asset sales despite over-whelming opposition?
  • high dollar damanging our export sector?
  • more dodgy deals like pokie-machines for Skycity?
  • increasing foreign debt?
  • closing schools?
  • planned mining in Conservation lands?
  • etc, etc, etc…

As pro-National blogger David Farrar stated,

“It’s been four years, we should have seen some impact.”‘

Damn right, Mr  Farrar, damn right.

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When you stop voting

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Previous related blogpost

Why a Four Year Parliamentary Term is not a Good Idea  (15 March 2013)

References

Wikipedia: Election Day (United States)

NZ Herald: Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key (17 Feb 2011)

NZ Herald: PM attacks journalist over SAS torture claims (3 May 2011)

NZ Herald: Charities’ food handouts at record after Govt cuts (18 Oct 2011)

TVNZ: Key unfazed as protesters descend on Parliament (4 May 2012)

Fairfax media: PM John Key Wants Four-Year Term For Parliament (7 Feb 2013)

Fairfax media: Government to ignore asset sales referendum (12 March 2013)

NZ Herald:  Voters divided on four-year term  (25 March 2013)

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= fs =

Christchurch – Picking the bones clean?

11 February 2012 2 comments

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

Gerry Brownlee recently  stated,

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

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

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Full Story

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Full Story

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

Ok, got it.

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

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

Brownlee stated,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even the business community said as much,last year,

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

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

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

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

It’s a win-win-win scenario.

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

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

Your call, Mr Key.

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Additional

The Press: Brownlee turns up heat on council over rebuild

Green Party: How an earthquake levy could look

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

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Government sprung on SOE sale plan!!

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Full Story

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As well as trying to “quietly” drop all references to Treaty obligations, under Section 9 of the SOE Act 1986 – something guaranteed to buy a fight with their coalition partner, the Maori Party -  there are other  revelatory aspects  of the draft Treasury document that should  also be a matter of considerable concern.

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[1]

The Government’s mixed ownership model

Intitial public offerings (IPOs)

An initial public offering, or share float as they are often called, is a way of selling some or all of a  company to a large number of investors. Shares in the company are offered for sale to retail investors (individuals, sometimes referred to as “mums and dads”) through an advertising campaign to the public and through shareholders.Source

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[2]

Intitial public offerings (IPOs)

Once a minority shareholding in each company is sold, the government proposes that the company will be governed in the same way as other listed companies and that they will be subject to the Companies Act 1993 and other relevant legislation, the NZX listing rules and the companies’ constitutions.  The crown will not reserve any special rights  to itself, except that it is still to decide whether it will a have any special power to approve the chairman of the Board, as it has for Air New Zealand.” Source

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With regards to Paragraph 1, above, it is interesting that the Treasury report refers to “retail investors (individuals, sometimes referred to as “mums and dads”)“. In effect, it is a ‘slip’ on Treasury’s part, acknowledging the reality that “mum and dad investors” is simply propaganda “code” (newspeak) for common, garden-variety, investors.

There is nothing “mum and dad-ish” about corporate share-brokers working on behalf of investment companies.

Government uses the term “mum and dad investors” to hide the reality that shares in part-privatised SOEs will be purchased by individuals in dapper suits and silk ties, operating  out of very nice offices, on behalf of Very Big Corporate Clients.

Government myth: busted.

Paragraph 2, above, is even more insidious and refers to, “Once a minority shareholding in each company is sold, the government proposes that the company will be governed in the same way as other listed companies and that they will be subject to the Companies Act 1993 and other relevant legislation…” and furthermoremore, “The crown will not reserve any special rights  to itself…”.

In effect, once partially-privatised, the Government intends that none of  the entire State Owned Enterprise will  be governed by the State Owned Enterprises Act 1986. (Not just the privatised 49% part.)

Specifically, Section 4 of the Act,

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 Principal objective to be successful business
  • (1) The principal objective of every State enterprise shall be to operate as a successful business and, to this end, to be—

    • (a) as profitable and efficient as comparable businesses that are not owned by the Crown; and

    • (b) a good employer; and

    • (c) an organisation that exhibits a sense of social responsibility by having regard to the interests of the community in which it operates and by endeavouring to accommodate or encourage these when able to do so.

    (2) For the purposes of this section, a good employer is an employer who operates a personnel policy containing provisions generally accepted as necessary for the fair and proper treatment of employees in all aspects of their employment, including provisions requiring—

    • (a) good and safe working conditions; and

    • (b) an equal opportunities employment programme; and

    • (c) the impartial selection of suitably qualified persons for appointment; and

    • (d) opportunities for the enhancement of the abilities of individual employees.

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And most specifically, this part of  it’s Principal Objectives,

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“…an organisation that exhibits a sense of social responsibility by having regard to the interests of the community in which it operates and by endeavouring to accommodate or encourage these when able to do so.”

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Any committment to promoting clean, sustainable energy; considering the needs of the community in it’s activities; and other social responsibilities will all vanish if  the SOEs concerned are “ governed in the same way as other listed companies and that they will be subject to the Companies Act 1993 and other relevant legislation… [and] …the crown will not reserve any special rights  to itself…”

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In the case of Genesis Energy, Mighty River Power, and Meridian Energy – their sole objective will be to make greater profits for government and private share-holders.

Those profits will be generated by raising power prices.

Guess who pays those higher power prices? (Clue: look in the mirror.)

Right about now, any person reading this who voted for National last year must be entertaining serious regrets at ticking “National” for the Party Vote. Those folk who voted for National – and conversely, those who failed to go out and vote for an alternative Party opposed to asset sales – must be wondering if they will end up paying for their voting choices.

Of course they will  pay for voting National.

Every month. When their power bill comes in.

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Additional

NZ Herald: Asset sale draft plan internet blunder

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New Year’s Wish List for 2012…

29 December 2011 9 comments

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My New Year’s wish list for 2012. Nothing too extravagant – just a few things that, in my ‘umble opinion, would make New Zealand the egalitarian social democracy we once had – before someone thought that pursuing the Almighty Dollar was more important than building communites.

In no particular order,

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  Stop the asset sales process. This government has no mandate to privatise any of our SOEs. There is also no rationale for any privatisation, as dividends  exceed the cost of borrowing by the State.

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  Halt the Charter Schools programme. There is little evidence that Chart Schools achieve better results  than  non-Charter Schools, and at least one major research project on this issue indicates that Charter Schools are a waste of time.

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  Introduce “civics” into our classroom curriculum. I’ve never considered this a necessity – up until now – but our recent low voter turnout – coupled with peoples’ apalling knowledge of how how political system works – is disturbingly. A modern democracy can only flourish if the public participate; contribute; and take ownership of the system.  Apathy breeds cynicism, frustration, and ultimately disengagement, disempowerment, and a violent response.

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  Implement programmes to assist those in poverty – especially families with children. Meals in schools (breakfasts and/or lunch) would be a great start. Build more state housing. Support programmes that help get young people  into training, upskilling, and  other constructive activities.

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  Stop bene-bashing and tinkering with the welfare system. Our high unemployment is a symptom of the current economic recession – not the cause of it. Instead, government must focus on job creation policies; training and upskilling of unemployed; and spending on infrastructure that maximises new jobs – not reduces them.

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  It’s time to wind back our liberalisation of liquor laws in this country. That particular experiment has been a colossal failure. Split the drinking age to 18/20; ban ALL alcohol advertising; put in place minimum pricing; reduce hours of retailers and bars; give communities greater voice and control of liquor outlets; make public drunkeness an offence; and implement the other recommendations of the Law Commission’s report, ‘Alcohol In Our Lives: Curbing the Harm‘.

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  Increase funding for Pharmac so that sufferers of rare diseases, such as Pompe’s,  can have hope for their future, instead of mortgaging it merely to postpone death for another day. We can do this – we must do this.

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  Release and make public all relevant information regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). Making such deals in secret is hardly the transparency-in-government that John Key says he supports.

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  Maintain and keep funding TVNZ7. The planned closure of this station – and replacement with a shopping channel – would be a blow to decent public television in this country. We can, and must do better, than simply a channel devoted to more mindless consumerism.

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  Cease from further cuts to the civil service. Sacking loyal, conscientious, workers is not the “capping” – it is adding to the unemployment dole queues. It is gutting the system that makes a modern society function and we are losing decades of collective skills and experience for no discernible purpose. We went through this in the late ’80s; early ’90s; and late ’90s – and our services suffered as a result.

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Raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Stat!

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  The Ministerial committee on poverty is set to end homelessness by 2020. This is simply not good enough!!! Bill English was interviewed on Radio NZ  on 16 December, and his responses to Kathryn Ryan’s questions were not reassuring. This excerpt from the interview was most telling,

RYAN: “It’s to report every six months, the committee. What measures will it use?”

ENGLISH: “Well, look, we won’t  spend a lot of time arguing over measures, there’s any number  of measures out there ranging from gini co-efficients  to kind of upper quartile [and] lower quartile incomes. Lot of of that is already reported in the MSD social report that it puts out each year…”Bill English and the new ministerial committee on poverty

If the Committee doesn’t monitor itself, how will it be able to measure it’s success (or fail) rate?

Poverty and unemployment have to be the top priorities of this government. Nothing else is as important.

Like the way in which the Jobs Summit, in early 2009,  sank beneath the waves,  I do not hold out for much success though.

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  Less spent on roads – more on rail and other public transport. Our continuing reliance on imported fossil fuels will not help our economy or environment one iota.

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  No mining on the Denniston Plateau (or any other Conservation lands). This ecologically-sensitive wilderness area needs to be preserved for future generations.  If we want to make money our of our environment – tourism is the way to go, contributing to approximately 10% of this country’s GDP.  John Key. Minister of   Tourism (NZ – not Hawaii), take note.

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  No deep-sea oil drilling. The stranding of the ‘Rena’ and subsequent loss of  of 350 tonnes (out of around 1,700 tonnes) of oil into the sea is the clearest lesson we’ve been taught that NZ is simply not prepared to cope with a massive deep-sea oil spill. An event such as the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, last year in April, by comparison lost 780,000 cubic metres of oil. An event of that magnitude would be catastrophic to our countrry.

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  Free healthcare for all young people up to 18.  And children to have first priority when it comes to our resources and funding. The future of our nation depends on healthy, well-educated, balanced children growing up as productive members of our society. Who knows – if we look after our children properly, they might feel more connected to our country and more motivated to live here instead of leaving for Australia. If we want our children to have committment to New Zealand – we need to be committed to them.

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Those are a few of my New Year’s wish list.  There are probably others that I may add at a later date – but they’ll do for now.

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The Story of Asset Sales – In Very, Very Simple Terms.

16 December 2011 Comments off

National’s plan’s to sell of our state assets – starting with Mighty River Power – doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it’s very simple to explain…

Once upon a time…

… our Dear Leader was being driven through his Kingdom of New Sheepland. He decided to stop and address his loyal serfs  subjects,

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He had a very busy day, but he still found time to do lotsa nice prime ministrary stuff with us. What a luvly Dear Leader he is. He is so kind, he  even gave his empty coffee cup to a nearby serf  subject, to take home for the little subject-children to play with. What a jolly nice Dear Leader he is,

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Once inside the vast ‘Moonbeam’ auditorium, named after Dear Leader’s favourite pet, he  was welcomed by his adoring serfs  subjects, with rapturous applause,

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"Huzzah! Huzzah!"

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Dear Leader greeted them all,  with a gentle smile and wave,

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Dear Leader then told the excited throng that he had an announcement to make,

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"I have an announcement to make!"

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The good, simple serfs folk of New Sheepland waited in anticipation. After so many decades, was the much-promised wealth about to trickle down upon them?

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Dear Leader then said,

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"My loyal serfs, er, I mean subjects! I have decided that the power generators that you have all slaved, er, worked so hard to build, can now be yours!"

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The loyal serfs  subjects erupted with rapturous applause! The wealth they had worked all their lives to build, would now belong to them. Everyone was happy,

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"Hooray!"

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Dear Leader then cheerily added,

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"Yes, for only a week's wages, you'll be able to buy your very own SHARES in Mighty River Power! How cool is that, my Loyal Subjects!"

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The serfs Loyal Subjects paused, stunned, and one brave mud-caked fellow timidly asked,

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"Wha-?!?! But, Dear Leader - "Mighty River Power belongs to us, already! We built it!"

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Dear Leader dismissed the serf’s  loyal subjects concerns with deep, heartfelt, empathy,

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"Shhhh! Now, now, muddy little man! This will be your chance to own it. Otherwise, the Big Bad Ogres from a far away land will come and take it away for themselves!"

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Another serf Loyal Subject spoke up,

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"What 'ogres'?"

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Dear Leader replied (just ever so little crossly, because he had other places to visit and other  muddy serfs  Adoring Loyal Subjects to talk down to) ,

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"The Big Bad Ogres from far away! That's all you need to know! So if you don't buy Mighty River Power, they will!"

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The muddy serf Loyal Subject pressed the point with Dear Leader,

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"Oh really? Well here's an idea, Flash Harry! Don't sell the bloody thing! We already own it!"

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Dear Leader was not amused,

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{"Christ-on-a-stick, why do I bother...?"}

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Another even-more-muddy serf Loyal Subject spoke up,

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"Well, why sell it at all? What'll you do with the money?"

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Dear Leader beamed and replied authoritively to the mud-caked serf Loyal Subject,

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"Tax cuts, my little muddy Subject! Tax cuts!"

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To which, all of Dear Leader’s Loyal Serfs Subjects gave a resounding cheer,

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"Huzzah! Huzzah!!"

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But the Muddy Little Serf Peasant woman Loyal Subject seemed suspicious,

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"What tax cuts? How much do we get?"

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Dear Leader smiled benignly, making a mental note to place this woman on the International Terrorist WatchList. She was just too damn lippy.  He said in a very patient, almost (creepy) uncle-sort of way,

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"Everyone will get a tax cut, Good Lady! Whether you're a serf, er, worker or a Lord! Everyone!

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The Muddied and Quite Smelly Serf Peasant Lady Loyal Subject raised an eye-brow in a very Spock-like fashion, and asked,

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"Oh yeah?! And how much do the Lords get, then, eh?"

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Dear Leader replied, sternly, and hoping that one of his Diplomatic Protection Squad would “accidentally ” taser this woman,

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"The Lords and Ladies of the Manors of the land will recieve 100 bars of gold, and a bushel of emeralds, rubies, diamonds, and sapphires. Also, several million in US dollars, deposited into their Swiss Bank accounts. Anything else, peasant woman?"

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The Peasant Woman’s boyfriend,  Barry, looked up and asked,

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"Yeah? What do we get?"

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Dear Leader replied,

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"If you behave, you'll get a balloon."

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The peasant woman (her name was Susan), demanded,

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"A balloon?! How is that fair???"

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Dear Leader smiled; his special, somewhat menacing shark-smile, and replied slowly,

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"It's not. But you voted for me. Any other questions, Loyal Subject?"

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Clutching at a sod of earth,  Susan said,

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"Yeah. I have one."

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"What is it?"

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"Can I have a yellow balloon?"

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Moral: If you voted National – what did you expect? Just be happy with the balloon you got.

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Additional

Gordon Campbell: Ten Myths About Asset Sales

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Dunne’s Dumb Deal?

5 December 2011 3 comments

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Full Story

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What Mr Dunne gets:

- No sale of KiwiBank or Radio New Zealand.
- Statutory limits will be introduced on the sale of public asset to no more than 49 per cent of shareholding to private interests and limits would be put on the extent of single entity ownership.
- A ban on guided helicopter hunting on conservation land will be introduced to Parliament.
- The budgets of both Radio New Zealand and Television New Zealand will be maintained.
- The Families Commission will be revamped.
- There will be public consultation on Mr Dunne’s Flexi-Super policy.
- Guaranteed access to rivers, lakes, forests and coastline.
- An agreement to reintroduce Mr Dunne’s income sharing legislation which failed to win enough support in the last Parliament.
- Free health-checks for over 65-year-olds would also be investigated.

Whoa…! Back up that coalition-pony, sonny boy!

No sale of KiwiBank or Radio New Zealand?!?!

Since when did National advocate or campaign on the privatisation of Kiwibank or Radio New Zealand?

In fact, John Key made it a campaign promise that Kiwibank was not up for sale, and that the only state assets on the block were Genesis Power, Meridian, Might River Power, Solid Energy, and Air New Zealand. No mention whatsoever of Radio NZ or Kiwibank.

What’s going on here?

Either Peter Dunne is telling fibs and creating a false “victory” – or else National had a secret agenda of further asset asales!?

Someone is misleading the public.

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+++ Updates +++

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Full Story

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The above article starts out positive and seemingly Dunne has succeeded in saving TVNZ7 from disappearing and being replaced by a shopping channel…

Until one reads this in the same piece,

I would have preferred to have got a much more explicit agreement regarding the future of TVNZ 7 but the National Party wouldn’t go there.”

And Dunne  then adds,

TVNZ keeps saying it needs to run as a commercial body, and it obviously makes its own decisions, but I think it needs to recognise there is a significant chunk of the population that prefers the approach TVNZ 7 takes and would be very disappointed if that channel was to close.

So he really hasn’t “saved TVNZ7″ at all. In fact, Dunne admitted as much this morning (Dec 6) on Radio NZ, when he said on “Morning Report“,

” …I wanted to get an absolute committment  to the retention of TVNZ7. We weren’t able to get that. The government wasn’t prepared to make that, uh, concession…”

Ok, so let’s sum this up,

  • Dunne get’s a promise from National that neither Kiwibank nor Radio NZ will be sold.
  • But National never suggested selling Kiwibank or Radio NZ in the first place.
  • So what kind of “victory” is it to get a committment on something that the Nats weren’t intending to do anyway?
  • Dunne then negotiates to get an absolute committment to save TVNZ7.
  • And fails.

Have I missed anything?

Moving right along…

“Free health-checks for over 65-year-olds” – ???

Great. More rip-offs from my generation, the Baby Boomers. Everyone else has to pay for health checks – but all of a sudden we get freebies?

Yet again Baby Boomers – being a sizeable bloc of voters – gain tax-payer funded social services whilst everyone else has user-pays.

No doubt these “free health checks” will be funded from that sale of state assets. Once again Baby Boomers are ripping off future generations for our own selfish benefit.

The word obscene comes to mind.

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***

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Email  Peter Dunne to let him know what you think about asset sales:

p.dunne@ministers.govt.nz

ohariu.mp@parliament.govt.nz

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Post mortem #3: The Maori Party

28 November 2011 26 comments

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This is when politicians really break out in sweat,

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“The Maori Party leadership has met in Auckland today but is yet to decide on a future relationship with National.

Co-leader Tariana Turia said the party would discuss the issue with supporters after meeting with Prime Minister John Key tomorrow.

A reduced Maori Party caucus gathered in Auckland this morning to discuss possible coalition deals.

The party suffered a serious dent in its support last night. It lost Rahui Katene’s Te Tai Tonga seat and saw reduced margins in its remaining three electorates.

Co-leader Pita Sharples was visibly deflated last night and admitted to being disappointed with his own result and that of the whole party.

He said the party’s poor performance showed supporters did not like the party siding with National over the past three years.”

Full Story

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Co-leader Pita Sharples  said “the party’s poor performance showed supporters did not like the party siding with National over the past three years“.

Well now, that’s an understatement if I ever heard one.

It may seem like a Big Ask, but maori appear to want contradictory things for the Maori Party; independent representation with their own  political movement – and a voice in government. But not in coalition  – Maori Party voters seem overtly hostile to coalescing with National.

Anything else? Would you like fries with that?!

I don’t envy Pita Sharples or Tariana Turia one jot. They have conflicting messages from their constituents, and have already been punished with the loss of one of their number, and reduced votes. This is critical support that no small Party can afford. The next step would be a one-man band Party (a-la Peter Dunne, John Banks, and Jim Anderton) followed by political extinction.

On top of expectations from their constituents is a new thorn in their sides; state asset sales. The proposed sales are deeply unpopular with the majority of  the public (or so they tell the pollsters) and no less so with maori.

Sharples has consistently stated that the Maori Party are opposed to asset sales – though with the caveat that if the sales do proceed, they want Iwi Inc. to have first options to buy.

National, of course, would never have a bar of such a proposal.

On top of all this is the  convention of providing Confidence and Supply to the government.

Budgets are presented to the House for voting by all MPs. If the Budget passes, then government is assured of Supply – at least until the next Budget.  In all likelihood, National will make asset sales a central pillar  of their first Budget.

If the Budget is voted down – the government falls. If the Opposition cannot form a new government, then a snap  election is called.

Is essence, if Sharples goes ahead with his promise to oppose asset sales, he is effectively voting down the government’s Budget.

With National’s majority only a slim margin, the Maori Party would be playing a risky game of high-stakes, political poker. Excluding Maori Party support, National will have only a one seat majority in the House once the Speaker’s role is taken into account,

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With Labour a couple of seats short of being able to form a Labour-Greens-NZF-Mana-Maori Party Coalition – a fresh election is inevitable.

At best, the Maori Party could only abstain from voting for Supply for the government. That would mean National relying on Peter Dunne and John Banks to make up the numbers. Just barely.

Not exactly voting for asset sales – and not exactly opposing it, either. And all the while having to satisfy their constituents – or face an even greater voter back-lash in 2014.

At this stage, joining Winston Peters on the cross-benches; voting on legislation issue-by-issue; and hoping that Tariana Turia’s “pet-project” Whanau Ora is not canned – seems their likely option.

This may work. Until the first by-election happens – and last year there were four such by-elections.

To coalesce or not to coalesce – that is the question. Classic damned if you do, damned if you don’t, for a small party in Parliament.

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Election Eleven – Saturday

26 November 2011 12 comments

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Election Eleven – Saturday

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National has won the election, and, seemingly increased it’s Party vote from 44% to 48%.

Despite running a policy-based campaign based on important issues, Labour has suffered a major setback.

The Greens, meanwhile, have done stunningly well.

And Winston Peters was the sole beneficiary of the  “cuppa tea” meeting in Epsom.

Some initial observations…

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ACT

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The “cuppa tea” meeting between the Two Johns has proven to be a futile exercise. The sole gain for ACT was to return John Banks (a former National MP) to Parliament – but with no extra MPs “riding on his coat-tails”.

In effect, there was no profit for National to support ACT. National might as well not bothered and simply supported Paul Goldsmith.

ACT’s continuing existence is now at the pleasure of Dear Leader, John Key.

By 2014, ACT will most likely disappear.

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Green Party Voters – Ohariu

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Green Party members in the Ohariu electorate – you people need to learn to count and to understand the concept of tactical voting.

By giving your electorate vote to the local Green candidate, Gareth Hughes, instead of Charles Chauvel, you have allowed Peter Dunne to return to Parliament and give National an extra coalition partner.

National wishes to thank you for your assistance in returning a centre-right government to power.

Similar results have occurred in other electorates, where Green supporters voted for their Electorate candidate,  instead of voting strategically, with a Labour/Green split.

For example; Waitakere:

Paula Bennett (N): 12,310

Carmel Sepulone (L): 11,961

Steve Tollestrup (G):  1,582

1,582 wasted electorate votes for the Green candidate could have helped the Labour cadidate defeat Paula Bennett. Instead, Carmel Sepulone – a very talented Labour candidate – has lost her seat in Parliament.

Similar instances abound in other electorates.

*facepalm*

Next time, Green Voters,  ease up on the wacky-bakky before you vote.

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Asset Sales

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By voting National, New Zealanders have given National the mandate to sell state assets. That’s our assets. Or rather, they used to be our assets. Pretty shortly, they will belong to Americans, Germans, Chinese, Australians.

Congratulations, fellow New Zealanders, you’ve succeeded in giving away our best performing; most profitable publicly-owned; assets.

After our electricity companies are sold off,  wait till you get you next power bills. When power prices begin to rise, as overseas owners demand higher and higher returns on their investments, you will be reminded that we did this to ourselves. No one forced us to sell.

Aren’t we a clever bunch?

Not.

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Maori Party

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Pita Sharples has stated that the Maori Party will oppose asset sales as National’s coalition partner.

Oh dear lord…

Sharples needs to look at the rules of Supply & Confidence. Specifically, if National makes asset sales a part of their budget; and the Maori Party votes down that budget; they will have denied the National-led government Supply, which in turn will force a snap election.

Does the Maori Party want to force a snap election and suffer the wrath of the voting public?

Do they want to risk electoral annihilation at the hands of annoyed voters? I doubt it.

Checkmate.

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Horizon Polling

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The biggest loser of the night, few will take Horizon Polling seriously after tonight’s election results.

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MMP

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The BIG winner of the night; New Zealanders have voted to retain MMP. This was due in part to “Vote for Change” mounting the most pathetic, incompetant, and and mostly invisible campaign in this country’s history.

And Jordan Williams had the cheek to blame the media for “not having a debate” on the issue?

Jordan Williams needs to take responsibility for his Claytons-campaign. Blaming the media  may work for Winston Peters – but coming from others, it is not a good look.

MMP won because,

  • It is relatively  simple to understand,
  • The alternatives were unfair; unworkable; or hellishly  complex to understand,
  • New Zealanders simply didn’t feel inclined to change.

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Labour

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Was this a defeat for Labour?

No. I see it as a postponement of a victory.

In the next three years, as National’s policies really start to bite low and middle income earners, and those at the top increase their wealth, Labour’s time will come in 2014 (if not earlier – see Maori Party above).

I am picking a snap election in a years’ time, or mid-term.

And this time, National will lose.

As for Phil Goff – I hope he doesn’t step down. I think he’s actually grown in stature over the last few weeks. He won two of the three Leader’s Debates handsomely, and is able to pin down John Key on issues.

With the media/Key honeymoon well and truly over, Goff now has a chance to show up National’s weaknesses to the public.

The campaign for the next election starts on Monday.

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Additional

Post mortem #1: Green Voters in Electorates

Post mortem #2: Phil Goff

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Election Eleven – Thursday

24 November 2011 2 comments

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Election Eleven – Thursday

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It appears that stress is starting to show on National’s campaign team,

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Hasling the bus driver is not a good look. Nor is it particularly sensible when he has to focus on driving that big blue tank along some of our more… challenging” roads…

Word of caution, guys. Don’t upset John (the busdriver).   Not unless the next votes you’ll be canvassing will be at the Pearly Gates.

Mind you, could it be that Dear Leader’s mega-star status is waning?

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If John Key thinks that reception was “frosty” – he ain’t seen nothing yet.  Another three years of his smile & wave vacant optimism is going to wear very thin – especially as wages continue to lag; unemployment stays high; and the economy continues to stagnate.

On top of that will be the open, festering ‘sore’ that is Christchurch. The slow re-build and insurance companies abandoning that city (and possibly the rest of the country?) will really piss people of.

An election victory for Mr Key may be a glittering  chalice containing a toxic brew.

Cheers, Mr Prime Minister!

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So much for customer loyalty; good corporate citizenship; and the “free market” providing a service,

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And so much for John Key’s blind faith in insurance companies doing the “right thing”,

One thing I do know is that as things settle down – and they will settle down in Christchurch – eventually what’s going to happen is a lot of insurers are going to look at that market and say, ‘wow, there’s quite a lot of premium in there,’ and you will see insurers coming back more rapidly than you think.”  Source

And is John Key still concerned? As he said in September,

“”This is something the government is monitoring. Obviously, if insurance companies aren’t doing their job properly that is a concern to us.“”  Source

If ever there was a case for the New Zealand government top have retained State Insurance in state-ownership – we are seeing it now.

Corporations are fair-weather “friends”. They will supply us with services and products as long as it suits  them. When it no longer suits their bottom line, they will depart our shores, along with the hundreds of millions of dollars in profits that they have extracted from us.

And National wants more of the same?

I think it is high time we re-asserted our sovereignty and revisited the state’s role in matters such as  insurance.  We  simply cannot rely on the beneficence of the free market. (Did we ever?)

Something to consider on Saturday, when your marker-pen is hovering over which Party box to tick.

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At the TV3 Leader’s Debate last night, John Key asserted that he’ll be voting for SM (supplementary member) in the upcoming referendum because he preferred proportionality in our electoral systems.

Key repeaterd this in the latest “Upper Hutt Leader”, where he said,

I’m going to vote “no” to MMP and “yes” for Supplementary Member.

“My view is that, on balance, I would prefer a proportional system to first past the post.”  Source

John Key is either uninformed about Supplementary Member – or is being deliberately disingenuous.

Supplentary Member is not proportional. It is not even close to be proportional.

SM is actually a form of First Past the Post where ninety out of 120 Parliamentary seats are contested on a FPP basis. It offers the prospect of a return to unbridled power by the two main Parties, with minimal (if any) representation by smaller Parties.

If the Prime Minister doesn’t know this – that is concerning.

If he is aware of this, and still claims that SM is “proportional” – then he is deliberately mis-leading voters.

John Key has done this sort of thing before. He is increasingly revealing himself to the public as being loose with the truth

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Whether one accepts that the convo between the Two Johns was private or public (and this blog leans toward the preposterous assertion that one can hold a “private conversation” with 30+ journos about a metre away), the Prime Minister’s complaint and subsequent raids on media companies is nothing less than a complete waste of police time,

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It is also a chilling example of how a politician in high office can mis-use the power of the State to “make a point” and to intimidate opposition.

There have been previous examples of this government pressuring, ridiculing, and intimidating  those with dissenting views.

Is this the road New Zealanders want to go down on?

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Ahhhh, as we suspected,

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John Key is “warning the election could be closer than voters think“?  Pundits and bloggers have been voicing suspicion for the past month that National’s internal polling was showing results that were far closer than main stream polling has been giving us.

John Key has finally confirmed this.

If people want a centre-left, Labour-led coalition government – they need just go out and vote for it.

Yup. It doesn’t get simpler than that.

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Election Eleven – Wednesday

23 November 2011 4 comments

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Election Eleven – Wednesday

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Another stirling free-market “success” story,

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So another 28 workers lose their jobs; go on the unemployment benefit; and get labelled as “dole bludgers” by right wing imbeciles.

This is New Zealand in 2011AD:  Neo-liberal Nirvana.

Tell me, my fellow New Zealanders – you who pride yourself as being fair-minded and always willing to give others a fair go – does the closure of this yarn factory and job losses strike a chord with you? There are hundreds – thousands – of similar businesses like Qualityarns that’ve gone bust since Roger Douglas put his hand up in Parliament and said, “Ive got a great idea!”.

Isn’t it ironic… 28 men and women had a job yesterday. Tomorrow they will be on the dole and suffering bene-bashing.

Along with 154,000 other men and women.

Is this it?

Is this what we have to look forward to? Unemployment for some; low wages for others; mass-migration to Australia; and cheap goods from China, India, etc?

Hullo? Is anyone awake in this country?!?!

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~ ~ ~

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This is frankly a form of economic vandalism. What are we mounting here? An economic development strategy for China?” – David Cull, Mayor of Dunedin

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The latest in John Key’s hard-sell* of our assets,

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Listen to John Key speaking to reporters on asset sale plans

Listen to full interview

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Now let me get this straight…

Key reckons that “National would legislate to create a cap on the shares held in any state assets”?  He adds that,

National would pass a law stating that no individual or company could own more than a 10% share. There’s historical precedent there – Telecom had a cap – it’s just a matter of passing legislation. We’d pass it.” Source

Really?

A couple of points here.

National’s definition of the word “cap” appears to be somewhat different to that expressed in, oh, say, just about every English dictionary in the Known Universe. This government has “capped” the civil service by actively cutting government workers, and making them redundant.

So does the word “cap” mean the same for National as it does for ordinary citizens? Recent events suggest not.

Secondly. I’m not a financial whizz-kid in John Key’s league. I’ve never speculated on a zillion dollars; made a bajillion dollars profit; and banked a squillion dollars commision. My work is somewhat more mundane.

However. Even I know that passing a law to “cap” (definition?) share-ownership at 10% can be easily rorted. I can spot an immediate loophole:

  1. Company A sets up five shelf companies; A1, A2, A3, A4, and A5.
  2. Each Shelf company buys 9%.
  3. Result; parent company A now owns 45%.
  4. And John Key smiles and points to his “success” at preventing any one company from gobbling up the whole lot.
  5. And by registering each shelf company in special company/tax havens, such as Ian Wishart described in “The Paradise Conspiracy” – we’ll never know that Company A has bought up the lion’s share of available shares.
  6. Easy peasy.

I suspect John Key – being somewhat more knowlegeable in such arcane matters – is already aware of such a possibilty.

But I guess he doesn’t want to spoil the nice fairy tale he’s been spinning us…

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(* Hard-sell – as in selling to us what we already own)

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Perhaps the most sober, insightful, and plain-speaking look at where we have arrived as a society, after 27 years of radical, free market, “reforms” and the rise of the “Me” Generation,

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Full Story & On-demand Replay

Facebook: Inside Child Poverty New Zealand

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Every politician; aspiring political candidate; community leader; businessperson; and follower of the “free” market should be made to sit and watch this film. This is how we have made New Zealand.

This is a portrait of a society that has lost it’s soul, in pursuit of money and the illusion of “free choice”.

Watch… and maybe learn.

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Well, well, well… I wonder what other bad news Dear Leader is keeping from us,

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When Goff sprung that on Key, he looked decidedly uncomfortable.

Which is silly, really. Trying to keep political secrets in this country is like trying to carry water in a butterfly net. The question is not if a secret will be made public – but will it make it in time for the 6PM News on TV1 or TV3.

I suspect there will be a few more unpleasant surprises in store for us next year, if National wins the election. Their last three years have indicated to us that, as usual, right wing governments and secret agendas go hand-in-hand.

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Firstly, since when is cutting the same as capping?! National has been actively cutting government jobs – whilst at the same time hiring some very expensive “advisors”. These jobs are men and women who have given many loyal years of service to the country. They are the ones who do the work in the back-room offices, to ensure that phones are answered when we have a query about tax or traffic lights are out, and that essential  services are carried out.

Loading front-line services with more paperwork and other administrative duties seems counter-productive. And people are beginning to resent it, and resist these cost-cutting follies.

So much for our esteemed leader, John Key,  assuring New Zealanders that “there’s no way one in five New Zealanders will lose their jobs“.

Making people unemployed is not helping our economy.

For National to be persisting with this false economy of job cuts is not just hurting the economy and hurting ordinary New Zealanders – it signifies a depressing lack of imagination from the National Party,

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This is National’s “action plan”, if re-elected,

National’s action plan includes:

- Have the budget deficit next year, and be back in surplus in 2014/2015
- Establish the Crown Water Investment Company to invest up to $400 million from the Future Investment Fund in irrigation and water storage to make farm land more productive
- Amend the Resource Management Act to have six-month time limits on consenting medium-sized projects
- Immediately implement the new lower public service staffing cap
- Slow the phasing-in of the Emissions Trading Scheme and allow off-setting for pre-1990 forest owners
- Amend the Social Security Act to comprehensively reform benefits
- Introduce changes to sanctions for beneficiaries whose recreational use of drugs affects their ability to apply for and secure a job
- Change bail laws to make it harder for those accused of the most serious offences to get bail
- Introduce screening of parole applications to allow the Parole Board to reduce the number of unnecessary parole hearings
- Pass the Search and Surveillance Bill
- Make secondary school performance information available to parents
- Immediately begin work to develop more effective teacher and principal appraisal
- Increase the number of elective operations by at last 4000 a year
- Work with district health boards to ensure patients needing a specialist appointment are seen within no more than four months by 2014
- Begin work with local primary care networks to provide free after-hours GP visits to children under six
- Start building 17,000 seat temporary stadium at Addington
- Receive and assess the CBD recovery plan

Source

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No mention of jobs.

But plenty of threats of State  punitive actions,

- Immediately implement the new lower public service staffing cap
- Amend the Social Security Act to comprehensively reform benefits
- Introduce changes to sanctions for beneficiaries whose recreational use of drugs affects their ability to apply for and secure a job
- Change bail laws to make it harder for those accused of the most serious offences to get bail
- Introduce screening of parole applications to allow the Parole Board to reduce the number of unnecessary parole hearings
- Pass the Search and Surveillance Bill

The National Party shows a strong inclination toward  “Daddy Statism”. Lots of punishments. Increases in state police powers (they’ll need them).  And blaming those of welfare for the lack of job-growth in this country.

There is nothing positive in any of this.

And this is what New Zealanders are supporting as a possible government?

Perhaps, collectively, we feel we don’t deserve any better.

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2008

That was then…

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2011

This is now…

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I have the strongest impression that New Zealanders are not just leaving because of higher wages in Australia. There has  be more to it than that.

Could it be that those leaving are seeking a better quality of life? Could it be that the free market reforms have created a “Me Society” where New Zealanders feel disconnected from our own country?

Bryan Bruce’s sobering and thoughtful documentary “Inside NZ: Inside Child Poverty” suggests to me that twentyseven years of free market, user-pays, growing gaps between wealthy and Middle Classes and Poor, and growing underclass has created a sense of alienation and frustration.

The irony is that John Key saying that – “I believe we’ve made some progress in so much that we have been closing that after-tax wage gap, we are building an economy that is now growing at a faster rate than Australia but it will take us some time to turn that around” -  is not just unhelpful, but totally ignoring the root-cause of what has fractured our society.

Here’s a clue: Money buys goods and serevices. It does not buy a sense of community.

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Quote of the week.

M@TT   #29   2:12pm

John Key, get your stinking paws off Our SOE’s, you damned dirty ape

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- Dominion Post Comments

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Election Eleven – Tuesday

22 November 2011 2 comments

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Election Eleven – Tuesday

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Now this is just downright creepy:  right wing blogger, David Farrar, is now investigating private individuals who have appeared  as part of TV3′s audience for their Leader’s Debate last night? A screenshot from his Blog,

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I have blanked out the names that Farrar has published and I have not linked back to his article. I have no wish to aid his witch hunt against three individuals.

But I think it is the height of hypocrisy that Farrar and his right-wing colleagues criticised Labour non-stop for “Nanny State” policy – and now he is identifying private individuals for their (supposed) political activities.

Is this to be the new standard set by right wing blogs?

It now appears that if  a New Zealand citizen is even remotely politically active, that they may be subjected to what is essentially an online, public,  “name & shame” campaign. This can only be viewed as a none-too-subtle form of intimidation. Another term is cyber-bullying.

Does this have any place in New Zealand society? Is this the direction of future politics in this country? And what will it do to getting people more involved in politics?

This isn’t “Nanny Statism”. Nope, not at all.

It’s Big Brother – and Big Brother (aka David Farrer, et al) is Watching You!

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I’ll say it now: there is no place in politics – or any other part of our society – for behaviour like this,

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Whilst I disagree with Ms Barry’s politics – she has a democratic right to go about her business without being abused like this.  I sincerely hope that anyone knowing who this man is, take him aside, and tell him that such behaviour is utterly repugnant and unacceptable.

Ms Barry is an intelligent, articulate woman who has achieved much in her life. Disagree with her if you will – but respect her for her accomplisments; her willingness to participate in the democratic process; and for simply being a human being.

Politics is a contest of ideas – not a spitting game that juveniles might indulge in.

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Taken by an observant reader, and sent to me ten minutes ago,

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Hmmmm, I’m guessing that for the Nats to state that “Your vote is crucial this sat”, that they are starting to panic? Something has definitely spooked the back-room National strategy boys…

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… and yet more fear  mongering from John Key,  about Winston Peters? I now believe that National’s internal polling is showing that they are bleeding voter support and that they are probably somewhere around 46-48% – if not lower.

Otherwise, why would Key be wasting his time with the leader of a near-non-existent party that isn’t even represented in Parliament?!

National is right to be worried.

There are National supporters who view John Key’s scheme to sell state assets with considerable unease – if not downright hostility. Such voters are loathe to vote for a left-wing alternative such as Labour or Greens. But NZ First is a “soft Tory” alternative.

Expect Peters to return.

Expect a new Labour led coalition.

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Oh dear. It seems that National is making election promises regarding matters that are already law,

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Someone in the National camp really should check their facts. Promising to implement policy that has been a law for well over a decade seems pointless. Mind you, it is rather a cheap way to make election promises.

They won’t cost anything.

They’ve already been implemented,

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Fraud Investigations

Fraud Investigation teams nationwide work to preserve the integrity of the income support system by preventing and detecting benefit fraud.

Fraud Investigation teams work closely with the National Data Match Centre. The Centre shares data with other government agencies including:

  • Customs
  • Inland Revenue
  • Corrections
  • Housing New Zealand
  • Accident Compensation Corporation
  • Internal Affairs.

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And being already implemented – National can take credit for it!

What a cunning plan!

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Whoopsie! Isn’t it a bugger when a photo-op comes back to bite you?

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Key explains,

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.” Source

Ummm, John… She’s sixteen. She’s hardly likely to be going on her OE, and probably leaving  with her family. Probably long-term migration.

She and her family are joining 84,400 who have also left New Zealand in the last year.

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The Great New Zealand Scam

19 November 2011 1 comment

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Never mind Nigerian scammers – we have something much closer to home, and is the biggest rort ever. What do retirement policies and asset sales have in common? Plenty!

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Full Story

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One commentator to the story above posted this message on Stuff’s messageboard,

____________________________________________________________________
cm   #47   11:48 pm Nov 18 2011

All this shows is who votes, and in numbers.

the boomers stand to loose the most from a retirement age increase. The boomers stand to gain the most from asset sales.

come on gen y, x, z what ever the demographs call you. get out and vote before the baby boomers (your own parents/grandparents) sell you and your future out. its pretty damn simple, if you over 20 you arnt a child anymore, your an adult. so act like you give a damn about your futures and stop believing the bullshit that your parents will look after you, put that on a tui bill board.

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CM has pretty well identified how Baby Boomers are going to “internalise a complicated situation” by voting National even though, on the surface, they have an alleged dislike of asset sales.

It is a perfect analysis of what is about to happen on 26 November: the Baby Boomer generation is about to ‘steal’ property from the next generation, for their own gain.

Instead of our generation paying it’s way through taxation, we’ve voted tax cuts for ourselves (2009, 2010) and big borrowings from overseas to sustain those tax cuts, and maintain social services. Then, to start paying it back, instead of doing it through taxation, we’ll sell off state assets. End result; we get the benefits, and Gen X, Y, etc, are left with $13 billion in student debt and not much more to show for it.

By the way, John Key and many others in his position had the benefit of a free tertiary education – fully tax-payer funded. With a student allowance on top, to make it all as easy as possible.

Then, through two tax cuts, he voted himself an extra $1000 a week.

Meanwhile, our young folk are accumulating more and more student debt. By last year, the student debt mountain has grown to an unfeasible $13.9 billion.

What a racket! This is ‘better’ than a Ponzi Scheme! It’s better than a Nigerian scam – because it’s all totally legal.

This is why our best and brightest young people are heading overseas.  They’re leaving before they get saddled with the bill for looking after us in our retirement.

Unfortunately, Labour’s policy to make sure disengaged youth are heard may be too little, too late. Our children are already disconnected from us and our society because we made damn sure it happened that way. Saddling our young folk with a debt we (Baby Boomers) never had to face is pretty well telling them, “Kid, you’re on your own!”.

All I’ll say to Gen Xers and Yers is: Run! (Though Baby Boomers – through the government – won’t let you get away quite so easily.)

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Additional reading

Student loans – the debt mountain

Govt may use student loan debt collectors abroad

Greed is Good?

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Rod Oram on national asset sales

12 November 2011 Leave a comment

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The following is a brief, 1.03 minute excerpt from a fuller interview held on Radio NZ’s “Nine to Noon” show, hosted by Kathryn Ryan.

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[Click on Image]

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Rod Oram is a New Zealand journalist writing on corporate, economic and political issues. He is a columnist for ‘The Sunday Star-Times’ and ‘Good Magazine’, a regular broadcaster on radio and television and a frequent public speaker. He is an adjunct professor in the business school at Unitec in Auckland and he has contributed to several regional economic development projects. – Wikipedia

In 1.03 minutes, Oram raises a serious question as to the economic logic behind part-selling state assets.

The full interview can be heard here. (Worth while.)

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Acknowledgement

Acknowledgement and thanks to Josephine for bringing this to my attention.

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ACT and The Greens – some thoughts

5 November 2011 2 comments

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I’ve been thinking…

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ACT

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Throughout this election campaign – and even prior to Don Brash’s coup d’état - ACT has been polling well under the 5% MMP threshold, that permits a Party to win seats in Parliament.

With such low voter support, ACT has relied on the electorate seat of Epsom, which Rodney Hide won in the 2008 General Election with a handsome 21,102 electorate votes. National’s Richard Worth came a distant second with 8,220 electorate votes.

Since then, ACT has suffered several set-backs;

  • A very public coup, which saw Don Brash seize the leadership of ACT – despite the fact he was not even a member of that Party when he took over.
  • A serious mis-calculation in advocating legalisation of marijuana. Whilst this would be reasonable policy for a quasi-libertarian Party – it did not go down well with the conservative folk of Epsom.
  • John Banks reportedly “reigning in” his own Party leader on the cannabis issue.
  • Deputy leader, John Boscawen, resigning under circumstances that were less than clear.
  • Brash attempting to resuscitate anti-Treaty sentiment with a newspaper advert attacking “maori privilege“.
  • Brash not focusing on core, economic issues, as he said he would at the time he took over from Rodney Hide.
  • Nominating John Banks as the new candidate for Epsom – something that Epsomites seem less than enthusiastic about.
  • John Key stating publicly that he was voting for the National candidate in Epsom, Paul Goldsmith.

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Prime Minister John Key will not vote for ACT's John Banks for the Epsom electorate, instead giving his vote to National's Paul Goldsmith

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With ACT practically falling apart before our eyes, it seems unsurprising that it barely registers in public opinion polls. It polls usually 1-3%.

Meanwhile, Banks is trailing behind Paul Goldsmith, despite the “unspoken arrangement” between National and ACT, the Epsom National Party supporters give Banks their Electorate Vote, and National their Party Vote. The idea being that if ACT scores over 1.2% of the Party Vote nationwide; and wins Epsom*; then Banks could pull one or two extra MPs into Parliament with him, as a Coalition partner for National.

So far there seems little chance of this happening. If current polling translates into votes on 26 November, then ACT is out of Parliament – another small party “bites the dust” under MMP.

One part of me views this possibility with a shrug and a “meh”.  Considering ACT’s harsh right wing policies that most certainly favour the rich and corporate ‘elite’, it is hard to muster any sympathy for such a group.

But another part of me is… uneasy. Uneasy at the prospect of ACT’s demise.

Though I have no truck with that Party and it’s hard-line right-wing, neo-liberal, free market ideology – I cannot help wondering what will happen once it fails to return to Parliament.

What will happen to it’s supporters?

Where will they go, in terms of finding a new political “Home”?

Remember that ACT was founded by Roger Douglas and Richard Prebble – one-time Labour Party MPs. Douglas, Prebble, and other hangers-on had colonised a supposedly social democratic, left-wing party – and between 1984 and 1989, had managed to gain control of Labour. Like some parasitic organism, they had managed to take over the Host, and turned Labour into a precursor of the ACT Party.

A party of me shudders at the imminent demise of ACT.

Where will the ‘parasites’ end up? In which new Host?

The obvious choice would appear to be National.

If ACT supporters colonise National and become a viable, albeit invisible, faction within that Party – it will happen out-of-sight, and without the elecorate’s knowledge.

Voters in 1984 believed they were voting for a traditional Labour Party. They were badly mistaken.

National, with an agitating ACT faction vying for power and influence, could be a re-run of history.

Let’s not be too keen to see the end of ACT. Let’s keep the buggers where we can see them; out in the open.

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+++ Updates +++

ACT polls at wipeout low in Epsom

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The Greens

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There has been some discussion recently  about the (extremely remote)  possibility of a National-Green Coalition, post-election.

The Green Party leadership seems frosty at the idea, and List candidate, Catherine Delahunty, has stated that she will resign if such a Coalition deal eventuates.

Most recently, this issue was canvassed during an episode of Statos TV’s “iPredict Election Show”, with Green MP, Gareth Hughes.

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Personally, I have no great love for this notion either.

My first preference would be a Labour-Greens-Mana-(Maori Party?) Coalition. (And yes, I think such a notion would work. They all want similar things for their constituents, and despite some asteroid-sized egos at work, their party policies are not as divorced from each other as they like to make out.)

However

In saying that…

Part of the rationale for MMP is that small parties act as a “brake” on the executive power of governments. Most recently this worked well when ACT voted – along with Labour and the Greens – to seriously amend  National’s outrageously draconian, Police Video Surveillance Bill.

MMP is not just an electoral system – it is an extension of the Will of the Voter to prevent any one party from having total control over Parliament. The days of unbridled power by the likes of Muldoon, Douglas, Bolger, and Richardson, are long gone.

If the Greens can act as a “brake” on National – should it win the largest number of seats in Parliament – but not sufficient to govern  on their own – then this option should be explored. With all due respect to Ms Delahunty – a principled person who does not appear to brook political shenanigans easily – let us at least look at what the Greens might achieve in Coalition with the Nats…

  • No asset sales. Not 49%. Not 25%. Not 1%. End of story.
  • No more demonisation and attacks on unemployed and other beneficiaries. Enough of the victim-blaming of this recession.
  • Re-focus the next government’s attention on job-creation policies. This has to be a priority. Without jobs, we are sentencing a couple of hundred thousand of our fellow Kiwis to rot on welfare.
  • Raise the minimum wage. Yeah, I know this is Labour Party policy – but somehow I dont  think they’ll mind if you nick it and use it.
  • Begin the re-building of Christchurch, in earnest. Enough with the messing around. As a famous sweatshop-operator-and-maker-of -footwear sez, Just Do It!

A Green-National partnership would be handy to achieve all of the above. But more than that – much more importantly – the Greens could pull National away from the Right, and back to the middle ground in politics.

That, in itself, would be a worthy achievement.

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* Note

If a Party wins an Electorate Seat, then they are not bound by the 5% threshold, and can win as many seats as their Party Vote allows them, regardless of whether or not they are at 5%.

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