The current mess surrounding the appointment of Ian Fletcher as the Government Communications Security Bureau’s (GCSB) Director should serve as a clear warning to any future Labour-Green government: Don’t Do It.
To be precise; don’t do what Key (and his ministerial cronies) has done. Circumventing the State Services Commission to “facilitate” appointments – even if done for decent motives – is simply;
(A) Not a good look
(B) Not worth the hassle when the media, bloggers, and Opposition get hold of it
(C) A slippery-slope toward cronyism and inevitable corruption.
The appointment of John Key’s Electorate Chairperson, Stephen McElrea (who is also the National Party’s Regional Deputy Chair, National Party Northern Region) to the Board of NZ On Air raised numerous charges of cronyism and an agenda of political interference in public funding for television programming. (See: Call for McElrea to resign from NZ On Air; See: PM has questions to answer over NZ on Air link )
Concerns over political appointees to highly sensitive positions, vulnerable to political interference, was quickly borne out when McElrea began to flex his “political muscles” even before being appointed to NZ on Air’s Board,
Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – National man eyes NZ On Air chair
Key’s background in deal-making; cutting corners to achieve set goals; and getting results fatally blinds him to the realities that politics and government is a whole different kettle of fish to ‘high finance’. (Which would be a good thing, considering the almighty crash of ‘high finance’ four years ago.)
The State Services Commission was set up precisely to keep politician’s greasy hands of appointments. At the beginning of out nascent civil service, ministerial cronyism was rampant,
The departments that grew up over the next few decades operated under the direct control of their Ministers, in arrangements that were practical in pioneering times. Ministers approved appointments, determined pay and conditions, and oversaw administration and financial management, with varying degrees of diligence.
Understandably, Ministers were inclined to see that the people appointed were sympathetic to their own political outlook and priorities – and inevitably, in a small population, these were sometimes friends or acquaintances. The Public Service was run on somewhat ad hoc ‘frontier’ lines, and seems not to have been much different from its parent institution, the British civil service. In their report on the British civil service Sir Stafford North and Sir Charles Trevelyan described a bureaucracy that was, in the 1850s, rife with patronage, fragmented and inefficient.
Accordingly, after 1912, reforms were enacted to clean up this unholy mess,
The Hunt Commission in due course recommended, as ‘the most important matter of all’, establishment of a Board of Management under Cabinet, to have ‘absolute and undisputed power’ in ‘all matters relating to the control and management of the Service – … appointments, salaries, promotion, suspensions, dismissals, and indeed everything affecting officers – ‘ It suggested the Board’s first duties should include blocking all ‘back doors’ of entrance to the Public Service, and arranging for all promotions be made from within the Service.
The outcome was the Public Service Act 1912 – based on Herdman’s Bill already before the house – which set up a non-political and unified career Public Service; non-political through powers of appointment, promotion and dismissal being entrusted to an independent body – the Public Service Commissioner.
It is abundantly clear that John Key doesn’t ‘get’ any of this, when he said,
“I didn’t do anything wrong whatsoever. Labour have done very similar things.”
Again, blaming Labour.
Is everything he says or does predicated on what the previous government did?
Does Key not have standards of his own? (Rhetorical question. Don’t answer.)
Because Key’s memory lapses cannot be blamed on anyone but himself. Especially when, on 3 April he openly contradicted himself as to who-phoned-who, as Andrea Vance reported,
…he appears to be confused about who first suggested Fletcher for the job.
Asked why he didn’t tell the full story last week, Key said: “I’d forgotten that at that particular time.”
In Porirua this afternoon, Key was grilled about the sequence of events that saw Fletcher appointed as director of the GCSB in September 2011.
At first Key said: “Iain Rennie, state services commissioner recommended him to me… I rang [Fletcher] and said ‘look, you know, you might be interested.”
Asked again who first brought up Fletcher’s name, Key replied: “Iain Rennie put it to me.”
Later on, he was asked again who first mentioned Fletcher. “I would have mentioned it to him, I’m sure.”
When pressed to clarify if he first suggested the name to Rennie, he said: “I’m sure I probably would have.”
Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Fletcher’s appointment defended by SSC boss
Key lied. He was caught out lying.
On 4 April, Scoop.co.nz wrote about the rationale behind Ian Fletcher’s appointmentr as GCSB director. Fletcher had no prior military of Intelligence experience. But he did have an extensive background in intellectual property, commerce and “free” trade (see: The CV of a Spy Boss ) .
Fletcher’s appointment was announced in September 2011, and was due to take up his new job in early 2012.
At the same time, police were planning their raid on Kim Dotcom’s mansion, scheduled to take place on January 20 2012.
Suppose Dotcom’s arrest and extradition was the clincher in the deal that secured Warner Bros’ agreement to produce The Hobbit in New Zealand. But any link to John Key, who led the negotiations with Warner Bros, would tend to confirm Dotcom’s claim, supported by the strong connection between Hollywood and US vice-president Joe Biden, of political persecution. So the prime minister had to be protected by having total deniability, leading to the completely implausible claim of not knowing about the most prominent resident in his own electorate until the day before the raid.
Acknowledgement: Kim Dotcom Part Two
Remember that Key has had several top level meetings with Warner Bros executives,
Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – No decision yet in Hobbit talks – Key
Acknowledgement: Fairfax – PM’s ‘special’ movie studio meeting
Acknowledgement: TV3 – Key: Dotcom won’t be discussed during Hollywood visit
And those are only the meetings which we, The Masses, are aware of.
It’s interesting to note Chris Dodd, the CEO of the Motion Picture Assiciation of America (MPAA) referred to the Trans Pacific Partnership Aggreement (TPPA) in the 5 October NZ Herald article above.
The TPPA has more to do with intellectual property rights than with “free” trade. (See: “Global Research - The “Trans-Pacific Partnership”: Obama’s Secret Trade Deal; See: MFAT -Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations – Intellectual Property Stakeholder Update)
It’s also worthwhile noting that Ian Fletcher’s appointment coincided to the month with the raid on Kim Dotcom’s mansion.
- Ian Fletcher appointed in January 2012. (See: GCSB – Mastery of Cyberspce for the security of New Zealand)
- Raid on Kim Dotcom’s mansion: 20 January 2012.
And both men were involved in intellectual property rights – though from different angles,
- Kim Dotcom – the man who Hollywood executives wanted brought down because of alleged copyright violations on his ‘megaupload’ website. (see: The MPAA on Dotcom)
- Ian Fletcher – the man who had worked in the UK to protect oroporate interests in intellectual property rights. (see below)
When Ian Fletcher’s appointment was announced on 8 September 2011, Key himself proudly boasted of the new Director’s career,
Announcing the appointment Prime Minister John Key said he has ” policy and operational experience particularly in relation to international economic and trade matters.”
Acknowledgement: New Zealand’s new top spy boss revealed
Fletcher’s ” policy and operational experience particularly in relation to international economic and trade matters” seemed to matter for John Key for some reason?
Kim Dotcom was very high on the list of issues relating to “international economic and trade matters“; namely intellectual property rights. Indeed, in March 2007, Fletcher was appointed as Chief Executive of the UK Office of Intellectual Property.
On 20 March 2007, Ian Fletcher said,
“I am delighted to be joining the Patent Office. It already plays a vital role in the UK’s economic prosperity, its scientific excellence and its innovation system. As the Office moves on to tackle to challenges set out in Andrew Gowers’ review, the Office’s role will become even more central to the UK’s response to the challenges of globalisation.”
(Hat-tip; Karol, on The Standard)
It has been widely commented that Ian Fletcher has no background in the military, nor Intelligence – yet was considered the one candidate who was eminently suitable for the role of Director of the GCSB. Perhaps now we are starting to understand why Ian Fletcher’s appointment seemingly related to,
- the Crown’s case against Kim Dotcom
- Illegal downloads/Intellectual Property rights
- MPAA concerns
- Hollywood big business
- Trans Pacific Partnership
And as Key himself admitted, the issue of Kim Dotcom had been raised by Hollywood executive. Just what does our Prime Minister have to discuss with said executives? Who knows – it’s all done in secret, behind closed doors. We’re just expected to pay our taxes and shut up.
Conspiracy theories remain the subjects of idle parlour chit-chat and somewhat kooky websites… well, until charges are laid. Then a conspiracy theory becomes a conspiracy case in a Court of Law.
This affair should serve as a warning for the next in-coming Labour-Green government. National’s administration is a text-book case of how not to do things.
Every minister in the next Labour-Green government should be appointed a “minder” to ensure that they do things By The Book, and not to cut one single corner. Or at the very least, periodically re-read press reports and blogposts detailing every f**k-up by National over the last four years.
New Zealand is a small country. Secrets are notoriously difficult to keep. And even if the whole story behind the Fletcher-Dotcom-GCSB-TPPA thing has not been fully revealed – I think we’ve had a glimpse into the murky shadows of political perfidity to smell something rotten.
The issue has not only further dented Key’s credibility, but is starting to wear down his public persona of good natured, ‘blokeyness’,
Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – John Key calls media ‘Knuckleheads’
Abusing the media? Not a good look for Dear Leader. It appears that the stress of the job is getting to him. And he can’t handle it very well.
Key’s “blokeyness” morphes into bratty petulance when he further dictates the terms under which he will talk to the media and in Parliament,
Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – John Key changes tack over questioning
This is “seige mentality” stuff.
Key’s teflon coating wore away over a year ago. With no defensive cloak, the media recognise a government and it’s leader who are in dire trouble and on the defensive.
As Martyn ‘Bomber’ Bradbury wrote on “The Daily Blog”,
“John Key’s extraordinary appointment of his school-hood chum to be the new Director of our spy network could well be his ‘speeding in the Prime Ministerial Limo’ moment.”
And as Bryce Edwards noted in the NZ Herald on 4 April,
“As a barometer of the political media, John Armstrong is always useful, and it appears that he too ‘smells blood’.”
Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Political round-up: John Key’s precarious credibility
There are more headlines to come out of Key and National. It’s only a matter of time.
Fairfax Media: New Zealand’s new top spy boss revealed (8 Sept 2011)
The Listener: Kim Dotcom and Megaupload: a timeline (20 March 2013)
Scoop: Kim Dotcom Illegal Surveillance And Response: Timeline (28 March 2013)
Fairfax Media: Fletcher’s appointment defended by SSC boss (3 April 2013)
Radio NZ: State Services boss ‘surprised’ at PM’s phone call (4 April 2013)
NZ Herald: PM paints himself into another corner (4 April 2013)
NBR: Honesty bigger issue than cronyism (4 April 2013)
NZ Herald: PM put mate’s case for job in 2009 (5 April 2013)
Radio NZ: PM has no regrets about calling Fletcher (5 April 2013)
Fairfax Media: John Key changes tack over questioning (5 April 2013)
Scoop: Kim Dotcom Part Two (4 April 2013)
NZ Herald: PM put mate’s case for job in 2009 (5 April 2013)
Radiolive: Former GCSB boss intrigued by Ian Fletcher appointment – Audio (5 April 2013)
NZ Herald: Ian Fletcher appointment a ‘totally ethical process’ (5 April 2013)
NZ Herald: John Key calls media ‘Knuckleheads’ (6 April 2013)
The Standard: The CV of a spy-boss
The Standard: Fletcher GCSB Change manager – and QLD
The Daily Blog: John Key’s ‘speeding in the Prime Ministerial Limo’ moment
= fs =
This is how a politician owns up to a mistake,
Acknowledgement: Radio NZ
Then there are politicians who continually blames others or claim to “forget”, when it’s obvious they are lying.
John Key’s talent for blaming others for his own stuff-ups is fast becoming becoming legendary,
Key’s habitual finger-pointing currently extends to blaming Solid Energy’s debt crisis on it’s Board; management; coal prices; global financial crisis, and uncle Tom Cobbly. He takes no responsibility for his own Ministers demanding higher debt gearing levels and dividend payouts which helped plunge Solid Energy into a financial hole,
He’s [John Key] blaming the previous Labour Government, including former state owned enterprises minister Trevor Mallard who encouraged the company to expand in 2007, and citing a Cabinet paper supporting that stance.
“They can’t wash their hands of the fact that from 2003 on, they were intimately involved with the plans that that company had,” Mr Key said.
It was put to the PM that Solid Energy seemed to have been working with a “pretty high-risk” strategy. He responded by saying that all of these things were operational matters — he added that “if National’s to blame, then so’s Labour”. He said that the management and the board are responsible for the balance-sheet.
Board at fault for Solid Energy debt, not Govt – Key
Mr Key denied the Government was responsible for the company’s woes, despite encouraging the board to take on debt in 2009 and expecting it to pay a dividend.
They made some investments in core assets and those didn’t work out either, and the coal price collapsed.
Acknowledgement: MSN News
So everyone was to blame for Solid Energy’s collapse – except National which has been in power for four years and bled the company dry with demands for high dividends.
Then there are times in politics that politicians make utterances that are breath-taking in unmitigated audacity,
Acknowledgement: Radio NZ
This is one such instance – John Banks, whose memory was so “bad” that he forgot his close relationship with a rather large German multi-millionaire; a helicopter flight to one of the biggest mansions in New Zealand; and who forgot $50,000 cheques for donations for his electoral campaign.
John Banks says he never lied about internet billionaire Kim Dotcom’s $50,000 donation to his 2010 mayoral campaign but says he erred in not answering questions about the affair more openly.
But Mr Banks denied misleading the public about the donations and events around them, including a helicopter ride to Dotcom’s mansion which he has said he cannot remember.
“I didn’t lie. There’s no reason to believe that I lied. I simply couldn’t recall.”
Acknowledgement: NZ Herald
For someone with “nothing to hide” ACT leader and former Auckland mayor John Banks is doing an awfully good job of creating the impression there are some things he would rather keep to himself.
He has refused to confirm he solicited a donation from internet billionaire Kim Dotcom for his 2010 mayoral campaign and refused to confirm he asked that the $50,000 donation be split into two $25,000 payments.
He has also said he does not remember who donated money to his mayoral campaign, does not remember discussing money with Dotcom and his staff and, till yesterday, could not remember flying to Dotcom’s Coatesville mansion in Dotcom’s helicopter.
Either Mr Banks is suffering from the early onset of Alzheimer’s or he thinks honest answers to the questions raised by the revelation that Dotcom was an undisclosed donor to his campaign will reflect poorly on him.
Acknowledgement: Dominion Post – Editorial: Bad memory or poor judgment?
John Key and John Banks are now attempting to compare David Shearer’s omission for declaring his New York-based bank account.
“People make mistakes. I make mistakes and when I do, I try and tell people I’ve made them. It’s just that you don’t get cut any slack from the Labour Party when you say you’ve made a mistake, but when they make one they don’t want anyone to have a look at it.”
Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Key weighs in on Shearer’s $50,000 ‘oversight’
And John “I-can’t-recall” Banks added his own 2 cents worth,
“Shearer is on record as saying those who suffer from a memory lapse aren’t fit to hold office. Shearer’s hypocrisy is staggering.”
Except for one thing – and here’s the rub:
David Shearer himself disclosed and admitted his own mistake,
“Frankly I was horrified that I’d overlooked it and I moved straight away to correct it. When I myself found that (bank account) error I made the move to correct it, I didn’t wait for anybody else to find it.”
It is one thing to stuff up; come clean; apologise; and not try to blame others.
It is entirely another matter when one continually blames others for his mistakes or has such problems recalling events that they become a laughing stock.
Perhaps Mr Key and Mr Banks should take a lesson from David Shearer’s book; own your mistakes; don’t blame others; and don’t make facile excuses.
It’s not politicians who make mistakes, that the public loathes. It’s when they try to avoid responsibility for their errors.
Especially when Key and Banks demand responsibility from the rest of us,
Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key
= fs =
Wainuiomata, Sunday, 27 January 2013 - It was a scorcher of a day throughout most of the country – and the Wellington region was no exception. The Met Office was predicting 23 degrees – this blogger scoffs at that and thought it nudged closer to 30. Not for the first time, I thanked the Human Race for the invention of air-conditioning inside a car.
This was not the first time I had heard Party leaders speak. My very first occassion was Bill Rowling, in the 1975 election campaign. According to my memory, he seemed a nice enough guy and had some good things to say.
Unfortunately forLabour – and for the nation – Muldoon made “mince meat” out of Rowling; won the ’75 election; trashed Labour’s compulsory super-savings scheme; and set the country on a course for future dependency on foreign bankers. Nice one, Rob.
My most recent encounter with a Party leader had been John Key, in Lower Hutt and then in Upper Hutt, in 2011 in the lead-up to the general election.
Impressions? I understood why many people likened politicians to used-car salesmen. There was something about Key that instinctively made me feel uneasy and doubt every word he uttered. At any moment, I expected him to offer the audience shares in the Wellington harbour bridge. (Soon, he’ll be offering us shares in companies we already own. So I wasn’t far off.)
Back to the present…
At first, I thought the Wainuiomata Rugby Club – at a far-flung corner of this little village – was an odd place for a public meeting. But maybe not. In some ways, Wainui represents New Zealand in the wider world; tiny, isolated, out-of-sight of the rest of the country and mostly forgotten. As a microcosm of New Zealand, surrounded by verdant green-covered hills, it was a perfect setting.
The Rugby Club car-park was jam-packed. Decided to park across the road. Smiled nicely at the Wainui Bowling Club folk who must’ve been wondering what was going on across the road, and legged it. Bloody traffic had been slow all the way through the Hutt Valley and through Wainui and the ” star attraction” was due to start his speech within minutes.
The host’s introductory speech was just finishing, and David Shearer walked – strided confidently – from a rear annex where he had been waiting with one of his staff.
There was good applause from the audience, perhaps a third or half of whom were Labour party members or supporters.
Shearer was in good form as he opened his speech,
Tena koutou katoa.
Greetings everyone and thank you for being here together on a Sunday.
It’s great to see so many friendly faces.
It’s wonderful to see so many of you prepared to give up some of your summer break to talk about the future of our country.
There is nothing more important. And nothing more urgent.
I can tell you that today I’m refreshed, I’m fired up, and I’m raring to go.
This year will be a big year for Labour – a year where we not only hold the government to account, but also show there’s a better way.
A way of hope, where there is a place for everyone and where we fight for a world class NZ that we can all be proud of.
Today I want to lay out the challenges before us, the need for change and our focus for the year.
Shearer started off well – and for the most part, maintained a vigorous energy as he gave his twenty to thirty minute long speech.
NEW ZEALANDERS WHO INSPIRE US ALL
A book I was given for Christmas tells the stories of 50 inspiring New Zealanders – artists, scientists, musicians, business people, some well-known, some less so.
Reading about their lives, they share the same passion and pride in their work and in their country. The ambition to be world class.
As scientist Ray Avery says: ‘we have no respect for the status quo’.
These people never say it’s too hard – we’re not big enough, we’re too isolated, we don’t have enough money.
Instead they say, “To hell with it, I’m going to do it anyway”.
New Zealanders have always achieved what wasn’t supposed to be possible.
Sir Edmund Hillary’s idea of what was possible took him to the very top of the world.
Kate Sheppard’s idea of what was possible made New Zealand the first country to give women the vote.
Alan MacDiarmid’s idea of what was possible took him from Masterton to winning the Nobel Prize.
We’ve always dreamed big and succeeded.
Interestingly, this is the same book that Alliance leader, Jim Anderton, referred to on numerous occassions during the 1996 general election campaign. He often mentioned it in his speeches, highlighting how New Zealanders had struggled to overcome adversity during their lives.
I see that same attitude in families and schools, businesses and sports teams as I travel up and down the country.
People overcoming adversity, dreaming of something better.
When I see a single mum put herself through polytech to build a better future for her kids, I’m inspired.
When I meet New Zealanders well into their retirement, who after a lifetime of service are the first to volunteer come Daffodil Day, I’m inspired.
When a kid, who the stats say should fail, becomes the first member of their family to graduate from university, I’m inspired.
It’s inspiring because Kiwis don’t lie down.
From the most famous to the most humble, courage and determination is the common bond.
They deserve a Government that backs their hopes and inspires them to succeed.
A Government that says: you do your bit, we’ll do ours.
Shearer used the phrase “you do your bit, we’ll do ours” several times throughout his speech. It’s a phrase that can mean different things to different people.
In a centre-left context, it can suggest an interventionist hands-on government. Though it harks back to the famous Marxist expression, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs“, I doubt if 21st Century Labour’s speech writer had Karl Marx in mind.
That’s what a Labour Government will do.
That’s what a government I lead will do.
NATIONAL’S EXCUSES ARE HOLDING US BACK
But this Government’s low expectations are holding us back.
For 4 years we’ve been fed skilfully spun excuses for why we can’t get ahead.
It’s the Global Financial Crisis, the Canterbury earthquakes, the global outlook that is the problem.
We are told we have to accept second best.
There is always an excuse for why we can’t get ahead. For why we can’t be a leader in this field or that.
For example, the National government aspires to being a fast follower when it comes to climate change.
Hold that thought. What is a fast follower exactly?
Does it mean that if we follow too fast we become … what…an accidental leader?
Good point; “Does it mean that if we follow too fast we become … what…an accidental leader?“
Writing his speech, I would have referred to New Zealand’s leadership during the French anti-nuclear tests at Muroroa, and our opposition to apartheid in South Africa. Whilst our Aussie cuzzies were lukewarm in their support of Norman Kirk’s decision to send a frigate to the test site, we went ahead and did it anyway.
We were The Mouse that Roared. And this would have tied in beautifully with his references above to “ 50 inspiring New Zealanders”.
But a leader with no clue about where they’re going.
That’s not good enough with an issue that is so important to our planet, and our country.
We deserve better than that.
I refuse to accept that for New Zealand.
And so do the Kiwis I meet.
Strangely, this seems reminiscent of Key’s January2008 speech, “A Fresh Start for New Zealand“,
“We know this isn’t as good as it gets. We know Kiwis deserve better than they are getting. We are focused on the issues that matter and we have the ideas and the ability to bring this country forward.
National is ambitious for New Zealand and we want New Zealanders to be ambitious for themselves. “
The reason I point this out is that Shearer’s speech writer(s) should be wary of using too much generalised rhetoric. In many cases New Zealanders have heard it all before.
If rhetoric is used, make it original and make it something unique to social democratic precepts. There has to be a different language; different words – a different brand – to that of the Nats.
Otherwise Labour’s message will be diluted and lost within the political-media maelstrom.
FORGOTTEN NEW ZEALANDERS
But this Government has forgotten the hard-working and inspiring people I come across every day.
In a pub in Napier, a guy came up and said to me “I’m working harder than ever, I pay my taxes, we’re trying to bring up our kids the best we can, but we simply can’t seem to get ahead”.
He went on to say: “I just feel nobody is standing up for me”.
So many others I have met feel the same.
They’re busy helping organise school galas, donating their time to charities, running the sausage sizzle to fundraise for local sports clubs.
They are at the heart of our communities helping make our country the great one it is.
I’ve run into that spirit amongst many small business owners.
They’re the kind of people who pay themselves for 40 hours but work 80 just to keep the doors open.
They’re not asking for an easy ride or a hand-out.
But like thousands of others across this country, they’ve been taken for granted.
They feel the Government has forgotten them.
Kiwis across the country are working harder than ever.
They’re doing their fair share. Playing their part.
We all have that responsibility.
But they feel let down.
My promise to you as Prime Minister is that I will always stand up for the hardworking, forgotten New Zealanders.
You’re doing your bit, it’s time you had a Government that did its bit too.
NEW ERA – HANDS ON GOVERNMENT
We desperately need real leadership now more than ever.
The Global Financial Crisis has exposed the frailties of the old economic wisdom.
Now we’re getting to the knitty-gritty. Recent history backs up Shearer’s statement 100% that the “Global Financial Crisis has exposed the frailties of the old economic wisdom“. This is reality and only the most hard-line rightwing National/ACT Party devotee would attempt the futility of arguing to the contrary.
This is where National is vulnerable (amongst a truckload of other vulnerabilities).
In point of fact, whilst Key may not have been personally responsible for the 2007/08 Global Financial Crisis – his profession certainly had a hand in it’s making. Key has admitted as such, two weeks after the 2008 general election (notice not before the election),
In turn, despite the lies from National MPs (more on that in an upcoming blogpost), Labour left the New Zealand economy in a fairly positrive state,
- unemployment was low at 4.6% (source)
- sovereign net debt mostly paid down from 20% to 5.6% of GDP (source)
- and Labour was posting surpluses, as even Key had to admit, with open derision (source)
These are all positives that Labour shouldn’t be afraid to remind New Zealanders – many of whom suffer from long-term memory-fade at the best of times.
The National Party believes the financial crisis is just a blip to get over. Their solution is to apply their failed ideas of the past over and over.
They are wrong.
The hands-off, simply leave it to the market approach has failed all over the world.
We are on the cusp of a new era – when new thinking and leadership is needed to build wealth we can all share in.
The world has changed…
Why not offer a few examples?
- Examples of hands-on State intervention.
- Examples of governments re-taking control of their currencies.
- Examples of people throwing out right wing governments and replacing them with centre-left administrations.
…National hasn’t. It’s stuck in the past.
We need a government that recognises times have changed.
We need a Government that finds the courage to act, not better excuses for why we can’t.
We need a government prepared to stand up for hardworking forgotten Kiwis.
We need a smart, hands-on Government.
A government that is prepared to be a player, not a spectator.
That will be a Labour Government, and the Government I will lead.
It’s about getting our priorities right, being thrifty about our economy.
Bringing our debt under control.
But being smart about how we tackle the massive challenges ahead.
Above all, this country needs a government that chooses to act. Let me tell you what I mean.
When a young couple is putting off having kids until they buy a house, and yet despite saving hard, prices always slip beyond their reach, it’s time to act.
That’s why I’m committed to putting 100,000 families into new homes.
It’s ambitious, but New Zealanders can see right through the Government’s hands off approach that leaves it to the market.
Ambitious? Of course – but also doable. This is not beyond our means and it’s laughable that those right wingers who poo-poo the idea as “too hard” or “too costly” are always – always – the same ones who defend against similar criticisms levelled at National’s “pet projects” for their business mates.
Evidently subsidising Warner Bros (a multi-billion dollar corporation) or a rugby tournament with our taxes is “not hard” and “not costly”. It’s called an ‘investment’.
So why is building homes for our own people “too hard” or “too costly”?!
Right wingers have a blinkered view of the world and a narrow idea of what is an ‘investment’.
Housing for our citizens is a human right and something we’ve always taken pride in. This is Labour’s core strength; ensuring a roof over peoples’ heads.
They see through the tinkering with the RMA.
They see through the latest excuse – to blame the local Council.
Key has been blaming everyone and everything for the poor state of our economy; rising unemployment; growing poverty, etc.
- In 2008 he blamed his money-trader mates
- He’s blamed the Global Financial Crisis
- He’s blamed people receiving welfare payments
- He’s blamed “dodgy statistics”
- He’s blamed the Labour Party
- He’s blamed the Greens
- He’s blamed Winston Peters
And now, recently, Key and his National cronies have taken to blaming local body councils,
“ We need more houses built in New Zealand, at a lower cost. That means we need more land available for building, more streamlined processes and less costly red tape…
… It’s ridiculous that we allow councils to demand almost anything as a condition for the consent.
And it’s ridiculous that we allow them to charge whatever fees they want.”
I’m waiting for him to next blame aliens, Illuminatii, et al.
It’s just not credible.
Damn right it’s not.
It’s also why Labour will introduce a Capital Gains Tax to move investment into business and away from property speculation that is pushing house prices through the roof.
When a student graduating from university faces 7.3% unemployment and little chance of getting a job, it’s time to act.
They’ve done their bit, we need to do ours.
It’s heart-breaking watching parents waving goodbye to their kids at our airports.
People want to work – they just need the jobs.
Two days ago, John Key had an epiphany: We have a youth unemployment problem – we need apprentices.
Good on him. I thank the focus group that brought that to his attention.
There was thunderous applause from the audience at this point. The remark referring to “government by focus group” is a quip that National constantly tossed at the Clark government.
It applies equally well to National’s term. Let’s keep using it.
There are now 20 per cent fewer apprentices today than when he took office. We are now importing foreign labour to meet skills shortages in the biggest rebuild in our history in Christchurch.
Is he just waking up to this now? Is this government asleep at the wheel, completely out of touch?
You don’t need to answer that. The answer is obvious.
There was a touch of humour as Shearer said, “you don’t need to answer that. The answer is obvious.” The audience loved the wry touch and laughed. The laughter was at National’s expense.
I have been serious about youth unemployment from the day I was elected leader.
Labour’s plans are out there. I’d be delighted if this government picked them up and ran with them.
We’ll pay employers the equivalent of the dole to take on apprentices.
More loud applause. Everyone welcomes the idea of apprentices – what’s not to like? Taking young folk from our 85,000 Unemployed or Not in Education or Training(NEET); training them into a trade; adding to the skills base of our country – this is real investment.
We’ll back Kiwi businesses to get their slice of the $30 billion dollars the Government contracts out every year – but we will require them to take on apprentices and trainees in return.
This is the kind of social contract that only a centre-left government can enact. National’s neo-liberal dogma could not allow such a hands-on, visibly interventionist, policy. It flies in the face of everything they hold dear; that only the “Market” can create jobs.
Labour (or any other centre-left and left Party) has no such constraints. They can be utterly pragmatic and do whatever it takes to generate jobs.
We’ll give tax breaks to companies doing world-leading research and development, so the innovations – and the jobs – they create stay right here in New Zealand.
When I see talented people forced to leave their home town because there’s nothing on offer for them, it’s time to act.
That’s why we’ll work with councils on projects that support their provinces. Projects like the Gisborne to Napier rail link to boost economic development and create jobs.
This was well received by the audience, with good applause and rowdy cheering. The audience seemed to understand perfectly well the long-term value of rail.
When I hear of high value manufacturers shedding jobs because our high dollar cuts them off at the knees, it’s time to act.
We’ll make changes to monetary policy so that our job-creating businesses aren’t undermined by our exchange rate.
When a 5 year old girl falls asleep in class because she had no breakfast before she left home, it’s time to act.
Labour will put food in schools, to make sure all our kids get the same chance to learn.
On a roll…
When a mum and dad work long hours but still can’t afford healthy food for their kids, it’s time to act.
We’ll lift the minimum wage and champion a living wage to make sure hard work can provide a decent living.
This is what I mean when I say we need a smart Government prepared to act.
Plenty of applause at these statements. And plenty of material for the electronic media,
And print media,
This is where National will continue to be on the back-foot. Come 2014, (if the Nat-led Coalition lasts that long – by no means a foregone conclusion) Key and his administration will have been in office for six years. Aside from balancing the books (oh f****n hooray), what will be their legacy? What practical achievements can they present to the voting public after two terms in office.
Bugger all, I would suggest.
A Government that says we will back you if you’re prepared to do your best.
Yes, we face huge challenges, but by being hands on we can turn our biggest challenges into opportunities for the future.
Since we announced KiwiBuild last year, excitement is growing. Architects, construction companies and designers around NZ have been in touch.
They see an opportunity to build affordable, energy-efficient – even energy generating – houses.
Houses that use home grown sustainable materials.
Houses that families will be proud to call home.
This is an idea the country is embracing.
And it’s also 100% feasible. There is no reason why any of Shearer’s suggestions cannot be implemented. It is, after all, part of our innovative, “number 8 fencing wire” mentality that we love to espouse as a Kiwi characteristic.
Ok, well let’s put that into operation. Not just to make money for overseas corporates like Warner Bros – but for our own young people.
This is the kind of talk that cuts through the free market, neo-liberal BS. This is what will encourage New Zealanders to call this country home – and not just a launching pad for overseas destinations.
More than 70 per cent of Kiwis support our KiwiBuild programme to build 100,000 first homes.
New Zealanders are also behind our other new ideas and those numbers are growing.
Most people see the need for a Capital Gains Tax on investment properties.
Nearly six in every ten New Zealanders support our idea to make KiwiSaver universal.
And nearly two-thirds of you back our pledge to protect universal superannuation for future generations by gradually lifting the age of eligibility.
The forces of conservatism said that reforming Super wasn’t the right thing to do.
It wouldn’t be popular – so we shouldn’t do it. They were wrong.
New Zealanders are forward thinking and are prepared to do what it takes to create a better future.
When New Zealanders understand the long-term implications of their decisions, and vote accordingly for sensible policies on Election Day, we can achieve great things.
But when we vote through sheer stupidity for selfish reasons – as many did on 29 November 1975 for Robert Muldoon – we inevitably achieve short term gain. But loose out Big Time on long term benefits (see related blogpost: Regret at dumping compulsory super – only 37 years too late).
National has a big idea of course – it’s to sell our best assets.
And, with them, goes another chunk of our future.
That is their plan.
Most Kiwis hate it. And we are behind them fighting that idea all the way.
HANDS ON – A GLOBAL TREND
Labour isn’t alone in knowing the time has come for active government.
A movement of leaders and people across the world have realised the old hands-off solutions take us nowhere.
It’s a new way of thinking and it’s evolving.
New Zealanders are looking to a government that will roll up its sleeves and back them.
You do your part, and we the government will do ours.
In 2014 that’s the Government I will lead.
And that it pretty much what persuaded voters to support Labour and it’s coalition partners in 1999. The do-nothing, slash-and-burn mentality of Bolger and Shipley was driving New Zealand to a yawning chasm. Neo-liberalism was creating a nightmarish society of high unemployment, degraded social services, missed opportunities, and widening gap between the rich and poor.
AGENDA FOR 2013
Kiwis won’t have to wait until the election to find out what I stand for and what I’ll do about the issues that matter to them.
I’ve already put clear stakes in the ground on housing affordability, quality education, growing jobs and the economy.
There’s more to come.
For Labour, this year is about preparing for Government.
We want New Zealanders to know that we’re ready to govern.
It’s simple: appear confident and act like a government-in-waiting – and they will flock to you.
Note, this applies also to NZ First, Mana, and the Greens. The public want to see Opposition Parties working together for the good of the country as a whole. By all means offer your own policies for public debate – but take note that there’s a very fine demarcation between debate and squabbling.
Any hint of squabbling and the voters will turn of.
There have to be positive reasons for voters to take a punt on voting for the Opposition.
Work together, in a cool, calm, methodical, professional manner – and they will flock to you.
That’s why today I’m setting out my agenda for the year.
Number one is jobs.
It is our most urgent priority and cuts across everything we do.
Labour’s plan to build new affordable homes will create thousands of new jobs and apprenticeships.
A job is more than a weekly wage, it’s gives people a purpose and pride in themselves. That’s why I’m focussed on jobs.
Our housing proposals are at the cutting edge of urban design and energy efficiency.
This year we will bring together the best ideas of architects, designers, urban planners and others to a housing conference.
I want KiwiBuild ready to roll on Day 1 when we take office.
First-home buyers shouldn’t have to wait.
Jacinda Ardern, my Social Development spokesperson, will produce an alternative white paper this year, setting out our direction to help lift kids out of poverty.
There are 270,000 children in hardship in this country, and the government is failing them.
Kids deserve the best chance in life regardless of their parents’ wealth, and with Labour they will get that.
And those of us on the Left will be supporting, encouraging, and where necessary, nudging, a Labour-led government to maintain the focus of these problems (I refuse to call them “issues”) .
It is simply unacceptable to have poverty in this country and tackling this cancer in our society must rank at the top, along with job creation and caring for our children.
On this note, I would suggest that David Shearer demonstrate his total commitment to addressing child poverty in this country by taking on the role of Minister for Children.
There is nothing more important to the future of our nation than our children. (Some rightwingers don’t get this simple fact – but then, they do suffer from a brain-deficit in comprehension of social problems.)
John Key made himself Minister of Tourism – and spent his holidays in Hawaii. I guess he’s Minister of Tourism for Hawaii, and we just didn’t hear that part of the announcement.
An incoming Labour Prime Minister’s portfolio must be Minister for Children.
No ifs, buts, or maybes – that will set the tone of an incoming Labour-led government.
Their best opportunity is from a world-class education system.
We’ve already set out our plan to put food in schools and extend reading recovery so our kids aren’t destined to be drop outs from their first day at school.
This year I’m asking my education team to look at ways to improve transitions from school to further training and high-skill jobs.
1. Can Charter Schools. These are parasitic neo-liberal constructs which add nothing to our education system.
2. Look at Finland. They’re at the top of OECD PISA tables for achievement. I suggest they have a wealth of knowledge we can gain from them. (Finland does not use the “Charter schools” model.)
3. Whether of not NZ First joins the Coalition on an official basis, I would strongly suggest that MP Tracey Martin be given an education or health or Associate Minister of Children’s portfolio. This woman has talent and should not be over-looked. (Disclaimer: I’m not a member, supporter, or even fan of NZ First. But I recognise talent when I see it.)
85,000 young New Zealanders are not in work, education or training.
It’s a flaw in our system.
I want to see our schools seamlessly connect to further training opportunities.
I want every child to go through school with a purpose and plan of where they’ll end up.
Because every young Kiwi deserves a shot at a career that excites and motivates them.
Without this we’ll continue to see kids, without the right skills to get a job, falling through the cracks.
And our employers will continue to struggle to find the skills they need.
That’s not a future I want for my kids or yours.
Pretty damned obvious, eh?
I mean, really, it’s so fricken insanely straight forward.
In fact, it’s so patently obvious that voters have a clear choice,
A. Vote National and more of the same – 85,000 not in work, education or training.
B. Vote for a centre-left Coalition and get these kids into apprenticeships.
Is there anyone out there who doesn’t get this?
I’ve spoken of a clean, green, clever economy many times.
We need our environment to drive our economic success and our economy to keep our environment clean.
Despite warnings from the likes of Dr Mike Joy that our environment was hardly the fiction of being “100% Pure” or “Clean & Green”, right wing spin doctors (see: When spin doctors go bad) and our Dear Leader don’t seem to understand the simple fact that much of our economy is predicated on our marketing brand (see: John Key’s “pinch of salt” style of telling the truth).
Dr Joy was lambasted by Mark Unsworth – a rabid right-wing lobbyist for a professional “government relations consultancy” company, Saunders Unsworth – who condemned the scientist as an economic “saboteur” on 21 November, last year.
Now, as our environmental mishaps begin to compound, the chooks are coming home to roost – and crap all over everything,
The reality is we will not create more better paying jobs by simply exporting more milk powder.
We’ve been talking about it since Mike Moore invented lamb burgers.
Our future prosperity will be carved out by backing the talent of businesses working in high tech, or the innovations of those adding value to our natural resources.
It will be built by those that see the promise and opportunity of a clean, green future.
Great ideas are emerging from organisations like Pure Advantage, and from thousands of innovative can-do Kiwis.
A thriving manufacturing sector is at the heart of my vision. That’s why our manufacturing inquiry that starts tomorrow is an important first step.
But the commitment is lacking from government.
Well I am committed to this future.
There is simply no other option.
That is why I have asked my colleagues to develop a clear plan to diversify our economy.
A plan we can put in front of New Zealanders, not airy fairy concepts.
There was more applause to this…
All of these areas – jobs, education, housing and building a new economy – are critical to rebuilding our second largest city.
I am committed to rebuilding Christchurch from the grassroots up, not the Beehive down.
A part of me thinks that “rebuilding Christchurch from the grassroots up, not the Beehive down” may be the toughest, most demanding of Labour’s promises. 300,000 Cantabrians may have 300,000 opinions as to what should be done.
At the very least, a Labour-led government must put an end to school closures and the prospect of the Charter Schools experiment. Christchurch has enough stresses without central government adding to the woes of an already vulnerable community.
That’s why I’ll be talking to Cantabrians about how they see their future.
To ensure their voices are heard.
That’s what we’ll work on in the coming months.
These ideas will make a difference.
These are ideas National simply can’t see.
The difference between the forces of conservatism and the need for change has never been wider.
Indeed. On almost every level, there is a world of difference between the expectations of National Party supporters and those who support Labour, the Greens, Mana, and NZ First.
The differences are best epitomised by the issue of child poverty.
National/ACT supporters play the blame-game and deride parents for making “bad choices”. Key himself validated this belief in February 2011, when he said,
“But it is also true that anyone on a benefit actually has a lifestyle choice. If one budgets properly, one can pay one’s bills.
“And that is true because the bulk of New Zealanders on a benefit do actually pay for food, their rent and other things. Now some make poor choices and they don’t have money left.”
This attitude of selfishness can become vicious and downright psychopathic in cruelty. Perhaps the nastiest I’ve seen was Damien Grant’s piece in the NZ Herald yesterday – see: Damien Grant: I’d rather a better phone than feed a hungry child.
People like Grant – and those who posted vile messages in support of his comments – are the mean spirited, self-centered, dark side of humanity. Their vision of society would not be too dis-similar to to Dickens’ Victorian-era world.
Though strangely enough, Rightwingers/National Party supporters are never quite able to explain how a child can choose to be born into a family ridden by unemployment, poverty, dysfunction, addiction, abuse. Strange, eh?
Labour/Green/Mana and probably NZ first supporters see problems such as child poverty as a societal problem that affects us all. They understand there are many reason why a family may be living in poverty.
With 175,000 New Zealanders now unemployed, it’s hardly surprising that poverty is increasing. Contrary to the bizarre fantasies of right wingers and low-information voters, the dole is not very generous. No one in their right mind would give up a job earning $600 a week, to go on the dole for $204.96 a week, net (see: WINZ Unemployment Benefit – current).
A priority of an incoming Labour-led government should be to un-do the benefit cuts of Ruth Richardson in 1991. It is an indictment on Labour that it never carried out this positive reform during it’s tenure in office.
Aside from being the right thing to do, Labour should ask itself; why should the poorest in our society vote for them if they don’t un-do the policies of previous right-wing governments?
What’s in it for them?
Come 2014, New Zealanders will face a choice more stark than any in a generation.
A choice in the direction of their country.
A choice between staying as we are and managing our decline, or being part of a hands-on
Government that’s backing hardworking New Zealanders.
“Government that’s backing hardworking New Zealanders“.
Code for the fickle middle classes?
A government that chooses action over excuses.
A government that understands the world is entering a new era and we need to change with it.
One that shares the determination and passion of those Kiwis who inspire us most.
There was more loud applause at this point. Despite not giving specifics, the audience seemed to like what they were hearing; the direction that Shearer was moving the Party.
That’s the Labour Government I will lead.
But I can’t do it alone.
Today, I am asking for your help.
I want you to be part of my team and play a part in the next government.
I want to hear your hopes for this country and your ideas of how we get there.
I want each of you to take the Labour message out to your neighbours, your co-workers, your congregation, and your friends.
Tell them yes, we in the Labour Party are committed to making a real difference in people’s lives.
We will not accept the status quo.
A tide for change is building.
Indeed. And that tide for change is not just the poor; the unemployed; or the low-paid. Even businesspeople seem to be getting mightily pissed of at National’s arrogant hands-off, do-nothing, Leave-It-To-The-Marketplace attitude,
The managing director of a company that makes and exports a device that protects crops from hail stones said comments from the Government that his sector needs to get smarter are “insulting and unnecessary”.
Mike Eggers said he is sick of hearing politicians telling him he has to up his game if he wants to survive – when the high dollar makes it more and more difficult to operate.
“We’re told to get smarter and I find that irritating and insulting. I’m about as smart as they get in my little field. How the hell do these people get smarter? For a politician to tell somebody else to get smarter – he’s risking his life.”
A scrap-copper manufacturer told the inquiry the Government can’t continue to do nothing about the exchange rate.
A W Fraser managing director Gordon Sutherland said the over-inflated dollar is crippling exporters and it was disappointing when the Government told them to keep making efficiencies to remain viable.
“We know that – we’ve known that for a very, very long time. Of course we get efficient, of course we try and work as hard as we can to be efficient – it’s the only way we can exist. It drives me insane when people say, ‘Get efficient’. What do you think we are – idiots? We’re not.”
Joyce’s immediate response?
“Nobody’s arguing that being a manufacturer isn’t challenging. In fact, in my history in business, every time you’re in business it’s challenging.
“But going around and trying to talk down the New Zealand economy and talk about a crisis in manufacturing, I don’t think is particularly helpful.”
Mr Joyce said there was no simple answer to the problems the sector are facing, except to keep working hard to further improve their businesses.
If Joyce and his little National buddies think that kind of response will win them the next election – they must be more deluded than I thought imaginable.
Joyce might as well have saved time and simply told exporters and manufacturers, “Go vote Labour”. The effect will be the same.
Change that guarantees everyone gets ahead, not just those at the top.
Change so we once again stand tall as a country.
A country where we strive to be a leader – not a follower.
A country where the Government is hands-on and backs its people.
A country we can be proud of.
Friends, join with me to build that future.
Because, together, that’s what we will do in 2014.
With that, Shearer concluded his speech. As the audience rose to their feet, cheering enthusiastically, he left the stage,
So, what to make of Shearer’s performance?
Shearer spoke from a pre-prepared speech (hard-copy provided to this blogger) which he more or less followed. He spoke convincingly and passionately and though perhaps not as charismatic as a Jim Anderton or younger Winston Peters or late Rod Donald, it was sufficient to present his message to people in the Hall.
Reading a pre-prepared speech, this Blogger scores Shearer a 6/7 (where 10 is in the league of Lange/Kirk/Savage and 1 is one-dimensional to the point of being robotic.)
The speech scores a 5/6. It was adequate – but perhaps something was missing. Something that would make a listener sit up, with the proverbial lighbulb switching on.
After Shearer left the stage, Hutt South MP, Trevor Mallard, invited the gathering outside to enjoy the beautiful hot day in an adjacent park, as well as a free sausage sizzle for all,
A traditional Kiwi sausage sizzle provided free snacks – though there were suggestions that NZ Herald journo, Audrey Young (not pictured) pay for hers in the spirit of Market User Pays,
It also gave Shearer an opportrunity to meet the press outside, to answer questions. Most questions seemed focused on Labour’s recently released Housing policy,
Patrick Gower (at left, with pink tie) was the main questioner,
At times the questions were so intent on detailed house pricing; number of bedrooms; location; location; location, that they seemed more suitable for a real estate agent than a Party leader. But they were fair questions and this blogger has no quibble with them,
I stood with the group throughout the Q + A session, listening and recording the exchange between Shearer and msm journos.
My impression? He has improved significantly since his earlier days as Labour’s mumbling, incoherent, leader. Occassionally there is still hesitation, and that requires further training to make his speech patterns more fluid, natural, and assertive.
In any case, except for an occassional moment or two, he answered journo’s questions reasonably well.
The question is – is he ready to go head-to-head with The Great Car Salesmen, aka, our Prime Minister John Key? Currently, I’m not sure. By 2014, with more practice and experience, and as his confidence grows, he has a fair chance.
What the Labour Party needs to do is ensure that not only does Shearer get the training and experience, but that he is 100% well-versed in every aspect of Labour policy and funding mechanism.
National is vulnerable right now, and this blogger believes things are about to get a whole lot messier for the Tories. 2012 was only the beginning of their eventual demise as government.
There’s still a lot of work ahead of us, and every critic and opponant of National must do their bit; Party activists; MPs (which means side-lining hopeless non-performers and elevating those who are taking it to the Nats); bloggers; and disaffected ordinary New Zealanders who’ve had a gutsful.
2014 is ours to seize.
Other moments and faces of the day
Rimutaka MP, Chris Hipkins, (“Kennedy for President” t-shirt) and friends,
Hutt Mp, Trevor Mallard, chatting with two members of the public,
Te Atatu MP, Phil Twyford, and supporters,
And Labour leader, David Shearer, listening intently to a fellow New Zealander,
The Jackal: Anti Shearer faction loses traction
The Standard: For a February leadership vote
This blogger has no links or preference to either “Team Shearer” or “Team Cunliffe”, and is mostly neutral in the leadership stakes.
Copyright (c) Notice
All images are freely available to be used, with following provisos,
* Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
* Where purpose of use is commercial, a donation to Child Poverty Action Group is requested.
* At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals.
* Acknowledgement of source is requested.
= fs =
- David Cunliffe, MP for New Lynn, Labour Economic Development Spokesperson
You know that at the last election, the one that we lost so badly, nearly 1 million people didn’t vote. Over 800,000 people: a fifth of the population didn’t vote.
Now you know, there are lots of reasons that people didn’t vote, and there were even more reasons why people didn’t vote for Labour. Let me give you just a few.
The major reason that voters didn’t vote for Labour, and sometimes didn’t vote at all, is simply that Labour failed to inspire voters that it was a credible alternative to National.
This is the first of a series of speeches on economic development. I am going to start with the basics – why the invisible hand of the market failed us and why we need a clear and distinct Labour view on economics; why you can’t cut and sell your way out of an economic hole; and what a Labour economic development plan should contain. We need to be clear about the context before we can go on the policy journey.
I want to be clear from the outset that this speech represents my own views and does not pretend to represent overall Labour policy. All policies are being reviewed in the post-election period.
The Invisible Hand
The Labour Party was traditionally a left-wing party. Before we debate the future of the Labour Party, we should define what the terms left and right-wing mean.
Left-wing generally means community ownership and or control and/or responsibility.
Right wing means individual ownership and/or control and/or responsibility. By modern standards, even the National party would have been a left-wing party until the 1990s. That’s because most New Zealanders accepted the idea that the government has not just a right, but also a duty to be there for them.
New Zealanders wisely accepted that finance companies needed regulation. New Zealanders wisely accepted that it was the government’s job to ensure that the electricity didn’t go off. They wisely accepted that it was the government’s job to ensure the children didn’t grow up in poverty, that medical care was available for people who needed it, that decent housing was available for the poor and the elderly.
However, by the 1980s, the New Zealand economic system had grown clumsy and slow. Most people agreed that it was in need of reform. That’s what most people wanted, economic reform. That is, they wanted the existing system, but they wanted it to function more smoothly, more efficiently and more fairly. They did not want it replaced with a system that simply handed over most of the wealth and power to rich people.
Yet, that’s what happened, and to our eternal shame, the Labour Party was the party that introduced many of the so-called economic reforms that have proved so disastrous.
The National Government that followed it took the experiment further; with the ‘Mother of All Budgets’ that savaged social services, more privatization and deregulation, and the odious Employment Contracts Act that set us on the path of becoming a low wage economy.
You hear the National government talking about the need to sell assets because we have so little money in this country. Do you know why we have so little money in this country? It’s because a large percentage of our economic assets are overseas-owned. For example, when the Australian-owned banks make billions in profits here (and it’s up a quarter to a third this year alone). That money isn’t returned to New Zealanders. The money goes straight back overseas.
And, as if that were not bad enough, the National government now wants to sell our other major state assets, which is simply going to mean higher prices for ordinary New Zealanders and it’s going to mean still more profits disappearing overseas. It’s madness, and you know it’s madness and most ordinary Kiwis know it’s madness.
But let’s go back a bit.
I know that most of the people in this room think of the 1970s as a period of long-haired hippies and revolution. However, beneath the events that were happening on the surface, there was a much more sinister revolution going on in the background.
While the hippies were out protesting in the streets, a professor at the University of Chicago called Milton Friedman, was selling his students the idea that taxation was evil and that businesses worked best when they were deregulated.
Does this sound familiar? It should be. The Republican Party in the US, the Conservative Party in England and the Labour Party in New Zealand enthusiastically took up Friedman’s philosophy, which is now called neo-liberalism. Neo-liberalism has become such a dominant economic philosophy that it is now the only economic philosophy taught in many universities.
Friedman revived a belief in the “invisible hand” of the market. It was a fairy tale that Adam Smith had said a century earlier would automatically deliver the best of all possible economic worlds.
Of course many of the rogues who benefited from it have never believed that – they remember how they got rich. However, neo-liberalism was a convenient way of selling the idea of inequality to the masses.
Hands off our assets!
Let me repeat, none of this happened by accident. The people who were the most enthusiastic supporters of neo-liberalism were the people who stood to make the most money from it. Let me give you just one example:
In the 1980s and 1990s, merchant bankers Michael Fay and David Richwhite were advisors to government.
Michael Fay and David Richwhite recommended that the government sell the state-owned New Zealand Rail.
The government agreed and put the company up for sale. Fay and Richwhite and some partners, then purchased New Zealand Rail at a bargain price.
That’s right: Michael Fay and David Richwhite, the consultants that government hired to advise them on state asset sales, advised the government to sell New Zealand Rail, then Michael Fay and David Richwhite bought a large chunk of New Zealand Rail.
The story gets worse: Fay and Richwhite and their partners then sold many of New Zealand Rail’s most valuable assets, such as land, without improving the company as a true rail operator would.
Then, in 1995, Fay and Richwhite sold their shares in New Zealand Rail, having made hundreds of millions in profits. Because Fay and Richwhite had sold many of New Zealand Rail’s most valuable assets without investing in trains or tracks, New Zealand Rail was virtually bankrupt.
The government was then forced to spend hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money to keep the rail service operating. Does this sound crazy? It is.
This sort of madness has been repeated all over the world, and it’s always the ordinary taxpayers like you, who end up paying the bills.
Roll the clock forward to the current National Government and nothing has changed except the packaging.
They can try to soft-soap it by calling it the “mixed ownership model”. But you and I and the 10,000 other New Zealanders who marched up Queen Street yesterday to fight it – know it is still privatization.
We know why privatizing our power companies is nonsense.
Generations of Kiwis worked to build up those assets and we don’t need to be told we have to buy them all over again. That’s assuming we could afford them of course.
The fact is that when sold, they will not be state owned enterprises covered by the SOE Act at all – they will simply be companies like any other – in which the taxpayer has a much reduced shareholding.
We know they make a healthy return for the taxpayer now. In fact, over the last three years the total return was around 16% – far higher than the cost of Crown capital at around 6%.
They pay good dividends –over $300m a year for the last four years. But the Government deliberately failed to show that in the Budget documents when it banked the supposed sale proceeds well before the last election.
To complete the hypocrisy, the government is now saying the loss of dividends is so low that no sane buyer would pay the money they want without driving your power prices through the roof.
National tried to buy iwi support by saying treaty rights would be protected. I doubt this, but even if true it would mean the taxpayer bears 100% of that risk including on behalf of the new private investors.
Yet the biggest porky of them all – that the government would retain majority ownership and control. Yeah right. Not when SOEs like KiwiRail are already busy flogging off major components like Hillside Workshops. Not when SOE bosses told Parliament they are free to sell off 100% of subsidiaries.
In other words, the SOEs are like a horse. The government intends selling the horse off bit by bit, leaving the taxpayer owning nothing more than the saddle.
The fact is, this is old fashioned privatization with new spin and the same old result. The people lose. The ticket clippers win (it costs up to $300 million in banker fees to sell the shares!). And the voter is told to “eat that”.
So how do these rogues get away with it?
The answer is twofold: on one hand, the news media has been a solid supporter of neo-liberalism.
Did you know, for example, that British Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair, regularly lunched with Rupert Murdoch, the far-right media boss? Tony, apparently, used to test which policies would be acceptable to Murdoch.
Thus we have a far-right media boss influencing the policies of what was supposed to be the party of the people. It’s shameful.
The second reason these rogues get away with it is because, as the Tony Blair example shows so clearly, the opposition parties, which are supposed to be the solution, too often become part of the problem.
When the right-wing party says that it’s going to cut your leg off, voters want the left-wing party to say that it’s not going to cut your leg off. Voters don’t want to be told that the left-wing party is also going to cut your leg off, but cut it off a bit lower down and give you some anesthetic.
I think that’s a major reason that nearly one million voters deserted us at the last election. It wasn’t because we failed to communicate our policies. Quite the opposite. Those voters saw that our policies – with the exception of asset sales – were mostly the same as National’s. So we can’t really be surprised at the result.
Towards a New Economy
So where to from here? Let’s be absolutely clear – New Zealand cannot cut and sell its way to National’s so-called “brighter future”.
New Zealand cannot simply milk more cows and hope that commodity prices stay up.
Nor can we pretend that mining national parks won’t destroy our precious global brand.
National has no new ideas and no credible plan. It has laundry lists of actions, many of which take us in the wrong direction.
The reason is that they still fundamentally believe that some combination of the “invisible hand” of free markets, and the “sleight of hand’ of dirty deals with casinos, dotcoms, film and media magnates, and telcos, will do the job.
The good news, if you can call it good news, is that the economic myths that drove the world into this current mess are starting to unravel. Let me quote economics writer Bernard Hickey, who regularly contributes to the New Zealand Herald:
“It’s time for me to say what I’ve been thinking for months: the economic god of completely free markets and capital flows is not worth believing in any more.
I think the Global Financial Crisis …has demonstrated the failure of the economic model most New Zealand policymakers have adhered to for nearly 3 decades.
I think we need to rethink the way we run monetary policy, the way we allow foreign ownership of assets, the way we encourage savings, the way our financial institutions are regulated and [to] change the things we are aiming for.”
All around the world, this realization is sinking in: the unregulated marketplace has been a disaster, and the costs have always been borne by ordinary people.
Europe’s current economic crisis was caused by bankers who loaned money on riskier and riskier ventures until the whole structure collapsed.
Were those bankers jailed and their assets seized? Of course not. Instead of the bankers paying the bills for their reckless speculation, the ordinary taxpayers are being screwed, left, right and centre.
And you know what? Despite all the promises that the European economic austerity measures would turn this tragic situation around, the opposite is occurring.
Austerity economics does not work. It did not work in the Great Depression of the 1930s and it will not work in the Great Recession of the current decade.
When you start closing down your government services and firing your workers, those people have no money to spend. Because they have no money to spend, the local businesses suffer. So they start firing staff. And so the economy goes into deep recession, with no easy way out.
Am I the only one who thinks this is complete lunacy?
You know, these problems that we face today stem from a lack of appropriate regulation or a lack of enforcement of existing regulations.
The global financial crisis was caused by unregulated banking. Leaky building syndrome was caused by deregulating the building industry. The Pike River mining disaster has raised numerous questions about deregulation of the mining industry. Does anyone still seriously believe that big business can be safely left to regulate itself?
Yet, regulation has become a dirty word.
Do I favour regulating the lives of ordinary New Zealanders? Certainly not: I have great faith in ordinary New Zealanders.
Do I favour supporting positive businesses? You’re damned right I do. Businesses help create jobs and economic growth. I want to see a future Labour government get stuck in and do more to help the economy grow.
Do I support all businesses? No way. Businesses that let workers die unnecessarily, or abuse and exploit their workers, or steal from old people: all these business need a strong, legal response from the state.
All this requires regulation, and it’s there to protect ordinary people from becoming victims of greed.
Labour is strong on encouraging positive business and positive economic growth. And Labour is also about legislating to control negative businesses and their effects on our people and our environment.
Caught between a naïve belief in free markets and direct pressure from vested interests, National is unwilling to confront the downsides of unregulated markets.
Fortunately we’re not. And an increasing number of journalists and politicians are saying what ordinary people already know: that the economic policies of the last 30 years have mostly been an unmitigated disaster.
But you’d never know this if you listened to John Key. Like a quack doctor whose cure has failed, his response is to double the dose until the patient is dead.
Sorry, John, but let me quote Sir Winston Churchill:
“The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end; there it is.”
No matter how many politicians and economists still defend the economic policies that led us into this mess, the truth is steadily showing itself.
You know, there’s not much difference between a Wellington school teacher struggling to find an affordable home and a Northland freezing worker who’s just lost his job. Whether we earn our living by our hands or by our words, we’re all working people, whose lives have grown harder and whose world has grown steadily darker. We’re all in this together.
We all resent those who squander our tax dollars by helping out large corporations, while we struggle to pay our mortgages. We all resent those who seek to sell the very state assets that help keep us afloat. We all resent those who claim to represent us in Parliament, but who really represent the rich and the powerful, at our expense
Instead of National’s failed economic model, we need a simple, credible economic development plan that serves the interests of all New Zealanders.
One that keeps more of what we earn here in the country we love.
I believe the Labour Party is now uniquely positioned to take up the reins when this current government’s policies collapse under their own weight.
Labour has a new leader with strong values, who’s focused on reconnecting with the voters and has the courage to stand up to bullies. It’s up to us, as a Party, to share with our leader, our hopes, our fears and our dreams, to reconstruct the Party from within, to reclaim our natural constituency of decent, ordinary New Zealanders who believe in fairness and hard work.
Now it’s up to us to turn this around: a hard task, but not an impossible one.
When Labour proposed a nuclear-free policy, it was seen as an impossible dream. Yet nearly thirty years’ later, this dream is a solid reality, and it’s helped protect us from the sort of nuclear disaster that Japan has just endured.
The New Zealand Labour Party faced enormous pressure, from inside and outside New Zealand, to back down and change its anti-nuclear policy.
But we didn’t. And we don’t have to back away from creating policies that can turn us away from the economic insanity of the last three decades. New Zealanders are decent, fair-minded, hard-working people. We want a government that reflects our own uniquely Kiwi values.
It’s going to be hard, but we’re not afraid of hard work. With your help, and the help of the people of New Zealand, we can win the next election.
We can move forward to a future that rewards hard work and stops rewarding dishonesty. That gives the poorest of our citizens the chance to a decent life. That gives us all a chance to live in a nation that was once called ‘God’s own country.”
We can become God’s own country again. Thank you.
Speech by David Cunliffe, MP for New Lynn, given to the New Lynn Women’s’ Branch, New Zealand Labour Party, 29 April 2012. Reprinted with permission.
= fs =
A blogpost in four images…
And a short story…
Once upon a time, Farmer Joe Bloggs contracted a company to work on his farm. He needed his fields ploughed; a barn painted; several dozen stray sheep to be rounded up; and fences repaired.
The company, ‘Labour R Us Inc‘ turned up on Monday morning and Farmer Bloggs explained what needed to be done.
The foreman agreed to start work immediatly and discussed the tasks with his team. Very soon, the team began to disagree on which task should be done first.
One worker wanted the hardest task to be done first, to get the big job out of the way.
Another worker wanted the team split up to start on all the jobs simultaneously.
A third worker suggested starting on the hardest and easiest job, splitting the team accordingly.
Two other workers wanted a new foreman.
And others agreed, disagreed, or had their own ideas on how to carry out the allocated tasks. Very soon, they were arguing so loudly that Farmer Bloggs looked out the window and saw that no work was being done, and much time was being wasted.
Very unhappy, Farmer Bloggs, picked up his phone and rang the next company in the phone book,
“Hello, is that ‘Green Fingers Inc’? I’d like you to do some work for me.”
As ‘Labour R Us Inc‘ continued arguing between themselves, the second company arrived; pulled out their tools; and set to working.
Moral of the Story? Focus on what needs to be done and argue later, in your own time. Under MMP, you’re not the only show in town.
= fs =
Continued from February 7 (Part Rua).
With the main Party speakers finished, others from the rally had an opportunity to make their views known. It was open, transparent and democratic (take note, National Government),
Madd Hatter spoke of the danger to the environment caused by fracking – including contamination of underground water-tables which has caused extensive pollution in the United States,
And the thing is? She’s 100% right. Fracking uses toxic chemicals which contaminates water tables – water which people use for drinking, cooking, feeding to farm stock, etc. Doesn’t it strike governments as somewhat daft that we’re poisoning ourselves?
Meanwhile, the crowd listened, continuing to hold signs that expressed our collective disgust at what this shabby government was intending to foist upon us,
And the media continued to record the event,
The protest continued, making their point peacefully,
A sentiment 99% of us would whole-heartedly agree with,
Mana’s flag flew proudly in the chill breeze,
The red and black Tino Rangatiratanga flag flew proudly as well. This flag is quickly becoming the de facto syymbol for the poor, the dis-possesed, and the alienated in our society. It is the flag of resistance that corporate interests and their political cronies do not want to see,
Dawn Shapira came from Huntly specifically to join the Rally. She rode all the way on the back of a motorbike – and says that she felt it. (Her return trip will be done in better comfort, in a bus.) That’s dedication. That’s committment. And 80% of New Zealanders share her anger at John Key’s planned asset sales,
Finally, the most important folk at this protest were not the politicians; nor the media; nor the organisers. Instead, the VIPs were the children – they are the ones who will inherit the society that we build (or sell off) for them. Will we leave them a mess, or success?
- Radio NZ reported 30 to 40 people in their audio report, but increasing the number to 60 on their website. This is a somewhat conservative estimate, and I put the number somewhere around 100 to 150.
- TV3′s news item, though, was deplorable – with Dunan Garner referring to the protest rally as “rent a mob”. This description was not only offensive to those folk who attended – but contrasted sharply with a later news story on another protest rally in Kapiti, which was more respectful. The Kapiti protesters were not referred to as “rent a mob”. Not very professional, TV3. Lift your game, please.
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Continued from February 7 (Part Tahi).
A security guard from a private security firm had attempted to stop me from photographing the protest rally from a vantage point that was near other media personnel. I explained I was a blogger; was merely taking photos to record the event; and that I had a right to be standing where I was.
The guard refused to step out of my way, and blocked me from the rally. I became vocal, and insisted that he step out of my way; let me do my job; and then I would return to the crowd.
The media took an immediate interest in what seemed to be an escalating fracas, and started filming us.
At that point, the security guard’s superviser intervened. He demanded I leave. I insisted on my right to stand peacefully in a spot shared by other media. I gestured at the cameras pointed at us and reiterated; “let me take my photos, and I will leave peacefully. You do not want to make a ‘scene’ in front of all these cameras“.
Some in the crowd began shouting, “Leave him alone!” and “Let him take his photos!“
Obviously I was not carrying weapons of mass destruction (or even light destruction)(maybe an unbent paper-clip in my pocket), and he agreed to allow me to proceed. I thanked him, and the security guard (who was only doing his job).
It seems a sign of the times that here in New Zealand, a small crowd of (mostly) middle-aged protestors required the presence of security guards; barriers; and half a dozen police to contain the situation.
What are our elected representatives so afraid of?
With the situation de-fused, the media returned their attention to the actual protest rally,
Some of the signs held aloft by ordinary folk who have no desire to see our public assets sold off. This one has an “air of truth” about it,
Possibly because it reminds me of this, from the late 1990s,
Back to the rally, and one of our best known activists and expert on our energy industry, attended the protest,
This gentleman insisted he was not a member or supporter of NZ First – but still shared the sentiment expressed on the placard,
This photo, to me, speaks volumes. These two elderly gentlemen represent an age from when New Zealanders worked hard to build the state assets which we now enjoy. It must grieve them to see their foolish children auction them off, so casually, without considering the true worth of what is being given away.
To me, it feels akin to a betrayal of what our parents and grandparents left us,
Amazing isn’t it – that ordinary kiwis understand the true ramifications of asset sales. Our elected representatives (or rather, some of them) seem to take us for fools. But we understand economic realities only too well,
This image alone, should wipe the smirk of John Key’s face. Contrary to his little “teapot chat” with John Banks, elderly voters are not “dying off”. In fact, I think they’ve postponed any impending “coach-tour to the Pearly Gates”, so as to vote in 2014. They have a “date” with the ballot box in three years hence, and have no intention on missing it.
Take note, Mr Key; you are annoying the voters,
Perhaps one of the guttsiest people at the rally had to be ” Madd Hatter “, who convened the Rally. Make no mistake about the weather – it was wet and cold. Yet, covered in “oil” (a mixture of mollasses and other stuff ) she braved the Wellington weather to make a point about fracking and deep-sea oil drilling of our coastline.
With the cost of the ‘Rena‘ clean-up now estimated at $130 million, it seems that some of our elected representatives are still entertaining lunatic notions that could result in the polluting of our underground water-table (“fracking“) or endanger our coastline with deep-sea drilling. (See previous blog-piece here, on this issue.)
Cheers, “Madd Hatter” – you deserve to be in Parliament. (And I say that in a nice way.)
And addressing the rally,
Jonathan then advised us that various Party leaders would address the Rally,
From the Labour Party, Charles Chauvel (L) and Deputy Leader, Grant Robertson (R). Note the media-scrum around them, and successive Parliamentary speakers,
Green Party co-leader, Russell Norman. For some unfathomable reason, Norman attracted derisory calls from one (possibly two?) individuals in the crowd. Like, who can possibly dislike the Greens? (As our mums kept reminding us; Greens are good for us! Very wise, our mums!)
Hone Harawira recieved the loudest applause – and not without good reason. Leaving the Maori Party – that is now so closely wedded to National – has cemented his credentials as an opponant of Right Wing ideology. In these times of myriad shades of gray and ambiguity, I think it fair to say that we know where Hone stands,
When it came Winston Peter’s turn to speak, there was a briref, two-minute vocal exchange between him And Jonathan Elliott. Regardless of who was in the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, we need to remember that the media will report on such ‘exchanges’ rather than the full message of the protest rally,
Sometimes, we just need to bite our collective tongues, and on message. Otherwise, certain folk on the Ninth Floor will simply rub their hands with glee at our dis-unity. When Peters spoke, it was… vintage Winston,
(Damn, I wish I had his hair.)
Following the main political speakers, came Katherine Raue, from Transparency nz. It is unfortunate that as Katherine took the microphone, the media pack melted away,
Despite losing the interest of the media (who can be seen in the background, interviewing one of the politicians – Winston Peters, I believe), Katherine spoke eloquently on John Key’s broken promises – especially the impact broken promises has had on the families of the Pike River miner’s families.
Katherine made a strong, impassioned plea for Key to honour his promises to recover the bodies of the 29 dead miners. As we can all recall, John Key was highly prominent on the West Coast soon after the disaster. He made reassuring noises, promises, and committments – saying all the things that the dead miners’ families wanted to hear.
None of which came to pass.
In case anyone thinks that this protest-rally was “side lined by irrelevent issues” – think again. The committments that our elected representatives make – whether to recover dead miners, or create jobs, or to make government transparent – is something that impacts on us all.
Even if we believe that something that government does doesn’t affect us – it does. Well done, Katherine – we need more Kiwis like you,
Katherine was followed by Green MPs Catherine Delahunty and Gareth Huges. Both spoke well, though again, the media pack had deserted the area,
Then it was Molly’s turn. Molly Melhuish is a long-time energy campaigner. She has seen decades of change, from the Muldoon era of the Electricity Department – to post-Rogernomics electricity corporatidsation. What she doesn’t know about the industry probably isn’t worth knowing,
Greypower, more than any other group of New Zealanders understand only too well the severe impact that privatisation of our electricity will have on our elderly. For many, the price of electricity is a matter of life and death.
Note the policemen in the background. They were posted to guard the steps of Parliament in case Greypower decided to storm the House of Representatives. Good show, chaps – democracy is safe.
- the beginning of public reaction and action against the planned partial state-asset sales…
A small group assembled at the front of the Art Gallery in Wellington’s Civic Square. Though raining, the group was in high spirits, and it was pointed out – quite rightly – that we were representing 80% of the country who opposed state asset sales,
“Occupy Wellington” co-ordinator, Jonathan Elliot (in yellow t-shirt), helping to focus the assembly,
The media were present, to report on the event,
… including Radio New Zealand,
And we were off, with Jonathan being interviewed by the Radio NZ journo,
A simple message, to respect and honour the Treaty, via Section 9 of the State Owned Enterprises Act 1986. Section 9 is not a particularly complicated or onerous piece of legislation,
In fact, the Treaty may save our state assets from being flogged of.
“Ordinary” New Zealanders, marching along Mercer St, Willis St, and along Lambton Quay. The slogans were simple; “No asset sales!”. As the rally moved along the streets, more people joined us,
Kay Gubbins was quite clear in pushing the message,
Did Wellington’s most ardent and well-recognised street evangelist, exhort John Key to repent and cancel the planned asset sales?
The media, recording the march,
Past Bowen House – good kiwi folk making their way to Parliament. Whilst Wellingtonians looked-on , there were no hecklers. Those watching understood what we were on about,
And through the gates of Parliament – the People’s House of Representatives. (Ok, just kidding. Currently occupied by National, ACT, United Future, and various moneyed vested-interests, and assorted right wing ‘groupies’.)
… and joining another group already in the grounds,
Note “Mad Hatter” – who convened the rally – covered in mock-oil. on the far left of the pic below. More on her later,
I moved away, past the barriers; around a low-stone wall; onto the higher part of the grounds, to take better pictures of the assembled protesters,
Where I encountered a somewhat over-zealous security guard who tried to remove me from the higher ground,
He was persistant. I was insistant. We had a “frank exchange of views“. All of which attracted (predictably enough) the attention of the media,
What happened next?
To be continued Part Rua (so as not to overload this page with too many images).
As a Labour party member, the sadness I feel today is tinged with a sense of resignation. John Key is the coolest, untouchable kid in the unforgiving social strata of high school. Anyone who remembers such cliques will understand feeling hopeless and powerless to change playground politics, let alone our country’s politics at a time when brand Key is pervasively popular. In the interest of gracious defeat, let me congratulate Key and National on their conquest.
Last night wasn’t entirely gloomy. New Zealand First’s gallop to 6.8% was like the class nerd scoring with the hottest girl in school. That Winston Peters and his crew triumphed in spite of concerted media efforts by Duncan Garner, Guyon Espiner, John Campbell, Paul Holmes et al to sideline them makes the victory stunning and sweet.
Another highlight of last night was seeing the New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) interpreter working at the Green party’s celebration. It is progressive and heartening to see a political party actively promoting the validity and importance of NZSL, an official language of this country.
Phil Goff – I implore you not to resign, yet I sense the inevitability of you doing so.
In a hostile, biased media environment, populated by media personnel who are reduced to slobbering stupidity in Key’s presence, you never stood a chance. You knew this, so you presumably thought, “What the hell” and you campaigned hard. You’re not a firebrand. What you are is steady, methodical and quietly determined. You have integrity.
Even while your treacherous colleagues sharpened their knives, you persisted.
While the media fawned over Key’s confident, solo fronting of National’s campaign, yet double standardly cast you in the desolate role of man alone, you trundled along.
Last night, your concession speech was gracious and moving. The journalists who lambasted you with cruel, needling questions as soon as you were off the stage should be ashamed. They wouldn’t let you have even a few minutes of dignity. Someone’s concession speech, like yours this time, Helen Clark’s in 2008, or Bill English’s back in 2002, is not a moment for gloating. It is a time to put political allegiances aside and to respect a fellow human’s intrinsic humanity and dignity, to recognise how hard it is to admit that efforts, based on someone’s strongest convictions, have simply not been enough.
Shame on our hectoring, salivating, unseemly media. Shame on your grasping, backstabbing colleagues.
If you resign, I fear that the Labour will scrabble around for another three years with a new leader who the media will maltreat in the same way that they have abused you, out of dribbling sycophancy to Key. No one else could withstand this abuse. That you have come this far speaks volumes about your durability and tenacity. If you leave, Labour will try to reconfigure but will end up in a confused, unpopular scramble of egos and treachery.
Please stay. You did experience a victory of sorts last night, despite being defeated – you came into your own and shook off the ghosts of the past.
If you resign, I will resign my membership of Labour. Suddenly, New Zealand First is looking good.
Labour has stated that,
“A Labour government would ensure sales were declined unless potential foreign buyers of farm or forestry land also invested in new processing or other related jobs. ” Source
Sorry, Mr Goff, but that is totally unacceptable and is merely ‘tinkering’ with the problem.
The sale (or leasing) of our productive farmland means that we lose profits to overseas investors. It means that a foreign owned farm will (a) export their produce (b) make a profit (c) remit much of that profit back to overseas investors, who look for returns on their investment.
It means that New Zealand farmland is priced out of reach of our own people, who cannot hope to compete with Americans, Germans, Chinese, etc. The purchase of the Crafar farms by Shanghai Pengxin’s over a Michael Fay-led local consortium should ring alarm bells in our heads. (More here)
Labour needs to lift it’s game on this issue.
There has to be a total ban on the sale/lease of farmland to anyone who is not a New Zealand citizen. Anything less will ultimately undermine our long term prospects for wealth-generation and prosperity.
We would end up tenants in our own country.