Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Labour Party’

An open message to Kelvin Davis…

6 August 2014 4 comments

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Kelvin David - facebook - Mana Internet Party- Kim Dotcom

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Kelvin is now supported by the likes of National Party apparatchik, David Farrar, and quasi-fascist muck-raker, Cameron Slater.

That alone should give Kelvin, Stuart, et al in the Labour Party pause for thought.

To Kelvin; his colleagues; and his cheerleaders, I share this insight, for free;

Why is Key so popular?

One of the reasons is that he has demonstrated a willingness and ability to work with other political parties, from neo-lib-nutcases in ACT to political prostitute Dunne, to the Maori Party.

In doing so, he has cobbled together a coalition that has lasted nearly six – six! – years.

In every campaign, neither Key nor a single other National candidate has ever slagged off one of their potential coalition allies. Not once.

What the public sees is a group of political parties working together. They may campaign on their own policies and platforms and do “deals” – but they never slag off in public.

Because Key understands the mood of the public; that people want to see our elected representatives working together, for the “good of the country”.

Now, we can disagree that National’s policies are for the “good of the country”. God knows I’ve written enough about National’s appalling governance that has left this country in a social and economic mess.

But – the public still perceives Key as being able to work with other parties. Key demonstrates collegiality every time he’s in the media.

Contrast that to the infighting between the parties on the Left.

The public are not seeing Labour going hard out to win the election; they’re seeing Labour going hard out to win votes, at any cost.

Believe me, there is a big, big difference.

That, my fellow New Zealanders, is why Labour is low in the polls.

If Labour cannot demonstrate, to the public, that it can work collegially with potential coalition allies now, prior to 20 September – then how on Earth can Labour expect the public to believe it can work with other parties, post-election?

Saying that you can “work with other parties” and then trying to destroy them at every opportunity sends only one message to the public; you’re more interested in your own success than anything else.

Not exactly a hopeful message, is it?

 

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References

Facebook: Kelvin Davis

Previous related blogposts

The secret of National’s success – revealed

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Team key - me myself  and me

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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‘Tricky’ media…

25 June 2014 4 comments

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NZ Herald - if you think, the bolsheviks win

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In case anyone finds it hard to believe that some in  the msm (mainstream media) are politically partisan, the screen-shot below – of a recent NZ Herald story – should help  dispel such doubts;

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NZ Herald - Key on Liu-Labour link - More to come - David Cunliffe

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Notice the two disparate images.

On the left, Key’s image portrays him as smiling and obviously confident and relaxed.His authority is not under threat.

The image on the right, depicting David Cunliffe, shows him scowling; mouth open in mid-retort; obviously in a defensive and angry position. His leadership authority is shown to be in question in that image.  (Hence the old expression, “if you become angry, you have lost the argument“.)

It is a subtle piece of visual propaganda; one is calm, poised, confident. The other is emotional, upset, obviously responding to an attack.

So this is supposedly  an example of an impartial, non-partisan media?

And journos wonder why a large sector of  society view them with disdain and suspicion?

If the Reader’s Digest  Most Trusted Professions for 2013 is any indication, journalists need to work on their integrity;

1. Paramedics
2. Firefighters
3. Rescue volunteers
4. Nurses
5. Pilots
6. Doctors
7. Pharmacists
8. Veterinarians
9. Police
10. Armed Forces personnel
11. Scientists
12. Teachers
13. Childcare workers
14. Dentists
15. Farmers
16. Bus/train/tram drivers
17. Flight attendants
18. Architects
19. Chefs
20. Electricians
21. Miners
22. Computer technicians
23. Postal workers
24. Hairdressers
25. Builders
26. Plumbers
27. Mechanics
28. Accountants
29. Truck drivers
30. Waiters
31. Bankers
32. Charity collectors
33. Shop assistants
34. Clergy (all religions)
35. Cleaners
36. Personal trainers
37. Lawyers
38. Taxi drivers
39. Financial planners
40. CEOs
41. Call centre staff
42. Airport baggage handlers
43. Journalists
44. Real estate agents
45. Insurance salespeople
46. Politicians
47. Sex workers
48. Car salespeople
49. Door-to-door salespeople
50. Telemarketers

Lumped in with politicians, car salespeople, etc, is not a desirable place, one would think.

This will be a dirty election as the Right (National and ACT) with their media allies (NZ Herald, NBR, and rantback radio hosts) pull out the stops to destroy a resurgent Left. Those who hold power will not give it up easily.

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Rich people paying rich people to tell the news

 

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References

NZ Herald:  Key on Liu-Labour link: More to come

Reader’s Digest: New Zealand’s Most Trusted Professions 2013


 

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john key is scared of your vote

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 20 June 2014.

 

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Labour’s collapse in the polls – why?

24 June 2014 5 comments

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Red Arrow Down

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In recent months, successive polls have not favoured the Labour Party and the Left Bloc.

A TV3 Reid Research Poll in mid/late May gave a  shock result for Labour;

National:  50.3% (+ 4.4%)

Labour: 29.5% (- 1.7%)

Greens: 10.2% (- 1%)

NZ First: 5.6% (+ 0.7%)

A Roy Morgan poll in late May/early June – one of the more accurate of polls – fared no better;

National: 52.5%  (+ 7%)

Labour:  29% (- 1.5%)

Greens:  9% (- 4.5%)

NZ First:  4.5% (- 1.5%)

A mid-June Herald Digipoll presented similar results;

National: 50.4% (- 0.4%)

Labour:  30.5% (+ 1%)

Greens:  10.7% (- 2.4%)

NZ First:  3.6% (n/c)

The most recent stats,  from a June  Fairfax/Ipsos poll, was even worse;

National: 56.5 (+ 8.9%)

Labour:  23.2% (-6.3%)

Greens:  11.9% (- 0.8%)

NZ First:  3.2% (- 0.5%)

Though National’s 56.5% is in pure la-la land (they scored only 47.31% in the 2011 General Election), the overall pattern seems fairly clear; National is rising, whilst the Labour-Green bloc is falling, and – on face value – close to collapse. (I also do not believe that NZ First will not cross the 5% threshold.)

I put National’s rise and the Left’s fall down to three significant factors;

1. National’s May 15 Budget which took a lurch to the left with extra social spending; removing tariffs (temporarily) on building materials; and the promise of a budget ‘surplus‘.

It was a typical electioneering budget, increasing spending on social areas that had been  been previously starved of funding in recent years. Even the so-called “surplus” was questioned by the Opposition.

2. Increasing economic activity, predicated mainly on three factors;

3. Infighting between Labour and it’s potential coalition partners.

On 7 June, I blogged on the issue of Labour’s unprovoked and negative attacks on it’s potential allies. I wrote;

Going by recent public comments made by Labour MPs and candidates, it seems that the Labour Party is either planning to sit this election out – or some of it’s higher-ranking public individuals are out of control.

How else to explain recent statements made in the mainstream and social media by Labour people, attacking others on the Left?
[...]

Being “principled” and attacking potential allies will result in looking weak and fractured, in the eyes of the public.

Being “principled” and attacking potential allies smacks of dis-unity. Dis-unity, in the eyes of the public, is not a Government-in-waiting. It is Labour unable to set aside self-interest and party-politics for the good of the nation.

If the public perceive that Labour is more interested in attacking it’s own potential allies – and here is the nub of the problem – then why should people vote for such a fractious party that appears unable to work alongside said potential allies?

National – polling in high 40s and low 50s – cultivates potential allies.

Labour – polling in high 20s and low 30s – undermines, attacks, and marginalises it’s own potential allies.

[...]

How many times have we heard the public say, “why can’t they work together for the good of the country?”.

Well, National’s strategists have understood and implemented this very simple truism; the public do not like seeing squabbling politicians. The public want political parties to work together, collegially to solve pressing problems.

That is why Key keeps repeating his mantra,

“We’ve shown we can deliver strong and stable government and can work with other parties for the good of the country blah blah blah..”

That is why National is high up in the polls.

That is why Labour is floundering and losing support. And respect.

Not only do I not resile from the above comments I wrote on 7 June, but I reassert that recent polling has more than proven my point.

We on the Left can do very little about National’s fudging of Budget figures, nor economic  growth created by demands from an earthquake-ravaged city; a housing bubble; and Chinese consumption.

We can, however, get our own house in order when it comes to inter-party relationships.

If Labour wants to portray itself as a credible government-in-waiting, it must demonstrate that it is capable of working across all sectors in society.

If they cannot work collegially with other Left-leaning parties – then why on Earth should the public believe that Labour could  work with other sector-groups? The ‘signals’ that various Labour MPs (Hipkins, Nash, Goff, Shane Jones, Davis, et al) are sending is one of fractious in-fighting; of “greedy little little children grabbing all the toys in the cot, and not prepared to share and play together”.

This is not a political party demonstrating readiness to be a government. It is a party showing  desperation to grab votes at any expense.

Unless Labour is looking forward to sitting on the Opposition benches for the next ten years, it must change it’s internal culture. We talk about the “Police culture” needing change – I submit that Labour itself needs to look deep within itself and understand why the public are not responding to their policies and messages.

Why is  the public turned off  from Labour?

How does the public view Labour’s bitter attacks on the Greens and Mana-Internet?

What  does the public want?

Ask those three questions at the next focus groups, Ms Coatsworth, and you may start to understand why it is that Labour is not connecting with voters.

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References

TV3 Reid Research: 3 News Reid Research Poll

Roy Morgan: National (52.5%) surges to election winning lead while Labour/ Greens (38%) slump to lowest

NZ Herald: National flies high as new party nibbles into Greens

Fairfax media: Ipsos June 2014 Poll – The Party Vote

Wikipedia: New Zealand general election, 2011

NZ Herald: Budget 2014 – Bigger surplus unveiled, doctor visits for kids

Interest.co.nz: Government to temporarily remove duties and tariffs on building materials

Dominion Post: Wellington rape centre forced to cut hours

Fairfax media: Rape crisis line forced to cut staff

Fairfax media:  Budget 2014: Surplus real, says English

NBR: Auckland house prices continue their relentless rise

NZ Herald: Big resurgence in NZ house-building

Stats NZ: Dairy product exports grow for 20 years

Stats NZ: Logs to China drive our forestry export growth

Daily Blog:  The secret of National’s success – revealed

Previous related blogposts

Letter to the Editor: playing politics with rape victims, National-style

Budget 2014 – How has National exposed itself in Election Year?

 

 

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Why I am a Leftie

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 19 June 2014.

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Letter to the Editor: The National House of Cards (v.2)

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

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FROM:   "f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT: Letter to the Editor
DATE:    Thu, 19 Jun 2014 13:52:49 +1200
TO:     "NZ Herald" <letters@herald.co.nz>

 

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The editor
NZ Herald

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So let me get this straight; the Nats have "found" an eleven
year old letter, purportedly from David Cunliffe, relating
to Donghua Liu's legitimate application to the Immigration
Service. 

Locating a letter from eleven years ago, from a government
department?

I had no idea our bureaucracy was so incredibly
super-efficient.

It also appears that John Key and Bill English seem to have
differing stories when they  got hold of this mysterious
"letter". Key says he  "can't exactly recall, I think it was
a few weeks ago."

But English says he did not know anything about it.

So what is the story? When did they "get hold" of this
letter? Who gave it to them? And how on earth could it have
been "found" after eleven years?

Methinks there is more to this issue, and the dodgy
shenanigans being played out by senior National ministers in
an apparent dirty tricks campaign, is the real story.

It is high time for Key and English to come clean. What are
they up to?


-Frank Macskasy

[address & phone number supplied]

 

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References

Radio NZ: PM and deputy at odds over Cunliffe letter

Radio NZ Interview: Deputy PM says Cunliffe’s credibility shot

NZ Herald: Key on Liu-Labour link – More to come

The Daily Blog: The Trap Is Sprung – Why David Cunliffe Must Not Resign

 


 

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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Letter to the Editor: The National House of Cards

19 June 2014 2 comments

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

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FROM:   "f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT: Letter to the Editor
DATE:    Thu, 19 Jun 2014 09:31:52 +1200
TO:     "Dominion Post"  <letters@dompost.co.nz> 
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The Editor
Dominion Post

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So National's party strategists have begun their "House of
Cards"  dirty tricks campaign? Finding an eleven year old
letter, to try to discredit David Cunliffe,  must have been
the "luckiest" stroke in history.

It is going to be a nasty campaign and the Nats will pull
out all stops to win.


-Frank Macskasy

[address & phone number supplied]

 

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References

NZ Herald: Key on Liu-Labour link – More to come

The Daily Blog: The Trap Is Sprung – Why David Cunliffe Must Not Resign

 


 

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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The secret of National’s success – revealed.

11 June 2014 7 comments

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labour mana greens internet

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1. Preface

Firstly, a disclosure on my part: I am a Green Party supporter (though by no means ‘wedded’ to that  particular party – or any party for that matter).

Secondly, it is not often I write a piece criticising others on the Left. I have long held the opinion that the Left needs to work together to achieve common goals, and that public displays of discord only serves to play into the hands of the Right.  And really, do we need to give the Right any further ammunition? Especially free of charge?!

2. What the hell is going on?!

Going by recent public comments made by Labour MPs and candidates, it seems that the Labour Party is either planning to sit this election out – or some of it’s higher-ranking public individuals are out of control.

How else to explain recent statements made in the mainstream and social media by Labour people, attacking others on the Left?

A few examples.

Kelvin Davis on 28 May  (see video at 1.29);

“People can see that this is just a stitch-up and I don’t think they like seeing Tai Tokerau being traded off like that. I think they’re taking the voters of Tai Tokerau for granted.”

Chris Hipkins on 30 May;

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chris hipkins - unprincipled sell outs - twitter  - Mana party - internet party - labour party

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The above ‘tweet’ was supported by none other than ACT Party-member, Peter McKeefry;

and we look forward to you Chippie slamming the corruption of democracy by the left in general debate.

Meanwhile, also on 30 May,  Labour MP and one-time Party leader, Phil Goff, added his three cents worth on Facebook;

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Phil Goff - facebook - Mana party - internet party - labour party

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Goff makes the point,

I am also opposed to anyone buying a political party and buying influence by splashing out $3 million as Dotcom proposes.”

Funny. That is precisely the same smear that the Right continually throw at Labour: that unions are “buying influence” with their donations to the Labour Party campaign ‘war chest’.

It can only be a facepalm moment when a senior, experienced, supposedly politically-savvy Labour politician utters a statement that parrots and validates Right-wing bullshit. Nice one, Phil. Got anything on ‘lazy benes’ spending up large on SkyTV, booze, and drugs?

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Chris Hipkins on 31 May;

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chris hipkins - twitter  - Mana party - internet party - labour party

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Right-wing blogger and National apparatchik, David Farrar, caught on very quickly when Kelvin Davis re-tweeted one of National Party supporter, Hamish Price’s tweets, and posed this question;

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David Farrar - kelvin davis - twitter  - Mana party - internet party - labour party

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Hipkins again, on 1 June;

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chris hipkins -dodgy deals - twitter  - Mana party - internet party - labour party

 

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And just to make sure we all got the gist of his attacks on small parties (aka, Internet-Mana), Hipkins threw this ‘grenade’ into the mix on the same day;

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chris hipkins - small parties - twitter  - Mana party - internet party - labour party

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Of all the statements put out by Labour’s MPs, that one has to be the most asinine yet – as blogger Jackal (et al) tried to point out to Labour’s Napier candidate, Stuart Nash;

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jackal - jackal blog - stuart nash - twitter  - Mana party - internet party - labour party

 

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Kelvin Davis seems unable to comprehend that a “Labour victory” is unobtainable if Labour shafts potential coalition partners.  He could not answer the simple question; “How will you achieve a Labour  victory without coalition partners“?!

This simple fact not lost on National – and the Nats have consistently out-ranked Labour in every  poll to date! (More on this point in a moment.)

Twitter-user, Andrew Riddell  tried (in vain) to point out the futility of Labour’s attacks on Mana-Internet – and was “rewarded” with a very bizarre, Winston Peters-like evasive response by Labour’s Education spokesperson and MP for Rimutake, Chris Hipkins;

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chris hipkins -andrew riddell - twitter  - Mana party - internet party - labour party

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Kelvin Davis on 2 June;

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kelvin davis - twitter - ngatibird - laila harre - Mana party - internet party - labour party.

Kelvin Davis’ hardline statements were supported by rightwing Twitter members such as Hamish Price, Manoja St John – and by right-wing, National-supporting blogger, Keeping Stock;

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keeping stock -  mark mitchell - kelvin davis - twitter  - Mana party - internet party - labour party

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Note who “Favourited” Keeping Stock’s tweet – Kelvin Davis and  National Party MP, Mark Mitchell (red arrowed).

Amazingly, it was ‘ordinary’ Twitter users who tried to talk sense into Labour’s MPs and candidates;

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They want to be be in opposition. They can’t even function together as one team.

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Ppl don’t have the confidence to vote left bcause they can’t see how we will work together. Fix this!

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For someone who is pro-MMP you show a real inability to think in terms of left and right blocs.

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why use strategic friends and allies when you can just lose all by yourself?

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if u want to win need to get around your heads around the fact that MMP rules allow what happened and be more magnanimous

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that is not constructive. Think outside the “two big parties” box please.

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another crack at your future coalition partners.. It’s like you know you’re going to lose….

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Gee, , I’ve never heard you be so purposefully insulting … oh, wait. Yes I have.

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Speaking of sell outs.. I remember the time in 1984 when I voted Labour and got neoliberalism instead.

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Kelvin,you are in the wrong party .. join the Nats and make a REAL difference

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It is counter productive for the left to dis the left Instead its smarter 2 wish them well & focus on a left win

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Even more kinda sorta ironic that the Kelvin Scale is used to determine absolute zero.

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how many tory votes do you think that tweet scored you?

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Pull your head in .clowns like urself are gonna cost THE LEFT thats right THE LEFT. this election.

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Is Labour on a kamikaze mission? Goff, Davis & now Nash slagging off coalition partners. This is damaging.

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more the left stands undivided the easier it is for the country to think the right is the only consistent choice

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The last (but not really – there were many, many more)   made the point that really counts.

3. The Primal Urge to Self-Destruct?

I’m not sure what ‘game’ Labour is playing at here. Obviously they are trying to grab potential votes that might accrue to Mana-Internet – but the process they are using is so utterly destructive that it beggars belief.

In an MMP environment, both National and Labour need smaller parties as coalition partners. This was amply illustrated in 2011, when National all but endorsed John Banks for the Epsom electorate, and made Katrina Shanks an electorate candidate-in-name-only in Ohariu, to allow Peter Dunne the opportunity to win.

National fully understands the realpolitik of MMP.

Labour – it appears – is still playing by First Past the Post rules.

National set the rules for MMP  on 14 May 2013, when Justice Minister Judith Collins told the House that National would be rejecting the Electoral Commission’s recommendations to abandon the ‘coat tailing’ provision and to reduce the party threshold from 5% to 4% [which this blogger supports]. Collins gave the weak excuse,

“Mr Speaker, of course I did not hold the MMP Review. That was a matter that was undertaken by the Electoral Commission. But I can also say that I made it very clear that we need concensus on these matters for any change and there is no concensus for any change.”

The “concensus” that Collins referred to was ACT and Peter Dunne opposing the scrapping of coat-tailing because it would significantly damage their electoral chance to win extra seats with that provision.

As Gordon Campbell wrote;

National can hardly bitch and moan about this outcome either. For nearly 15 years, it campaigned loud and long against the evils of MMP and railed for a review of its shortcomings. Yet then Justice Minister Judith Collins promptly and cynically shelved the MMP review findings, once National realised that the review’s main recommendation – that the electorate seat coat-tails now being used by Harawira and Dotcom should be abolished – would hurt its own chances of getting Colin Craig and his Conservatives and the Act Party’s latest minion in Epsom onside, and into Parliament. If the Mana/Dotcom arrangement looks like cynical pragmatism, it is merely par for the course.”

Labour needs to get their head around one simple reality; that it must – must! – play by the rules which National have set. Playing by another set of rules will result in losing the election in September and staying on the Opposition benches.

If Labour is trying to paint itself as “principled” – they have failed. Right wing blogs and even msm journalists have tarred both main parties with the same brush, as TV3 journalist, Patrick Gower did in 2011, with an outrageous claim about Labour doing “dirty deals” with the Greens. (For the record, since 2002, the Greens’ policy has been to campaign for the Party Vote, not the Electorate Vote. Gower was making sh*t up when he claimed – without any actual evidence – that Labour and the Greens colluded in Ohariu in 2011.)

Being “principled” will not prevent public attacks by  right-wing commentators; headline-hunting conservative msm journos; business interests; National/ACT; etc.

Being “principled” will simply give National a free run in this years’ election.

Being “principled” and attacking potential allies will result in under-mining potential coalition partners.

Being “principled” and attacking potential allies will result in looking weak and fractured, in the eyes of the public.

Being “principled” and attacking potential allies smacks of dis-unity. Dis-unity, in the eyes of the public, is not a Government-in-waiting. It is Labour unable to set aside self-interest and  party-politics for the good of the nation.

If the public perceive that Labour is more interested in attacking it’s own potential allies – and here is the nub of the problem – then why should people vote for such a fractious party that appears unable to work alongside said potential allies?

National – polling in high 40s and low 50s – cultivates potential allies.

Labour – polling in high 20s and low 30s – undermines, attacks, and marginalises it’s own potential allies.

Contrast Labour’s current destructive pattern of behaviour with National’s attitude, as repeated ad nauseum by John Key;

 We’ve shown we can deliver strong and stable government and can work with other parties for the good of the country, even when those parties have different policies.

Labour says that it will campaign on it’s own policies.

So does National.

But the difference  – the B-I-G difference – is that in doing so, National does not attempt to subvert the chances of it’s potential allies. Quite the contrary, it nurtures it’s potential coalition partners like a farmer tending to his flock.

Is this “dirty deal-making” as sensationalist media headline-mongers keep hysterically screaming?

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Patrick Gower - laila harre - twitter  - Mana party - internet party - labour party

Patrick Gower - twitter  - Mana party - internet party - labour party

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- or has National understood what the public really, really, really want; constructive co-operation between political parties?

How many times have we heard the public say, “why can’t they work together for the good of the country?”.

Well, National’s strategists have understood and implemented this very simple truism; the public do not like seeing squabbling politicians. The public want political parties to work together, collegially  to solve pressing problems.

That is why Key keeps repeating his mantra,

 We’ve shown we can deliver strong and stable government and can work with other parties for the good of the country blah blah blah.. 

That is why National is high up in the polls.

That is why Labour is floundering and losing support. And respect.

That is why the latest Roy Morgan poll – the most reasonably accurate of all polls (except the one that really counts on Election Day) – had this recent shocking result;

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National (52.5%) surges to election winning lead while Labour/ Greens (38%) slump to lowest since last New Zealand Election as Greens propose a Carbon Tax to replace the Emissions Trading Scheme

Today’s New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll shows a strong gain in support for National (52.5%, up 7%) now at their highest since before the last New Zealand Election and well ahead of a potential Labour/Greens alliance (38%, down 6%) – almost matching their performance at the 2011 New Zealand Election at which the two parties polled a combined 38.5%.

Support for Key’s Coalition partners has also improved with the Maori Party 1.5% (up 0.5%), ACT NZ (1%, up 0.5%) and United Future 0% (unchanged).

Support has fallen significantly for all Opposition parties with the Labour Party down 1.5% to 29%, the Greens down 4.5% to 9% (the lowest support for the Greens since September 2011), New Zealand First 4.5% (down 1.5%) and Mana Party 0.5% (down 0.5%). Support for the Conservative Party of NZ is 1% (unchanged) and the Internet Party is 0.5% (unchanged).

If a National Election were held now the latest New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll shows that the result would be a landslide victory for the National Party and a third term for Prime Minister John Key.

 

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That is why the Left will lose on 20 September.

Unless Labour radically changes tack and demonstrates to the public that they are more interested in working together with potential partners – than wrecking their chances at winning votes – voters will be put off. Telling the public that Labour “can work with other parties after the election” is not good enough. Labour must show it can do it.

Otherwise, as one quasi-fascist right-wing blogger put it, the public will perceive that “things are falling apart for the Labour Party“.  He may have a valid point.

Again, as Gordon Campbell stated,

 Labour may just be mule-headed enough – and tribally fixated on the FPP-era of politicking – to try and get rid of Harawira at all costs, and thereby torpedo one of its main chances of forming the next government.

At which Scott Yorke at Imperator Fish added;

 How not to win an election…

…Pretend that we still have a First Past the Post electoral system.”

It is supremely ironic that National – the champion of the Cult of Individualism – can work collectively and collegially with other political parties. But Labour – a party of the left, which espouses collective action for the greater good – is desperately and greedily scrabbling for votes for itself and attacking  potential allies.

Also ironic is that the current MMP rules were set by a National government for the benefit of National. When other parties such as Mana-Internet try to use those very same rules, the reaction from National,  the media, and other right wing commentators, is both vicious and sustained.

Unfortunately, Labour have bought into National’s strategy.  The concept of “principles” – which utterly eludes the Right – has been used to frame the issue of small, left-wing parties “coat tailing” into Parliament. It is “un-principled” when the Left does it.

When National does it, they are being “pragmatic” and duly ignore the shrill screams of the likes of Gower, Garner, et al.

Because in the final analysis, National has sussed perfectly well what the public wants.

We have three months to do likewise.

Or we will lose.

 

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References

TVNZ News: Former MP Laila Harre tipped as Internet Party’s new leader

Twitter: Chris Hipkins

Facebook: Phil Goff

Twitter: David Farrar

Twitter: Hamish Price

Twitter: Chris Hipkins

Twitter: Chris Hipkins

Twitter: Jackal (Jackalblog)

Twitter: Andrew Riddell

Twitter: Chris Hipkins

Twitter: Kelvin Davis

Twitter: Keeping Stock

Fairfax media: Government’s MMP review response slammed

TV3: John Key’s State of the Nation speech – the main points

Kiwiblog: Mana-Dotcom Alliance

TV3: Dirty electorate political deals, done dirt cheap

Twitter: Patrick Gower

Roy Morgan Poll

Previous related blogposts

The Mana-Internet Alliance – My Thoughts

Patrick Gower – losing his rag and the plot

Judith Collins issues decision on MMP Review!

Additional

Fairfax media: Labour MPs not happy with Mana-Internet

Other blogs

The Standard: Labour’s Mana Internet Party dilemma

Gordon Campbell: Gordon Campbell on the rise of Laila Harré

The Daily Blog:  Authoritarian Labour: Why Kelvin Davis needs to STFU – and soon!

The Daily Blog:  Keep Calm And Carry On: Why the Left should ignore the next round of poll results

Imperator Fish: How to win an election

 


 

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Why I am a Leftie

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 7 June 2014.

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Questionable assumptions ‘bad for small democracies’

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smells like media bullshit

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This item in Fairfax’s Dominion Post caught my eye a few days ago;

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Labour governments bad for small business

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In this story, author John Anthony is reporting on a study by two  academics –  Massey University economics and finance senior lecturer Dr Chris Malone, and associate professor, Hamish Anderson. They came to the astonishing conclusion;

Small listed companies have performed significantly worse under Labour governments over the past 40 years because of major policy changes, a report says.

[...]

“The smaller firms have done abysmally poor during Labour terms of office.”

Funny thing about this article – it’s mostly rubbish. The Labour government in the mid/late 1980s was hardly a traditional left-wing administration as it implemented neo-liberal, free market policies at breakneck speed. It was the government that gave us the term “Rogernomics“.

In essence, it was a Labour government in name only, having been hijacked by future-ACT MPs and neo-liberal cadres. It was a foretaste of how Brash seized power in 2011 after a putsch overthrew Rodney Hide as ACT’s leader.

Yet the heading of the article is utterly misleading;

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Labour governments ‘bad for small business’

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Indeed, anyone glancing at the story would come away with entirely the wrong impression until their attention was caught by this bit;

The main reasons for poor performance in small firms during Labour governments included market under-performance, periods of falling inflation, harsh default-risk and credit conditions and the introduction of deregulation in 1984 that opened up firms to increased foreign competition and exchange rate pressures.

Notable features were the two Labour governments of the 1980s under Prime Minister David Lange.

In the first term from 1984 to 1987 the mean returns were amongst the highest in the sample but in the second term the smaller firms had a mean monthly return of minus 7.2 per cent.

Roger Douglas’s neo-liberal “free” market reforms truly kicked in during Labour’s second term in office (1987-1989) and the academic’s report is not very flattering;

“…in the second term the smaller firms had a mean monthly return of minus 7.2 per cent”.

It is interesting to note that overseas ratings agencies (Standard & Poors, Moodies, and Fitch) also seem to have a somewhat dim view of right-wing governments. Note the credit rating movements during right-wing Labour/National governments compared to the Clark-led Labour government;

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new-zealands-foreign-currency-credit-rating-history2

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Note the credit downgrades (red underlined) in the chart above and detailed belowed;

  1. Standard & Poors: From AA+ in April 1983,  to AA in  December 1986  (Rogernomics Labour)
  2. Standard & Poors: From AA in  December 1986, to AA- in January 1991 (National)
  3. Moodys: From Aa1 Stable Outlook, February 1996, to Aa1 Negative Outlook on 30 January 1998 (National)
  4. Standard & Poors: From AA+ Stable Outlook in January 1996, to AA+ Negative Outlook on 10 September 1998 (National)
  5. Moodys: From Aa1 On Review for Possible Downgrade  on 5 June 1998, to Aa2 Stable Outlook on 24 September 1998 (National)
  6. Fitch: From AA+ Stable Outlook on 28 November 2008, to Aa+ Negative Outlook Reaffirmed on 16 July 2009 (National)
  7. Fitch: From Aa+ Negative Outlook Reaffirmed on 16 July 2009  to AA Stable Outlook on 24 September 2011 (National)
  8. Standard & Poors: From AA+ Negative Outlook Reaffirmed on 22 November 2010 to AA Stable Outlook on 30 September 2011  (National)

Eight credit down-grades under two Right-wing governments.

By contrast, during Clark’s more left-wing Labour administration,  from 2000 to 2008;

  1. Standard & Poors: From AA+ Negative Outlook on 27 March 2000, improved to AA+ Stable Outlook on 7 March  2001
  2. Fitch: From AA on 27 March 2002, improved to AA+ on 16 August 2003
  3. Moodys: From AA2 Stable Outlook on 24 September 1998, improved to Aaa on 21 October 2002
  4. Fitch: From AA on 27 March 2002, improved to AA+ on 16 August 2003

Eight years, four credit upgrades.

As Labour’s economic development spokesperson,  Grant Robertson, stated in the same article,

“The last Labour government ran nine surpluses in a row while having the highest average growth rate of any government for 40 years.”

He’s right. Under Labour’s administration of the economy,

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New Zealand New Zealand Government Debt To GDP 2000-2014

Graph

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New Zealand unemployment rate 2000-2014

Graph

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New Zealand Building Permits 2000-2014

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  • The NZ stock market showed a steady rise, until the 2007/08 Global Financial Crisis;

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New Zealand Stock Market (NZX 50) 2000-2014

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New Zealand GDP 2000-2014

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  • Consumer Confidence vs Business Confidence – showed conflicting results, with consumer confidence staying bouyant whilst business confidence appeared to fall. (It seems bizarre that whilst customers were happy to open their wallets/purses to spend – businesses remained gloomy until nearly two years after the initial effects of the GFC   were felt and the Recession was biting hard. Masochistic tendencies appear at play here?)

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New Zealand business - consumer confidence To GDP 2000-2014

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It seems farcical in the extreme that two academics – with the willing assistance of an uncritical  journalist – have presented “research” which brands the Labour Party as “bad for small business” when the 1984-89 Lange-led administration was an undemocratic aberration that was closer to the ACT Party than the Kirk or Clark governments.

In essence, Malone and Anderson have passed judgement on  governments implementing right wing, neo-liberal economic policies and, rather unsurprisingly,  given them a *fail* mark. But you wouldn’t think it with the headline “Labour governments ‘bad for small business’” and the statement that “smaller firms have done abysmally poor during Labour terms of office”.

But at least this has given  right-wing bloggers some joy – even if those same bloggers have been less than honest at what Malone and Anderson have actually written. But that’s the right wing for you; never let inconvenient truths get in the way of a good propaganda moment.

 

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References

Fairfax media: Labour governments ‘bad for small business’

New Zealand Debt Management Office: New Zealand Sovereign Credit Ratings

New Zealand Debt Management Office: Summary of Direct Public Debt

Trading Economics: New Zealand Government Debt To GDP

National Party: What about the workers?

Statistics NZ: Unemployment Rate Falls to 3.4 Percent

Trading Economics: New Zealand Unemployment Rate

Ministry of Business, Innovation, & Employment: Previous minimum wage rates

Trading Economics: New Zealand Stock Market (NZX 50)

Trading Economics: New Zealand Building Permits

Trading Economics: New Zealand GDP

NZ Treasury: Recent Economic Performance and Outlook

Trading Economics: New Zealand Consumer Confidence

Trading Economics: New Zealand Business Confidence

Kiwiblog: Labour bad for small business


 

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National dance to corporate interests

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 30 May 2014.

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A music moment: I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing (In Perfect Harmony)

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Dedicated to certain Labour Party candidates…

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Categories: On A Lighter Note Tags: ,

Radio NZ: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams – 24 March 2014

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- Politics on Nine To Noon -

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- Monday 24 March 2014 -

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- Kathryn Ryan, with Matthew Hooton & Mike Williams -

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Today on Politics on Nine To Noon,

Will The Mana party and The Internet party form an alliance?

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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′ 54″ )

  • Mana Party
  • Internet Party
  • Hone Harawira
  • Kim Dotcom
  • The Alliance
  • Sue Bradford
  • Roy Morgan Poll
  • Shane Jones, Winston Peters, NZ First, The Green Parrot Restaurant
  • Hekia Parata, Kohanga Reo National Trust, performance pay for teachers
  • Ernst Young, Serious Fraud Office, PISA Education Ratings
  • Judith Collins, Oravida
  • John Key, China, Fran O’Sullivan, Rod Oram
  • Labour Party, Forestry policy, Red Stag Timber, government procurement

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The trivialisation of the News and consequences

8 February 2014 4 comments

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Foot In Mouth

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Patrick Gower recently wrote on the TV3 website,

“The Labour Party has been putting voters wrong about its baby bonus.

Labour has been deliberately misleading, and in my view dishonest by omission.

On Monday night I told 3 News viewers that under Labour’s $60 a week baby bonus policy, families would get $3120 a year for their baby’s first year.

A simple calculation you might think, of $60 mutiplied by 52 weeks, given David Cunliffe announced in his State of the Nation speech: “That’s why today, I am announcing that for 59,000 families with new-born babies, they will all receive a Best Start payment of $60 per week, for the first year of their child’s life.

Now most normal people would think that means “all” those parents will get the payment “for the first year of their child’s life”.

But it wasn’t true – not that you would know that from Cunliffe’s speech, media stand-up, the MPs who were there to “help” and all the glossy material handed out to us.

Because buried in the material was a website link that takes you to a more detailed explanation policy.

And on page six of that policy document, in paragraph 3, it revealed the payment would commence at the “end of the household’s time of using Paid Parental Leave, ie. after 26 weeks in most cases.”

So translated, in most cases, the $60 a week payment is not for the first year, but for the second six months.”

Gower then went on with this eye-brow raising bit,

“Most journalists, like our office, only had time to find this overnight on Monday.”

So. Gower was obviously miffed. He had reported Cunliffe’s speech – and got it embarrassingly wrong.

So, it was all Cunliffe’s fault, right?

Well, yes. Partially.

But Three News team and especially Patrick Gower also need to take a measure of responsibility for incorrectly reporting this story. In fact, Gower is the one who took time to ask the wrong questions, when interviewing Cunliffe on 27 January,

@ 7:05

Gower: [voice over] And no controls on how the money is spent!

To Cunliffe: Some parents will just end up spending this on themselves on alcohol and cigarettes, though [unintelligible]?

Now aside from the obvious;  what the hell kind of question was that?!?! Why did Gower automatically assume that, with an extra $60 a week, parents would spend it on “alcohol and cigarettes” ?

Does Gower have friends and family who regularly spend up large on “alcohol and cigarettes“?

Is there excessive alcohol and tobacco consumption in Gower’s own home, and he believes it to be the norm for other Kiwi households?!

No?

Then why assume the worst for other households, some of which could be his friends, family members, work colleagues, neighbours, etc.

It beggars belief that, when a government transfers funds, that journos automatically assume that it will be spent on vices.

I hope Gower asked the same question of Gerry Brownlee when it was revealed that former National Prime Minister, Jenny Shipley,was  one of several Government appointees being paid $1,000 (per day!) to “monitor” the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera). Was that money spent on alcohol and cigarettes by the CERA Review Panel? (Who knows – maybe it was.)

Perhaps if Gower had not been so lazy as to resort to  posing such a vapid and inane question, and instead spent an extra hour or so researching the  the matter more in-depth – by simply checking the website links he referred to in his opinion piece! –  he and TV3 would not have been embarrassed at mis-reporting Labour’s sloppy policy release. (And by the gods, it was sloppy!)

After all, Cunliffe’s speech was released at 1pm on the day,  giving Gower and his production team, five hours before the 6PM News Bulletin that evening. What was Gower doing during all that time? Having a fag down at the local pub?

So please, Patrick – don’t get all toey, mate. Writing pissy little “opinion pieces” does not excuse  your sloppiness.

Maybe next time, try a little less of the sensationalising, moralistic “booze’n’baccy” questions, and do your job properly with real analysis.

Blaming others because you chose to trivialise a major news story with a superficial, cliched question is your responsibility.

Just as David Cunliffe’s  right-royal screw-up with Labour’s “Best Start” policy launch was his.

Any questions? (Make them good.)

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References

Dominion Post: Govt spent $500,000 on boozy functions

The Press: Jenny Shipley on Cera review panel

TV3: Opinion: Labour dishonest on ‘baby bonus

TV3 News: January 27 6PM Bulletin

Previous related blogposts

The GCSB law – Oh FFS!!!

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National out

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 February 2014.

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Another good poll for a LabourGreen government

3 October 2013 3 comments

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red-green-up

 

 

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The election of David Cunliffe has had the desired effect; in yet another poll, Labour is up, whilst National is either down or trailing. If these polls are any indication, and barring any major f**k up from the left, we are on course for a change in government next year (if not earlier).

A recent Herald Digipoll had Labour  on 37.7%, giving  it 48 seats. With the Greens on 11.3%, giving it 14 seats, and with Mana’s one seat, the centre-left would have 63 seats in the House. (See:  Labour rockets in poll)  More than sufficient and not needing to rely on the unpredictable Winston Peters (who has still not ruled out coalescing with the Nats, post election).

The Herald Digipoll is backed up by the latest Roy Morgan poll (for which this blogger was recently polled as well, via cellphone – see: Mr Morgan phoned).

The results are a spectacular boost for a new LabourGreen government – and a death notice for the Tories;

 

 

Centre-Left Bloc

Labour:  37% (+ 4.5%)

Greens: 11.5% (- 3.5%)

Mana:  0.5% (n/c) 1 seat (?)

Centre-Right Bloc

National Party: 42% (+ 1%)

Maori Party: 1% (n/c) 3 seats?

ACT NZ: 0.5% (- 0.5%) 1 seat?

United Future: 0.5% (unchanged) 1 seat?

Conservative Party of NZ:  2% (+ 0.5%)

Unknown orientation

New Zealand First: 4.5% (- 2%)

 

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New Zealand Voting Intention - October 2, 2013

 

Source: Roy Morgan

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Gary Morgan, of Morgan polling, says,

“Today’s New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll shows a large boost to Labour’s support (37%, up 4.5%) after the election of David Cunliffe as the new Labour Leader – now at its highest since Helen Clark was Prime Minister in October 2008. The boost to Labour’s support has come at the expense of fellow Opposition Parties the Greens (11.5%, down 3.5%) and New Zealand First (4.5%, down 2%).

“A potential Labour/Greens alliance (48.5%, up 1%) remains well ahead of National (42%, up 1%) and would form Government if an election were held now. The immediate boost to Labour support provides Cunliffe with a great ‘platform’ to explain why New Zealand electors should vote for Labour again.

“If Cunliffe can enunciate a consistent and concise message of the Labour Party policies and how they will improve the lives of New Zealanders and the country in general over the next 12 months, Cunliffe stands a real chance of being elected as New Zealand’s next Prime Minister at next year’s election.”

Indeed.

Roy Morgan explains it’s polling techniques, “This latest New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll on voting intention was conducted by telephone – both landline and mobile telephone  , with a NZ wide cross-section of 934 electors from September 16-29, 2013. Of all electors surveyed a high 5% (down 1%) didn’t name a party.”

It is interesting to note that the number of undecideds/wouldn’t say, are down by a percentage point. That means that just over a year out from the election, voters are making up their minds. And it isn’t looking too good for the Nats. The Nats promote a pseudo-“hands off” approach to economic/social problems (except for Skycity, Rio Tinto, Warner Bros, Southern China Airlines, Mediaworks, etc) – such as Brownlee’s infamous quip that the housing crisis in Christchurch is best left to the free market to solve (see:  Christchurch rent crisis ‘best left to market‘). Yeah, right.

People want active solutions to pressing problems. Throwing corporate welfare at companies like Warner Bros and Rio Tinto will not help struggling young New Zealanders into their own homes; feeding hungry children from poverty-stricken families; or create jobs for the 164,000 unemployed in this country. The latest Reserve Bank restrictions on first home buyers with low deposits – sanctioned by Bill English – will be the final straw.

When New Zealanders eventually  tire of flirting with  a do-nothing National government, they look to interventionist parties (Labour, Greens, and Mana) to do the job.

After two terms, the smile and wave frontman for National will be thrown out and their diabolical legislation can be reversed and consigned to the garbage heap of history.

 

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References

Roy Morgan Poll

Herald Digipoll

Fairfax:  Christchurch rent crisis ‘best left to market

Previous related posts

Mr Morgan phoned

Latest Roy Morgan Poll – on course to dump this rotten government

 

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Radio NZ: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams – 30 September 2013

30 September 2013 Leave a comment

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- Politics on Nine To Noon -

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- Monday 30 September 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 (20′ 29″ )

This week:

  • More on Hooton’s outburst last week regarding David Cunliffe. Hooton apologises – sort of.
  • The Labour Party’s shadow cabinet.
  • and local body elections.

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Radio NZ: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams – Hooton loses the the plot?! 23 September 2013

23 September 2013 10 comments

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- Politics on Nine To Noon -

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- Monday 23 September 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 (18′ 22″ )

  • America’s Cup,
  • Labour set to unveil new caucus line-up,
  • Labour candidate selected for Christchurch East,
  • and John Key’s visit to Balmoral.

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

Listen out for Matthew Hooton launching into a full-scale hysterical rant over David Cunliffe. Hooton has either lost the plot – or this is the beginnings of a sinister right-wing scheme to destroy David Cunliffe’s reputation via a slander-campaign.

In my view, it is the latter.

Yes, folks, Cunliffe is such a threat to John Key’s government that National’s strategists have launched a smear campaign against the new Labour leadership.

Watch out for more of the same in coming weeks.

By the way – Kathryn Ryan was so annoyed at Hooton’s performance that she cut the segment short at just over 18 minutes. Normally, her Monday political panel is around 25  minutes or longer.

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How can you tell John Key is lying?

17 September 2013 1 comment

… His lips are moving.

Ok, it’s an old, old joke.

But it seems to be a truism more and more each day, as his shonkey government flounders, that he is resorting to untruths in panic and desperation.

A recent example, as reported on Radio NZ on 10 September,

Key predicts new Labour leader will take party to left

[abridged]

“It’s very important to understand whose voting. It’s not New Zealand mums or dads that are voting. It’s actually the union movement and they will want payback time when he becomes the leader and that means a big move to the left. And ultimately I think that will have quite a negative impact on jobs and growth for the economy.”

Source: Radio NZ

As the RNZ report went on to state, “under the Labour party’s new rules, unions get only a fifth of vote“.

40% of the vote –  nearly half – will be from  New Zealand mums or dads  that are voting (or those who are members of the Labour Party).

So once again, Dear Leader is caught out fibbing to the media and the public.

Which is interesting and ties in with a chat I was having at a Dunedin New World supermarket last night (11 Sept). Two young check-out operators noticed my “no asset sales” sticker on my satchel and we starting chatting about the Labour party leadership contest. For two young teenagers (17? 18?) they seemed remarkably well-versed in who the candidates were and their personal preferences. Then the subject got on to John Key.

The opinions of these two young women was simple; they did not trust him one bit. They also could not understand why he was so popular with the public. One remarked that his “body language” alone showed he was being dishonest when speaking to the media. The other was put off by his “we-know-best” arrogance.

In my travels, I’m meeting more and more people who are disenchanted and disillusioned with our current truth-bending Prime Minister. People are not fools and eventually pick up on a politician’s propensity for spinning BS.

But here’s a question for Mr Key; when will he allow the rank and file membership  to vote to choose the leader of the National Party?

Because under current National Party rules,  “mums and dads” have no say on the matter.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 13 September 2013.

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Congratulations, Mr Cunliffe!

16 September 2013 3 comments

This blogger extends his congratulations to David Cunliffe for his successful selection as Labour’s new party leader.

A special mention should be made of Grant Robertson and Shane Jones – both of whom are talented individuals and  would also have made fine leaders.

All three men campaigned with integrity, decency, and maturity.

As for John Key, who derided the Labour’s selection process – would he care to put his leadership to the test, and allow National Party rank and file members to vote on the leadership? Yeah, nah…

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flying pig

John Key announces National’s leadership will be put to Party members for a vote!

 

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It is now time for every fair minded New Zealander to roll up his or her sleeves. We have work to do, and a  corrupt, self-serving, ineffectual Tory government to throw out. Whether we are Labour, Green, Mana (NZ First?), we all have our bit to play to rebuild our decent society.

As David Cunliffe said on National Radio this morning – the election campaign started today!

 

 

 

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John Key on leadership aspirations…

30 August 2013 5 comments

As reported on Radio NZ today (26 August);

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PM’s take

Prime Minister and National Party leader John Key says the Labour leadership contest will show how heavily the party is divided.

Mr Key says it could be a television reality show called Parliamentary Idol, with the three MPs demonstrating to New Zealanders how much they loathe each other.

Source: Radio NZ – Cunliffe confirms bid for Labour leadership

More here: John Key says Labour is a divided party

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Which is kind of ironic really, as Key’s own rise to power as leader of the National Party happened under less auspicious circumstances, involving secret plotting  behind closed doors; lies; duplicity; and rolling then-National leader, Don Brash.

Key wasn’t very upfront to the public or media, or even his own then-leader at the beginning, as this October 2006 NZ Herald report by Audrey Young, showed,

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Beware the ides of November, Don

By Audrey Young

5:20 AM Thursday Oct 26, 2006

An attempt within the National Party to topple leader Don Brash could be mounted next month.

The backers of National finance spokesman John Key have already taken soundings among caucus colleagues. It is understood they were taken four weeks ago but nothing came of them.

However, internal speculation is mounting of a stronger bid for the leadership being attempted by Mr Key next month or at the start of next year.

Mr Key did nothing last night to hose down the speculation, being less than emphatic at dismissing talk of a possible attempt in November.

“I have never had that raised with me,” he said. “That is speculation I can’t comment on and I don’t know whether it is accurate or not but I don’t anticipate that being the case.

I’m supportive of the leader and I don’t anticipate that position changing.

Source: NZ Herald – Beware the ides of November, Don

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Key’s “support” for his leader was so sincere that a month later, Don Brash was rolled and replaced by… John Key!

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New Zealand’s National Party Appoints John Key as Leader

By Tracy Withers – November 26, 2006 20:44 EST

Nov. 27 (Bloomberg) — New Zealand’s main opposition National Party elected John Key, a former head of global foreign exchange at Merrill Lynch & Co., as its fifth leader in nine years as it targets victory in the 2008 elections.

Key, 45, was voted leader by his National parliamentary colleagues in Wellington today, replacing Don Brash who quit last week. Bill English, who was ousted as leader by Brash in 2003, was named deputy leader and will take over from Key as finance spokesman.

Source: Bloomberg – New Zealand’s National Party Appoints John Key as Leader

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At least Labour’s leadership contest is out in the open; open to public and media scrutiny; and will be democratically decided. This is a milestone in New Zealand politics, with  the Greens the only other political party to decide their leadership by member’s ballot.

By contrast, seizing power via a coup hardly seems a fair; open; or democratic process. Indeed, one might question if Key really has a moral mandate to lead his own Party?

Perhaps this is a salient lesson that Key should take on-board, instead of indulging in school-yard petulance.

Then again, I suspect  Key’s pathetic attempt to deride and dismiss Labour’s new leadership process is stressing the Prime Minister as he  foresees his own political demise come the next election?

After all, Key did make this pledge to the electorate in 2011,

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Key says he’ll quit politics if National loses election

By Audrey Young 5:30 AM Monday Jan 3, 2011

Prime Minister John Key has all but confirmed that the general election will be in late November or early December and he has indicated he will leave politics if he cannot lead the country to a second term in Government.

[abridged]

He also said he had made it reasonably clear that he did not want to revert to being Opposition leader.

“I don’t think it suits me as a person. I’m not a negative person and a lot of Opposition is negative.”

Source: NZ Herald –  Key says he’ll quit politics if National loses election

The election of a new leader for Labour isn’t just a new beginning. It heralds the end for Key’s political career.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 August 2013.

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Opposition parties work together on “orphan drugs” (part wha)

10 August 2013 2 comments
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Continued from: Opposition parties work together on “orphan drugs” (part toru)

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NZORD - seminar - 1 August 2013 - Wellington - pompe disease - manual cover

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NZ, Wellington, 1 August 2013 – A seminar in Wellington was held NZORD, the New Zealand Organisation for Rare Disorders , to discuss the problem of lack of funding for “orphan drugs”. People with rare diseases are missing out of medication – a life-threatening situation.

After a break for lunch, Wallace introduced the four members of Parliaments;

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nzord-seminar-1-august-2013-wellington

L-R: Barbara Stewart (NZ First), Kevin Hague (Green Party), Annette King (Labour) and Paul Hutchison (National) – Wallace Chapman (standing)

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Associate Minister for Health, Paul Hutchson, took the podium first;

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http://fmacskasy.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/nzord-seminar-1-august-2013-wellington-23.jpg?w=595&h=446

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Minister Hutchison began by acknowledging his Parliamentary colleagues, Wallace Chapman, and John Forman.

Of John, Hutchison said this,

“May I acknowledge John Forman and the Organisation for Rare Diseases for all the the work that you do, John. Absolutely committed,  enthusuiastic, and assiduous. So please may I express that appreciation…”

The Minister continued by saying that he was sorry he was not present earlier in the day to hear the previous speakers. He then launched into his speech,

“… The principle of Universality does not mean that the public should pay for every test, treatment, or medicine, that improves health no matter the price of how effective it is. You may be aware that a new concept has crept in called proportionate universality, universalism, which in other words, is targetting. And it’s something that appears to be, ah, almost superceding the principle of universalism.

In his press release relating to the ombudsman, John Forman says the Ombudsman noted the contestable legal argument about whether PHARMAC appropriately excludes social and ethical factors from their consideration, though he said it was not his role to make a definitive decision on that legal dispute’.”

Minister Hutchison “forgot” to mention also that the same Ombudsman,  David McGee, had been highly critical of   PHARMAC’s  policy that “supported the position that high and low cost medicines should  be examined by the same decision-making criteria, and found that whilst it was lawful, was not reasonable“.

If Minister Hutchison had attended the earlier speaker’s addresses, he might have remembered to add that salient point. He continued,

“And John Forman also said that it is time for PHARMAC to acknowledge that a strict economic focus without a moral compass is abandoning patients at the margins. We hope that this opinion will cause PHARMAC, government ministers,  the health select committee, and other officials to respond with serious scrutiny and review of PHARMAC’s policies regarding socialised medicine for rare diseases. I don’t consider for one moment that PHARMAC acts without a moral compass… but  nothing should be for granted.

And I do note that PHARMAC’s key objective is  to  secure for eligible people in need of pharmaceuticals the best health  outcome that are reasonably achieved from pharmaceutical treatment and from within the amount of  funding  provided. I also highly respect the members of the Pharmaceutical Advisory Therapeutic Committee who are all dedicated clinicians who have committed their expertise to  attempt fairness and equity guided by a scientific evidence basis.”

I doubt if this next bit went down well with the audience,

“I must say I well remember Sir William [Bill] Birch telling me some years ago that from every nook and cranny, town and hamlet in New Zealand, comes a perfectly legitimate reason to spend money. The whole skill is how to prioritise it.”

If Minister Hutchison was invoking the ghost of Bill Birch, known for his extremist monetarist views, then he had come to the wrong place. This was not a Chamber of Commerce or NZ Initiative (formerly the NZ Business Roundtable ) business lunch. He was addressing desperate people who were seeking answers and solutions to life-threatening diseases – not hearing that the purse-strings were being closed by an acolyte of a past Finance Minister.

The Minister continued,

“And I guess that’s the blance and the tension that we have. Where do you achieve equity and fairness in comparison to the resources that we have available. New Zealand does indeed now-a-days spend amongst the top of  OECD countries in terms of it’s overall health budget. Some of you may say  that the pharmaceutical budget in comparison to the whole $14.7 billion is less than it should be although of course that is arguable.

So what’s PHARMACs position? As you know, PHARMAC pointed out there have been several reviews of the question of New Zealand providing subsidised access to high cost medicines.  Firstly in 2006, and then of course the McCormick report in 2009. They explicitly recommended against a separate high cost medicines funding [board?] approach for New Zealand. The reason they gave for this were that the main rationale for such a fund is to improve health outcomes rather than because of the particular charachteristics of the medicines themselves are a fundamental importance. The Panel noted that the PHARMAC model is already based on the objective of improving health outcomes. The panel was not convinced that the approach used by other countries such as Australia was superior to the status quo.

Government responded to a number of that reports recommendations and that led of course to the establishment of the  Named Patient Pharmaceutical Assessment scheme, which  we’re now  currently running with.

I also note  that most of PHARMAC’s funding is already committed to high cost medicines.  The PHARMAC annual review shows that the top 20% of patients account for … 86% of expenditure. That’s 20% of patients accounting for 86% of expenditure. Which means a smaller patient group is obtaining a greater share of pharmaceutical expenditure than the majority.”

“That’s 20% of patients accounting for 86% of expenditure.’ - is an interesting statistic. Is it code for implying that that a small group receive a disparate amount of tax-payer funded support?

How does that statistic compare  to the 10% of top income-earning families earning 30% of the income?  (see: Household Economic Survey 2010) Or the wealthiest 10% of New Zealand families controlling/owning  approximately  50-60% of  New Zealand’s wealth?  (see:  New Zealand Institute’s The Wealth of a Nation 2004)

Minister Hutchison concluded his speech,

“…I think it’s also important to point out that since the NPPA has come into being, that we’ve gone from where there was the previous regime which was $2.1 million and now  to $8 million. Clearly it’s not enough.There will always be pressure on it.

The last thing I just wanted to mention was that there is going to be  future reviews and right now PHARMAC is keen to look at new ways of serving  New Zealanders. That’s why  they are currently conducting their  significant review on operating policies and procedures. First thing under review includes the criteria by which PHARMAC makes it’s decisions. This  is an important opportunity to define what best… health outcomes means in terms of it’s  legislative objective,  and in doing so to change the mix of treatments that are ultimately funded  within the budget that is made available.

As you’re aware PHARMAC is  meeting communities around New Zealand in a series of  eleven forums and here is a superb opportunity for everyone here. I would put in a submission, attend the forums, and express your views.”

Wallace asked the Minister for his views on  creating a separate Rare Diseases Funding Agency, with a budget of around $25 million. Wallace explained that many people in the room were “falling through the gap” and a RDFA could plug that gap.

The Minister’s response was less than helpful, and defaulted to a predictable excuse not to consider the option. He said,

“…The issue is always once you get separate funding streams, you get extra bureacracy, you get an extra pressure on that funding stream as well as the main Schedule. So that it may be that you find you  have to take away from the main Schedule and vice versa. It’s a very difficult dilmemma. I think that this latest round of opportunities to relook at  how  PHARMAC  is setting it’s basic criteria of improving health outcomes is an opportunity to explore it.”

It is unclear as to why the Minister actually turned up to the seminar. His speech offered nothing new except, perhaps, to announce the  upcoming PHARMAC reviews.

If National is going to spring a herceptin-style change in policy toward sufferers of rare disease, the Minister was less than clear in his speech.  To use the Minister’s own words, he had expressed the status quo as policy and nothing more.

The real surprise was to come from the next speaker, Labour MP for Rongotai, Annette King;

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Ms King has served as Minister of Health in the previous Clark-led government and had over-seen the re-building of the health sector after the disastrous cuts to services and budgets in the late 1990s. Ms King put an end to user-pays within the public health system, implemented by the previous National government.

Ms King firstly acknowledged those with rare disorders who displayed “advocacy, tenacity, longevity, and your committment to fairness and equity in health.” Ms King added that, “I particularly want to thank John Forman, who has dedicated years to NZORD and if knighthoods actually went to the people who really deserved them, then John certainly would get one.

That suggestion  was received with  a loud round of applause.

Ms King continued,

“…I think the problem has really  reached a critical point because we have, as you heard from Dr Hutchison, there have been many reviews into this issue, going back to the 2007 New Zealand Medicines Strategy; the 2010 report on high cost, highly specialised medicines;  and as you know from that we still haven’t had this issue resolved for those who have very rare conditions. PHARMAC now, as we’ve already heard, have established what they call a new special pathway, their Named Patient Pharmaceutical Assessment, the NPPA, which follows the review of the exceptional circumstances. But by my reading of it, is that this policy runs counter to their current policy settings, because when you read it, they must take account of things like if a dollar is spent in one area, it is not available in another.

That they must work to obtain the greatest  benefit. That the best place  to invest  the next dollar, to achieve the best access to health. So these are the things that they have to take  account of, even in the NPPA policy. But at this point I do want to stress as John Forman has on a number of occassions, that I do support PHARMAC in their   role of getting the best possible deal for medicines of the bulk of  New Zealanders. I think they have done a fantastic  job over many years. In fact I think they’ve been a stand out organisation.

And the bottom line for Labour in  terms of  the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations, the latest round of free trade aggreements,  is that PHARMAC continues to have the right to purchase our  pharmaceuticals  to get the best health outcomes from effective budget management.”

Then came the ‘crunch’ moment,

“…But I think there has to be, and we have to acknowledge, that what we have done in the past,  as you saw from the question that John just asked, there has to be a change in the way in the way we deal with orphan drugs.”

Ms King said that it was clear that the NPPA scheme was not working for people with rare disorders. PHARMAC was able to over-rule any recommendations to purchase drugs for patients with rare  disorders. Ms King then stated,

“It is time for us to separate the two issues…”

“In 2014 our election policy will have two main parts to it. First of all the establishment of an orphan drugs policy.That policy will include international information sharing and monitoring  of orphan drugs and sharing that information as others countries do, about the clinical viability and acceptability of those drugs.
The second, I believe, is very important, and that is the establishment  of a fund with it’s own Board. Now I don’t believe this has to be [as] highly bureacratric as Paul mentioned. I believe that you can set up a separate Agency within, for example the Ministry of Health,  to give it’s freedom, but it has it’s own Board. And it has it’s own fund to administer.”

“So one of the things that would need to happen soon after an election would be the establishment of on implementation working group, which could be made up of clinicians; of patients; of community representations, and others,  to put in place the details and work on the criteria for access. I do believe that in separating the funding and operation of the orphan drugs policy from PHARMAC. It will let them get on with doing what they do really well, and I think in some ways it will free them to get the best they can for the most of us who don’t need special medicines. But it will mean that for those who have rare disorders, that there will be a fund around that.’

Ms King said,

“We’d be looking at a fund between $20 to $25 million.”

Which is approximately what National spent on the Rugby World Cup in 2010 – $26 million of taxpayer’s money, on funding the tournament’s deficit. [Update: And on 8 August it was announced hat National would be giving a $30 million taxpayer’s subsidy to Tiwai Aluminium Smelter.)

“…That would be the way that we’d go in New Zealand, in line with other countries, including our closest neighbour Australia, who have managed a separate orphan drugs policy, for many, many years. And the advantage I suppose  from here is that we can learn from the mistakes from others, look at ways we can get the best value from such an agency.”

Ms King concluded that she believed this was a policy that other parties from the Opposition would support this new policy.

The audience responded enthusiastically to Annette’s announcement.

Wallace welcomed the Labour Party policy, and referring to  a Labour-Green-NZ first coalition, asked Barbara Stewart, “actually, which way will Winston go, Barbara?”

She smiled coyley, responding “we’ll just have to wait and see“.

That elicited  a mix of laughter and “awwwww” from the audience.

Next up, Wallace introduced Kevin Hague, from the Green Party,

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Kevin began with,

“Congratulations to Jenny [Jenny Noble - one of the seminar organisers] and to  “Sir John”… [laughter]

… And acknowledging my Parliamentary colleagues. Could I give a special acknowledgement to Paul Hutchison who’s gone now of course. National wasn’t going to have someone here. But Paul decided that that wasn’t ok, so he came along at short notice. So I didn’t agree with anything he said, but it was really great to have Paul here.”

Kevin expressed his regret at not attending the morning part of the seminar,

“Can I give you an apology for having missed this morning’s programme, as I thought it was a really exciting-looking programme. I intended to be here  for the entire time but I had to sit on the Select  Committee for the Pike River  Implementation Bill…”

Kevin continued,

“…My starting point actually is the right to life. Because that basic human right, it’s pretty universally acknowledged, seems to have embedded in it, the right to health.”

Kevin referred to the UN human rights treaties discussed earlier in the day. He said that for the right to life to be meaningful, it had to include the right to health. He acknowledged the high cost of medical treatments and the need to ration  those dollars. He said he “unashamedly” used the word “ration”.

“Governments decide whose needs will be met and whose will not be met.”

Kevin referred to “utilitarianism; the need to stretch health dollars for the greatest gain for the greatest number. It is only PHARMAC that tries to do that – the rest of the [public] health sector does not use this system.

While Kevin did not disagree with the concept of utilitarianism, he said that those whose health needs are furthest away, from the right to health,  will tend to be  those whose health needs are not met.

“And I don’t believe that that can be an acceptable consequence,” he added.

“So for that reason , we believe that the New Zealand health system needs to be able to have a second approach… Our approach is very congruent indeed with that you just heard outlined by Labour. I think  it’s very exciting indeed that Labour and ourselves have that same approach…”

Kevin said that whilst he believed that some of PHARMAC’s criteria for cost-benefits could be amended to take other criteria into consideration – such as participating in the workforce –  that he did not believe that the Agency should be bound by the “right to life” argument. Kevin preferred keeping PHARMAC’s “structures” as simple as possible, and keeping it’s cost-utility as straight forward as possible.

He would not “load” PHARMAC with the responsibility of resolving the orphan drugs and rare disorders  issues.

Kevin spoke to the PHARMAC representative in the audience and said,

“I would say just keep doing what you’re doing now, Stefan.”

Kevin then added,

“But. We are going to create another fund, which is specifically to be used on this right-to-health basis. I have no problem with  the cost effectiveness being one of the  criteria that is  used on the fund, but it’s  only one of a range of criteria. And I have no problem with PHARMAC’s people doing the analysis, but it can’t be PHARMAC that makes the decisions and I favour an independent Board very much as Annette outlined under Labour’s policy.”

Kevin said that even under two  systems there would still be inequities as there would always be a mis-match between dollars available and the need it has to try to cover. He said no system could be perfect in this regard.

“But using the two approaches actually reduces the size of that inequity, and that has to be a good thing.”

Kevin said “a great injustice has been committed” and the Greens would work to end that injustice.

Again, the audience responded with enthusiasm, obviously welcoming the Green position on the issue.

Wallace then introduced the last political speaker, New Zealand First’s spokesperson on Health, Barbara Stewart;

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Barbara began with a greeting and an apology for not being present for the first part of the seminar. She explained that the House was sitting under Urgency and extended hours. She congratulated John Forman for the “wonderful job he has been doing over the many years”, and thanked him for continuing to keep NZ First appraised of the issues surrounding rare disorders and orphan drugs. Without further preamble, Barbara launched into her policy speech. She got straight to the point;

“In NZ First, we believe that as a First World country, we should be able to afford access for orphan drugs. There is an underlying right to health  care. We are very aware that sufferers of rare diseases deserve fair treatment when it comes to access to orphan drugs. So we’ve been very pleased to hear what  Annette has announced. And I know that  Kevin thankfully  supports it, and I know that  we would in New Zealand First as well.

The last thing that want  to see is  people keeping on falling throught the gaps. The status quo needs changing. There is nothing surer than that. Particularly for orphan drugs. New Zealand was once thought of as one of  the highest  for the quality of  healthcare in the OECD. And it’s interesting to note that this ranking is slowly dropping away.”

Barbara said that many other countries ahead us on the OECD scale did indeed supply medicines for rare diseases. She said that NZ First has looked at the Australian model and “it appears to be successful“.

Barbara said,

“Here we would support Annette King with her model that she is proposing.” She added, “we don’t want to see New Zealand behind the rest of the world”.

Barbara acknowledged that PHARMAC has done a good job over the years, but that it was time “for a review”.

“We’re disappointed to see that the government, through PHARMAC , seems to be taking a relatively hard-line approach on medical funding and we know that this is putting people’s lives at risk… This is an issue that does need to be resolved.”

“So, we believe that equity and fairness is essential and whatever we can do to ensure that sufferers of rare diseases… can have access to the best treatment, we will do.”

Barbara concluded her speech with those words and Wallace thanked her.

NZORD director, John Forman then read out a statrement from the Maori Party. In it, they apologised for not being able to attend. Reading from the paper, he said,

“The Maori Party promotes the idea of a separate policy process for managing New Zealand’s supply of orphan drugs for rare disorders. We have a particular interest in  orphan drugs access policy through our support of people living with Pompe Disease, a  serious muscle wasting disease, that without treatment will result in respiratory and cardiac  failure. We understand the exceptional circumstances approach towards supporting applications for access to specialised and expensive medicines, such as enzyme replacement therapy, has yielded adverse impacts on too many individuals. And we cannot support any policy effect which results in government picking winners and losers.”

The Maori Party statement went on to state that there was an impact on  those suffering rare diseases by the inequitable decisions of this government. “There is a profound injustice at play”  that some families were impacted simply because of the rarity  of certain diseases and the consideration of appropriate treatment. The statement concluded by acknowledging the work done by organisations such as Muscular Dystrophy, the Lysosomal Diseases New Zealand, and New Zealand Organisation for Rare Disorders.

Wallace then opened the floor for questions.

In answer to a question as to when the Parties present would implement a separate Funding Agency, Kevin Hague replied, “in the first hundred days“.

Annette agreed with Kevin that it would be done “as soon as possible“. She gave a “solid committment that this would happen“.

This blogger then asked Barbara Stewart a question relating to her Party’s committment to a separate Funding Agency for orphan drugs. I confirmed that her Party would support a separate Funding model for orphan drugs, and she replied,

“We would support that, yes.”

I asked my follow-up question,

“…Here’s the problem. Is that, it’s  fine for you to sit there, saying you support it… but if your leader decides to go with National, it’s not going to happen, is it?”

To which Barbara replied,

“Oh, we have to wait until after the election before we can actually say anything at this point in time.”

Wallace suggested that Barbara txt-message Winston now to find out. She declined, and added,

“No, we do always say that will wait until the voters say what they’re going to say and then we work it through from there.”

The seminar continued with more questions and answers from the audience, including representatives from pharmaceutical companies and PHARMAC.

A talk was presented by Daniel Webby on his very personal experiences with living with a rare disorder.

John Forman presented his speech on issues and problems surrounding rare disorders and orphan drugs. His slide presentation finished with this image;

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A sobering conclusion to John’s speech, I thought.

My own conclusion from listening to the representatives from Labour, The Greens, NZ First, and the Maori Party, is that all profess to support a separate funding agency for orphan drugs.

But only Labour and the Greens can be counted on  to carry out their pledge.

New Zealand First states that it supports a separate Funding Model – but without knowing which way Winston Peters will move post-2014, then his Party’s policies must be viewed with uncertainty.

The Maori Party is in an even more untenable position on this issue.  Traditionally, they have viewed Labour with disdain, and instead chosen to coalesce with National. Unless the Maori Party makes a separate funding model for orphan drugs a bottom-line negotiating point – then their policy-pledge will go nowhere.

New Zealanders living with rare disorders, desperately seeking life-giving treatment, are experiencing stress, anxiety, fear, and an unnecessary interuption to their lives – on top of the effects of their disorders.

Yet, they have come far from their early days when they first approached PHARMAC for assistance, and were constantly knocked back. Those were dark days for people like John, Freda, Allyson, Daniel, Jenny, and many others.

But after this seminar, they found recognition for their efforts; understanding for their plight; and something else to bolster their spirits…

They found hope.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 9 August 2013.

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Copyright (c)  Notice

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

* Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
* Where purpose of  use is  commercial, a donation to NZ Organisation for Rare Disorders is requested.
* At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals or groups.
* Acknowledgement of source is requested.

Previous related blogposts

Priorities? (19 Oct 2011)

Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key (12 Nov 2012)

Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key – Update & more questions (28 Nov 2012)

Health Minister circumvents law to fulfill 2008 election bribe? (18 Dec 2012)

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment – Compassion (9 Jan 2013)

“There’s always an issue of money but we can find money for the right projects” – John Key (20 Jan 2013)

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part tahi (4 March 2013)

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part rua (4 March 2013)

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part toru (4 March 2013)

Additional

NZORD

UN Special Rapporteur on Health

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Opposition parties work together on “orphan drugs” (part toru)

8 August 2013 3 comments
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Continued from: Opposition parties work together on “orphan drugs” (part rua)

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NZORD - seminar - 1 August 2013 - Wellington - pompe disease - manual cover

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NZ, Wellington, 1 August 2013 – A seminar in Wellington was held NZORD, the New Zealand Organisation for Rare Disorders , to discuss the problem of lack of funding for “orphan drugs”. People with rare diseases are missing out of medication – a life-threatening situation.

The seminar’s next guest was introduced; Dr Greg Coyle. Dr Coyle is a social policy analyst and manages the NZ Salvaton Army’s relationships with the Ministry of Social Development,  Housing NZ, Dept of Corrections, Ngai Tahu, Tainui, and Otago University. He is a member of the NZ Institute of Directors, Deputy Chair of Laura Fergusson Trust (Wgtn), and has a Ph.d. and Masters in Public Policy, in the area of fairness;

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[Taken from Greg's speech notes] “This paper is about fairness and I am grateful to the New Zealand Organisation for Rare Disorders for the opportunity to present these ideas. I wish to talk about about three things. Firstly I will discuss one view of the anatomy of fairness. Secondly, using these ideas, I will examine how fairly PHARMAC has treated sufferers of rare and orphan diseases in relation to it’s wider statutory purpose. Finally I will propose a new funding mechanism for pharmaceuticals for sufferers of rare and orphan diseases which will, I believe, provide cost control and fairness to individuals and the wider community.”

“Fairness is something we each quite easily recognise when we see it, but have great difficulty describing it and agreeing on what it actually is.”

“Gauld described the Social Security Act 1938 as the political and legislative foundation for social welfare in New Zealand. This  social reform was based on a “fair go for all”. The legislation placed New Zealand’s concern for the least well off on a fairness platform.

In 2013, the fall-back position  is now commonly expressed as “well I accept something may be unfair, but who says the world is fair anyway?” as if fairness is now an unreachable and unnecessary attainment. Perfect fairness may well be unattainable, but acceptable levels of fairness in today’s political and social  landscape seems not to be universally accepted.” 

So the moral question here is how much fairness or how much equality is too much to aim for? How much is not enough? How much unfairness and inequality, in terms of state distributions, is our society prepared to tolerate?”

“Fair distributions to citizens are particularly difficult for OECD governments considering the increasing costs of public healthcare, especially pharmaceuticals. Again the question is not why we should ration  medicines, but rather how much rationing are we prepared to tolerate?”

“Hamilton describes this balancing act in terms of ensuring that there is minimal granting of special privileges to favoured individuals, and also ensuring the absence of social abandonment of those who require assistance. More particularly, what we are concerned about here is the process of micro-rationing  of pharmaceuticals to individuals.”

“[John] Rawls’ definition of fairness contends that, in liberal democratic societies, distributions should ensure each person has an equal right to the most extensive liberty compatible  with a similar liberty of others. Where social and economic distributions are to be unequal, they should be arranged so that distributions  are of the greatest benefit for the least advantaged… “

“This fairness principle leads decision-makers to ponder if their decisions would be considered fair by the most advantaged  people in society if, at an instant, they became  the most disadvantaged and required the distribution  for themselves [...] This approach is not dissimilar to the maxim “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” which Blackburn contends can be found at the base of almost  every ethical tradition.”

Greg described the functions of PHARMAC, both on the national (meso) level and the individual (micro) level. He said that “sufferers of rare and iorphan diseases commonly fall into this [latter] category presenting in circumstances described as exceptional“.

He said that with regard to the Agency’s  national purchasing strayegies, “PHARMAC does an excellent job of consistently providing subsidy for an adequate range of quality pharmaceuticals” and “estimated that PHARMAC has saved approximately $1.17 billion over 14 years“.

Greg pointed out,

“PHARMAC takes excellent advantage of its market dominance, provided through an exemption from Part 2 of the NZ Commerce Act. The Agency employs aggressive monopsonistic  purchasing practices in negotiating contracts with international pharmaceutical companies.”

“In short PHARMAC is appreciated in New Zealand  as a world leader in meso-level rationing of subsidies on pharmaceuticals.  It provides for a good range of effective medicines to the community. It has done this consistently over 15 years and saved considerable amounts of taxpayer’s money  in doing so.

However, in PHARMAC’s second purpose of providing access to medicines for people whose needs are described as exceptional, the picture could not be more different. My research into the operation of PHARMAC’s ‘Exceptional Circumstances’ policy demonstrated  that PHARMAC does not closely align with high levels  of fairness to individual claimants, particularly sufferers of rare and orphan diseases [...] it appears that PHARMAC does not provide subsidy equitably  for people with diseases requiring high cost medicines.”

Greg outlined how Ombudsman David McGee had assessed PHARMAC’s  policy that “supported the position that high and low cost medicines should be examined by the same decision-making criteria, and found that whilst it was lawful, was not reasonable“.

The Ombudsman stated that “… to attempt a specific recognition for rare diseases in the NPPA policy would significantly undermine the Pharmaceutical Schedule“.

Greg summed it up by stating  that “it would seem the two objectives cannot reside amicably in the same house“. He further stated,

“PHARMAC protects the inviolability of the CUA [cost utility analysis] process by not considering the personal circumstances of claimants despite the intention of the legislation to manage the claims of individuals in exceptional circumstances. Similarly, PHARMAC’s assessment of individual  claims takes no interest in the relative condition of claimants…”

He added,

“PHARMAC takes no regard of the needs of the least advantaged before the needs of the most advantaged and does not consider information from claimants about that which they have good reason to value in their lives.”

“PHARMAC also relies heavily  on opinions from it’s committees of  expert health economists. My research shows there was criticism of Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALY’s)  as the only economic assessment tool used in the efficiency study [...] I am also aware that NZORD has complained that PHARMAC is choosey about which experts  it consults and has used experts that NZORD considers do not have international credentials to adjudicate on some claims by sufferers of rare and orphan diseases.

My research also demonstrated  the somewhat speculative nature of decision-making in that PHARMAC decision-making committees in the past have not recorded the reasons for decisions nor advised claimants under which criteria their applications have failed.”

Greg’s assessment of PHARMAC’s failings on this point  was explained that “underlying  this PHARMAC practice is a deep anxiety that, if claimants were provided with the reasons why their claims were denied, some would most certainly be challenged.

Greg then asked two questions,

“As a society do we believe that medical practitioners and economists are are qualified to make moral judgements about claimants and what they deserve?

Are medical practitioners and economists the right people to be putting  a price on what claimants have good reason to value in their lives?”

Greg pointed out the reasons why PHARMAC judged claims by individuals suffering rare and orphan diseases, calling threm all “excellent reasons“;

  • If PHARMAC accepted all claims, it would exceed it’s budget and fail it’s statutory duties,
  • PHARMAC had to resist unproven/untested therapies, especially so-called “alternative style health providers who cruelly offer desperate people ‘cures’ which are most often hopeless”,
  • PHARMAC faced pressure from pharmaceutical companies to list their own drugs on the Agency’s Pharmaceutical Schedule. These pressures had to be “contained”.
  • And PHARMAC had to demonstrate that it had a robust national-level “rationing”policy to maintain the confidence of Parliament, DHBs, and the public.

“In summary, PHARMAC celebrates the fact that it applies the same meso-level rationing  tools for micro-level decisions. In assessing the pharmaceutical  needs of sufferers of rare and orphan diseases, the tools are simply not fit for the purpose.”

We Need a Fairer System

Greg acknowledged the unfairness of expecting PHARMAC to manage the Pharmaceutical Schedule with a capped budget as well as having to consider expensive and essentially unaffordable claims for medicines. He said that “this situation had created the animosity and on-going frustration between sufferers of rare and orphan diseases and PHARMAC staff and Board“.

He also said it was “equally unfair of rare and orphan diseases to be denied medicines which will improve their life expectancy [simply] because they are being assessed against an economic metric which applies to a model based on 4 million people“.

Greg said that a fairer system had to be devised. One that ensured that PHARMAC was unencumbered in it’s primary role of nationwide rationing, involving the subsidisation of a wide range of pharmaceuticals for New Zealand. This was a role that PHARMAC did very well.

Greg then offered a solution;

“But we also need a micro-level rationaing system with a different set of rationing criteria more suited to the task of analysing claims of individuals and small groups of sufferers of rare and orphan diseases. The fund would be, let’s call it, the ‘Rare Diseases Funding Agency’ (RDFA). It would have  a Board appointed by the Minister of Health and administered by the Ministry of Health. The Fund should be regularly reviewed and reported to the Minister.

The RDFA will need to carefull consider both relative economic efficiency and locate the best relevant expert advice it can muster. It would make sense for PHARMAC to undertake the CUAs when required on behalf of the new Agency.  The decision making criteria will also need to develop a level of understanding the quotient of fairness and be aligned with community values  in support of micro-rationing…

[...]

… I am in no doubt that the RDFA will from time to time be required to make unpopular decisions. On such occasions the Agency will suffer the same level of criticism and unpopularity as has been visited on PHARMAC. However under such circumstances claimants seeking a review should be able to expect a fair hearing of their circumstances and be advised of the reasons for the decision made.

[...]

The Rare Diseases Fundaing Agency that I have described follows the international  precedents set by Australia, England and soon in Scotland.”

Greg concluded with this salient point,

“I doubt that there will be a day when the Rare Diseases Funding Agency would be able to fund individuals and small groups of people for every treatment available. Under our current funding system, this day will never come. However, the new agency will have fairness and community values among its founding principles. It may not [be] able to provide perfect fairness, but New Zealand would have a system which travels purposefully in that direction and sufferers of rare and orphan diseases would be better off than they are now.”

[Note: a full text of Greg's presention can be found here: "Funding Pharmaceutical treatment for Rare Diseases in New Zealand; we need a fairer way of doing things" - Greg's speech is highly relevant for our wider society as he touches upon issues relating to social equality; individual rights;  and a fairer distribution of resources. My report only briefly touches  on Greg's main points; his full speech is rich in ideas and information. - Frank Macskasy]

At the conclusion of Greg’s address, which was warmly received by the audience, Wallace invited all speakers to take seats up-front and engage in a question and answer session;

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This was followed by guests from the four main political parties represented in Parliament; National, Labour, The Greens, and New Zealand First. (The Maori Party sent an apology along with a policy statement.)

There was to be a surprise policy announcement from one of the parties.

To be concluded at:  Opposition parties work together on “orphan drugs” (part wha)

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Copyright (c)  Notice

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

* Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
* Where purpose of  use is  commercial, a donation to NZ Organisation for Rare Disorders is requested.
* At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals or groups.
* Acknowledgement of source is requested.

Previous related blogposts

Priorities? (19 Oct 2011)

Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key (12 Nov 2012)

Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key – Update & more questions (28 Nov 2012)

Health Minister circumvents law to fulfill 2008 election bribe? (18 Dec 2012)

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment – Compassion (9 Jan 2013)

“There’s always an issue of money but we can find money for the right projects” – John Key (20 Jan 2013)

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part tahi (4 March 2013)

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part rua (4 March 2013)

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part toru (4 March 2013)

Additional

NZORD

UN Special Rapporteur on Health

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= fs =

Opposition parties work together on “orphan drugs” (part rua)

8 August 2013 2 comments

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Continued from: Opposition parties work together on “orphan drugs” (part tahi)

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NZORD - seminar - 1 August 2013 - Wellington - pompe disease - manual cover

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NZ, Wellington, 1 August 2013 – A seminar in Wellington was held NZORD, the New Zealand Organisation for Rare Disorders , to discuss the problem of lack of funding for “orphan drugs”. People with rare diseases are missing out of medication – a life-threatening situation.

Following on from Kris Gledhill, host Wallace Chapman – of Prime TV’s ‘Backbenchers‘ fame, introduced the next speaker; Matthew Smith;

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Matthew is a barrister at Wellington’s Thorndon Chambers, and practices in the area of civil and commercial litigation. His focus is on public laws and judicial reviews – something of particular relevance to NZORD’s members and supporters.

Matthew presented an overview of the Pharmaceutical Management Agency (PHARMAC) with explanations as to it’s guiding legislation; policies; and obligations.  His primary speech notes can be read here, and are worthwhile  accessing, if only to gain a deeper understanding how the Agency works (the speech notes are brief, only 5 pages, double-spaced typing).

He began with a “starting point” of  public law and the consideration for the judicial oath of office where anyone who becomes a judge of a Court “must do right for all manner of people“. He said this was relevant because that it was part of the decision-making process, and would be relevant in terms of international human rights obligations , domestic human rights obligations, and at an individual level for any funding decisions that PHARMAC makes.

General principles of law were also relevant to all  public-sector decision-making, “and that applies as much to PHARMAC as it does to any other  body“.

Matthew wanted to draw attention to  three main principles;

Firstly, that decisions have to be individual-specific and case-specific; that PHARMAC has to be consistent in decision-making, treating similar patients similarly, as well as recognising that there are points of difference that meant the dis-similar should be treated dis-similarly. Which was relevant, he said, to cost assessments in the context of PHARMAC’s funding decisions.

The third point was the human rights consideration and Matthew referred to Kris’s in-depth analysis of this point. He  confirmed Kris’s comments by stating,

“The relevance of human rights considerations is in least two dimensions in PHARMAC’s decision making. One is in the development of  any general policy  which applies and governs or informs the decision making process. And two, is in the individual level, the application of individual applications by individual applicants for funding, and their relevant human rights and how those rights impact upon the  decision that PHARMAC has to make.”

Matthew said that PHARMAC’s functions are set out in section 48 of the NZ Public Health and Disability Act, which firstly tasks the Agency with maintaining a Pharmaceutical Schedule, and the second to focus on the circumstances in which PHARMAC will make individual exceptions to the Schedule  with additional funding and grants.

PHARMAC’s policy to determine individual applications is governed by  their  Named Patient Pharmaceutical Assessment (NPPA) Policy. There are nine criteria by which they make their decisions. Whilst none of the nine criteria specifically referred to human rights considerations, Matthew pointed out that the ninth criteria referred to “other considerations“.

Matthew wasn’t certain if Pharmac considered human rights factors as part of  “other considerations“, but he said that they should under “human rights obligations“. He said that the general statute under which PHARMAC operated does mandate consideration for human rights factors.

Interestingly, Matthew pointed out that PHARMAC’s,

“…budget is notional, because PHARMAC itself does not pay the subsidies for pharmaceuticals. They are paid by the Ministry of Health, on behalf on the DHBs.”

Matthew repeated that general and broader law required PHARMAC’s decision-making for individual’s making applications,  to consider an  individual’s circumstances, and of the patients who would be beneficiaries of the drugs to be funded. He added that a practical consequence of that criteria was that PHARMAC could not use the price of a medicine as a reason to decline an application.

Matthew also pointed out that in analysing the cost of a particular drug, that cost had to be offset against any other costs otherwise spent by the health system for providing a service that otherwise would not be provided by PHARMAC. Costs, he said, had to be considered in a fairer, broader, more holistic way, taking into account offsetting costs, indirect as well as direct.

In terms of consistency, Matthew said that general consistency of treatment was identified as a principle of law and treating “like with like” flowed from principles of equity and equitable considerations. He added that often it was over-looked that consistency also meant identifying those who were in a different situation  and treating them differently. He used an example of  a population group with disimilarities to the rest of  the population, and that those disimilarities should be taken into account.

Taking differences into consideration maintained consistency. That had to be reflected in processes, as well as in end-decisions.

In answer to a question from the audience, which asked why applications from rare disease patients were still being turned down, Matthew replied, that the Act allowed for cost as one of three considerations.  He accepted that cost was relevant to PHARMAC.  Two other considerations were clinical needs and determinations, and health needs – the latter not defined in the Health Act.

He suggested that too much focus was currently being placed on cost, cost-basis,  and economic analysis, and that we had lost sight of the fact that we are dealing with people and individuals first and foremost. Mathew said,

“…As people born into the Human Family, so to speak, which is the starting point of all human rights obligations… those are being lost sight of, and those aren’t being given sufficient weight in the context of individual decisions,  and circumstances where, as I understand it, PHARMAC has decided that there is no specific earmarking in terms of the last year the $770 odd-million that was allocated for funding. There’s no specific earmarking for exceptional circumstances or rare diseases…”

Without specific “earmarking” of funds, it seems that those with rare disorders were destined to be sidelined by PHARMAC.

But, there was to be a glimmer of hope later.

Wallace then introduced Andrew Moore, associate professor of Philosophy at Otago University. His field and interest was in  ethics as they related to public policy. He has advised four Health ministers, from Labour’s Annette King to National’s Tony Ryall. He was a founding member and chairperson of the National Ethics Advisory Committee.

His advice has contributed to the national health policy, resource allocation, prioritisations, as well as contracting to PHARMAC;

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Andrew started with paying tribute to NZORD and it’s director, for an “ongoing resilient committment”  and respect for  the democratic process, to work toward their goals.

Andrew then defined his concept of ethics – which he tied to the seminar issues,

“I have a fairly basic idea about ethics. Ethics, according to me, is just to do with what matters, and how to live in the light of that.”

Andrew added, “that  the topic here is what matters in the allocation of public funds for medicines, devices, and the like“.

He said that what matters in this context is the people who need these treatments and who can benefit from them. Andrew acknowledged PHARMAC’s statutory role was  to deliver best health outcomes for available  funding. The process was driven by the idea of maximising the public health benefit, and because of  budgetary constraints, there was priority for the greatest  health benefit per dollar.

That meant others missing out and not gaining any public funds, or opting for private support such as friends; reliant on corporate largesse;  missing out altogether,

“Or whatever survival means are available.”

Andrew suggested “pushing at the margins” to achieve ends. He suggested pushing for the ideas of “severity of condition” or “severity of circumstances“; or lifetime disadvantage.

He said the the current “maximised benefits” idea was simply not enough to deliver outcomes for those who needed it. He preferred promotiong the idea of “need” and “severity of condition” as a means to focus on.  Andrew suggested keeping things as simple as possible. For some in PHARMAC, ethics was “too complicated”.

He referred to the UK’s citizen  jury process to arrive at good outcomes and ideas.

Any solution had to be “need weighted” benefit, especially for those in dire danger from disorders.

Despite some fearing the possibility of getting into an “ethical view” on this issue, Andrew reminded the audience that even the current system was built on an ethical view, even though it was a somewhat narrow view. It was impossible to avoid ethics in favour of the status quo, said Andrew,

“You can only choose some views over others. There was no hiding place in the status quo”.

Following on from Andrew Moore, Wallace introduced Dr Andrew Veale, a Respiratory and Sleep specialist and Clinical Director for a private Lung Function and Sleep laboratory at the NZ Respiratory and Sleep Institute in Auckland. Dr Veale is also a sleep specialist at Middlemore Hospital, and has diagnosed and treated Acid Maltase deficient (Pompe Disease) patients. He is deeply interested in clinical trials and physiological measurement;

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Dr Veale began,

“I’m involved because I fortuitously diagnosed a few patients with Acid Maltase deficiency, or Pompe Disease, and  they’ve allowed me to walk through their lives. In Freda’s case, for twenty years, as they cope with this disorder, which has had no cure. So it’s been an education for me and I hope of some benefit to them. But most of the time we just talk shop. Social things.”

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Freda (L) and Jenny (R)

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So began Dr Veale’s talk.

With the aid of coloured slides, Dr Veale launched into a full scale medical explanation of the causes of Acid Maltase deficiency, or Pompe Disease. He showed cross-sections of the human cell, and explained the simple deficiency that has wreaked so much harm and tragedy in people’s lives.

He began by stating that Enzyme Replacement Therapy (to treat Acid Maltase deficiency) was different from normal administration of drugs, as the Therapy used a much larger molecule. (Thank god for Fifth and Sixth Form General Science and Biology classes.)  Whilst normal drugs permeated through the whole body, he said, enzyme replacement had to be targetted to enter cells.

Dr Veale’s explanation of the complex processes was simplified for ease of comprehension. In fact, it was probably easier to take in than some of the legal matters that had been presented earlier.

After the science lesson preamble, Dr Veale added another complication into the mix; how to test treatments for rare diseases when the numbers of  patients are so small. As he put it,

“Patients with rare diseases will never have a randomised, double blind,  cross-over, trial while facing East…” (laughter) “These  patients are treated with observational treatments… which are not as good.”

He said there was a problem with randomised double-blind trials in that they disguised a sub-group who might benefit from the wider group.  Dr Veale added that Acid Maltase deficiency  involved trials that  lasted over years and reports could not expected any time soon. So there were inherent difficulties with the model of clinical trials.

Another problem, he said was the variability of tests. Dr Veale said test results depended on the precision of  test instruments. Test results, he said, also depended on how  a test subject was feeling on a given day and what kind of activities they had engaged in. He used Freda as an example saying that she might well fine on a Monday – but knackered on a Friday because she had been doing gardening that  morning. These were all factors that affected outcomes.

Dr Veale presented a slide with four curves to illustrate his point. He said the graphic was a “fantastic” example of the point he was getting across;

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The  sharp, pointy [red coloured] curve, he said offered a test outcome with a very good precision.  It’s got “tight confidence“; “we can trust it“; “it’s the truth“.

The green curve gaves the same result, but was less precise; “the scatter was wider“. “And it might be the truth“.

Dr Veale then used another chart to show how individual data points, from the same patient, would give differing results. One set of data points showed the patient improving – another set of data points other showed the patient deteriorating. But  it was the same patient and from the same set of data. But overall, it showed a more accurate picture of the state of the patient, “this is some real data”, Dr Veale said.

I was reminded of political polling. Individual polls could give a misleading result for political parties – but an overall picture presented a much more accurate result. (See: Polling Chart on The Dim Post blog)

Dr Veale said that with slow-changing diseases, the temptation was to  test infrequently because not much had changed. As a result, there would be misleading test results from data gained from infrequent  testing. Fewer data points would present an incomplete or misleading picture of the disease’s progression. The infrequency of measurement coupled to an imprecise test would yield poor results. The slower a  disease progresses, he said, the more data points were needed to create a more truthful picture. The same applied to an imprecise test – more measuring was required.

For example, Dr Veale sugggested a year’s worth of testing at one-weekly intervals. And then he would want a further year’s worth of follow-up testing of one-weekly measurements to detect any changes in previous data. That, he said, was using the patient as their own ‘control’, as  the best method of showing a subset of beneficiaries.

Dr Veale presented the final slide in his summation,
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Dr Veale made the strong point of having a separate  trial fund for experimental treatments for individuals  patients, with over-sight  by an independent Advisory Board. The purpose was to ensure outcome measures were  important to the individual patient concerned.

He said,

“I think we’ve got to get it right. These are very expensive drugs and it’s all very well to say  ‘well we shouldn’t worry about that’, but there is a [muffled] cost if we don’t do it correctly. I think there is a way forward here. When you make a decision to treat somebody with these sorts of disorders,  you’re not making a decision to spend $100,000 a year, you’re making a decision to spend five million over a life.

And I think there is an obligation on us to show that it’s of use.”

To be continued at:  Opposition parties work together on “orphan drugs” (part toru)

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Copyright (c)  Notice

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

* Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
* Where purpose of  use is  commercial, a donation to NZ Organisation for Rare Disorders is requested.
* At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals or groups.
* Acknowledgement of source is requested.

Previous related blogposts

Priorities? (19 Oct 2011)

Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key (12 Nov 2012)

Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key – Update & more questions (28 Nov 2012)

Health Minister circumvents law to fulfill 2008 election bribe? (18 Dec 2012)

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment – Compassion (9 Jan 2013)

“There’s always an issue of money but we can find money for the right projects” – John Key (20 Jan 2013)

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part tahi (4 March 2013)

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part rua (4 March 2013)

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part toru (4 March 2013)

Additional

NZORD

UN Special Rapporteur on Health

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= fs =

Opposition parties work together on “orphan drugs” (part tahi)

8 August 2013 2 comments

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NZORD - seminar - 1 August 2013 - Wellington - pompe disease - manual cover

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NZ, Wellington, 1 August 2013 –  At a seminar in Wellington, Labour’s Health spokesperson, Annette King, announced her Party’s new policy to create a new fund for purchasing so-called “orphan drugs” – medicines – for rare diseases.

Labour’s new policy marks a turning point in the critical problem of “orphan drugs” which are not funded by PHARMAC, but which are a matter of life and death for people suffering rare diseases.

The seminar – held by NZORD, the New Zealand Organisation for Rare Disorders – took place at Wellington’s down-town Amora Hotel, and was opened by it’s executive director,  John Forman;

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TV personality, Wallace Chapman, hosted the seminar, introducing each guest speaker and keeping a tight reign during question time (he’d make a great Speaker of the House);

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Representatives from the Green Party, Labour, NZ First, and National attended.

Main speakers included,

  • Dr Christine Forster, GP
  • Dr Alison Davies, Pharmaeconomics
  • Kris Gledhill, lawyer, Director of NZ Centre for Human Rights Law, Policy and Practice
  • Matthew Smith, lawyer
  • Andrew Moore, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Otago
  • Andrew Veale, Respiratory & Sleep Specialist
  • Dr Greg Coyle, social policy practitioner
  • Daniel Webby, patient & patient advocate
  • Dr Andrew Marshall, Paediatrician, Clinuical Leader Child Health in Wellington Hospital
  • John Forman, executive director of NZORD

First speaker, was GP, Dr Christine Forster. Dr Forster has been a GP for thirty years; held appointments as Chairperson of the Abortion Supervisory Committee, plus involved in committees overseeing assisted reproductive procedures. She briefly participated in the Auckland Health and Disability Regional Ethics Committee;

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Dr Forster began by saying that her role was also about general wellbeing; mental health; and advocating for access to services and resources.

She read out the patient’s Code of Practice,

Every consumer has the right to have services provided in a manner consistent with his or her needs.

Every consumer has the right to have services provided in a manner that minimises the potential harm to, and optimises the quality of life…

That is our guiding light“, said Dr Forster,”it is a patient-centered focus.”

Dr Forster spoke of PHARMAC’s successes – but added it could do better,

“In general practice we have contact with the decisions that PHARMAC make every day. We are managing the pharmaceutical changes for our patients who have chronic diseases… Managing the change for them is not always as straightforward as I think PHARMAC think. Many are suspicious and wary of change.”

“It’s a worthwhile process because it’s successful in providing routine medications for New Zealanders at a much lower cost than other Western countries. And for most part this process has no harm [or]  minimal harm…”

She pointed out,

“So the success is the savings for the pharmaceutical budget so more drugs can be funded and improved access to newer treatments.The unexpected bonus for us is that it has removed the drug reps from our rooms and offices.. So huge benefits and minimal harm.”

Dr Forster addressed the perceived high cost factor of orphan drugs,

“The approach to funding drugs, high cost pharmaceuticals, and drugs for rare disorders is different. There is harm, because essentially what we’re doing is witholding proven treatments. We’re making drugs unavailable. My question is, really, are we making decisions about pharmaceuticals in isolation to the rest of healthcare?”

Dr Forster pointed out that there are other examples of expensive healthcare where there cost-benefit analysis is not considered prior to treatment – so why are pharmaceuticals held in a different light?

“The argument’s often  about not funding these drugs… often the view is if they do that, the money will come from someone else; that someone else will have to suffer. But this happens all the time, all the time we are treating a small number of people at huge cost… that’s just the normal treatment.”

Dr Forster said she looks at the outcomes of treatment, not just in a clinical approach with drugs. She said that was a very narrow outcome and in general practice she looked for a much broader sense, of a good life,

“A sense of not being abandoned by society”

Dr Forster concluded by saying,

At the end of the end of the day, I think, it comes down to what kind of society do we want to live in.And it’s one about making decisions about people’s health and wellbeing is not on cost alone.”

After questions and answers,  Wallace Chapman also related his own personal circumstances of carrying a rare disorder – Gauche’s Disease –  and the extraordinary steps that his mother took to ensure he received adequate, life-enhancing treatment. He was told by the Dundedin specialist who diagnosed his condition that “there’s nobody else in Otago” who had  the condition.

His mother  “became a star“, said Wallace. His  mother began phoning MPs and ministers, and went to Jenny Shipley, who was then  MP for Ashburton/Rakaia, and demanded that he receive the necessary treatment to save his life.

He expressed his appreciation to then-Wigram MP, and Alliance leader, Jim Anderton, who “championed the cause” to  get Wallace and other Gaucher’s sufferers the necessary drugs to save their lives. Wallace said his dream was that other people like  Freda could also acquire the drugs they needed.

Wallace wondered what might happen if the government took the money away from funding the Waihopai Spybase and spent it on healthcare. He suggested it might be a better world to live in – a comment well received by the audience.

Wallace added that GPs like Dr Forster were the real heroes in our community – especially those that take an interest in such complex, social  issues.

Wallace then introduced Dr Alison Davies to the audience;

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Dr Davies has a diploma in Pharmacy, diploma in Hospital Pharmacy, and Masters in Medical Science (epidemiology). She has practiced as a pharmacist; clinical researcher for 17 years; and worked in pharmaeconomics for a pharmaceutical company. She has taught post-graduate students at Otago University and is a member of Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition. She has represented this patient group voluntarily,  gain better access to medicines.

Dr Davies began  with the  criteria used to make decisions in healthcare – particular ‘tools’ such as  “cost effectiveness analysis and cost utility analysis.

Dr Davies compared different systems used in Australia (PBS); the UK (NICE), and PHARMAC in New Zealand; all three take “cost effectiveness” into consideration as a criteria;

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Criteria for decision making

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Dr Davies pointed to  “...a real tension between making decisions about a population’s health and making decisions about an individual’s health.”

We have a choice about which costs to include...”  Dr Davies referred to a Definition of Societal Perspective,

‘Includes everyone affected by the intervention and counts all significant health outcomes and costs that flow from it, regardless of who experiences the outcomes or costs’
 – which means that everyone in society, everybody’s costs and outcomes which are affected by this intervention  are included. Now that’s not how… PHARMAC does it’s analyses. It chooses a perspective of the healthcare system, so only includes the costs that accrue to the healthcare system plus patient contribution to the healthcare, co-payments, that sort of thing. So there’s no inclusion of loss of productivity, personal costs that are outside of health, etc. So there’s no consideration for you getting back to work; the time-costs associated of your caring for a sick or disabled person, your leisure time…”

Dr Davies referred to a person’s  “quality of life”, using the  World Health Organisation definition as  “physical, social and emotional aspects of a patient’s wellbeing that are relevant and important to the individual“.

Dr Davies discussed cost-effective thresholds in the UK and Australia  and asked,

“Does PHARMAC have a cost-effectness threshold?

Pharmac maintain they have no cost-effectiveness threshold for funding of medicines.”

However, she questioned that assertion  and noted a reference to a de facto  threshold in a 2012 NZ Medical Journal.

This impacted on what treatments could or would not be ultimately funded and did not take into account needs such as rare diseases and orphan drugs, she said.

Dr Davies said that breast cancer had 50 types, and the “commoness” of this disease could actually be made up of several rare variants. So we could all have a “rare disease”.

Dr Davies said that “orphan drugs” have a high cost but there are often no alternatives and are often  lifesaving,

“That’s where the rule of rescue” comes in.”

Dr Davies compared sea rescues that often cost over a million dollars and we “don’t blink a eye and we all think that’s a great thing to do“. She called it a human impulse or imperative to save one individual.

The rule of rescue, Dr Davies maintained, could equally be applied to saving lives by funding rare medicines.

We need to have a fair decision-making process“, she said,

“Health economists don’t yet  rule the world, thank god”.

The next speaker was Kris Gledhill, a barrister who worked in London for two decades, working on various human rights cases, mostly for people detained.  He lectures at the Auckland University Law School, which includes teaching human rights law. Since January 2012,  Kris was the inaugual director of the NZ Centre, for Human Rights Law, Policy, and Practice;

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Kris opened by saying that his approach was through a human rights framework, and launched with this empowering statement,

“The reason why  it’s important to talk about rights in this context, I think,  is that,  if it’s a right, the grey men at  the Treasury, in their grey suits, and grey socks and grey underpants,can’t say ‘no’. Because if it’s a right, then it’s something to which you’re entitled  and which is enforceable.”

Kris said that were were a number of Treaties and a UN Human Rights Council, whose role it was promulgate our rights, including the right to health.  He referred to the rights which all New Zealanders have under treaties such as the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948); the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966); and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (1966).

Kris said that both Covenants were signed in 1978 – when conservative Robert Muldoon was Prime Minister of New Zealand. He said Muldoon was no “leftie”.

Kris specifically pointed to the Convention on the Rights of  Persons  with Disabilities (2006),  and said it had “an awful lot  power” because of it’s potential as it had no definition of disabilities. He gave the preamble to the Convention,

“Recognizing that disability is an evolving concept and that disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinders their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others…”

Kris said that the definition of a disability was wide enough that it could cover those with rare disorder, if it interfered with their ability to participate fully and effectively in society.

He said it was a Convention to be made use of.

Kris also said that once a country like New Zealand signed up to an international Treaty (such as those mentioned above) then there was an expectation that domestic law, policy, and practice,  would be amended to reflect international human rights standards.

He said that where issues such as healthcare were involved, and resourcing was a question, that signatory States were obliged to use “maximum of available  resources” that were available to a particular nation, to give effect to the conventions. “It was not a free choice” – we had an obligation, Kris said.

Kris said that New Zealand’s Bill of Rights Act  and the 1993 Human Rights Act,  gave effect to New Zealand’s international human rights obligations.

Therefore, Kris said, international law was not separate from New Zealand law, but a part of it. He said this was recognised both by Parliament that made laws and the judiciary that interpreted those laws.

He said that of particular relevance was the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which stated everyone had a right to a standard of living, adequate to the health and wellbeing for himself and his family,  including medical care and disability. That, he said, was what people believed we were entitled to as far back as 1948. The same Declaration reaffirmed our Right to Life, including extensions to life.

This included medical care in times of emergencies such as pandemics; infant mortality; and disorders that reduce life expectancy. He said this meant a right to live, not just a right to life.

The same Declaration, Kris said,  reaffirmed the right not to be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment. He said that if the consequences of a  disorder are inhuman or degrading, then you have a right to have something done about it.

Most importantly, we have a right not to be discriminated against on the grounds of status. “Status” he said, included “anything of a disabling feature“. The right not be be discriminated against meant not to be treated differently in the light of your status.

Kris said that New Zealand had an obligation to ensure the highest possible standard of health. He pointed to the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights which strated that citizens of  signatory states (ie; New Zealand),

” recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health”

and,

“the steps to be taken by the States Parties to the present Covenant  to achieve the the full realisation of this right shall include those necessary  for: … (d) the creation of conditions  which would assure to all medical service  and medical attention in the event of sickness”

He repeated that this was a right, and not a choice by the government. He stressed the point that, that under Article 15, “everyone” had the right “to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and it’s  applications.”

Therefore the grey men in the Treasury can’t say ‘no’.” The resources-based argument, Kris explained, was designed for developing nations and not rich nations like New Zealand.

Kris said that it’s “grass roots” organisations – and their mothers (which elicited quiet laughter) – that have to make use of these rights. He said we need to raise these international obligations in any legal challenges undertaken.

One such means for a legal challenge was to lay a complaint with the UN Special Rapporteur on Health. The Special Rapporteur, he explained, receives complaints from individuals, or groups in society, who have been affected by a denial of the right to health, or componants of health.

Only one complaint has ever been made from New Zealand to the Special Rapporteur, he said, and this facility could be better used by those who feel discriminated against.

Kris encouraged those present to use the international rights he had outlined because otherwise, “if you don’t use them, you actually don’t have them“.

Wallace then opened the floor and asked for questions.

This blogger asked Kris if the international treaties he had outlined have the same weight as free trade agreements, where member states can take disputes to legal tribunals for judgement?

Kris replied,

“Yes, they’re international obligations;  they’re the same as any international  obligations including the free trade international obligations. And the point is that those free trade obligations, the treaties that we’re signing up to there are all signed up to in the context that there is an existing, long standing human rights framework. So the free trade agreements do not overtake the international human rights framework. They exist in the context of the existing and enforceable human rights framework.”

At that moment, I thought of the other forms of discrimination that National was engaging in – such as punitive new policies against welfare beneficiaries. Could forcing beneficiaries to undertake drug tests or use contraception be a form  of discrimination that could be litigated at an international disputes tribunal such as the UN Special Rapporteur on Health?

To be continued at:  Opposition parties work together on “orphan drugs” (part rua)

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*

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Copyright (c)  Notice

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

* Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
* Where purpose of  use is  commercial, a donation to NZ Organisation for Rare Disorders is requested.
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Previous related blogposts

Priorities? (19 Oct 2011)

Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key (12 Nov 2012)

Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key – Update & more questions (28 Nov 2012)

Health Minister circumvents law to fulfill 2008 election bribe? (18 Dec 2012)

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment – Compassion (9 Jan 2013)

“There’s always an issue of money but we can find money for the right projects” – John Key (20 Jan 2013)

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part tahi (4 March 2013)

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part rua (4 March 2013)

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part toru (4 March 2013)

Additional

NZORD

UN Special Rapporteur on Health

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Radio NZ: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams

5 August 2013 4 comments

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- Politics on Nine To Noon -

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- Monday 5 August 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 (27′ 40″ )

  • Discuss the current Fonterra food safety scare;
  • the continuing scandal surrounding the GCSB emails;
  • Labour’s affordable housing policy,
  • and recent positive poll results.

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

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Radio NZ: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams

15 July 2013 2 comments

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- Politics on Nine To Noon -

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- Monday 15  July 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 (26′ 50″ )

  • Labour’s leadership ‘coup’
  • the Maori Party AGM
  • the GCSB and new spy legislation.

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

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Facepalm #1: Labour…

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Labour proposes rule for women-only electorates

Acknowledgement:  Radio NZ – Labour proposes rule for women-only electorates

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FFS… there are better ways to deal with this gender-gap problem than with an announcement like this…

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PicardFacePalm_New_v5

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The Politics of Power and a Very Clear Choice – Part Wha

new zealand high electricity prices

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Continued from: The Politics of Power and a Very Clear Choice – Part Toru

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First NZ

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As Chris Trotter pointed out in his excellent blogpost just recently,

ONLY STEVEN JOYCE could offer up JB Were, Woodward Partners, Milford Asset Management, First NZ Capital,  and Forsyth Barr as credible critics of the Labour-Greens’ energy policy. As if these six financial institutions were ever likely to offer the Opposition parties their fulsome support!.”

Acknowledgement: The Daily Blog – No Dog In The Fight: Whatever happened To Academic Expertise?

We can add to the above list; AMP Capital, Morningstar Research, BusinessNZ, and Federated Farmers – all of which appear to be the front-line foot-mercenary-soldiers in National’s counter-attack to the Labour-Green’s NZ Power.

Minister of the Known Universe, Steven Joyce’s actual comment was,

Financial analysts including JB Were, Woodward Partners, Milford Asset Management, First NZ Capital, Devon Funds Management and Forsyth Barr are unanimous in their condemnation. One has labelled it a ‘hand grenade’ to the New Zealand economy, while others have said it will cut the value of every New Zealanders’ KiwiSaver account and lead to rolling blackouts. ”

Acknowledgement: Scoop –  Labour-Greens Power ‘Plan’ Economic Sabotage

Rolling blackouts“?!

He left out a plague of locusts and rivers turning into blood (though with farm run-offs, these days it’s more like Rivers of  Excrement).

We’ve had power black-outs in the past, due to dry weather; equipment failure; shut-downs for maintenance; human error; etc. And we will continue to have unavoidable power cuts, in the future;

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Damaging gales forecast for north 5.5.2013

Acknowledgement: NZ Radio – Damaging gales forecast for north

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Joyce added,

Kiwis are deeply suspicious about the Labour-Greens announcement and its timing. It’s simply economic sabotage. ”

Hmmm, considering the high value of the New Zealand dollar’s destructive effects on our manufacturing/export sector and the 40,000 jobs that’s been lost in the last four years – if I were Joyce, I would not be too keen to bandy about charges of “economic sabotage”. National’s policies in the last few years have been more than effective in that regard,

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Exporters tell inquiry of threat from high dollar

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ – Exporters tell inquiry of threat from high dollar

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It’s hardly surprising that most of the negative response has been from the financial markets and commercial firms. They are the ones with the naked vested interests.

To date, the following fear-threats have been thrown at the New Zealand public – because make no mistake, these  doomsday scenarios are directed at voters, and not Labour or the Greens.

Perhaps the most outrageous claims – or outright lies – came from share broking company, First NZ,

“Despite the alleged “excessive price increase in the 13 years since 2000 we are not convinced the system is broken. If it isn’t, then it doesn’t need fixing.

Since 2008, the “real” rate of increase (net of line charges) has slowed even further to 0.5 per cent per annum. Your writer knows for a fact he is paying less for electricity today than three years ago.

Our modelling assumes 11.6 per cent residential tariff increases over the next four years, however net of line charges this reduces to 3.2 per cent over four years.

We believe the Opposition’s desire for a 10 per cent reduction in power prices can mostly be achieved through the current market without the need for a complex and costly change of market structure.”

Acknowledgement:  NZ Herald –  Power price cuts coming anyway, says First NZ

In another document, First NZ made the extraordinary claim,

“Despite the alleged “excessive” price increases in the 13 years since 2000 we are not convinced the system is broken. We estimate that, net of line charges and after allowing for inflation, residential electricity prices have risen 2.6% since 2000.

Acknowledgement:  First NZ – Contact Energy – If it ain’t broke don’t fix it

Hold on.

Is First NZ is really telling the public that power prices have only risen 2.6% since  2000?!?! Well, they do qualify that with “net of line charges and after allowing for inflation”. Though why they would omit line charges seems pointless; the public are still paying at the end.  “Clipping the ticket” seems the norm and impacts on the end-consumer regardless of how it is done.

Which also raises a question in my mind;  why is First NZ making this assertion only now? Why did they not make the effort to rebut National’s claims when Dear Leader issued public statements like this, on 27 January, 2011,

“In the nine years Labour was in government, power prices went up 72 per cent and the Government owned 100 per cent of the assets.”

Acknowledgement:  NZ Herald – Power price fears if Govt stakes go

Why did First NZ not issue public statements ‘correcting’ National’s “misrepresentations” at the time?

Why have they left it only till now, to counter the assertion that “power prices went up 72%”?

Why is a single-buyer desk for electricity sending brokerage firms into a panic? Especially, considering, that we already have single buyer-desk’s in the form of Fonterra, Zespri, PHARMAC, etc.

The answer, I submit, is fairly obvious. First NZ’s fanciful statements and assertions are part of an orchestrated litany of bullshit to scare Joe & Jane Public to run back into the cold, dead arms of Nanny Neoliberal.

The Financial Money Men, with their Federated Farmers allies, are propping up their neo-liberal stooges in Parliament. The rats are out of the woodwork, and we can see who is lined up against the best interests of the public.

Because, in the final analysis, this all boils down to money – who makes it and who gets to keep it. And because so much money is at stake, we are told that rising power bills is the price for living in a “free” market.

We’re also promised that power prices will drop. Sometime. In the future.

We just have to be patient.

Maybe another thirty years?

It will be interesting if people buy into this propaganda BS.  Will voters believe the fear-mongering campaign from the money-pushers?

Or will they realise that share brokers and merchant bankers are  interested only in seeing that power prices remain at stratospheric levels, to provide maximum returns for their shareholders?

Because one thing is as certain as the sun rising tomorrow; these firms are not remotely interested in our welfare. Nor in the welfare of Kiwi families being gouged with higher and higher power bills.

I’m struck senseless that so many National supporters believe  that siding with the likes of JB Were, Woodward Partners, Milford Asset Management, First NZ Capital, Devon Funds Management,  Forsyth Barr, Business NZ, Federated Farmers, et al, will somehow gain them some kind of  ‘benefit’. Are National supporters so masochistic and blinded by their faith in the “free market” that they are willing to tolerate  paying higher and higher prices for electricity?

I hope they realise that JB Were, Woodward Partners, Milford Asset Management, First NZ Capital, Devon Funds Management,  Forsyth Barr, Business NZ, Federated Farmers, et al, will not pay the power bills for National supporters.

Good luck with that!

The Labour-Green coalition should welcome these attacks as an opportunity. Every time one of these money-pushing firms launches a critical attack on NZ Power – the Labour-Greens should counter with press conferences where facts, stats,   and more details are presented for the public and nice, big, colourful  graphic-charts presented.

Like this one, from the Ministry of Economic Development/Business, Innovation, and Employment;

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Ministry of Economic Development - Power Prices 1974 - 2011

Acknowledgement: Ministry of Economic Development/Business, Innovation, and Employment – Power Prices

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(Note price drop around 1999. Whilst Industrial and Commercial prices fell, residential prices continued to rise. There is more to explain the 1998/99 price fall here;  Statistic NZ –  Electricity consumption. It had little to do with Bradford’s reforms, and more to do with competing retailers changing their  methods of calculation for the CPI electricity price index and building extra generation capacity. The cost of the latter had shifted from the State and onto domestic consumers.)

Where possible, David Parker and Russell Norman should  speak at engagements around the country at public meetings. (Community newspapers and other local media should be engaged, as they love anything that happens within their community.)

Invite others such as  the Salvation Army, and experts such as energy-sector expert, Molly Melhuish, and Victoria University researcher Geoff Bertram, should be invited to address media events.

Invite members of the public; families, etc,  to present their power bills as evidence of skyrocketing prices.

Build a Broad Front of support. Show the country that there is support for NZ Power.

People want reassurance. We need to give it to them. And we need to show them why the National and the  finance sector are working in cahoots.

Because ain’t it funny that no community organisation has come out, demanding that the electricity sector remain unregulated and welcoming higher and higher prices?

And if the media aren’t presenting the full story, use progressive blogs to publish the information. We, too, can be  “foot soldiers” in this struggle. (Because surprise, surprise,  we too, use electricity.)

This is a war between the Neo Liberal Establishment and Progressive forces fighting to roll back thirty years of  a failed experiment.

That war began on 18 April.

There is no reason on Earth why we should not win.

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NZ First

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I find it hard to trust  NZ First. Or, to be more precise; I find it hard to trust it’s leader, Winston Peters.

His parliamentary colleagues; party members; and supporters – I have no problem with. They are people who, generally, want the best for this country and dislike the false religion of neo-liberalism as deeply as those on the Left do.

But Peters…

Peters has ‘form’. He has changed direction  on numerous occassions, and I find it hard to take him at his word.

Some examples…

1.

In 1996, Winston Peters campaigned to defeat the National Government and remove it from power. His campaign statements at that time seemed unequivocal;

Jim Anderton: Is the member going into a coalition with National?

Winston Peters: Oh no we are not.” – Parliamentary Hansards, P14147, 20 August 1996

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There is only one party that can beat National in this election that that is New Zealand First.” – Winston Peters, 69 & 85 minutes into First Holmes Leaders Debate, TVNZ, 10 September 1996

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Of course I am not keen on National. Who is?

… This is a government bereft of economic and social performance  [so] that they are now arguing for stability.” – Winston Peters, Evening Post, 25 June 1996

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The prospects are that National will not win this election, that they will not form part of any post-election coalition.” – Winston Peters, The Dominion, 5 October 1996

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It is clear that this National government will use every means at its disposal to secure power… Come October 12…  Two months ago I warned that the National Party would use every trick and device at their command to to retain their Treasury seats.” – Winston Peters speech to Invercargill Grey Power, 26 August 1996

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The Prime Minister [Jim Bolger] is not fit for the job and come 12 October he will be out. He should not get on his phone and call me like he did last time, because we are not interested in political, quisling  behaviour. We are not into State treachery.” – Winston Peters, Parliamentary Hansards, P14146, 20 August 1996

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We believe the kind of politician depicted by Bolger, Birch, and Shipley is not to be promoted into Cabinet. As a consequence we will not have any truck with these three people.” – Winston Peters, NZ Herald, 22 July 1996

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We are a party that says what we mean and mean what we say, regardless of the political consequences.” – Winston Peters, Speech to public meeting, 9 October 1996

Despite Peters’ assurances,  on  11 December 1996  the public woke up to this nightmare,

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2.

In 1996, one of the biggest election issues was the sale of  Forestry Corporation of New Zealand Ltd (cutting rights only,  not the land). In 1996, the then Bolger-led National government had announced it’s intention to privatise the SOE,

In 1996, the Minister of Finance announced the government’s intention to sell its shares in the Forestry Corporation of New Zealand (formerly Timberlands Bay of Plenty). The corporation’s assets were Crown Forestry Licences to planted forests, which had expanded to 188 000 ha in the central region of North Island, processing plants in various locations, a nursery and a seed orchard.

A handful of large forestry companies and consortia submitted bids. The sole criterion was price. However, as the strength of the bids was not as great as hoped, bidders were asked to resubmit their bids. In August 1996, it was announced that the Forestry Corporation of New Zealand had been sold to a consortium led by Fletcher Challenge in a deal that valued the assets at $NZ 2 026 million.

Acknowledgement:  Devolving forest ownership through privatization in New Zealand

The sale went ahead and the  final sale-price was $1,600,000, to a consortium made up of  Fletcher Challenge Forests (37.5%), Brierley Investments Ltd (25%) and Citifor Inc (37.5%).

Acknowledgement:  Treasury – Income from State Asset Sales as at 30 September 1999

Throughout 1996, Winston Peters engaged in an election campaign to “hand back the cheque” should he and his Party be elected into a position of power,

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Forests Buy back signalled - Evening Post - 13 August 1996

Acknowledgement: (hard copy only): Evening Post, 13 August 1996

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the Game plan - what we're all playing for - Eveni ng Post - 2 October 1996

Acknowledgement: (hard copy only): Evening Post, 2 October 1996

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To quote  Peters, who said on 13 August 1996,

I ask both the Labour and Alliance parties – putting politics aside for  this one day – to join New Zealand First in it’s post-election pledge to reverse the sales process“.

As many who lived through the times will recall, Peters pledged to “hand back the cheque”. It was a powerful message.

But it never happened.

Peters joined in coalition with National  (consigning Labour and The Alliance into Opposition) and the pledge to buy back the forests was dropped – much to the disgust of people at the time..

Sixteen years later, and Peters has made the same promise all over again.  On TV3′s The Nation, on 24 June 2012,  Winston Peters stated,

 “The market needs to know that Winston Peters and a future government is going to take back  those assets. By that I mean pay no greater price than their first offering price. This is, if they transfer to seven or eight people, it doesn’t matter, we’ll pay the first price or less. ”

Acknowledgement: TV 3 – The Nation

On 4 March this year (2013), Peters announced,

New Zealand First will use its influence on the next coalition Government to buy back our state-owned power companies which are being flogged off by National and we are committed to buying back the shares at no greater price than paid by the first purchaser.”

Acknowledgement: Scoop – One More Quisling Moment from Key

Another quote from Winston Peters, who  said in a speech to the NZ First Conference,  in 1999,

All the policies and manifestos in the world are meaningless when you cannot trust the leadership. That is what leadership is about – trust. Nobody expects leadership to be infallible. But you have a right to expect it to be trustworthy.”

Acknowledgement: (hard copy only):  Speech by Rt Hon Winston Peters to the New Zealand First Conference, 18 July 1999, at the Eden Park Conference Centre

Indeed; “All the policies and manifestos in the world are meaningless when you cannot trust the leadership.”

If Peters and NZ First hold the balance of power in 2014 and choose to enter into a coalition arrangement with National – will he carry out his pledge this time?

Or will that promise be dropped and buried for political expediency and some babbled, weak excuse?

It’s happened once, before. And not too long ago.

Can he be trusted for a second time?

I am of  the belief that folks can learn from their mistakes. God knows I’m made a few in my early adulthood.

Has Winston Peters learned to honour his electoral pledges and not to treat the voting public as fools? Has he learned that he betrays voters at his peril? I hope so.

Because the public exacted a fitting response to his behaviour in 2008, as he and his Party were punished and spent three years in the political wilderness (see;  New Zealand general election, 2008).

More than ever, the future of this country – and the power –  is in our hands,

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NZ Power Shearer Norman

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Residents Vote In Mana By-Election

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Don’t screw up this time, Mr Peters.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 6 May 2013.

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Previous Related Blogposts

History Lesson – Tahi – Electricity Sector “reforms”  (4 March 2012)

John Key: Man of Many Principles (28 Sept 2012)

Labour, Greens, NZ First, & Mana – A Bright Idea with electricity! (10 March 2013)

Additional Sources

Statistics New Zealand: The history of electricity reform

Ministry of Economic Development: Electricity Prices

NZ History Online:  Dancing Cossacks political TV ad

The Treasury: Income from State Asset Sales as at 30 September 1999

References

NZPA: Splitting up ECNZ expected to cut wholesale power price (16 Dec 1998)

NZPA:  Reforms aimed at business – Luxton (21 April 1999)

Otago Daily Times: Power Prices Set To Soar (12 May 1999)

Otago Daily Times: No case for regulation (24 May 1999)

Otago Daily Times: Lower power prices coming says Bradford (3 June 1999)

Otago Daily Times: Power prices to rise by up to 15.1% (29 June 1999)

Otago Daily Times:  Reforms blamed for hike (13 July 1999)

Scoop: Alliance to hold Winston Peters accountable (8 Oct 1999)

NZ Herald: Peters ‘forgets’ NZ First support for power reforms (13 Aug 2008)

Fairfax: Government to seek inquiry into power price rise  (30 September 2008)

NZ Herald:  Put prices on hold, Brownlee tells power companies (21  May 2009)

NZ Herald: Mighty River directors’ 73pc pay rise realistic – Key (5 April 2013)

Scoop:  Labour-Greens to rip up the book on electricity pricing (18 April 2013)

NZ Herald:  Labour-Greens plan could work, says Vector CEO (19 April 2013)

NZ Herald:  National gobsmacked at Labour idea (19 April 2013)

NZ Herald: Power plan likened to Soviet era (19 April 2013)

NZ Herald: MRP chief slams socialist’ plan (21 April 2013)

TVNZ:  Q+A – Transcript of Steven Joyce interview (21 April 2013)

NZ Herald:  Bernard Hickey: Power barons fail to fool the public this time around (21 April 2013)

Radio NZ: Power prices nearly double since 2000 (21 April 2013)

Other blogs

Kiwiblog: Electricity Prices

Tumeke: MANA threaten overseas investors not to buy assets – Bloomberg pick up on the story

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Budget 2013: State Housing and the War on Poor

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state housing new zealand

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Housing NZ Current waiting list

As at 30 April 2013 there were 4,568 people on the waiting list. Of this:

  • 1,172 were Priority Eligible – A

  • 2,207 were Priority Eligible – B

  • 728 were C (assessed before 30 June 2011)

  • 461 were D (assessed before 30 June 2011)

Acknowledgment: Housing NZ – Waiting list

Some facts;

  1. As at 30 April this year, Housing NZ had 3,379 people on it’s Category A and B waiting lists (Categories C and D are so low priority that their chances of getting into a state house are next to nil). (see:  IBID)
  2. According to Housing NZ, they had 69,400 properties in the 2011/12 financial year (see: HNZ -Addressing housing demand).  This has probably reduced significantly as many rental properties – such as in Pomare, Lower Hutt – were demolished in June 2011 (see: Pomare housing demolition begins).
  3. Child poverty in New Zealand has increased;
    In 2006/07 230,000, or 22 percent, of New Zealand children were still living in poverty. That is, in households with incomes below the 60 percent median income poverty line, after taking housing costs into account. This is more than the entire population of North Shore City (205,605) or the Manawatu-Wanganui region (222,423) and means one adult and one child were living on $430 a week before housing costs. (see:  Brief Statistics on Child Poverty in New Zealand 2004-2008)By 2011/12, approximately 270,000, or 25%, of New Zealand children were living in poverty. (see: Solutions to Child Poverty)
  4.  A recent UNICEF report placed New Zealand amongst the worst in developed countries for child wellbeing, ranking us 25th out of 34 developed countries.  We are  now behind Australia and Britain also for homicide rates, child health, and safety.  (See: NZ ranked poorly on child welfare)

In the past, one of the principle means by which  New Zealand has attempted to ameliorate the  destructive effects of poverty is for the provision of State housing, where tenants pay 25% of their household’s net income (See:  HNZ -Income-related rent)

For thousand of low-income New Zealanders, this has meant the difference between this,

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state house new zealand nz

Acknowledgment: NZ History Online – Inside a state house

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Or this,

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homelessWoman

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Unfortunately, too many New Zealanders have a narrow view of life and society in general, and cannot accept that in a civilised society there is a dire need for the State to provide housing for those who cannot manage, or, have fallen on hard times – especially during the Global Financial Crisis. But that need exists, and it is the price we pay for living in a decent society where beggars do not line the streets.

Even those who grudingly admit that social housing is a necessity still  hold to the belief that State housing is for “short term emergencies”, and not for any longer period.

This writer thoroughly disagrees and disputes that notion.

The principle of  housing is not just to provide a roof  over people’s heads and give them warm shelter from cold and rain.

Social housing – as the name ‘social‘ implies – is  where those on the lower socio-economic scale (ie, the poor)  can  create communities; offer mutual support; perhaps grow food for themselves in their backyards; and where children can put down roots and attend their local school on a steady, uninterupted basis.

The last thing we need now is those on low incomes (or vulnerable in other ways) being evicted from their state homes and  forced into a life of transience – or trapped in high-cost rental accomodation, leaving little aside for food, medicines, clothing, etc.

This is precisely what National appears to be planning;

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State tenants face 'high need' review

Acknowledgment: State tenants face ‘high need’ review

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National’s 2013 Budget proposes;

Reviews of state housing tenants will be phased in from next year. Housing New Zealand estimates the reviews will lead to 1000 tenants moving out of state houses in 2015-16 and a further 2000 in 2016-17. About 10,000 tenants are already subject to reviews, if they signed an agreement after July 2011.

Assessment for housing will also be carried out by the Ministry of Social Development and integrated with other services.

Acknowledgment: IBID

Bill English described it with words that belied the misery that such a policy could create,

It can become a trap for those whose circumstances could improve.  We want to ensure people are in the most appropriate houses for them.

We will be looking at when tenants’ circumstances change and when they no longer have higher needs and will help to move them into other housing.”

Acknowledgment: Budget 2013: All state house tenancies to be reviewed

Only a Tory who has never know deprivation, hunger, and hopelessness could call a decent chance for a warm home as a “trap”.

It’s the same weasel words that National uses for welfare payments that can put food in unemployed person’s belly.

It’s not a “trap” – it’s a lifeline for survival.

English refers to “moving tenants into other housing“.

What housing? There is a critical shortage of low-cost rental housing in this country.

Moving a tenant on a low or fixed income into a $300-$400/week rental will achieve nothing except push the poor further into poverty.

It will also inevitably  increase transience, as tenants fall behind in market rents and have to move on a regular basis. This uproots children from their school.

And it eventually leads to shocking incidents like this;

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child poverty - social housing

Acknowledgment:  CYF lost track of neglected children

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Welfare minister, Paula Bennett acknowledged the obvious,

Because of the family’s transience, living in a number of regions, I am unable to give detailed information and an actual number [of social worker visits] at this time.

What I can say is there has been previous Child, Youth and Family involvement and notifications over many years, but Child, Youth and Family was unaware that they were at that [Lower Hutt] residence until January 4, when the police were involved.”

Acknowledgment: IBID

So, let’s be clear about this: forcing low income people from their homes is a pointless excercise in futility that achieves nothing except exacerbate poverty.

It creates unnecessary stress in already stressed families.

We will see ghastly consequences of families pushed further into poverty and unable to cope with financial pressures.

And, as usual, it will be the children who suffer the most.

All for what? What possible purpose or benefit is there in pushing people out of their homes and out of their local community?

Remember the stats above?

As at 30 April 2013 there were 4,568 people on the waiting list. Of this:

  • 1,172 were Priority Eligible – A

  • 2,207 were Priority Eligible – B

National has never been a Party to promote  socially proactive programmes. At best they tolerate what Labour governments have built up over decades (like social housing).

The waiting list – 3,379 people on it’s Category A and B waiting lists – is obviously an embarressment to National ministers.

But instead of building an extra 3,400 houses or flats (which is doable), National has tackled the waiting list in a novel way; displace existing tenants into private accomodation, and re-tenant with those 3,379 in Caregories A and B.

It is a cynical manipulation of people’s lives so National ministers can, at next year’s election, claim that they have “eliminated” the state housing waiting list.

A “revolving door” of poor tenants is National’s cunning plan to solve the state housing shortage.

In the meantime, we will see more and more stories like this in our media,

The parents, a 25-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman, have pleaded guilty to failing to provide medical care, food and nutrition to the children, aged 4, 3, 2, and 7 months.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said in Parliament yesterday that her staff had been aware of the family for many years, but the agency lost track of them when they moved from Whanganui towards the end of last year.

Acknowledgment: CYF lost track of neglected children

A Message to John Key & other National clowns

In an op-ed piece in the Dominion Post on  17 May, former-Labour President, Mike Williams wrote that National policies – especially relating to poverty and housing – would hand “the Labour Party a golden opportunity to win the general election next year“. (see  Budget: Stirring state house voters)

Williams further stated,

Budget 2013 gives a very large group who don’t turn out to vote on a regular basis a very good reason to cast their ballots next year. These are state house tenants.

What we all know is that there are just under 70,000 state rental houses in this country. What Labour discovered in 2004 was that there are between three and four enrolled voters per household and that a large majority of these potential electors do not bother to cast a ballot on a regular basis.

The threat to state house tenants planned for election year by National is a gift to Labour in a tight contest. Nearly everyone in a state house will have their tenancy reviewed and 10 per cent of these people will be moved on. That nice Mr Key has grown teeth.

On September 17, 2005, Don Brash was denied victory at the last moment by increased participation in South and West Auckland, north Wellington and east Christchurch – just where you find lots of state houses.

Acknowledgment: IBID

A bit of simple arithmetic: nearly 70,000 state homes times three or four enrolled voters per household equals 210,000 voters (conservative estimate).

Considering that the 2011 election yielded the following voting results,

National: 1,058,638

Labour: 614,936

Greens: 247,370

Add 200,000 votes to Labour and the Greens – and National will be  out of office. And Key is out of a job.

Make no mistake, Mr Key; Labour, the Greens, and Mana will work in concert to target every single state house and flat  at the next election.  Every person will be made aware of National’s intentions. Every single state house tenant will be warned that their continuing tenancy will depend on National being voted out of office.

National has just made 200,000 new enemies.

Nicely done, Mr English – a political suicide note dressed up as a “budget”.

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References

Fairfax Media: Parents accused of neglecting kids (11 Jan 2013)

Fairfax Media: Neglected kids back home in days (15 May 2013)

Fairfax Media: CYF lost track of neglected children (16 May 2013)

NZ Herald:  Budget 2013: All state house tenancies to be reviewed (16 May 2013)

Dominion Post: State tenants face ‘high need’ review (17 May 2013)

Dominion Post: Budget: Stirring state house voters (17 May 2013)

Additional

Previous related blogposts

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