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Posts Tagged ‘NZ First’

Radio NZ: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams – 17 March 2014

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- Politics on Nine To Noon -

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- Monday 17 March 2014 -

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- Kathryn Ryan, with Matthew Hooton & Mike Williams -

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Today on Politics on Nine To Noon,

Winston Peters and the possible make-up of the next government. Moves to link school funding to performance.

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Click to Listen: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams (23′ 51″ )

  • Winston Peters, NZ First
  • Judith Collins, Orivida,
  • Helen Clark
  • Green Party transport policy
  • Hekia Parata, education policy, school fundsing system

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Radio NZ: Nine To Noon – Election year interviews – Winston Peters

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- Radio NZ, Nine To Noon -

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- Wednesday 12 March 2014 -

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- Kathryn Ryan -

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On  Nine To Noon, Kathyrn Ryan interviewed NZ First’s leader, Winston Peters, and asked him about coalition negotiations, policies, polls, and other issues…

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Radio NZ logo -  nine to noon

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Winston Peters is the leader of NZ First, which is polling at around the 5% threshold for getting MPs into parliament without winning an electorate seat, meaning it could yet hold the balance of power after voters go to the polls on September 20.

Click to Listen: Election year interviews  ( 35′ 17″ )

 

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

26 February 2014 Leave a comment

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- Radio NZ, Nine To Noon -

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- Wednesday 25 February 2014 -

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- Kathryn Ryan -

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

 

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Radio NZ logo -  nine to noon

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

A major policy statement by David Cunliffe;

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

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

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

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Latest Roy Morgan Poll: next govt too close to call?

15 December 2013 12 comments

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The latest Roy Morgan Poll has a dead tie between National and a Labour-Green coalition. Both are currently polling at 45%.

The actual Party figures are as follows;

National-led bloc,

National – 45%

Maori Party* – 1.5%

ACT* – 0%

United Future*** – 0%

Translated into National-led Seats:  54 (N) + 1 UF = 55

Labour-led bloc,

Labour – 30.5%

Greens – 14.5%

Mana*** – 1%

Translated into Labour-led Seats: 37 (L) + 18 (G) + 1 = 56

Wild cards,

Conservative Party** – 2% (nil seats)

NZ First – 5% (6 seats)

Number of respondents who refused to name a Party: 4%.

Assuming that,

  1. The Conservatives win no seats nor cross the 5% threshold;
  2. Peter Dunne and Hone Harawira retain their electorate seats but do not win any more, nor increase their Party vote;
  3. ACT loses Epsom and does not cross the 5% threshold;
  4. and the Maori Party lose all three seats;

That leaves NZ First as the “King Maker”. And if, as this blogger suspects, Peters may decide to coalesce with National,  that would create  a repeat of the 1996 Election.

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That coalition deal ended in disaster for Peters And nearly destroyed his Party.

However, things are not quite so simple. Check out the Roy Morgan graph below. Specifically, focus on polling leading up to the 2011 election. Notice how as both Parties campaign, National’s support drops whilst Labour’s rises (1)?

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Roy Morgan 11 december 2013

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In between elections, Opposition parties support falls away. In comparison to nightly media coverage for government ministers and policies, Opposition Parties do not gain similar coverage of their policies. Parties like Labour and the Greens are severely restricted to five-second soundbites.

It was only when Labour and the Greens announced the NZ Power policy on 18 April this year that the Labour and Green Parties rose in the polls (2).

Next year’s election should be no different; Opposition Parties support will rise as their  policies are put before the public, whilst Government support will fall as voters consider alternatives.

This blogger still predicts that we are on course for a change in government next year and we will be looking at a Labour-Green-Mana Coalition government.

Additional to that, I predict;

  1. ACT will not win any seats in Parliament and will eventually suffer the same fate as the Alliance Party,
  2. Peter Dunne will retain his seat by the barest margin. It will be his last term in Parliament,
  3. Paula Bennett will lose her seat but return on the Party List,
  4. National will fare badly in Christchurch’s electorates,
  5. The Conservative Party will not win any seats, electorate or List,
  6. The Maori Party will lose all three current electorate seats, back to Labour,
  7. John Key will resign as National’s leader and the following leadership power-struggle between Judith Collins, Steven Joyce, and Bill English will be brutal. Collins will win, with Cameron Slater throwing nasty dirt at Joyce and English,
  8. If NZ First coalesces with National, expect one or two of it’s MPs to defect or resign from Parliament,
  9. A new Labour-led coalition will govern for three terms, minimum,
  10. Collins will be ousted after a dismal showing by National in 2017, and the Party will pull back to a more moderate, centrist position.It will reassert it’s pledge not to sell any further state assets.

Really, politics is more entertaining than any “reality” show on TV.

And as always, Roy Morgan is the only poll that calls cellphones as well as landlines.

* Not expected to survive the 2014 election.

** Not currently represented in Parliament

*** Electorate-based Party only

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 12 December 2013.

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References

Roy Morgan Poll – 11 December 2013

Previous related blogposts

Census, Surveys, and Cellphones

Mr Morgan phoned

Another good poll for a LabourGreen government

Census, Surveys, and Cellphones (Part rua)

Census, Surveys, and Cellphones…

Census, Surveys, and Cellphones

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

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

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

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

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

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nzord-seminar-1-august-2013-wellington

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

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

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

Of John, Hutchison said this,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Minister continued,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Minister Hutchison concluded his speech,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That suggestion  was received with  a loud round of applause.

Ms King continued,

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

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

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

Then came the ‘crunch’ moment,

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

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

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

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

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

Ms King said,

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

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

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

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

The audience responded enthusiastically to Annette’s announcement.

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

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

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

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

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Kevin began with,

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

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

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

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

Kevin continued,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kevin then added,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barbara said,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wallace then opened the floor for questions.

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

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

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

“We would support that, yes.”

I asked my follow-up question,

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

To which Barbara replied,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They found hope.

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

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Copyright (c)  Notice

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

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

Previous related blogposts

Priorities? (19 Oct 2011)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional

NZORD

UN Special Rapporteur on Health

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greg pointed out,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He added,

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

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

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

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

Greg then asked two questions,

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

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

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

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

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

We Need a Fairer System

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

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

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

Greg then offered a solution;

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

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

[...]

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

[...]

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

Greg concluded with this salient point,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Copyright (c)  Notice

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

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

Previous related blogposts

Priorities? (19 Oct 2011)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional

NZORD

UN Special Rapporteur on Health

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= fs =

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

8 August 2013 2 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew wanted to draw attention to  three main principles;

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interestingly, Matthew pointed out that PHARMAC’s,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Or whatever survival means are available.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dr Veale began,

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

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Freda (L) and Jenny (R)

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So began Dr Veale’s talk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He said,

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

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

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

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Copyright (c)  Notice

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

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

Previous related blogposts

Priorities? (19 Oct 2011)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional

NZORD

UN Special Rapporteur on Health

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= fs =

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

8 August 2013 2 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main speakers included,

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

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

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

She read out the patient’s Code of Practice,

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

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

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

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

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

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

She pointed out,

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

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

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

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

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

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

“A sense of not being abandoned by society”

Dr Forster concluded by saying,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wallace then introduced Dr Alison Davies to the audience;

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nzord-seminar-1-august-2013-wellington

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

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

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

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Criteria for decision making

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

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

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

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

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

“Does PHARMAC have a cost-effectness threshold?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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nzord-seminar-1-august-2013-wellington-10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wallace then opened the floor and asked for questions.

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

Kris replied,

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

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

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

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Copyright (c)  Notice

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

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

Previous related blogposts

Priorities? (19 Oct 2011)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional

NZORD

UN Special Rapporteur on Health

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If this isn’t corrupt – what the f**k is?!

7 August 2013 3 comments

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Peters slams National's house buy

Source: Fairfax media – Peters slams National’s house buy

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The National Government selling a  state-owned property to itself?!

This is the kind of practice  that is best synonymous with Third World or ex Soviet republics, where corruption is rampant.

Now we are witnessing  corruption by National ministers, Party officials, and their equally culpable apparatchiks.

Who would have thought that we would see this kind of thing here in New Zealand? And how do National Party members and supporters justify this kind of corrupt behaviour?

Perhaps it is time for Transparency International – the global corruption monitoring organisation – to reconsider our rating.

A message to Mr Peters;

Post the 2014 election, if you hold the balance of power, will you align yourself with a self-serving, discredited Party that has no compunction to act corruptly?

Will you cosy up to a Party that has engaged in unpopular legislation; ignoring public opinion; attacked critics; extended State surveillance power; and is now stealing public property for their own purposes?

Do you want yourself and your Party associated with this kind of corruption?

You have some deep thinking to do after next year’s election.  Choose wisely.

 

 

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Citizen A: With Martyn Bradbury, Julie Fairey and Keith Locke

- Citizen A -

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- 27 June 2013 -

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- Julie Fairey & Keith Locke -

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This week on Citizen A host Martyn Bradbury, Julie Fairey & Keith Locke debate the following issues:

Issue 1: Poll Dive for David Shearer. Does this latest Herald Digi-Poll scare Labour’s caucus into reconsidering Shearer as leader?

Issue 2: Would a NZ First backed GCSB bill be the worst outcome for New Zealand?

Issue 3: And what did Auckland mayor Len Brown give away to get the support of this National-led Government?

Citizen A screens on Face TV, 7.30pm Thursday nights on Sky 89


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Acknowledgement (republished with kind permission)

The Daily Blog

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Joyce on manufacturing

21 June 2013 1 comment

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In January this year,  Labour, Green, NZ  First, and Mana parties held an  inquiry (after the Parliamentary Finance Select committee rejected a request for a similar investigation) into the loss of  40,000 jobs  from the manufacturing sector in the past four years.

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Exporters tell inquiry of threat from high dollar

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

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In case anyone believes National’s claim that this was a “political stunt” (see: Opposition determined to manufacture a crisis), the comments from manufacturers who participated in  the Inquiry took it deadly seriously. Whilst politicians like Joyce suckle on the tax-payer’s teat, exporters and manufacturers actually have to earn a living.

They were not impressed and made their feelings known;

Mike Eggers;

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 W Fraser;

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.”

Acknowledgement: IBID

The Inquiry made its findings known;

Recommendation 1:  The government adopt macroeconomic settings that are
supportive of manufacturing and exporting, including:

  • a fairer and less volatile exchange rate through reforms to monetary

policy;

  • refocusing capital investment into the productive economy, rather

than housing speculation;

  • and lowering structural costs in the economy, such as electricity prices.

Recommendation 2: New Zealand businesses are encouraged to innovate.
Research and Development tax credits, with a stronger emphasis on
development, should be introduced as part of a package for innovative
manufacturing, supporting exports and quality jobs.

Recommendation 3: The Government adopt a national procurement policy
that favours Kiwi-made and ensures that New Zealand manufacturers enjoy
the same advantages as their international competitors.

Recommendation 4: The tax system is used to boost investment in new
technology and machinery. An accelerated depreciation regime should be
implemented for the manufacturing sector.

Recommendation 5: A wide range of funding is available for manufacturers to
invest in their business and employees. Measures to encourage the availability
of venture capital and mezzanine funding should be continued, including
government funds through commercial-managers.

Recommendation 6: Businesses are supported to achieve 21st Century
organisation and practices. Policies such as NZTE’s focus on Lean
Management, and the work of the High Performance Work Initiative should
be extended. Apprenticeship training support for the sector should be
reviewed immediately.

Recommendation 7: Manufacturers are given a voice in FTA negotiations.
From the outset of FTA negotiations the interests of manufacturing must be
explicitly addressed. Negotiating teams must keep the sector informed.

Recommendation 8: Measures to encourage foreign direct investment in
manufacturers should be consistent with the strategic direction of New
Zealand’s manufacturing and exports.

Recommendation 9: Government should lower compliance costs wherever
they can be consistent with maintaining New Zealand’s values including
workers’ rights, environmental standards, and product quality assurance.

Recommendation 10: Manufacturing’s ability to create jobs and boost exports
should be recognised in national, regional and industry policies.

Recommendation 11: Taskforces of government local government,
businesses and unions, be established to assess and act on new business
and job opportunities in the wake of major closures or restructuring in the
manufacturing sector.

For full details of each Recommendation, read the full report.

Source: Manufacturing Inquiry Report

Joyce’s response? There was no crisis.

Labour, the Greens, New Zealand First and Mana are determined to manufacture a crisis in manufacturing. The massive problem for them is that while individual firms face real challenges at different times, no crisis exists.

Acknowledgement: Scoop – Opposition determined to manufacture a crisis

Dear Leader also made the same astounding assertion,

Quite honestly there is no manufacturing crisis in New Zealand; there are challenges for some manufacturers.

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Opposition manufacturing inquiry report released

There we have it: no crisis exists.

40,000 jobs lost since 2008 – but Key and Joyce insist, no crisis exists.

It is the measure of this shonkey, incompetant, self-serving  government that National ministers can deny the existence of a crisis when companies are folding and 40,000 people have lost their jobs.

I wonder if Key and Joyce’s attitude would be different if Labour were in power and 40,000 jobs had been lost in the last four years under theitr watch?  Would they still insist there was  no crisis exists ?

I think we all know the answer to that question.

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

new zealand high electricity prices

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

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First NZ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rolling blackouts“?!

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

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

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Damaging gales forecast for north 5.5.2013

Acknowledgement: NZ Radio – Damaging gales forecast for north

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Joyce added,

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

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

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Exporters tell inquiry of threat from high dollar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In another document, First NZ made the extraordinary claim,

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

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

Hold on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We just have to be patient.

Maybe another thirty years?

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck with that!

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

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

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Ministry of Economic Development - Power Prices 1974 - 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That war began on 18 April.

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

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NZ First

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

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

But Peters…

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

Some examples…

1.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Acknowledgement:  Devolving forest ownership through privatization in New Zealand

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

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

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

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Forests Buy back signalled - Evening Post - 13 August 1996

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

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

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

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To quote  Peters, who said on 13 August 1996,

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

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

But it never happened.

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

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

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

Acknowledgement: TV 3 – The Nation

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

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

Acknowledgement: Scoop – One More Quisling Moment from Key

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can he be trusted for a second time?

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

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

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

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

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NZ Power Shearer Norman

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Residents Vote In Mana By-Election

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Don’t screw up this time, Mr Peters.

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

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Previous Related Blogposts

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

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

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

Additional Sources

Statistics New Zealand: The history of electricity reform

Ministry of Economic Development: Electricity Prices

NZ History Online:  Dancing Cossacks political TV ad

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

References

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other blogs

Kiwiblog: Electricity Prices

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

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How to sabotage the asset sales…

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Something I blogged on 25 June 2012, and now more appropriate than ever…

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On last weekends’ (23/24 June 2012) “The Nation“,  the issue of asset sales was discussed with   NZ First leader, Winston Peters; Green Party MP, Gareth Hughes; and Labour MP, Clayton Cosgrove,

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Source

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Whilst all three parties are staunchly opposed to state asset sales, NZ First leader, Winston Peters went one step further,  promising that his Party would buy back the assets.

Gareth Hughes and Clayton Cosgrove were luke-warm on the idea, quite rightly stating that there were simply too many variables involved in committing to a buy-back two and a half years out from the next election. (And Peters never followed through on his election pledge in 1996 to buy back NZ Forestry – “to hand back the envelope”, as he put it –  after National had privatised it.) There was simply no way of knowing what state National would leave the economy.

Considering National’s tragically incompetant economic mismanagement thus far, the outlook for New Zealand is not good. We can look forward to more of the usual,

  • More migration to Australia
  • More low growth
  • More high unemployment
  • More deficits
  • More skewed taxation/investment policies
  • Still more deficits
  • More cuts to state services
  • And did I mention more deficits?

By 2014, National will have frittered away most (if not all) of the proceeds from the sale of Meridian, Genesis, Mighty River Power, Solid Energy, and Air New Zealand.

In such an environment, it is difficult to sound plausible when promising to buy back multi-billion dollar corporations.

Not to be thwarted, Peters replied to a question by Rachel Smalley, stating adamantly,

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

Bold words.

It remains to be seen if Peters will carry out that threat – especially if a number of his shareholders are retired Kiwi superannuitants?

When further questioned by Rachel Smalley, Peters offered specific  ideas how a buy-back might be funded,

Why can’t we borrow from the super fund, for example? And pay that back over time?  And why can’t we borrow from Kiwisaver  for example, and pay that back over time…”

The answer is that governments are sovereign and can make whatever laws they deem fit. That includes buying back assets at market value; at original sale price; or simple expropriation without  compensation. (The latter would probably be unacceptable to 99% of New Zealanders and would play havoc with our economy.)

Peters is correct; funding per se is not an issue. In fact, money could be borrowed from any number of sources, including overseas lenders. The gains from all five SOEs – especially the power companies – would outweigh the cost of any borrowings.

Eg,

  1. Cost of borrowing from overseas: 2% interest
  2. Returns from SOEs: 17%
  3. Profit to NZ: 15%

We make on the deal.

The question is, can an incoming Labour-Green-NZ First-Mana government accomplish such a plan?

Should such a  radical policy be presented to the public at an election, the National Party would go into Warp Drive with a mass  panic-attack.

But it’s not National that would be panicked.

It would be National going hard-out to panic the public.

National’s scare-campaign would promise the voters economic collapse;  investors deserting the country; a crashed share-market; cows drying up; a plague of locusts; the Waikato River turning to blood; hordes of zombie-dead rising up…

And as we all know, most low-information voters are highly susceptible to such fear-campaigns. The result would be predictable:

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But let’s try that again…

A more plausible scenario would have the leadership of Labour, NZ First, the Greens, and Mana, meeting at a secluded retreat for a high-level,  cross-party strategy conference.

At the conclusion of said conference, the Leaders emerge, with an “understanding”, of recognising each others’ differing policies,

  1. Winston Peters presents a plan to the public, promoting NZF policy to buy-back  the five SOEs. As per his  original proposals, all shares will be repurchased at original offer-price.
  2. The  Mana Party  buy-in  to NZ First’s plan and pledge their support.
  3. Labour and the Greens release the joint-Party declaration stating that  whilst they do not pledge support to NZ First/Mana’s proposal – neither do they discount it. At this point, say Labour and the Greens, all options are on the table.

That scenario creates considerable  uncertainty and anxiety  in the minds of potential share-purchasers. Whilst they know that they will be recompensed in any buy-back scheme – they are effectively stymied in on-selling the shares for gain. Because no new investor  in their right mind would want to buy  shares that (a) probably no one else will want to buy and (b) once the buy-back begins, they would lose out.

Eg; Peter buys 1,000 shares at original offer price of $2 per share. Cost to Peter: $2,000.

Peter then on-sells shares to Paul at $2.50 per share.  Cost to Paul: $2,500. Profit to Peter: $500.

Paul then cannot on-sell his shares – no one else is buying. Once elected, a new centre-left government implements a buy back of shares at original offer-price @ $2 per share. Price paid to Paul: $2,000. Loss to Paul: $500.

Such a strategy is high-stakes politics at it’s riskiest.   Even if Labour and the Greens do not commit to a specific buy-back plan, and “left their options open” –  would the public wear it?

The certainty in any such grand strategy is that the asset sale would be effectively sabotaged. No individual or corporate buyer would want to become involved in this kind of uncertainty.

Of less certainty is how the public would perceive  a situation (even if Labour and the Greens remained staunchly adamant that they were not committed to any buy-back plan) of political Parties engaging in such a deliberate  scheme of de-stabilisation of a current government’s policies.

The asset sales programme would most likely fail, for sure.

But at what cost? Labour and the centre-left losing the next election?

We may well end up winning the war to save our SOEs – but end up a casualty of the battle.

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Related Blog posts

Peter Dunne says

Campaign: Flood the Beehive!

Additional

Asset sales remain unpopular for NZers

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Citizen A – 14 February 2013

15 February 2013 Leave a comment

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- Citizen A -

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- 14 February 2013 -

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- Matthew Hooton & Keith Locke -

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Issue 1: Richard Prosser – is he racist? What are the ramifications for NZ First and does this reflect poorly on MMP?

Issue 2: Salvation Army gives the Government a D for child poverty, housing and employment – what is the Government doing?

and Issue 3 tonight: John Key’s decision to take Australia’s refugees – what do we get?

Citizen A broadcasts on Auckland UHF and will start transmitting on Sky TV on their new public service broadcasting channel ‘FACE Television’ February 7th February 2013.

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Acknowledgement (republished with kind permission)

Tumeke

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Spitting the Dummy, John Key Style

13 December 2012 7 comments

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Key - Peters' dislike of me impedes deal

Full story

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When it  comes to sheer, naked audacity – John Key has it by the Kenworth truck-load.  And just it appears that Dear Leader has reached stratosopheric heights of effrontery – he goes one better.

A few days ago, Dear Leader lamented the very real possibility Winston Peters would choose to coalesce with Labour, rather than National, at the next election.

If anything, this was worthy of a good, hearty  laugh!

To understand why, we must cast our minds back to 2008, and the donations scandal that enveloped Winston Peters when he denied knowledge of a $100,000 secret donation from billionaire, Owen Glenn,

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Phone records contradict Peters

Full story

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During this affair, John Key had plenty to say about Winston Peters,

National Party Leader John Key says Winston Peters would be unacceptable as a Minister in a government led by him unless Mr Peters can provide a credible explanation on the Owen Glenn saga.

“Labour Party donor Owen Glenn’s letter to the Privileges Committee completely contradicts Winston Peters’ version of events about the substantial $100,000 donation made by Mr Glenn to Mr Peters’ legal costs.

“Mr Glenn’s letter represents a direct challenge to Mr Peters’ credibility, from the only other person in the world in a position to know the facts.

“From Parliament’s point of view, the Privileges Committee provides an appropriate vehicle to resolve the points of conflict and to hold individuals to account. But from the Prime Minister’s and the Government’s point of view, that is not enough.

“Governments and Ministers must enjoy the confidence of the Parliament and, ultimately, the public. Faced with today’s revelations, it is no longer acceptable for Mr Peters to offer bluster and insults where simple, courteous, honest answers are required.

“It is no longer acceptable or credible for Helen Clark to assert a facade of confidence in her Foreign Affairs Minister and to fail to ask the plain questions of him that she has a duty to the public to ask.

“Faced with today’s revelations, Helen Clark must stand Mr Peters down as a Minister. That is what I would do if I were Prime Minister. Helen Clark has stood Ministers from Labour down for much less.

“Unless he can provide a credible explanation about this serious issue, he should be unacceptable to Helen Clark as a Minister in her Labour-led Government.

“Mr Peters will be unacceptable as a Minister in a government led by me unless he can provide a credible explanation”.

See: Peters unacceptable in a National-led Government

In early 2011, Key was still adamant that he would not countenance working with Peters in any future coalition government,

“I don’t see a place for a Winston Peters-led New Zealand First in a government that I lead,” he said at a press conference today.

“Historically, he has always been sacked by prime ministers. It’s a very different style to mine and it’s rearward-looking.

“I’m about tomorrow, I’m not about yesterday.”

[...]

“If Winston Peters holds the balance of power it will be a Phil Goff-led Labour government,” Mr Key said.

See: Election date set; Peters ruled out

And just prior to last year’s electons, Key had this to say about Winston Peters, all but accusing the NZ First leader of being an unreliable, destructive political force in Parliament,

Prime Minister John Key warned voters yesterday that a new government after Saturday’s election could be brought down on any issue by New Zealand First leader Winston Peters unless National won enough votes for “strong, stable, dependable leadership”.

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Said Mr Key: “What Winston Peters is saying to New Zealanders is that on every Budget, on every issue, there could be a general election. How could New Zealand govern itself over the next three years, which is likely to be a volatile period in the world economy, when at any stage the whole Government can be brought down by Winston Peters?”

See: John Key’s new target: Winston

I think it’s fairly clear that up until recently, Key had ruled out working with Peters. He was unequivocal in his condemnation and distrust of Peters.

There now appears to have been some kind of quantum-shift in John Key’s approach to Peters,

“I think that the argument that he really really dislikes the Greens, let’s put it politely, that’s all true . . . but he’s not overly enamoured with me,” Mr Key said.

He and Mr Peters had chatted during a trip to Samoa as part of a New Zealand delegation.

“I had a brief chat to him but realistically I think he will go with Labour . . . Even if we were prepared to change, and that would be a big if, he was always going with Labour . . . in 2008,” he said. “I think it’s just personal.”

See: Key: Peters’ dislike of me impedes deal

“…but he’s not overly enamoured with me,” says Dear Leader?!?! No sh*t, Sherlock! When did that *news flash* come to Key’s attention?!

Let me state at the outright; John Key’s questioning  of Winston Peters’ behaviour in 2008 was perfectly justified. In a functioning multi-party democracy, we rely on opposition Parties to keep governments honest.

Without an active, critical Opposition, we end up like Zimbabwe or a One Party state like Nth Korea. Without an Opposition there simply would be no democratic system in this country.

So whilst it may have been irksome for Labour supporters and the Left, in general, to have a coalition partner under a spotlight for alleged corrupt practices (undeclared donations) – John Key was doing the job that the taxpayer was paying him for.

But whilst condemning Peters in 2008 and the following three years – by flirting with Peters as a potential coalition partner, we see a further measure of the man that John Key is.

In 2008, Key considered Peters “unacceptable as a Minister in a government led by him unless Mr Peters can provide a credible explanation on the Owen Glenn saga“.

Since no such “credible explanation” was ever forthcoming – what has changed?

In 2008 and 2011, Key tried to destroy NZ First to deny Labour a potential coalition partner.

Now, with National fast running out of coalition partners (except for the one-clown bands known as ACT and United Future); with the Maori Party’s continuing survival no means a certainty; and the Conservative Party at 1% or less in the polls – the answer is prosaic; National is desperate for a Coalition partner.

Unfortunately for Key, his utterances stand in the collective consciousness of other political parties; the media, and the blogosphere.

Courting NZ First in such a very public way, and voicing indignation  at being rebuffed, will simply make Key look very foolish indeed. It will be yet another indication to the voting public that Key’s word cannot be taken at face value.

On it’s own, it would mean nothing of significance to the public and media.

But Key has back-tracked on so many policies, promises, and pledges that this will be another nail in his political coffin.

He may have started out as an “ordinary bloke” and non-political politician – but that has gradually changed. With his point-of-difference gradually eroded, what makes him any different to any other politician?

Nothing. Nothing at all.

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Previous relared blogosts

John Banks – escaping justice (Part Rua)

Sources

NZ Herald: Pressure mounts on Peters as Key all but shuts door  (27 Aug 2008)

Scoop:  Peters unacceptable in a National-led Government   (27 Aug 2008)

TV3: Owen Glenn piles the pressure on Winston Peters over donation (9 Sept 2008)

NZ Herald:  Phone records contradict Peters (10 Sept 2008)

NZ Herald:  Timeline: The NZ First donations saga (23 Sept 2008)

Other blogs

The Pundit: The art of not predicting politics

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Mischief making with Matthew Hooton?

21 August 2012 7 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

See: 45th New Zealand Parliament

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

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

So why has Mr Hooton been saying things like,

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

[abridged]

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

Listen:  Politics with Matthew Hooton and Josie Pagani

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

Listen:  Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is he happily fomenting mischief?

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

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Ministers, Mad Moralists, and Minor Parties

29 July 2012 4 comments

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A previous moral hysteria surrounding welfare beneficiaries and especially solo mums (but never solo dads) took place back in August 2009, when Paula Bennett released the files of two solo-mothers who had dared to criticise the Minister for closing down the Training Incentive Allowance.

Despite having no  authorisation or right to do so, Bennett  released details of the  women’s  WINZ files to the media and three years later there is still an outstanding complaint against her. It was a nasty, vindictive abuse of Ministerial power not seen since the autocratic rule of  Robert Muldoon.

Attacks on solo mums reached a hysterical crescendo that could only be described as naked misogyny – especially from a sector of the male population that has never had much success in relating to women. There were vile comments on many internet fora that cannot be repeated in polite company.

Fast forward to April 2012, and National is facing so much bad news that the media and bloggers are finding it difficult to choose what to hone in on.  Just to remind us about some of the problems confronting National,

  • Youth unemployment up from 58,000 last year  to 87,000 this year
  • Total unemployment up to 160,000 – 6.7% of the workforce
  • The government tax-take is down by $1.57 billion  in the first nine months of the fiscal year
  • Government deficit increases to $6.13 billion, or $800 million more than forecast
  • Migration to Australia is increasing, with a net loss of 39,100 to the year ending February 2012
  • Wages continue to lag behind Australia
  • New Zealand’s sovereign debt is at a massive  $13.5 billion dollars
  • Student debt is at a record $13 billion – and rising
  • Widening wealth/income gap
  • Increasing child poverty and poverty-related disease on a massive scale
  • Increased repayments demanded from tertiary students – effectively a tax increase
  • Ongoing public resistance to state asset sales
  • Ongoing public resistance to selling productive farmland to overseas investors
  • Ongoing public resistance to mining in conservation lands
  • A growing public disquiet over a hydrocarbon-extraction process known as “fracking”
  • Selling legislation for a convention centre and 500 extra pokies
  • Ministers involved in scandal after scandal
  • Key’s ‘teflon coating’ now practically non-existent, and developing a reputation for not being upfront with the public
  • A coalition partner whose brand is now so toxic  that even right wingers are singing it’s funeral dirges
  • and numerous other negative indicators

Time for the government  Spin Doctors to swing into action, and deflect attention from National’s apalling track record thus far.

Time to dust of the Manual for Deflection, and flick through to the chapter on blaming solo mums (but never solo dads) for the ills of the country; the Black Plague in the Middle Ages; both World Wars; and most likely the sinking of the Titanic.

Time for John Key to point at some young woman pushing a pram,  and shout – “Hey! Look over there!”

It worked in 2009.

See: Benefits of 50 to be scrutinised

Why not try it again, wonder National’s faceless, taxpayer-funded spin-doctors and strategists,  to deflect  public attention from  scandals and poor management of the economy?

See: Bennett increases pursuit of welfare ‘rorts’

See: Drug tests for more beneficiaries mooted

See: New welfare law a ‘war on poor’

See: Big families mean big welfare dollars

New Zealanders (in general) are suckers for this kind of Deflect & Demonise Strategy.

It’s what National  does, when their economic policies fail; they blame it on the poor; the unemployed; widows; solo-mums (but never solo-dads), etc. It’s what the right wing do, blaming their failed policies on others. Because as we all know, right wingers are Big on Personal Responsibility… (Except for themselves.)

It happened in the 1990s. It’s repeating again.

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It’s pretty much a given that the ACT is now living on borrowed time, and will end up in the political  rubbish bin of history. It was never popular with mainstream New Zealand in the first place – New Zealanders having had a bitter  taste of it’s ideology in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s.

Events over the last couple of years; last twelve months; and last few weeks, a cascade of scandals and dirty dealings have left the public wondering if lunatics had, indeed, taken over the asylum called ACT. For a Party that advocated the purity of market-driven efficiency, it was prone to one bizarre gaffe after another. They couldn’t even update their own website several months after last year’s elections.

So ACT will be gone after the next election.

The result has been media, pundit, and public  speculation of  a new potential Coalition partner for National. There has been recent speculation in the last week or so that Colin Craig’s Conservative Party might make a suitable candidate to shore up National’s numbers in the House.

I doubt that.

For one thing, does National really want a new coalition partner that appears to be every bit as flaky as ACT?

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Full Story

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We are the country with the most promiscuous young women in the world. This does nothing to help us at all.”

Riiiiight.

Obviously Mr Craig has, um, “researched” this issue in some depth?! Did he go “undercover“, I wonder? And did he go “one-on-one”  with his “subjects“?

On this rare occassion, I find myself in sympathy with the Smiling One,

“… Colin Craig, had suggested New Zealand women were the most promiscuous in the world and therefore should not get taxpayer funded contraception.

Key resisted taking the Lord’s name in van and rolling his eyes.

But he did say “it’s going to be a long two and a half years.”

See:  John Key’s problem with partners

Indeed.  If   the government lasts full term. Which I doubt.

National has a problem in this area. It has no viable coalition partner, and is unlikely to find one in the foreseeable future.

Part of that reality is based on MMP and how it has affected Labour and National.

After MMP was introduced in 1996, Labour splintered into it’s constituent factions; the centrist ‘rump’ Labour Party; the environmentalist/social justice Green Party;  the overtly left-wing, worker’s,  Newlabour Party ; and the nationalist Maori party, Mana Motuhake. (The Greens, Mana Motuhake,  and NLP briefly coalesced into the Alliance Party, along with the Social Credit/Democrat Party and short-lived Liberal Party.)

The Greens, Mana Motuhake,  and NLP, had been part of the factional make-up of Labour. MMP simply separated out  it’s componants like a laboratory centrifuge. So when coalition talks took place, to form a Labour-led  Coalition Government, those same factions simply re-morphed.

Before anyone complains that MMP has created a “mess” – not true. These factions had always existed in Labour, and had constantly ‘jockeyed’ for influence within the greater ‘umbrella’ Labour banner.

Under MMP, these factions and negotiations were simply forced out into the open, for everyone to see. The same had been   happening under First Past the Post, but behind closed doors. This was internal party politics exposed to the glare of sunlight and public scrutiny.

National, on the other hand, did not fractionate  in such a similar, dramatic, manner. It lost two MPs to the New Zealand Liberal Party (in 1992), Conservative Party (formerly Right-Of-Centre Party), and one to the Christian Democrats. None of those fledgling parties  survived the grueling electoral process and quickly vanished into political history.

A third party, New Zealand First, had splintered from National earlier, and like Mana Motuhake became a nationalist party, but mainly from a pakeha perspective.

ACT was another party on the right, and appeared to draw support from both National and, to a lesser degree, Labour. It remained a small grouping, peaking in 1999 with nine MPs – largely at the expense of it’s larger right wing cousin, National.

It’s not that National doesn’t have potential coalition partners.  On the whole, National remains intact; a solid bloc of the centre-right. It’s potential coalition partners are already a part of National.

National’s only hope of picking up an extra seat or two is to rort the MMP one-seat threshold system, as it did by supporting John Banks in Epsom (with  success now mixed with regret, no doubt).  It could give a ‘nod and wink‘ to Colin Craig in the Rodney seat, and if he won that electorate, and if Craig’s Conservative Party polled the same as it did last year (2.65%), then it would gain four seats in total.

That might give National a chance at winning the next election.

But at what cost?

  • It would be seen to be once again manipulating the electoral system. The Epsom deal did not end well for National – do they really want to go down that road again?
  • The Conservatives are opposed to asset sales – so that policy would be off the agenda.
  • How would urban liberal voters view a coalition with a party such as the Conservatives? New Zealanders have always been averse to electing  overtly religious parties to Parliament (eg; Christian Heritage, Christian Coalition, Destiny New Zealand) and when some of United Future’s MPs were revealed as having a strong religious bent, they were pretty smartly voted out.
  • And would National want a flaky coalition partner with quasi-‘Christian’ overtones, and who seemed to view New Zealand women  in a casual Talibanesque-sort of way? How would National’s women MPs feel sitting alongside Colin Craig, knowing that he viewed them as the ” most promiscuous…  women in the world  “?

Craig’s Conservative Party may have a better chance to win seats in Parliament if the Electoral Commission’s review on MMP decides to recommend to Parliament that the Party Vote threshold be reduced from %5 to 4%.  Of course, the Commission can only recommend to Parliament, and any decision to reduce the Party Vote threshold will ultimately be up to the National-ACT-Dunne Coalition.

I suspect the Nats will adopt the 4% recommendation. Not because it’s fair (get a grip!), but because anything that assists ACT or the Conservative Party gain seats in Parliament will be welcomed with open arms by the Nats. Self interest rules.

The Greens’ submission to the Electoral Commission supported abolishing the Electoral Seat threshold as inherently unfair, and promote  reducing the Party Vote threshold from 5% to 4% to compensate for smaller Parties  such as NZ First, ACT, etc.

See: Green Party submission on the MMP Review

Likewise, this blogger suspects that National will probably reject any recommendation to abandon the Electoral-Seat threshold.  (The Electoral Seat threshold is where Party X does not cross the current 5% Party Vote threshold, but if one of their candidates wins an electoral seat, they get an exemption from the 5% threshold, and gain as many MPs as their Party Vote allows.)

This may be National’s one and only  “electoral lifeline”, as ACT heads for the political guillotine – especially after John Banks’ incredible performance over his fraudulent 2010 Electoral Donations fiasco.

See: John Banks – escaping justice

However, since Craig’s comment nearly three months ago, he has moved on from denigrating women, to gays and lesbians. His latest comment is indicative of a man who has little tolerance for matters outside his narrow worldview, when on 27 July he ‘tweeted’,

It’s just not intelligent to pretend that homosexual relationships are normal.”

See: Conservative leader says gay marriage ‘not right’

It take a spectacular degree of arrogance to decide that another consenting adult’s relationship is “not normal”.

This blogger feels it only appropriate that Mr Craig’s marriage to his wife should be put under the microscope.

It has been said often enough that those who vociferously oppose homosexuality (especially in males) often have a measure of sexual insecurity themselves. For many men, condemning and reviling  homosexuality has been an attempt to reaffirm their own heterosexuality by “proving their straightness” to themselves.

Perhaps, in this instance, Mr Craig may have something he wishes to get of his manly chest,

He was so sure that homosexuality was a choice, he bet his own sexuality on it.

“Do you think you could choose to be gay if that is the case?,” he was asked.

“Sure. Sure I could,” he responded.

“You could choose to be gay?,” he was asked again.

“Yea, if I wanted to,’ he replied.

See:  Colin Craig: ‘Gay parents not good role models’

Anything you want to share with us, Mr Craig? Don’t worry, we’re all consenting adults here…

Why are all small right wing parties loony-tunes?

Is this the sort of political party that National wants to cosy up to?

And more important – would a possible coalition with a bunch of religious homophobes and misogynists really endear  National’s voting-base to keep supporting the Nats?

Happy times for Dear Leader, John Key.

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National does have another potential coalition partner – the New Zealand First Party. Though their first attempt at coalition (in 1996) ended very badly for Winston Peters, that could be explained as “growing pains” after our very first MMP election. I doubt if any small Party would ever repeat such horrendous mistakes again.

But in coalescing with NZ First, National would have to abandon much of it’s right wing, neo-liberal agenda.  State asset sales would be gone by lunchtime. The sale of farmland to overseas investors would be restricted (if Peters is to be taken at his word). And the edge might be taken of other policies favoured by National.

On the other hand, NZ First had been punished previously for coalescing with National. As well, NZ First  has an active youth-wing that might not appreciate ‘sleeping with the enemy’.

Working with Winston Peters would be one very big rat for John Key to swallow. Considering how adamant he was back in 2008,

Mr Peters will be unacceptable as a Minister in a government led by me unless he can provide a credible explanation.

See: Peters unacceptable in a National-led Government

And just last year,

I don’t see a place for a Winston Peters-led New Zealand First in a government that I lead.”

See:  PM rules out any NZ First deal

If Winston Peters holds the balance of power, it will be a Phil Goff-led government.”

See:  Key names election date, rules out Winston Peters

Sealing a coalition deal with someone he has categorically ruled out in the past would damage Key’s credibility even further. Our Dear Leader is already developing something of a reputation for being “untrustworthy, dishonest, arrogant, smarmy and out of touch”.

See: ‘Polarising’ PM losing gloss

Does he want to compound that perception by backtracking on his declaration that he cannot/will not work with the NZ First leader?

So Colin Craig it is.

And yes,

“It’s going to be a long two and a half years.”

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= fs =

National – what else can possibly go wrong?!

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A contributor to The Standard blog, ‘Jenny’, made a very simple – but insightful post, detailing National’s track record in the last three and a half years,

This is a government determined to gift everything they could possibly wish to the rich and powerful, and on behalf of this greedy sector force onto the rest of New Zealanders.

More Pokies

More drilling

More fracking

More booze

More junk food

A fire sale of public assets

More pollution

More corruption

More scandal

Less sovereignity

Less civil liberty

More toadying to foreign powers

More toadying to foreign corporates

More spying snooping and videoing of New Zealand citizens

More bail-outs

More tax cuts

More job cuts

More benefit cuts

Have they actually done anything worthwhile or positive?

See:  Katherine Rich on the Health Promotion Board: The next outrageous piece of Nat cronyism

Jenny posits the question, “Have they actually done anything worthwhile or positive?

Try as one might, despite inane rhetoric and vague promises, no National Party MP, functionary, or groupie could possibly point to any success achieved by John Key and his colleagues.

Not . One.

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1.Economic Growth

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National’s “Master Plan” for economic growth and job creation seems to revolve around four events – none of which have been particularly successful,

  1. The rebuild of Christchurch. Despite being an opportunity to upskill 160,000 unemployed and a major boost to the economy – nothing much is happening. Instead, National is content to allow tradespeople from overseas to come into the country and carry out  the work. With few apprenticeships, we are woefully unprepared for the looming demand for tradespeople – a damning lack of planning by National and it’s naive reliance on the “free market” to provide skilled workers.
  2. The Rugby World Cup – far from being a major boost, seems to have contributed very little to our economy. In the last three months of 2011, GDP grew  just 0.3% – half  that  predicted by economists. It seems that Dr Sam Richardson’s prediction, that $700  million was a hopelessly unrealistic expectation proved to be unerringly correct.  Who is ultimately responsible for National throwing $200-plus million of our tax dollars at this exercise in outrageous extravagance? Murray McCully? Steven Joyce? John Key?
  3. The Sky City/Convention Centre deal. Our illustrious Dear Leader promised 1,800 jobs from this planned project, in return for re-writing gambling legislation and permitting Sky City to increase pokie machine and gaming tables by up to 500. Potential social fall-out surrounding increased problem gambling was casually dismissed by both John Key and Sky City’s CEO Nigel Morrison.    Unfortunately, as with most of John Key’s figures and promises, the expectation of 1,800 jobs was as fictitious as much of what he says.
  4. Asset sales. With weak growth; a stagnant economyhigh unemployment; and New Zealanders continuing to escape to Australia, National’s one (and only) trump card appears to be the partial-privatisation of five state owned corporations. As has been pointed out, ad infinitum, floating shares in these SOEs will not contribute to economic growth; nor create new jobs (in fact,  it is likely to result in redunancies, if past privatisations are any guide); nor create real wealth. It simply shuffles bits of paper (shares) around from investor-to-investor-to-investor. And if investors need to borrow to buy these shares, we are using overseas funds for speculative purposes. Which sounds suspiciously like our love-affair with speculative housing-“investments”.

As Business NZ has stated, our economic growth has been ‘unspectacular’. And that’s coming from one of National’s own business allies. (Just as Business NZ seemed somewhat unimpressed as National’s lack of planning and direction last year, just prior to the election.)

Otherwise, National’s Grand Plan can be summed up as a reliance on a “two pronged” approach to growing the economy; a hands-off “free market” approach, and tax cuts. Not only have neither worked terribly well, but these measures have been counter-productive.

Tax-cuts  gave massive increases in income to the richest 10% of New Zealanders – whilst the GST increase has made life harder for the poorest and lowest-paid in this country.

Right wing cheer-leaders who bleat on about their rich masters “working hard and deserving  increased wealth” may be aspirationists who one day hope to become one of the Master Class – but I hope they’re not holding their breath. That day will be a long time coming.

Tax cuts have also resulted in a government budget blow-out. Borrowing $380 million a week, whilst claiming that National is “not borrowing for tax cuts is credible only to National; their salivating sycophants; and low-information voters (for whom “The GC” is the height of documentary-making).

Tax cuts have also not delivered the promised boost to the economy by increasing spending and consumption. This is not surprising, as the tax cuts were given to the wrong sector of society.

High income, wealthy, asset-rich families tend to use their tax-cuts to reduce debt or spend on investments (shares, kiwisaver,  etc) that do not directly help small businesses.

Low income, poor, families spend everything. These are the the people who will buy more food to put on their tables; clothes; shoes; medication; and other consumables. These are the people that small businesses rely on on for their custom. And the retail supermarket sector is suffering a massive drop accordingly.

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Middle income families continue to stuggle not to fall behind. Any tax increase they may have gained has been swallowed up by increased gst, government charges, increased user-pays, etc.

I think most people have since ‘twigged’ that National has indeed borrowed for tax cuts. And we’re having to pay back those massive borrowings by  cutting services; slashing the state sector; and selling our state assets.

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2. Asset Sales

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National’s asset sales programme has been an unmitigated disaster from Day One.

Since National first announced their decision to partially privatise Meridian, Genesis, Mighty River Power, Solid Energy, and Air New Zealand, this issue has been opposed by the public.

National has used it’s so-called “mandate” from last year’s election to proceed with their policy, and passed enabling legislation only last Tuesday (26 June).

Any notion of a “mandate” is shaky and open to interpretation.

Whilst the National-ACT-Peter Dunne Coalition has 61 seats, and Labour, NZ First, Greens, Mana, and Maori Party have 60 seats – the number of Party votes cast tells a different story.

National , ACT, United Future Party Votes Labour, Greens, NZ First, Maori Party, Mana, and Conservative Party votes

National – 1,058,636

Labour – 614,937

ACT – 23,889

Greens – 247,372

United Future – 13,443

NZ First – 147,544

Maori Party – 31,982

Mana – 24,168

Conservative Party* – 59,237

TOTAL – 1,095,968

Total – 1,125,240

The irony of the Conservative Party gaining more Party Votes than ACT and United Future combined – yet winning no  seats in Parliament  – will not escape most fair-minded people. Adding the Conservative’s 59,237 party votes to the anti-asset sale bloc, yields a majority of voters opposed to National’s programme.

It is only the current rules of MMP (now under review) that allows this quirk to take place.

Add to that, opinion poll after opinion poll showing  60% to 80% of respondents  opposed to asset sales, and National’s mantra that “We have a Mandate” becomes patently untenable.

A recent  NZ Herald poll, where respondents were asked to leave a comment, as well as a “Yay” or “Nay” vote yielded results that were thoroughly predictable,

For: 151

Against: 552

The National Party understands this only too well. Hence their desperate, ad hoc  schemes to bribe the public with all manner of ‘sweeteners’,

  • giving first option to buy shares  to “mum and dad” investors
  • a bribe of “loyalty” shares
  • promise of “affordable” shares  for investors

There is a considerable degree of arrogance in National’s pursuing of their asset sales, despite considerable public anger.

On 26 October last year,  Dear Leader  said,

They don’t fully understand what we’re doing. My experience is when I take audiences through it, like I did just before, no-one actually put up their hand and asked a question. “

On 3 May, as a 5,000 person march wound it’s way through Wellington, John Key grinned to reporters and cheekily said,

How many people did they have?  Where was it? Nope wasn’t aware of it. So look, a few thousand people walking down the streets of Wellington isn’t going to change my mind. “

And on 26 June, Key tried to dismiss TV3 journalist John Campbell with this demeaning insult,

No, um, and with the greatest respect to your financial literacy, you’ve proven that you don’t actually have any. “

Key said pretty much the same about Greens co-leader, Russel Norman,

With the greatest respect to [Green Party co-leader Russel Norman], I’m sure he’s a great bloke, he doesn’t know much about economics. “

It is fairly obvious that Key has very little time for anyone who opposes his views. In fact, he gets downright belligerent and  derisive.

Who does he remind me of? Someone else who used to belittle and deride anyone who dared disagree with him – especially in economic matters. Who else was famous for his arrogance? Another Prime Minister,

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Despite public opposition and several valid commercial reasons made clear that these sales will be financially disadvantageous to our economy, National carries on, oblivious to all but it’s own ideological fanaticism.

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This is a Party totally out of touch with the rest of the country.

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3. Welfare

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In 2008, the GFC (Global Financial Crisis) hit the world with a social and economic recession not seen since the 1920s/30s. Coporations like Lehmann Bros collapsed. General Motors filed for bankruptcy protection. Others had to be bailed out with billions of taxpayers’ dollars. Millions lost their jobs and homes, and unemployment skyrocketed. Europe is tottering on the brink of a domino-like collapse of their currency.

Here in New Zealand, unemployment doubled from 3.4% by the end of 2007, to 7.3% by the end of 2009.

When criticism is levelled at National’s inability to address our stagnating economy, John Key and Bill English point to the GFC, stating it’s not their fault,

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

This is a global debt crisis and you certainly wouldn’t want to add more debt at that time unnecessarily.” – Source

The economic downturn that may occur on a pronounced basis in Europe is factored into our books.” – Source

But when it comes to those who are the casualties of the economic downturn; the unemployed, National suddenly sings a different tune when it comes to Cause-and-Effect,

The Government is considering requiring beneficiaries to immunise their children.” – Source

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett yesterday said contraception would eventually be fully funded for female beneficiaries and their 16 to 19-year-old daughters. ” – Source

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

Under the Government’s new youth welfare policy, announced by Prime Minister John Key at the weekend, 16- and 17-year-old beneficiaries would receive a payment card for food and clothes from approved stores.” – Source

And perhaps – worst of all – was  this piece of vileness from Finance Minister, Bill English,

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[click on image to go to TV3 website]

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English’s smirking disdain, for all those New Zealanders who have lost their jobs due to the global financial crisis, was plain to see.  Shame on him; his revolting attitude; and shame on every person in his electorate who voted for this arrogant little man.

The National Creed

1. The  Global Financial Crisis – a handy excuse for poor economic policies and mismanagement.

2. The Unemployed – a handy scapegoat for National’s inability to grow the economy and create new jobs.

3. If in doubt, never take responsibilty; refer to #1 and #2.

Latest redundancies;

Will drug testing be used to  “sort this lot out smartly”, Mr English?

And more bizarre is Paula Bennet’s admission that National “has ruled out universal drug testing of all beneficiaries, with drug and alcohol addicts being exempted from sanctions for refusing or failing a drug test when applying for a job“.

See:  Addicts escape beneficiary drug testing

Which means that if addicts and alcoholics are not tested – that leaves only those  workers who’ve been unfortunate enough to lose their jobs through New Zealand’s ongoing stagnating economy.

Adding insult to injury doesn’t begin to cover the humiliation which National intends to thrust upon workers who’ve lost their jobs.

And all because National has no job creation policies.

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4. Sky City/Convention Centre

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This is perhaps one of John Key’s shonkiest deals. It is no wonder that the Auditor General is investigating the Sky City “arrangement” – so I have little faith that the investigation will yield much that is incriminating of Dear Leader.

As Key stated with utter confidence, on TV3’s ‘The Nation‘ on 17 June,

KEY: The involvement I had, as Minister of Tourism was to go and talk to a number of critical players, and as part of a general conversation say to them, “Hey, look, New Zealand’s interested in building a convention centre. Did that with Sky City. I did that with people out at ASB Centre The Edge. I did that with Ngati Whatua. That’s not unusual.  I mean, and to argue that that would be unusual would be to say, well, look I have discussions with people in Whangarei about building a museum there. And I have discussions  with people in Auckland about building  a cycleway.

So now what we’re  talking about about is, ok, was there undue influence or was the process correctly handled, that’s what the auditor general  will say.

So let me tell you this, for a start off, ok, in terms of the expression of interest process, my office had absolutely no involvement, no correspondence, [ interuption by Rachel Smalley] no phone calls, absolutely nothing. So when the auditor general  comes in there will be no correspondence, no phone calls, no discussions, zero. “ - Source (@ 6.37)

That statement does not instill confidence in me. Dear Leader has just stated, on record, that no evidence exists of his meeting(s) with Sky City management. Key admitted meeting with Sky City’s Board in late 2009,

I attended a dinner with the Sky City board 4 November 2009 where we discussed a possible national convention centre and they raised issues relating to the Gambling Act 2003“. – Source

But what was said or agreed on, we don’t know. As Key has stated, “when the auditor general  comes in there will be no correspondence, no phone calls, no discussions, zero”.

This is not a very good  example of transparency. It is certainly not the “transparency in government”  that Key has promised this country on several occassions.

In fact, it’s dodgy as hell.

See:  Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How

In the same  blogpost ( Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How )  dated 23 April, this blogger outlined John Key’s somewhat dubious tactics for pushing through dubious policies,

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Promise Big Numbers.  It doesn’t matter if the numbers never eventuate because they were fictitious to start with. By the time the media and public realise the true facts, the issue will be all but forgotten. A week may be a long time in politics – but a year positively guarantees  collective amnesia for 99% of the public.

From December, 2010,

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Cycleway jobs fall short

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6:00 AM Wednesday Dec 8, 2010

The national cycleway has so far generated just 215 jobs – well short of Prime Minister John Key’s expectation of 4000.

In May, Mr Key said he expected the $50 million project, which involves building 18 cycleways throughout the country, to generate 4000 jobs.”Source

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Who can remember the initial cycleway project and the promise of 4,000 new jobs?

Precisely.

From March, this year,

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Key defends casino pokie machine deal

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08:23 Mon Mar 5 2012 – AAP

Opposition parties are accusing the government of selling legislation through an agreement that will see Auckland’s Sky City build a $350 million convention centre in return for more pokie machines…

…  But Mr Key says it’s a good deal for New Zealand.

“It produces 1000 jobs to build a convention centre, about 900 jobs to run it… ” Source

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In a year’s time, who will recall the promise of 900 new Convention centre jobs?

Who will care that only a hundred-plus eventuate?

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Well, it didn’t take one year. It took only a matter of  months. On 5 March, John Key asserted,

 “It produces 1000 jobs to build a convention centre, about 900 jobs to run it, and overall the number of pokie machines will be falling although at a slightly lower rate.”

See:  Key defends casino pokie machine deal

But then, on 5 June,  the NZ Herald reported,

Job numbers touted by Prime Minister John Key for a proposed international convention centre at SkyCity are much higher than official estimates.

Mr Key has said a deal allowing SkyCity more gambling facilities in exchange for funding the convention centre would provide 900 construction jobs and work for 800 people at the centre.

But the figures are much higher than those in a feasibility study done for the Government by hospitality and travel specialist analyst Horwath Ltd.

Horwath director Stephen Hamilton said he was concerned over reports the convention centre would employ 800 staff – a fulltime-equivalent total of 500.

He said the feasibility study put the number of people who would be hired at between 318 and 479. “

See:  Puzzle of Key’s extra casino jobs

Sprung! Another of Dear Leader’s “little white lies” uncovered.

Next ‘cast iron guarantee’ from Dear Leader, who said on his website,

SkyCity has agreed to pay the full construction costs of the centre – estimated at $350 million. The company has asked the Government to consider some alterations to gambling regulations and legislation.”

See:  John Key -Convention centre development moves ahead

Yeah, I’ll bet that Sky City has “asked the Government to consider some alterations to gambling regulations and legislation“…

In business, it’s called a ‘contra-deal‘.

But it’s seems that even this deal is not as “free” for tax-payers as Key has made out. In fact, it has been uncovered that  taxpayers are definitely ‘stumping up’ some of their hard-earned cash,

Budget documents reveal that if the plan goes ahead, taxpayers will contribute up to $2.1 million to ensure its design and facilities meet Government expectations...  The Prime Minister, however, is defending the budget allocation of millions of dollars towards a potential Sky City convention centre.

John Key says he has always said his preferred position is that no taxpayer money would be spent – and that if it does go ahead, it will have economic spinoffs. “

See:  Govt misleading public over Sky City: Labour

So… Key has (once again) mis-led the public, and his stock-standard explanation is that “if it does go ahead, it will have economic spinoffs .”

John Key  claims that “a new convention centre would bring 144,000 additional nights of Auckland stays for business tourists, who generally spent twice as much as other tourists“.

See:  Casinos safer than pubs, Key says

But as Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ, said somewhat more convincingly,

Tourists come to see the country and the culture – not the casinos. If tourists were really focused on gambling, they would be going to Las Vegas – not the Sky City casino venue in Auckland.

See:  Tourists Come to See Country & Culture – Not Casinos

What’s the bet that the forecast for “economic spinoffs” will be as accurate as National’s predictions for spin-offs from the Rugby World Cup or national cycleway?!

See:  Weather and World Cup fail to lift GDP

See:  Current account deficit widens to $2.7 billion

See:  Growth slows – GDP up just 0.3pc

How many times have we heard Prime Minister John Key make all sorts of promises that this or that will deliver jobs and economic growth – only to see the promise fail. Which is then  usually followed by an excuse relating to the global economic slowdown?

It’s getting rather predictable and tedious.

What Dear Leader has tried to gloss over and  dismiss is the inevitable consequence of increasing pokie machines: more problem gambling. Both John Key and Sky City CEO, Nigel Morrison,  have tried to trivialise this growing social problem,

The incidence of harm cited from Lotto is greater than that from pokie machines in casinos. Getting those facts across is difficult.  We’re not just on about growing our gaming machines.  We would like to grow our table games product and expand our operations to meet the growth of Auckland. “

See:  Casino boss: Lotto does more harm

Gambling addiction in many way is as pernicious – if not worse – than alcohol and drug additions. A compulsive gambler can damage not only his/her own life – but those around them. Houses have been lost; businesses crippled or closed down; families torn apart,  as problem gamblers suck others down into a whirlpool of uncontrollable gambling.

See:  Barred gambler coaxed back to casino

See:  Mum steals $330k from marae to feed pokies

From a Ministry of Health  report,

Overall, the prevalence of problem gambling in New Zealand adults was 0.4% (about 13,100 adults). Additionally, the prevalence of moderate-risk gambling was 1.3% (representing a further 40,900 people). In total, 1 in 58 adults (1.7%, or 54,000 adults) were experiencing either problem or moderate-risk gambling.

Other key findings of this study include:

  1. Maori and Pacific people experience more gambling-related harm than other people
  2. people living in more socioeconomically deprived areas are more affected by gambling-related harm.
  3. this study may help to inform the provision of problem gambling intervention services and public health activity, as the study showed that:
    • problem gamblers can be found in both urban and rural areas
    • Maori and Pacific people appear to be under-represented in intervention services
    • people experiencing gambling problems are more likely than other people to be current smokers, have hazardous drinking patterns, have worse self-rated health, and have a high or very high probability of a mood or anxiety disorder. “

See:  A Focus on Problem Gambling: Results of the 2006/07 New Zealand Health Survey

Interestingly, the above report, using 2006/07 data, and posted online in 2009, is the most recent Ministry of Health report available. Nothing more recent – and perhaps more damning of current gambling policies – is apparent on the Ministry of Health website.

Why is that?

On a more personal level, this blogger is aware of an elderly couple who were both addicted to pokie machines. Badly in debt, they were forced to down-size their family home and buy a smaller, more modest,  property. One of the couple died soon after, leaving the other who continued her gambling habit.

Not only has this elderly woman lost her surplus cash from the house-sale, but has gambled using equity in her current home.  She often ‘borrows’ money from her grown up children.

Her  modest house is deteriorating through lack of maintenance.

Not only has this woman lost all equity in her home, she is now more reliant on  both the State and her family.

Meanwhile, this article on Sky City’s most recent posted profits should be cause for concern,

”  Sky City Entertainment, one of the biggest gambling operators in the country, has seen a significant rise in profits over the course of the last year. The company attributes this growth to the earnings generated by the Sky City Casino in Auckland.

Over the course of 2011, profits for Sky City rose by over $10 million to $78 for the year. The company believes that the changes made to Sky City Auckland are to thank for this impressive profit increase over the course of the past year.

$50 million was spent on renovating the gambling facilities available the casino, but the company still managed to offset the costs with improved profits. In addition to building a new VIP lounge, Sky City also renovated other areas of the casino to make them more attractive to players.

Slots [pokies]  brought in the amount of increased revenue, seeing a rise by 17%. Non-gaming elements also helped to boost profits. Auckland’s recently-revamped hotels and restaurants garnered a great deal of attention from patrons.

It seems that the adage “you have to spend money to make money” is true for Sky City.  “

See:  Sky City Sees Huge Revenue Jump

If the convention centre is National’s only scheme to grow the economy and to create 170,000 new jobs – we are in deep trouble.

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5. TVNZ7

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Nothing best illustrates  National’s narrow vision of the role of government than the demise of TVNZ7. Nothing.

Whether the previous Broadcasting Minister, Jonathan Coleman, or the current Minister, Craig Foss – their attitude has been the same; market forces shall prevail – and public-interest programming shall be the responsibity of NZ On Air, who shall contract such programmes to current commercial broadcasters.

Except that this is a cop-out.

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The beauty of TVNZ7 is that public broadcasting was, in the main, focused on a single broadcasting platform. The public knew where to go to watch certain types of programming.

Just as the public now go to supermarkets to buy their meat, fish, veg & fruit, and bread – instead of going to a butchers; a fish shop; a  fruit & veg produce store; and a bakery. Imagine the uproar if John Key told us we must go to five different food retailers to buy five different sorts of foodstuffs?! Dear Leader would have a size 9 boot imprinted on his backside.

TVNZ7 fulfilled the same public demand; niche programming on a niche broadcaster.

Just as, currently we have racing on the TAB channel; Chinese programming on CTV; parliament on Parliament TV, etc.

Ironic that politicians have no problem broadcasting their “debates” (inverted commas used deliberately), deeming their squabbles and shrill screams a must have - but not public, non-commercial TV.

Or, that we can have non-stop horse racing on a free-to-air TV channel.

But we are not entitled to have access to non-commercial public TV.

Whatever concept National has of public television, it is clear that Broadcasting Minister, Craig Foss’s vision is different to the rest of New Zealand,

“…  the government was ‘committed’ to supporting local content through NZ on Air, instead of directly funding single broadcasters. “

See:  No help for titanically pointless bill

Having public TV through NZ On Air is akin to selling vegetarian/vegan food products in butcher shops. You have to go looking for it. It’s not easy to find. And it’s buried amongst ‘crap’ you’d rather not have to put up with.

And what makes NZ On Air funding of  ‘Media7/Media3‘  “public television” – when it will have advertisements peppered throughout?

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Take out the advertising of underarm deodorants; cat/dog food; toilet ducks; panty shields;  the latest 4WD monstrosity from Korea; promos for the latest US crime/cop shows; reality TV shows; home improvement shows; US sitcoms; and voyeuristic, soft-core porn like “The GC”,  and a 30 minute current affairs programme from TVNZ7 becomes a 20 minute show on TV3.

There goes our chance to focus on critical social issues, as commercial advertisers compete for our attention.

What next? Advertising in Tolstoy’s  “War and Peace”? Shakepeare’s “Macbeth”? Anne Frank’s Diary?

We are being ripped off in more ways than one. We deserve better than this.

But not, it seems, according to National; there is more than an element of vindictiveness in their decision to can TVNZ7. As if it was their opportunity to “stick it to us” after their embarrassing backdowns on mining in conservation schedule four estates; their attempt to cut teacher numbers and increase classroom sizes; and ongoing resistance to state asset sales.

The closure of TVNZ7 is a clue what National thinks of us. And it ain’t very pleasant.

See: Pundit – TVNZ kills ad-free channels to grow profits

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6. Education

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Current cutbacks to state and social services is a re-run of the 1990s. National’s cuts now, mirror those of last century.

Bolger, Richardson, Shipley, and Bill English  ran amok – slashing health, education, police, military, and anything else they could lay their cold, clammy, neo-liberal hands on.

At one stage, in the late 1990s, the health system was so badly run down that   patients requiring critical surgery were not receiving it – and were dying on waiting lists.

See: Died waiting for by pass

See:  Funding cut puts centre in jeopardy

See:  Myers warns few jobs, more poor, ahead for NZ

This year, as part of National’s on-going agenda to cut government services; reduce the size of the State; and to pass on savings  as tax cuts to the rich, National has cut staffing levels; departmental budgets; and services.

The New Zealand middle class tolerates this – until it affects them, personally.

Enter: 24 June – Minister Parata and her plans to slash teacher numbers and increase class sizes.  That was a step too far, and a teacher-parent-principal-Boards alliance fought back. Hard.

Bill English – a bloodied veteran of the Bolger-cum-Shipley administration of the late 1990s –  recognised the signs that a revolt of the middle classes was in the offing.   National’s merciless cuts to social and government services in the ’90s had resulted in an electoral thrashing in the November 1999 elections.

Upshot: 7 July – Government u-turn on cost-cutting policy.

This is now the second major policy u-turn by National. Their previous bloodied-nose, in July 2010, when Gerry Brownlee was forced to announce a back-down on National’s proposals to mine schedule 4 conservation land, was a stunning exercise in people-power.

In my previous blogpost (Why Hekia Parata should not be sacked), I argued that Educational Minister, Hekia Parata should not be forced to step down from her ministerial role. As I pointed out, “sacking Parata for policies that every other Minister has been implementing seems pointless. Especially when National’s essential policy of cutting expenditure and services would remain unchanged”.

However, recent revelations from OIA-released  document have revealed,

The papers for the education budget reveal class size funding ratio changes went even further than what was announced.

Education Minister Hekia Parata originally urged changes that would seen 1300 fewer teachers hired over the next four years than would have happened under the existing funding formula.

That plan to curb growth in teacher numbers would have seen a “a minimal net reduction” in staffing of about 260 after four years.

The Government eventually decided on a less aggressive plan to cap teacher numbers, with almost the same number proposed to be employed in 2016 as now.

That plan to save $174m over four years was agreed and written in to the Budget but Parata was forced in to an embarrassing backdown earlier this month, which cancelled the plan and returned to the status quo.

However Parata’s original plan was to cut $217m. “

See:  Deeper teacher funding cuts ditched

It appears that Ms Parata’s inclination was for even deeper cuts to Education services  than, (a) the public was initially aware of and (b) that her National ministerial colleagues could stomach.

This explains, in part, why Key torpedoed  Parata’s plans to cut education services; he was thoroughly exasperated with an an incompetant  Minister who badly overestimated her abilities and could not “sell” even a watered down version of her plans. He must have been spitting tacks that, had Parata’s initial plans to cut $217 million (instead of $174 million) gone ahead,  she would have found herself in a much deeper hole, and the fallout to National would have been much worse.

This blogger has come to the conclusion that Hekia Parata is way over her head, and should step down as Education Minister forthwith.

At any rate, she will be gone at the next cabinet re-shuffle.

Tea-lady might be a good, safe role for her?

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7. ETS – Another of Key’s broken promises

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John Key is adamant that National will not consider slowly raising the retirement age from 65 to 67, because it is a committment he has promised to keep,

I’ve made it quite clear it would be my intention to resign from parliament if I broke that promise to New Zealanders.”

See:  Govt against raising retirement age

This blogger finds it hard to understand Key’s reticence to “breaking” an election promise. After all, he’s broken promises not to raise GST; to retrieve the bodies of the Pike River miners;  to address growing youth unemployment; stem the flow of migration to Australia; grow the economy; and now, to implement an ETS.

In May 2008, Key stated,

Key outlined a series of principles an ETS should have, including…

… It should be closely aligned with Australia’s ETS.

It should not discriminate against small and medium businesses in allocating emissions credits and purposes. “

See: Nats call for a delay to emission trading scheme law

At the time, Key also stated,

This not about National walking away from an ETS, we support that. . . we just simply want to get it right and we now have the time to get it right.  “

That was four years ago.

Since then Australia has implemented it’s own carbon tax that will lead in to a full ETS by 2015,

The A$23-a-tonne price on carbon emissions started yesterday [1 July 2012] , directly affecting 294 electricity generators and other companies.

The federal Government is aiming to cut carbon emissions by 5 per cent by 2020, with the carbon tax shifting to an emissions trading scheme in 2015. “

See: Protests greet day one of Aussie carbon tax

By contrast, National has been delaying implementing New Zealand’s own version of an ETS, and has now “postponed” it until 2015.

And yet, four years ago, Key stated that New Zealand’s emissions trading scheme should ” be closely aligned with Australia’s ETS  “.

Our Aussie cuzzies have already started their carbon tax/ETS.

With National postponing the ETS for farmers, industrial and commercial polluters, until 2015 – that means that Dear Leader’s “postponement” will have lasted seven years – over two Parliamentary terms.  How long does Key need to ‘get it right’ ?

Ten years?

Two decades?

Perhaps the turn of the 22nd century?

Let’s cut through the BS here. John Key is not “postponing” the ETS – he is postponing it indefinitely. National has no intention of ever implementing it. So much for Key’s statement,

Ours is not a political agenda here, we want a good ETS that works.”

That deserves to be immortalised,

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See also: Tumeke – Blue ignores Red to pretend to be Green while turning to Brown to subsidize big polluters

See also: Tumeke – The Emissions Trading Scam and the audacity of Farmers

The sooner the Nats admit this deception, the better for the entire country. Until then, the only sector paying the ETS is… us, the public.

Which leads on to…

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8. Tax Cuts & Government charges

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In 2009 and 2010, National cut taxes.  The rationale, as National explained in their 2008 document,

In the short term, National’s tax package will give households confidence and some cash in their back pockets to keep the economy going and to pay down debt.

In the longer term, our tax package encourages people to invest in their own skills and make best use of their abilities, because they get to keep more of any higher wages they earn. It encourages them to look for and to take up better and higher-paying jobs that make more use of their skills.

See: National Party  Tax policy

However, what National giveth with one hand; National taketh with the other.

Any benefits from the ’09 and ’10 taxcuts have been more than swallowed up (for low and middle income earners) by increases in a myriad of government and SOE charges.

The most recent have been Family Courts fees, which have risen astronomically.

From July 1 2012, services which used to be free to couples in dispute, now incur considerable court fees,

  • Child custody disputes: $220
  • Property disputes: $700
  • Hearing of any application for each half-day, or part half-day: $906

Of all National’s user-pays regimes, charging couples who are separating; highly stressed; and where violence may be involved, is mind-boggling. We thought it was miserly when National decided to tax children in the last budget – but these user-pays Family Court fees hit people who are vulnerable in the extreme,

But Family Law Specialists director Catriona Doyle says most families try to avoid handing custody and property decisions to a judge and only use the Family Court as a last resort in irresolvable conflicts.

The few people who waste the court’s time by filing repeatedly or unnecessarily won’t be put off by the fees because they’ll either be wealthy enough to afford it or earning little enough to have the fees waived, she says.

“It’s going to hit the middle class and lower income families where $220 is a lot of money.”

Women especially will be hit hard, as they are often financially disadvantaged when a relationship breaks up, Ms Doyle says.

Rather than trying to keep children out of court, the ministry should be aiming to resolve conflicts before children are affected by them, she says.

“Leaving children in a conflict situation where the parents are at war is neglect and abuse. The kids who live in that situation are damaged.”

A judge should be the person to decide if a case is genuine or flippant, especially when children are involved, she says.

“It’s not something that should be addressed by Parliament or a court registrar”.

See:  Family court fees will hurt women – lawyer

Minister of Courts, Chester Borrows, stated plainly,

What we are trying to do here is have a disincentive for people to be able to bring these matters before the court. “

See:   Family Court fees tipped to hit low earners, children

(Note: As a matter of interest, Chester Borrows is the very same Minister who stated he would be buying shares in SOEs, when they were partially-privatised. See:  Conflicts of Interest? )

National complains that  court costs have risen  from $84 million in 2004/2005 to $142m in 2010/2011 – hence Family Court fees must be imposed.

This is faulty logic, and is penalising people who are attempting to sort out damaging relationship breakdowns.  Using Family Courts is preferable to taking the law into one’s own hands. Disincentiving people from using the law – which Parliament put in place to protect us all – is like disincentivising people from calling the Police if you’ve been burgled.

Instead, if we are being “encouraged to resolve issues ourselves”, find the burglar; beat the crap out of him; and retrieve our stolen property ourselves.  That is what Borrows is advocating.

Further using Borrows’ “logic”, National should implement high user-pays charges in public hospitals, as  ” a disincentive for people ” to use hospitals.

It sounds ridiculous? It is ridiculous.

It is also dangerous. Borrows and his idiotic fellow ministers are playing with peoples’ lives. Putting expensive, punitive barriers up at a time when families most need society’s help defies logic, common sense, and most of all, compassion.

But then – when did anyone ever accuse the National Party of being compassionate?

And will the Dear Leader, John Key,  take responsibility if something goes horribly wrong, and an emotionally-stressed family explodes into violence because they had no way out through the Family Court? Like hell he will.

This is a death waiting to happen.

On your miserable head be it, Mr Borrows.

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9. More on those tax cuts

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As an aside, National’s 2008 Tax document makes this derisable claim,

” This makes it absolutely clear that to fund National’s tax package there is no requirement for additional borrowing and there is no requirement to cut public services.

Jeez. No wonder people don’t trust politicians.

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10. Alcohol law reforms

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The latest offerings of irrationality from John Key’s Universe; evidently Dear Leader does not believe that minimum pricing for alcohol would work. He suggests (with a straight face, no doubt) that minimum pricing for booze would not work because it could drive people to drink lower quality liquor instead of reducing consumption,

What typically happens is people move down the quality curve and still get access to alcohol.”

See:   PM sceptical dearer booze will cut consumption

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Mr Key, how do I mock thee? Let me count the ways… (with apologies to Elizabeth Browning)

 How do I mock thee? Let me count the ways.
I ridicule thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when laughing at you hard
For the ends of Banality and Idiotic Government.
I mock thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and ecobulb-light.
I deride thee freely, as men strive for human rights.
I caricature thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I jeer at thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my voter’s faith.
I scorn thee with a scorn I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I sneer at thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if  The People choose,
I shall but take the piss better after you are voted out.

Why so contemptuous, you ask?

Because raising the price of  tobacco has been the number one tool of both Labour and National governments.

As recently as 12 June, John Key stated on a Fairfax online interview,

The Government is unashamedly trying to deter people from smoking through price, particularly young people who are very sensitive to rising tobacco prices. I know this is difficult for those that have smoked for quite some time, but for your long term health I can only encourage you to try and give up. “

See: Blogpost –  Fairfax; An hour with Dear Leader (@ 12.57)

So high-pricing for tobacco is useful for ” the Government is unashamedly trying to deter people from smoking ” – but not for alcohol?

Raising prices to deter smoking works. But raising prices to deter binge-drinking doesn’t?

It boggles the mind how Dear Leader can hold two conflicting viewpoints, simultaneously, without suffering a brain explosion.

Or is it simply that the liquor industry is a generous donor of funds for National’s election campaigns?

In the meantime, life goes on,

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See:   Ambulance base for Wellington party central

See:   ‘Pressure valve’ medics patch up night’s drunks

See:   BERL Report – Costs of harmful alcohol and other drug use

See:   Drunk kids flooding our hospitals

See previous blogpost: A kronically inept government

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11. Government Cost cutting = Economic suicide

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On 12 May, this blogger posted a piece on National’s slashing of our MAF biosecurity.

In part, I posted this dire warning,

Now, we have the prospect of  having entire suburbs in Auckland being contained in some kind of loose “quarantine”, after a Queensland fruit fly was caught in a pest surveillance trap,

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Considering that the Queensland fruit fly costs the Australian economy approximately  $160 million a year, this is a very real threat  to New Zealand’s own $5 billion annual horticultural industry.

Five billion dollars, per year, every year. All under threat because this government wanted to save a few million bucks by employing fewer biosecurity staff.

As if the discovery of a  painted apple moth in 1999; the varroa mite infestation of our honey hives in 2000; and other isolated instances of pests found in this country did not serve as a warning to us – National  proceeded to cut back on biosecurity staffing.

This blogger wonders sometimes (actually, all the time) what goes through the minds of our esteemed Honourable Ministers of Her Majesty’s Government. These are supposedly well-educated men and women, with support from thousands of University-educated advisors – and yet they still manage to accomplish the most incredibly moronic decisions conceivable.

National has put at risk this country’s  $5 billion industry – simply to save a few million dollars.

They have risked horticulturalist’s businesses; workers their jobs; and all the down-stream economic activity – to save a small percentage of billions.

This blogger has three pieces of advice for all concerned,

  1. John Key must  accept the resignation of  David Carter, Minister for Bio-security immediatly.
  2. National must reinstate biosecurity services to pre-2009 levels.
  3. Horticulturalists (and others who own farms and other agricultural businesses) should carefully consider whether National is working on their behalf – or for the sake of implementing false economies. What is the point of an orchardist voting for National – if National is going to screw his/her business by cutting back on essential government services such as biosecurity?!?!

Hopefully, this  fruit fly is a lone bug; perhaps a stowaway in someone’s bag or in a container offloaded at Ports of Auckland.

If so, once again we’ve been lucky.

But how long will our  luck hold out?

See previous blogpost: Bugs and balls-ups!

It seems our luck ran out some years ago,

The kiwifruit growers’ association is considering legal action over the outbreak of the vine disease PSA and says it can’t rule out seeking compensation.

An independent review released on Wednesday into how the bacterium came into New Zealand has found there were shortcomings with biosecurity systems, but it does not say that caused the entry.

The disease was first confirmed near Te Puke in 2010 and has infected 40% of the country’s kiwifruit orchards. It is expected to cost the industry $410 million dollars in the next five years.

Ministry for Primary Industries director general Wayne McNee asid the review did not determine how PSA came into the country but does show where improvements can be made.

NZ Kiwifruit Growers president Neil Trebilco says he can’t rule out that compensation will be sought by growers.

See:   Kiwifruit growers take legal advice over PSA

A damning report into the outbreak of kiwifruit virus PSA is another in a series of warnings over the biosecurity system that the Government has failed to act on, Labour’s biosecurity spokesman Damien O’Connor says.

The independent report was commissioned by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) following the devastation caused by the virus in the Bay of Plenty orchards with an estimated cost of $400 million.

The report, released yesterday, found “shortcomings” in New Zealand’s biosecurity system although it could not say how the incursion had occurred.

It said MPI could improve protections and must work more closely with industry groups.

The report also suggested resources be moved from low-risk industries to high-risk ones such as the kiwifruit sector.

O’Connor said there needed to be a complete overhaul of the biosecurity system.

The National Government cut biosecurity funding in 2009 and had accepted the growing risk caused by faults in the system, he said.   “

See:  Labour: Govt ignored biosecurity warning

Anyone with two inter-connecting neurons would’ve figured out very quickly that if a government cuts biosecurity then we put ourselves at dire risk of pests entering our country. Like the varroa mite. Or PSA bacterium.

With approximately  550,000 shipping containers and 4.5 million people entering New Zealand each year, it stands to reason that we are at extreme risk of unwanted organisms being brought into the country.

National was warned as far back as 2009, when 60 Biosecurity jobs were “dis-established”.  It therefore defies understanding as to why National believed that cuts could be made to frontline MAF Biosecurity without serious consequences.

Spelling out those consequences,

  1. Millions – even hundreds of millions of dollars of valuable export dollars lost,
  2. Jobs lost,
  3. Businesses ruined,
  4. And not one single government minister taking responsibility.

The only question now remaining to be asked: how many farmers and horticulturalists will vote for National at the next election?

Remember:  you get the government you deserve.

This time, it is farmers and horticulturalists who have been warned.

See:   Risks involved in cutting MAF Biosecurity jobs

See:   Farming at risk if biosecurity jobs cut, PSA warns

See:  Minister warned about biosecurity concerns

See:  Fruit restrictions in place

See:  Biosecurity savings ‘false economy’

See:  Biosecurity NZ webpage

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12. The Terminally Ill

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During the 2008 general election, Prime Minister  John Key adopted the Herceptin campaign.

Pharmac was funding herceptin treatment for women suffering from breast cancer only up to a nine week period.  Breast cancer patients wanted treatment extended to twelve months. Pharmac refused, stating there was no evidence that an extended treatment period would prove beneficial,

Pharmac CEO,  Matthew Brougham, said,

A fresh review of the science and other information has failed to convince us that 12-month treatments offer any additional benefits over the concurrent nine week treatment.”

See:  Nats pledge funding for 12-month Herceptin course

Enter,  John Key. As the 2008 election campaign swung into full force, Key leapt upon the issue,

National recognises that many Kiwis have limited access to modern medicines. We will improve that access.

“We will boost overall funding for medicines and speed up the registration of new medicines, with final approval remaining in New Zealand.

“These initiatives will be funded within the indicative health spending allocations in the Prefu [Pre-election Fiscal and economic Update].

“They are also further examples of our determination to shift spending into frontline services for patients, rather than backroom costs.”

See:  Key says Nats would fund 12-month Herceptin treatment

The election promise was one of many that Key made (along with tax cuts and the perennial “getting tough on crime), and on 10 December 2008, the Prime Minister-elect announced,

I am proud to lead a government that has honoured such a commitment to the women of New Zealand.

“The commitment was part of National’s first 100-days action plan.  I am pleased that the Herceptin funding policy effectively applies from the swearing in of the Government on 19 November.”

See:  Government honours Herceptin promise

Unfortunately, John Key’s belief that ” National recognises that many Kiwis have limited access to modern medicines. We will improve that access. We will boost overall funding for medicines and speed up the registration of new medicines, with final approval remaining in New Zealand -  seems only to apply during election campaigns.

At other times, Key  does not seem to want to know.

Allyson Lock is one of five New Zealanders who suffers from Pompe Disease. It is a terminal condition.

There is medication available (called Myozyme ), but it currently receives no funding from Pharmac agency Pharmac.  It is an expensive drug, but without that medication, Allyson and her fellow sufferers will not survive.

See: Mum not prepared to wait and die

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Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking Blog Pompe

IN SEARCH OF CURE: Allyson Lock will travel to Brisbane every fortnight for five years to receive treatment for the rare incurable disease Pompe.

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Allyson and her group have appealed to John Key for funding for their medication – without success. In fact, Key wants nothing to do with Allyson and other Pompe sufferers.

At a recent “on-line  chat” with John Key, hosted by Fairfax Media, several people including this blogger attempted to put a question to the Prime Minister; why was National not prepared to fund medicine for Pompe as they had for breast cancer sufferers?

See previous blogpost:   Fairfax; An hour with Dear Leader

After all, Pharmac had expressed the same reservations regarding the efficacy of  Myozyme as they did with long-term  herceptin treatment. Yet, that did not stop Key from ensuring breast cancer sufferers had full access to a year-long course of herceptin.

John Key and Health Minister Tony Ryall have wiped their hands of Allyson.

It is not election year.

So there are no political points to be scored in saving the lives of five fellow New Zealanders.

I look forward to John Key proving me wrong; a link to this blogpost will be sent to media as will as the Prime Minister’s office. The rest is in his hands.

To Prime Minister, John Key;

Fund treatment for Allyson and others, Mr Key. They deserve no less than breast cancer sufferers. You can either oversee funding for their treatment – or attend their funerals.

Your call, Mr Prime Minister.

See previous blogpost:   Priorities?

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Related blogpost

The wheels are coming off, and there’s a funny ‘plink-plink’ sound

A John, a Tony, and a Winston

Additional

David Cunliffe:  Speech – The Dolphin and the Dole Queue

Gordon Campbell:  Efficiency Is Not Your Friend

Acknowledgement

Thanks to ‘S’  for proof-reading.

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= fs =

Ms Heka Goes To Wellington. (Part #Rua)

17 April 2012 2 comments

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Continued from Ms Heka Goes To Wellington

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Shortly after concluding our meeting with Ms Martin, our party met with Metiria Turei’s PA, and we were escorted to the Green’s 14th floor office in Bowen House.

At the Reception, we were introduced to waiting ‘Dominion Post‘ journalist, Kate Chapman, and photographer Kent Blechynden. A TV crew was present as well and after making introductions with the ‘Dompost‘ people, this blogger asked the TV crew,

Are you here for Jazmine Heka’s meeting with Metiria Turei?”

The cameraman replied,

No, we were here for something else.”

This blogger replied,

Oh? Never mind. Come along for the interview anyway. You’re more than welcome and more the merrier.”

Our party, with journalists in-tow, filed into another Conference Room – this one having a magnificent view of the Beehive; Bowen State Building, and the Thorndon hills in the background.

Ms Turei joined us almost immediatly, and more introductions were made,

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Jazmine Heka - Wellington - 13 April 2012

Jamine Heka meeting Greens co-leader, Metiria Turei.

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Ms Turei started by saying that,

We have been campaigning  strongly for a number of years around  issues to do with child poverty and income inequity. The gap between rich and poor is getting bigger and as a result life is harder for everybody, not just those at the real  bottom.

At the election we campaigned very strongely on addressing child poverty and we had four main proposals that we were putting to the public about that.

To fix rental housing.

To increase the income of beneficiaries,  to what’s now called the  in-work tax credits, but would actually be an extension of benefits.

Extending the Training Incentive Allowance to more beneficiaries.”

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Jazmine Heka - Wellington - 13 April 2012

Getting down to it, and dsiscussing the important issues of the day.

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Ms Heka said that those were good policies and asked if the Greens had a time-frame to achieve their policies if they were part of a government.

Ms Turei replied that they would be working toward a goal of getting 100,00o lifted out of poverty in one term. She said that part of New Zealand’s problem was the “working poor”, where people working full time were still in poverty because their wages were to low.

Ms Turei said she recently talked with young children in a poor area. She said that one child, with the gaming nick-name “Master Nighthawk”said to her, “we don’t want to be rich, we just want everyone to be ok“.

Ms Turei noticed that none of the children she spoke with belittled anyone else, and seemed supportive of one another. She noiced  a strong spirit of mutual support between them.

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Jazmine Heka - Wellington - 13 April 2012

The Greens party-policy position was close Ms Heka’s concerns and practically ‘mirrored’ aspects to her petitions.

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Ms Turei said it would take a long time to eliminate poverty . She said many of the causes for poverty were deeply ingrained this country such as having 70,000 too few homes for low-income earners and beneficiaries. Building more homes would create more jobs, creating  economic growth downstream,  with other businesses benefitting from increased housing construction.

Ms Turei commended Ms Heka, saying that “this is the sort of pressure the government needs to act“. She added that this was “the sort of thing the public needs to see happening“.

Ms Turei then asked what sort of support or assistance the Greens could offer Ms Heka and her campaign. Ms Heka asked if her petition could be circulated amongst Gree Party members.  Ms Turei said she’d be happy to assist, and that copies would indeed be included in any future mail-out.

Ms Heka then asked if Ms Turei would sign her petition, to which the Green co-leader readily consented,

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Jazmine Heka - Wellington - 13 April 2012

Ms Turei was only too happy to sign Ms Heka’s petition and said that the Green Party would be willing to circulate copies to everyone on their mailing list.

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Ms Turia commended Ms Heka for her stand on this important issue, and asked her how she felt about standing out in the public eye.

Ms Heka replied that she felt that having it come from someone as young as her – “a child’s perspective” – sent a “powerful” message to the government. She said it was not something she wanted to do but felt she had no choice, especially after watching Bryan Bruce’s documentary last November.

Ms Heka said that it should be the government leading the way instead of kids like her.

The half hour alloocated to our party grew to nearly a full hour, and both women filled the time discussing various matters relating to the issue of poverty in New Zealand. This blogger noticed that they were both very much on the “same wavelength”.

Ms Turei eventually excused herself, as she had another appointment to keep.

The ‘Dominion Post‘ photographer, Kent Blechynden, asked Ms Heka to pose for several photographs, which she (shyly) consented.  Again, this blogger sensed that Ms Heka – like most teenagers – reluctantly agreed to being photographed. But her sense of committment to her cause, though, over-rode her natural shyness,

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Jazmine Heka - Wellington - 13 April 2012

‘Dominion Post’ photographer, Kent Blechynden, lining up Ms Heka for the photo-shoot.

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Jazmine Heka - Wellington - 13 April 2012

Photographer, Kent Blechynden, snapping away for the upcoming ‘Dominion Post’ story.

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Below, the story and photograph as it appeared in the ‘Dominion Post’ on the following morning,

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* Recorded and transcribed mostly verbatim.

Contact Details for Children Against Poverty

Email: childrenagainstpoverty@hotmail.co.nz

Facebook: Children-Against-Poverty

Snailmail: PO Box 585, Whangarei 0140

Additional Media

Divided Auckland: Overcrowding a hotbed for infections

Jazmine Heka grabs politicians’ attention

Teen becomes leading voice on child poverty

Girl with a mission

Teenager brings child poverty crusade to Parliament

Other Blogger’s posts

Jazmine Heka – Hero of the Week

Copyright (c)  Notice

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

  1. Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
  2. Where purpose of  use is  commercial, a donation to Russell School Breakfast Club is requested.
  3. For non-commercial use, images may be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals.
  4. Acknowledgement of source is requested.

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Ms Heka Goes To Wellington.

17 April 2012 3 comments

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When Bryan Bruce’s excellent documentary, “Inside Child Poverty“,  screened last year, New Zealand’s poor  and powerless burst into the living rooms of middle-New Zealand like never before. It caused a furore, screening only days before the election and becoming an overnight ‘hot’ political issue.

As Bryan Bruce said,

“… It’s not because their parents don’t care. They do.

They’re just poor. Typically they can’t afford Bryan Bruce Inside Child Povertyheating so they huddle together in one room and in large families that’s how diseases such as tuberculosis, meningitis and rheumatic fever are spread,” he explains.

Bruce then travels to Sweden to find out why the Swedes are second for child health and New Zealand is third from the bottom.

“What I discovered is that they work smarter,” says Bruce. “They know that for every dollar they spend on prevention they save about $4 on cure. They have a completely free health care system for children up to the age of 18”. ” – Source

Had it not been for a certain infamous Epsom tea-party, which distracted the public’s attention, it might possibly  have swung the election in Labour’s favour.

Bryan Bruce’s stark, no-holds-barred truth  certainly encouraged one person to take up the cause; Jazmine Heka, 16, student,

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Full Story

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Upon learning of her campaign this blogger wrote, commending Jazmine Heka for  having the courage to make such  a public stand.

See: Kiwi Hero: Jazmine Heka

There is something energising and uplifting about youthful idealism, that is positively ‘infectious’ to others. Youthful idealism seems to  compel older, supposedly ‘wiser’, folk to reassess pressing issues and shamefully we ask ourselves; why are things not any better? Why is it left to children and young folk to prick our consciences?

Why indeed.

Soon after, this blogger wrote  another related blogpiece on Karen, who was promoting not one – but three petitions sponsored by Ms Heka.

See:  Petition opposing child poverty gains strength

The petitions called for;

  1. To provide free healthy school lunches to all children attending schools
  2. To provide free healthcare for all children including prescription costs
  3. To introduce warrant of fitness’s for all rental homes

(The petitions can be downloaded here.)

That blogstory was shared throughout this blogger’s Facebook contacts, including Ms Heka. In March, Ms Heka contacted this blogger explaining that she was visiting Wellington and could we assist her in meeting members of Parliament, to promote her campaign and petitions against child poverty .

It was a privilege to be asked. Phone calls were made. Messages left. Appointments confirmed.

Due to a mix-up in airline arrangements, Ms Heka bussed from Whangarei to Auckland, and after five hours, bussed from Auckland to Wellington over Thursday night. By Friday morning, when we arrived to pick her up at 9am, she and her friend had had only two hours sleep.

Despite her fatigue, she was cheerful and keen. It would be a long day ahead of us.

Our first appointment was with Tracey Martin, New Zealand First’s spokesperson on Youth and Women’s Affairs (amongst other portfolios).

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Jazmine Heka - Wellington - 13 April 2012

First priority: coffee! We all needed to be wide awake and alert.

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Jazmine Heka - Wellington - 13 April 2012

Outside the main doors to Bowen House parliamentary annex. Petitions in hand!

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Jazmine Heka - Wellington - 13 April 2012

Outside Bowen House, Jazmine was recognised by a woman collecting for Rape Crisis. Jazmine took the opportunity to explain the purpose of her petitions to them.

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Jazmine Heka - Wellington - 13 April 2012

Both women were only to happy to sign all three of Jazmine’s petition.

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Once through security, NZ First MP, Tracey Martin came to meet us at Reception and we adjourned to a nearby conference room,

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Jazmine Heka - Wellington - 13 April 2012

Jazmine Heka, anti-Poverty campaigner, meets with Tracey Martin, Member of Parliament.

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The conversation between Ms Heka and Ms Martin took up the full hour we had been allotted, and was deep and wide-ranging.

Ms Heka asked if NZ First had any policies relating to children’s issues.

Ms Martin replied,

“We haven’t got a specific child poverty plan… but there are probably several policies like dental care , for example. *

Ms Martin referred to NZ First’s under 5’s free healthcare programme that had been introduced in 1997. She added that NZF had been a dominant supporter for the “HIPPY” programme, which is a reading and home educational programme directed at  several  low decile areas.

Ms Martin asked if the petition calling for “free healthcare for all children including prescription costs” also involved increased access to dental care for children. She said that lack of dental care was a real problem, especially in the north, where incomes were low and unemployment was high.

Ms Martin said that the mobile dental clinic these days only assessed the child’s teeth, and then advised parents what remedial work needed to be done. The mobile dentist did not carry out the actual remedial dental work themselves,

We shifted from dental clinics at schools to mobile dental clinics. They come under the DHB services.  What we’re now hearing is, and I’ve got to have  this confirmed , but what we’re now hearing is that the mobile clinic  will certainly go to the school and they’ll look at the children’s teeth but they won’t fix anybody So the parent then has to drive the child from where ever that is to the local largest township to go to the dentist to have the tooth fixed.

That’s wonderful when you’re in an urban area perhaps, but… you got to take time off from work to do that. So what that means for our rural areas where many of our lower deciles are, is that the parents now have the costs of transporting their children… 

The parents aren’t going to take those children. Because they can’t afford the gas, to get the children to the free dentist in Te Awamutu.  That is why we put in free mobile dental clinics.

So, you know, there are issues that come up, issue by issue by issue like that. That one hasn’t even broken yet. That one  I’m still waiting to make sure  that I know 100%  that’s it’s taking place.

Ms Martin recalled when, in her youth, every school had a dental nurse and clinic-room on school-grounds, and children’s teeth were properly looked after,

Our policy is that all children must have access to free dental healthcare for the period of their schooling.”

Increased funding for mobile dental vans was one aspect she felt was important in this area.

Ms Heka questioned further,

So what about, like, all their healthcare? Not just dental?

Ms Martin’s response,

Well, it’s in our manifesto. The policy is that we  had  childcare extended and free doctor’s visits for under 5s through to all primary school aged children, so up to the age of 10. And we wanted that to cover 7 day, 24 hour care. When you live close to a major  hospital that’s not a problem. But when you don’t, like in Warkworth for example…the closest emergency place on a Sunday was Red Beach  that’s 30 minutes ‘that’ way [indicates]  and that cost me  $110 to have him x-rayed there so that then  they would put him into hospital. Or the parent in Warkworth   would have to drive the hour and a half to Starship.”

Ms Heka suggested the option of having a doctor in school to check out kids.

Ms Martin nodded in agreement and said they had raised this issue in 2006 with children being assessed for ailments such as glue-ear, and for hearing tests carried out. She said “it was all very well for them being done there, but they weren’t being followed up, and some of that was around  the cost of having to follow up with doctor’s visits, etc, etc.”

Ms Martin said that this issue had been raised in the media, asking for more intervention in schools.  She said it might be feasible if, for example, the largest school in a “hub” of schools had a dentist and clinic, and serviced all schools within the area of the “hub”. Ms Martin referred to schools being in “clusters” so not every school would need such facilities. She suggested a doctor that went out daily to the other schools, but was based in the [largest] school.

Ms Martin was concerned at how such a programme might be funded and said it comes down to the most efficient and effective way of funding.

At this point, this blogger raised the point of how our taxation base inevitably comes into issues like this. The point was made that we have had seven  tax cuts enacted since 1986, and people wonder why we don’t have the social services we once had, or would like to have. It’s not rocket science – we still have to pay for things.

Ms Martin agreed and referred to a “brilliant speech” by Russell Norman (Green Co-Leader), where he revealed that government had lost $2  billion of of last year’s tax-take. She said, “three years of that and we wouldn’t have to sell any state assets“.

Had those tax cuts [2009 and 2010]  not happened, we could afford free healthcare for all children.

Ms Martin referred to the Mana Party’s financial transactions tax, which she said  Annette Sykes called “the Hone Heke” tax, and which “was worth looking at, and worth taking really seriously“. It was understood that such a FTT would have to be internationally implemented, as it might otherwise risk causing a capital-flight.

[Blogger's note; it's refreshing to see a politician referring openly and honestly to good ideas from other political parties, instead of remainly stubbornly 'tribal'  on party-policy issues.  May this local form of 'detente' flourish and thrive.]

Discussion turned to school meals, as per one of Ms Heka’s petitions. Ms Martin stated asked if the petition was calling for full, hot cafetaria-type meals, or “brown-bagged” lunches? She said she had costed “brown bagged” lunches  consisting of a sandwich, muffin, piece of fruit, and a drink, at $3.52 per bag.

There was a question as to whether all children should be given school meals (whether cafeteria-style or bagged lunch) or whether it should be targetted only.

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Jazmine Heka - Wellington - 13 April 2012

In depth discussion surrounding the nature of school meals drew constructive discussion from Jazmine and Tracey.

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The pros and cons of targetting were weighed. The concensus seemed to be that targetting children from  low-income families would likely end up as a form of stigmatising.  One idea that seemed to have merit was a universal free school lunch, with an opt-out choice for parents who did not feel the need to participate.

In such an event, parents opting out could select from a range of charities where the money could be re-allocated, perhaps to other charities working with children or increased dental care . It was agreed that there were several options open to how such a programme could be managed and that a fair, workable solution was not beyond our abilities.

Ms Heka asked how NZ First would implement the programmes that her petitions were promoting.

Ms Martin replied by stating that NZ First believed that the primary cause of poverty in New Zealand was a lack of jobs,

People aren’t working. We have to create more jobs,” she said. “One way to do that is to cap the New Zealand dollar like some other countries do, which creates more employment through more exports.”

Ms Heka then asked Ms Martin about introducing a warrant of fitness for all rental housing in New Zealand. She asked if NZ First had a policy on this issue.

Ms Martin replied,

We don’t. But I think it’s a great idea!”

Ms Martin  added that the suggestion of a warrant of fitness for all rental properties tied in with NZ First’s minimum standards of care for the elderly. She said “why  would we not actually  come up with a national standard  in the same way what you’re talking about, which is we’re talking about rental properties,” and added “we’d certainly be interested“.

The discussion moved to a related issue, and Ms Heka asked about NZ First’s policy regarding having a high-ranking minister – or even the Prime Minister – as the Minister for Children. The premise being that if the Prime Minister was also the Minister for Children, then it would give extra impetus to policies as they might impact on his portfolio; the nations young people.

Ms Martin agreed saying,

Well, to keep that in the view, I would have thought. To make sure that it’s part of every conversation; how will this, downstream, affect children.

If the Prime Minister was Minister for children, it was suggested, then as with US President, Harry Truman,  “The Buck Stops Here” on child poverty issues.

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Jazmine Heka - Wellington - 13 April 2012

Discussion moved to having a high-ranking minister for children, as children were the future of this country and nothing could be more important than the wellbeing of our next generation.

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It was suggested that NZ First could make this a priority, for the future of New Zealand. Ms Martin agreed it was a matter she would raise with the NZF caucus.

The issue of Kiwi migration was touched upon, with the suggestion that people – especially young folk – were leaving New Zealand, not just because of lower wages here, but because they felt no connection with society and thus were able to up-and-leave for “greener/richer pastures” in Australia. Because we weren’t looking after them, they had no roots to keep them in New Zealand.

At that point Ms Heka, speaking from deep within her heart, gave us an insight into how young people were viewing things around them,

It feels unfair. It feels like… like if you’re not rich, you’re not counted in society. That’s the feeling I get… the feeling youth get.  I talk with people my age, in my group and stuff and that’s the feeling that they get, they don’t want to be in New Zealand ’cause the feelings not good, not right. And they feel like you’re not being looked after, and stuff.

What I think is that child poverty, like,  I feel like  it’s  swept under the carpet.  And the government, they’re not really tackling it straight ahead. It’s just being talked about; something being hidden and nothing’s done about it. They’re going around in circles. And then you got  all these children suffering and nothing’s… no one cares really…

… In the community you’ve got the Salvation Army, people like that helping but that’s not enough. We need the government to step up and actually be the leaders of it.

Ms Martin replied, and said,

So with regard to how you said about... “

At this point, she paused. Ms Heka had spoken about youth and their feelings about disconnection. It gave her pause for thought. Ms Martin continued,

“… it is an interesting feeling that is happening, and you said about  it’s unfair, that actually the country itself doesn’t necessarily care about it’s citizens. And if you look at the turnout , the voter turnout, that now we’ve  also got  citizens that think actually, ‘I can’t make a difference either, so why should I vote?”.  Now there you’ve got a real problem. Because that will get to a certain level inside your society and people will revolt.”

She added ,

I’ll take all these things back… I’ll take it back to caucus; caucus will meet again in a fortnight when Parliament comes back [from recess] and ask the guys to to start working towards policy  areas for this, for 2014.”

At the concklusion of our allotted time, Ms Heka asked if she could be kept informed on NZ First’s progress on developing the ideas that had been discussed. Ms Martin readily agreed and provided  Ms Heka with her direct contact details.

Ms Heka then asked Ms Martin if she would sign her petitions, to which the MP happily agreed.

Continued at Ms Heka Goes To Wellington  (Part #Rua)

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* Recorded and transcribed mostly verbatim.

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Additional Media

Divided Auckland: Overcrowding a hotbed for infections

Jazmine Heka grabs politicians’ attention

Teen becomes leading voice on child poverty

Girl with a mission

Teenager brings child poverty crusade to Parliament

Other Blogger’s posts

Jazmine Heka – Hero of the Week

Related

HIPPY – home interaction programme for parents and youngsters

Copyright (c)  Notice

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

  1. Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
  2. Where purpose of  use is  commercial, a donation to Russell School Breakfast Club is requested.
  3. For non-commercial use, images may be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals.
  4. Acknowledgement of source is requested.

.

.

= fs =

Interview: A Young NZer’s Thirst to make a Difference

12 February 2012 7 comments

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This online interview is with Curwen Rolinson, a member of NZ First’s Board of Directors; Leader, NZF Youth;  and “one-man nationalist revolution”.

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Curwen Rolinson

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Kia ora, Curwen, and thank you for giving us your time and answers to the following questions…

Q: You’re a Director on NZ First’s Board of Directors. How long have you been a member of NZ First, and what attracted you to that Party – as opposed to, say, another Party?


I joined up a little after the 2008 election. I’d always had a soft spot for NZF’s nationalism and its anti-neoliberal economics, and these seemed increasingly relevant in the face of a looming threat from the economic vandals of the Maori, ACT and National parties.

I decided to go along to a local NZF meeting to see what the party was really like on the ground. The attendence may have been toward the gold-card end of the spectrum, but they got what I was on about. They didn’t need me to tell them that Rogernomics & Ruthanasia had ruined the country – they’d lived through it. They didn’t need me to remind them we once led the world as a humane social democracy with a brilliant budding nationhood – they built both.

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Then Winston walked in.

I’d never heard him speak before. I’d seen him on tv, but that’s a very different experience to the live act. The overall impression we got was of a man who shared our concerns, our aspirations and our vision.

Afterward, Winston and I had a chat about tertiary policy and getting a youth wing going at university. What really sold me on NZF was that Winston seemed genuinely interested in how I thought we could improve NZF’s policy for students. The end result of that conversation was a set of policies for students written by students. In what other major political party would you get that kind of consultation with membership.

As for other parties, I ruled out ACT, National and the Maori Party on principle. I also ruled out United Future on lack of principle. Labour struck me as a tired third-way party that didn’t listen to its membership, while The Greens were being somewhat confused about whether they were left or right. Neither struck me as being an especially viable opposition. Jim Anderton’s Progressive Coalition also looked pretty decrepit at that point. His party wasn’t looking too healthy either.

Q: What has been your personal best experience with NZ First thus far?

Now that’s tough – close toss-up between two I think. First, crashing the Cup of Tea and hijacking John Banks’ photo op by staging an NZF Counter-Press Conference outside the Epsom Tea Party. Second, addressing last year’s NZF Convention. I love public speaking, and for me there’s nothing cooler than getting a few hundred people fired up to save the nation!  [link to speech]

How did Banks react to your presence? He couldn’t have been too thrilled to see you there?

Haha; Banks beat a hasty retreat, and still seems shaken by his Near-Curwen-Experience. I was eating in Bellamy’s (the Parliamentary restaurant) last week with NZF’s Caucus and Banks happened to walk in. He caught sight of me, did a double-take, and spent the next five minutes giving me a very disconcerted stare from across the room.

The more amusing reaction at the Tea Party, however, was from Key’s Diplomatic Protection Squad minders who apparently thought I was the guy who’d planted the recording device.

Yes, I think I did hear something to that effect, on the Youtube-uploaded Tape. I think you may be off Banksies Christmas card list from now on…

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NZF's Curwen Rolinson stages counter-press conference outside the Cup of Tea.

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"Got The Mic Winston"

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Q: How do you feel about your Party’s success at the last election? And what do you attribute NZ First’s success to?

I’m exceptionally proud of the party, and exceptionally proud to have helped make a difference. I think it’s safe to say that our values and our mission have never been more needed than they are now. When my grandkids ask me what I did to build and save the nation they’re going to inherit, I can proudly start the tale with “well kids, I helped get NZF back into Parliament.”

I remember watching the swearing in ceremony and feeling hugely confident that the comrades I’ve come to know and respect over the last three years will do their utmost to protect and save our New Zealand.

The one thing I’m gutted about is that Helen Mulford was something like 0.1% away from becoming our 9th MP.

We’re back because we didn’t just try to recapture our old support base.

We undoubtedly had a solid core of support in electorates like B.O.P and Tauranga bolstered by strong local candidates, but we also reached out to new people and campaigned in new ways.

As an example of what I mean, two of my proudest achievements with NZF have been getting us on digital media (facebook, twitter and a new website) and crafting the best damn student policy of any serious political party.
Both of these helped us to connect with younger voters who might not otherwise have considered us. We put our message somewhere they could reach it, and we made sure they knew we’d represent their interests.
The end result of all this was polling showing something like 14.5% of first time voters were going our way.

In general, I’d put NZF’s success down to one in fifteen voters being seriously concerned about the path this country is going down on everything from asset sales to racial separatism. They’ve decided that they trust us above all others to get our ship of state back on its chartered course to prosperity. They have also agreed that (to paraphrase Helen Clark and/or Eminem) it just feels so empty without Winny.

I’ve heard an array of pundits put our resurgence down to the Tea Tape debacle. This interpretation marginalises and undermines the three years solid work we’ve all put into returning to Parliament. While the added media prominence it gave Winston was unquestionably a factor, to my mind it only served to enhance our pre-existing campaign work and solidify our role as the Anti-Key in the minds of the electorate. 

Q: Had Labour won a slightly higher poll result, and had NZ First held the balance of power, what would your personal coalition preference have been? Or would you have preferred no coalition arrangement?

Opposition. It’s what we campaigned on, it’s what the electorate has asked of us, and it’s where our Caucus’s strengths lie at the moment.

More to the point, as NZF’s record with Labour from 2002 to 2005 proves, it’s entirely possible to secure progressive policy gains like the original Foreshore & Seabed legislation and the establishment of Kiwibank without a coalition or even confidence & supply agreement.

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Q: If your option is for coalition, who would be first first preference as a coalition partner, and what bottom line(s) would you have, if any?


If I were pushed, and assuming we hadn’t tied ourselves to a previously announced position, it would have to be Labour. We enjoyed a reasonably amicable relationship with them from 2005-2008 in which they proved themselves capable of helping us govern for all New Zealanders, not a neoliberal few.

Despite Phil Goff’s past record (and I remember stumbling across some truly odious quotations of his from the Rogernomics Error), they agreed with us about improving wages, abolishing youth rates and buying back KiwiRail.

In terms of bottom lines, I’d be thinking about binding Labour to undoing some of the harm National’s wreaked over the last three years. Just off the top of my head… Reinstating the 2004 Foreshore & Seabed legislation, reducing GST back down to 12.5%, keeping the retirement age at 65, amending the Reserve Bank Act to take into account things other than inflation targetting, and a commitment to keep PHARMAC and block the sale of assets or farmland to foreigners would probably be a good place to start.
A Universal Student Allowance wouldn’t be too bad either.

However, what we bring to government is not just a series of bottom lines to horse-trade – Peter Dunne and Pita Sharples seem happy to merely do that; but rather a nationalist vibe that guides our decisionmaking. With this in mind, perhaps we should once again demand the position of Treasurer to ensure we can hold government economic policy to account. 

I’m wondering if we can afford to keep retitrement at 65, or maybe push it out to 66 or 67, so we can fund social policies at the other end of the scale; early childhood education, school lunches, etc?

The way I’d approach this is by asking which you’d prefer to fund – pensions for hardworking Kiwis over 65, or unemployment benefits for same. Nobody in favour of raising the retirement age by two years has ever explained how exactly they intend to keep Kiwis in work for those additional two years. I’m quite in favour of incentivising people to put off retiring for a few years, but still believe that 65 is a fair and sustainable age for New Zealanders to retire at.

More to the point, this doctrine of “either-or” provision of social necessities doesn’t strike me as a sensible way to govern a nation. What your question effectively asks me is “do I prioritize looking after the elderly or the young”; and I cannot in good conscience give any answer other than “both, man, both!”

If we’re serious about having a decent society for all Kiwis regardless of age, then I suppose we’ll just have to once again get serious about having the fair taxation regimen to fund it, rather than looking to unfairly pull the rug out from beneath the feet of entire generations at either end of the spectrum.

Fair point about not pitting one sector of society against another. The Right seem to be quite adept at using that tactic.  (Bomber Bradbury often refers to  workers pitted against beneficiaries, solo-mums against families, etc, on ‘Tumeke‘.)

Q: Do you have a top three list of priorities that NZ First should focus on, this Parliamentary term?


1. Keeping the Bastards Honest. 2. Ensuring someone in the House actually stands up for the vocally expressed will of the people. 3. To echo Muldoon, Leaving New Zealand a better place than we found it.

Q: Have you read or heard of Gareth Morgan’s “Big Kahuna”, and his proposal for a Universal Basic Income/negative tax for the first $11,000?


I haven’t read the book, but I am aware of the idea of a universal basic income – if memory serves, it’s something Roger Douglas proposed back in the 80s. While he’s right that our present welfare system could use some substantial improvement (and arguably broadening of service), I find myself alarmed by the idea of a flat tax rate and a capital gains tax including the family home. Further, the movement away from targetted state assistance to a nonspecific, very generalised apprach arguably allows for far more wasted welfare than is currently the case.

Q: Taxes. Are the top earners/wealthy paying their fair share? Too much? About right?


No. It’s common knowledge that successful economies tend to have progressive taxation structures. We regressivised ours by giving tax cuts to the wealthy and then trying to pay for them by making everyone else shoulder the burden. Even the OECD thinks we went the wrong way on that one.
The end result of this is that many Kiwis are paying more than their fair share of tax to subsidise someone else’s perks.

However, I want to approach taxation fairness from a different perspective.
We pay taxes in part for what we and our families use. For most Kiwis that means paying to cover our kids’ education, ACC and medical services we might use, and more day-to-day things like infrastructure.

For our top earners, it’s a bit different. To amass that kind of income, you have to use the resources of the state a bit differently. Rather than worrying about your children getting an education for their sake, you want an educated workforce to staff your factories and offices. You don’t just want personal transport – you want infrastructure that can carry your products all over the country and further afield.

The question I’d be asking myself is whether the far right’s doctrine of tax cuts at any cost is really the most sensible, sustainable way to keep this going. We want to ensure our next generation of entrepeneurs and high earners enjoy the same if not better opportunities to do business as their predecessors enjoyed.

With this in mind, one of the core concerns for a taxation regimen of the wealthy should be ensuring they “pay it forward” to the next guy.

Q: Just briefly, what are your personal views on,

* private-run prisons?

There are some areas of human activity that I don’t believe a businessman should be able to turn a profit on. The incarceration of our fellow citizens would have to be one of them. This is not running a hotel or a half-way house for people who might have gone a bit off the rails. This is a matter concerning some of our most fundamental human rights. Just as we cannot allow the state to give up its monopoly on legitimated violence and killing to the private sector, we should also not allow the abjuration of our right to personal liberty by the market. 

More to the point, a cursory examination of the track record for private prisons in America is alarming. They seem to cost exhorbitantly, tend to have strikingly high inmate suicide and abuse rates, allow for effective slave labour; and, most chillingly, can produce huge conflicts of interest in the parole process. If you’re being paid a premium per prisoner per year, you’re hardly going to want to release anyone early. Allowing justice to take its course at a parole hearing would harm your bottom line. 

Our existing prisons are not perfect, however and I appreciate the arguments behind allowing non-state third parties a role in providing things like rehabilitation programmes.

* Charter schools?

I’ve yet to see compelling evidence that allowing McDonalds or the Destiny Church to open up a high-school will improve our kids’ educational outcomes.
Most of the points about distinctiveness are already adequately met by provision for ‘character’ schools, while the American experience with charter schools appears to have produced inferior outcomes at greater cost.

* minimum wage?

The expression “if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys” springs to mind – although a cursory examination of any corporate boardroom appears to prove that ridiculously overinflated pay packets have much the same effect.

There is something manifestly wrong with a poverty-line wage that doesn’t even cover the costs of keeping you in the job you’re doing (transport, accomodation, food and child care being the most obvious ones).

This was one of the things I initially loved about NZF. They understood the perils of being a low income earner in a low wage economy and had a $15 an hour minimum wage stance years before the other big parties got on board.
I think offhand we increased the minimum wage for youth more in a single year than National has done over the last three.

* waterfront dispute? Do you think the  Labour Party has done enough on this issue?

The Maritime Union should ask for its donations back. Shearer’s stuck in 1951, and Tony Gibson’s attitude to his workers seems to be stuck in the 1800s.

It’s childish brinksmanship to threaten to sack one’s entire workforce as a bargaining tactic, and it’s dangerous dehumanisation to insist on the casualisation of said workforce to cut costs.

Whether or not there’s a privatisation agenda afoot, Tony Gibson is not the sort of man I’d like looking after one of Auckland’s greatest assets.

Indeed – sacking an entire sklled and highly experienced workforce doesn’t seem particularly bright.  I think more than one person has suggested that Gibson is not the right person for the job.

What about ACC – to de-regulate or not to de-regulate, that is the question?

As with Privatization, it’s a case of “we’ve been down this road before”.  It didn’t work in 1999, and I see absolutely no reason to assume ordinary Kiwis are going to get anything worthwile out of this. The insurance companies are no doubt licking their lips in eager anticipation for a cash-cow to offset Christchurch.

* Ok, fair ’nuff. What about mining? Especially of conservation lands?

Now let’s be honest. Mining can be great for an economy; it garners resources and is a major employer in some parts of the country.
However, I am absolutely not OK with mining the conservation estate which is in my eyes a precious resource all its own.

Here’s a simple political axiom – when guys like Rodney Hide think something’s a great idea … that is the time to start fighting vigorously to oppose it. This, after all, is a man who thought an open-cast strip mine would be more worth to the tourism sector than our present unspoilt wilderness.

* climate change?

Whether you believe in anthropogenic climate change or not (and I strongly do), reducing pollution and energy efficiency are good things.

It would, however, be refreshing to see some change in the political climate about things like the Emissions Trading Scheme. Letting derivatives traders like our Prime Minister make a quick buck off pollution is not part of the solution.

Good point about reducing pollution – that’s not something that the Right Wing can readily address. I  mean, who could possibly be in favour of more air pollution?

And your thoughts on deep sea oil drilling? Especially after the ‘Rena’ stranding?

Heck, Yeah! Parata reckons “we have a sufficient legislative and regulatory regime in place to cover the permit that has currently been made available to Petrobras.” Terry Pratchett (whom I have rather more respect for) reckons “when nothing can possibly go wrong and every avenue has been covered, then is the time to buy a house on the next continent.”

We are not equipped to handle a substantial oil spill, as recent events have made unconscionably clear. We have also been steadily weakening the Crown Minerals Act to make ourselves a more enticing prospect to foreign oil companies. We are thus hardly legislatively equipped to handle oil drilling anyway.

You may be right, Curwen.  I think sf writers may be more credible and insightful than many politicians. At least sf writers have more believable fiction. But I digress, let’s carry on…

Should Kiwisaver be compulsory? Should there be an opt-out option?

My gut instinct is that it should be compulsory. Sovereign wealth funds and forward planning for retirement are vital components in many successful economies – Norway, Singapore and Australia being the standout examples.

However, the problem is without substantial increases in wages and employer contribution, a good number of workers can’t afford to belong to the scheme.
The reason I say that is because when it was first introduced, I was the only guy in my workplace to sign on. Everyone else had mortgages, bills or children to support so couldn’t afford it.

So, if we’re serious about having a national saving regimen, we should probably sort out our wages first.

With regard to the opt-out clause, while I’m tempted to say I support one (remembering that Kiwis seem to have an innate fear of anything containing the word “compulsory” – as proven to Bill Rowling’s horror in 1975 and Winston’s in 1996), it has occured that many of the circumstances that might cause one to want to opt out are probably covered by the provision for a “contribution holiday”.

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* Roads or rail? Which should have priority?

Rail, both for mass transit and for goods. I can’t get my head around the logic that people are better moved around our cities by creating multi-billion dollar traffic jams than by doing what every other first world city out there does and investing in rail. As petrol prices increase, it makes less and less sense to move large numbers of people or produce over long distance by road.

* School meals – should they be introduced in all schools? Just low-decile shools? Or not at all?

I can definitely see a place for them in low-decile schools; and, on a needs basis could well see them implemented across the board. Just because one is attending a decile 10 school does not mean one’s parents have a decile 10 income.

I’m frankly appalled by National’s Mike Sabin who claimed we shouldn’t be providing school lunches to our vulnerable kids because “then mothers and fathers would never have to do it”. That, to my mind, isn’t a child-friendly argument.

As far as I’m concerned, a malnourished child is probably not getting all they can out of either schooling or life. It will be through no fault of their own, and petty political point-scoring at the child’s expense is repugnant.

* Republic or not?

My big issue with New Zealand becoming a republic is that there’d be an immense temptation to shoehorn a new constitution into the process.

Thus, the best argument I’ve yet heard against becoming a republic, is the fact that Bill English & Pita Sharples are writing the constitution that would form the basis for it.

Whichever way we go, I hope it’s as the result of a binding referendum on the subject. This should be a matter for the people to decide – not a few hundred elites.

Q: What, in your opinion, has been the worst aspect or single thing, about John Key’s government?

The duplicity. A far better Prime Minister than Key (one Benjamin Disraeli) once noted that there were lies, damned lies and statistics.

Every number this government puts out – from unemployment rates to growth figures and from asset sales revenue to the 170,000 jobs we keep hearing about suggests that this is a government whose economic forecasting makes astrology look respectable.

Yeah, whatever happened to that 170,000 “new jobs”  promised by Key?? It certainly seems to have been quietly dropped.

Q: What, in your opinion, has been the best aspect, or single thing, about John Key’s government?

I love political satire. It’s certainly a treat having an entire government writing for you.

Q: How do you feel about our current media? Do you have a favourite media that you feel stands above others? Which, in your view, is the worst?

Up until relatively recently I was frankly appalled by our mainstream domestic media on a seemingly daily basis.

It’s probably cliche for an NZFer to claim we don’t get a fair go, but I’ve watched it happen. On numerous occasions, I’ve seen journalists attempt to take on Winston in a manner that’s more bull-fight than interview so they can get an aggressive 5-second soundbite to play on the 6 pm news.
Thankfully, they’ve started to change their tune.

On a more positive note, the best media in the country is the blogosphere.

Gordon Campbell is, in my eyes, a national treasure. In few other places do you seem to get the hard questions asked and information presented in a manner that’s insulting to neither truth nor the intelligence of the reader.

Internationally, I love Al Jazeera and I detest the Economist.

Their respective coverage of the Honduras coup a few years back probably explains why. Al Jazeerah was first in, and reported in an unbiased way about a reasonably popular and progressive President who’d just been illegitimately overthrown by legislative elites.

The Economist, by contrast, seemed to be reporting about a completely different coup in which an overwhelmingly unpopular President was legally overthrown by a coalition of concerned citizens and lawmakers with the country’s best interests at heart.

Needless to say, the weight of history, and virtually every other source I came across did not side with The Economist’s manifestly counterfactual interpretation of events.

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Q: If NZ First was in government as the major coalition Party, and you were an MP offered a ministerial role, what portfolio would you want? And why?

Hahaha. Once upon a time I, like almost every other young politico with a smattering of an economics education, wanted to be Finance Minister.

These days, I’d probably consider Minister of Education.

Oh? Why is that?

I’m really passionate about ensuring Kiwi kids get the best start in life. My parents are both teachers, I work in the education sector, and for years I’ve seen first hand the effects of flawed education policy.

At the moment, our education policy seems to be decided and implemented by people whose relationship with the educational professions seems to have moved from “arms length” to “armed standoff”.  
The previous Minister of Education, for instance, was the only Minister in Cabinet lacking a degree and seemed to think her role in government was to play Thatcherite strikebreaker rather than improving the future prospects of our next generation. NZQA’s head office seems quite literally to be staffed with accountants rather than teachers, the end result of which being ongoing shambles like the NCEA and the soon-to-be-upon-us debacle that will be the implementation of National Standards.

I’m not sure about the National Party, but when something like 90% of the paid professionals who’ve spent several years training to teach our kids think something’s a bad idea … I’m inclined to listen. 

Better be careful, Curwen – you could end up the most popular Education Minister since… since… Actually, have we ever had one?!

Which leads us on to,

Q: In your opinion, what is the single most critical problem affecting us as a society? How would you address that problem? And what time-frame would you give yourself?

The apparent lack of any compelling vision or plan by our government to leave New Zealand a better place than they found it.

We have three years to contribute our ideas and convince our government to do better.

After that, we must seek to change the government. 

Q: Are your friends and family political? How do you relate  to those friends and family who aren’t political?

Good question. The closest my family got to politics before me was my father’s vocation as a Reverend. Perhaps that’s where I get the faith & fury rhetoric about social justice from.

Deep down, I think everyone cares about politics. They might not be die-hard supporters of a particular cause or party, but we all want to leave a better New Zealand to our children than the one we inherited.

The trick is to bring that out in people – and I’d like to think that it’s pretty close to the surface in most of my friends.

Or, to put it another way, if they weren’t political before meeting me, they certainly are now. A case in point for this would be my long-suffering girlfriend Anya, who went from being apathetic about politics to the point of libertarianism to evangelising the Bengali community and shooting television commercials for us.

I think my partner would sympathise with you on that one, Curwen.

On a more personal level…  What are some of your most favourite things,

* food?

Shapes, sour-worms and ginger ale.

In terms of actual meals, I’m highly partial to that traditional Kiwi repast of lamb & mint sauce; although I’ve recently developed an insatiable taste for home-made chicken curry. 

Currwen, I must introduce you to ‘ The Curry Shop‘, in Upper Hutt. Their Chicken Saag  is mana-from-heaven.

What about  place to live? What is your favourite turf?

Mt Eden. I love my mountain and my valley.

* movie and/or tv programme?

“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”

* book?

I don’t really have favourite books per se. My favourite author’s probably Terry Pratchett, but what I’m reading currently is Bruce Jesson’s “To Build A Nation”.

* prominent historical person you admire the most? And why?

Hunter S Thompson. This was a man whose dual personal maxims of “when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro” and “some may never live, but the crazy never die” have proven of great personal inspiration to me. 


His uncompromising political principles, flair for the eccentric, and conviction of life-as-art-worth-doing are things which I hope to bring to my career.

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Well, I see he’s still popular with the ladies…

Q: And your Last Word is on;


NZF’s role in Parliament this term strikes me as remeniscent of Gandalf confronting the neoliberal Balrog in The Fellowship of The Ring.

When National puts forward its bills to privatize our future, I look forward to hearing a clarion voice from the House yelling “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!”

Sounds damned good to me.

Thank you, Curwen,  for sharing with us!

Folks wishing to contact Curwen can email him at;  curwen@nzfirst.org.nz    or alternatively Facebook him, on his page; Curwen Ares Rolinson; or blog on puttingnzfirst.blogspot.com, or on Twitter @ huntersrolinson.

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Disclaimer

This blog is not affiliated to NZ First in any way, shape, or form.

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February 7 (Part Toru)

8 February 2012 6 comments

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Continued from February 7 (Part Rua).

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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),

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february 7 protest at planned SOE sales

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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,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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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?

Hell, why not just cut out the middle-men (oil drilling companies) and  issue every citizen with a litre of  disulphides, benzene, xylenes, methane,  and naphthalene to drink?

Meanwhile, the crowd listened, continuing to  hold signs that expressed our collective disgust at what this shabby government was intending to foist upon us,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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And the media continued to record the event,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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The protest continued,  making their point peacefully,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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A sentiment 99% of us would whole-heartedly agree with,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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Mana’s flag flew proudly in the chill breeze,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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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,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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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,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

(L) Dawn Shapira and (R) Tania Tewiata

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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?

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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Media reporting

  • 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.

Copyright (c)  Notice

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

  1. Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
  2. Where purpose of  use is  commercial, a donation to Russell School Breakfast Club is requested.
  3. For non-commercial use, images may be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals.
  4. Acknowledgement of source is requested.

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February 7 (Part Rua)

8 February 2012 6 comments

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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,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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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,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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Possibly because it reminds me of this, from the late 1990s,

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Max Bradford

The Promise of cheaper power...

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Back to the rally,  and one of our best known activists and expert on our energy industry, attended the protest,

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Molly Melhuish february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

Molly Melhuish, Energy Campaigner

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This gentleman insisted he was not a member or supporter of NZ First – but still shared the sentiment expressed on the placard,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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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,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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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,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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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,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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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.)

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

"Madd Hatter"

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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And addressing the rally,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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Jonathan then advised us that various Party leaders would address the Rally,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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From the Labour Party, Charles Chauvel (L) and Deputy Leader, Grant Robertson (R). Note the media-scrum around them, and successive Parliamentary speakers,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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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!)

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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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,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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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,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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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,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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(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,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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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,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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Katherine was followed by Green MPs Catherine Delahunty and Gareth Huges. Both spoke well, though again, the media pack had deserted the area,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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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,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

From L to R; Peter Redfern, Molly Melhuish, and Betty Redfern

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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.

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To be continued Part Toru

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February 7 (Part Tahi)

8 February 2012 3 comments

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- 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,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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“Occupy Wellington” co-ordinator, Jonathan Elliot  (in yellow t-shirt), helping to focus the assembly,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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The media were present, to report on the event,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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… including Radio New Zealand,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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And we were off, with Jonathan being interviewed by the Radio NZ journo,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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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,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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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,

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7 February protest march at planned state asset sales

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Kay Gubbins was quite clear in pushing the message,

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7 February protest march at planned state asset sales

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Did Wellington’s most ardent and well-recognised street evangelist, exhort John Key to repent and cancel the planned asset sales?

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7 February protest march at planned state asset sales

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The media, recording the march,

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7 February protest march at planned state asset sales

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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,

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7 February protest march at planned state asset sales

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7 February protest march at planned state asset sales

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7 February protest march at planned state asset sales

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7 February protest march at planned state asset sales

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7 February protest march at planned state asset sales

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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’.)

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7 February protest march at planned state asset sales

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7 February protest march at planned state asset sales

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… and joining another group already in the grounds,

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7 February protest march at planned state asset sales

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Note “Mad Hatter” – who convened the rally – covered in mock-oil. on the far left of the pic below. More on her later,

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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,

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7 February protest march at planned state asset sales

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Where I encountered a somewhat over-zealous security guard  who tried to remove me from the higher ground,

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7 February protest march at planned state asset sales

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He was persistant. I was insistant. We  had a “frank exchange of views“. All of which attracted (predictably enough) the attention of the media,

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7 February protest march at planned state asset sales

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7 February protest march at planned state asset sales

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7 February protest march at planned state asset sales

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What happened next?

To be continued Part Rua (so as not to overload this page with too many images).

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Of bogey men & fear mongering…

20 November 2011 Leave a comment

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I guess it had to happen sooner, rather than later. With the fallout-cloud rapidly dissapating from the Teapot Bomb, Winston Peters has emerged like some political-version of a post-apocalyptic mutant-zombie, resurrected from the graveyard of  dead Parties.

It was perhaps the last thing that the Two Johns were counting on when they met at the Urban Cafe in Epsom, and Banksie started their convo,

“G’day, John!”

“That’s Prime Minister to you, John.”

“Oh! Good-oh, Jo- Prime Minister!”

“Better.”

*click, whrrrr, click*

“D’you here something, John?” asked Banksie.

*Prime ministerial sigh*

“Ackshully, no.”

“Ok. One lump or two, John?”

“One, please, John, and a new ACT leader to go with that, please,” replied the PM.

“Sure, John!”

“Thanks, John.”

“Anything for you, John!”

*click, whrrrr, click*

“Damn, John, there’s that sound, again,” said Banksie.

“Don’t be so paranoid, John. That new Police Surveillance Act hasn’t kicked in yet.”

And so it went.

Paranoia. How easy it is to stir that stinking pot of fear and prejudice, with just a hint of demonisation to add zest to the brew,

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Full Story

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Only a couple of days ago, there was discussion about when National would mount a full-blown attack on Winston Peters, to try to stall his ascendency, and to demolish his chances at re-entering Parliament. National’s great fear is that dis-affected National-leaning voters might see Peters as a credible alternative on Election Day.

National is already polling below 50% in several polls, and there is every likelihood that by Saturday, they will have lost an additional two or three percentage points.

That is all it takes to damage National’s chances of re-election to government – especially if ACT and United Future lose Epsom and Ohariu. And especially if the Maori Party are ‘spooked’ from supporting National again after Paula Bennet hinted last week that a new National-led government might can Whanau Ora – the Maori Party’s version of NZ First’s superannuitant’s “Gold Card”.

… 2 or 3%.

Which means that National’s focus has now been split and are attacking on two fronts; Labour and NZ First. For the Nats, their most crucial target now is Winston Peters.

John Key states,

“”What Winston Peters is saying to New Zealanders is that on every budget, on every issue, there could be a general election.

“How can New Zealand govern itself over the next three years – which is likely to be a volatile period in the world economy – when at any stage the whole government can be brought down by Winston Peters” ” Source

Which is a bizarre, given that every single government elected under MMP has run it’s full three year term. No exceptions.

The same cannot be said of FPP governments, and as recently as 1984, the then-Prime Minister, Robert Muldoon, called a snap election before National’s term of office was due to end.

In short, John Key is fear-mongering. He is playing the “Winston Card” – which is kind of ironic, as Peters himself has pandered to similar fears and prejudices in his Treaty-bashing, and Asian immigrant-bashing, speeches and policies.

Oh, Karma, you are indeed a bitch.

I guess it is up to the media to see through this latest tactic from National Party back-room strategists. Those boys in dark suits have no doubt cooked up some fairly McCarthyist stuff.

If the “Teapot Tapes” left a foul taste in our mouths – be prepared for a dose of really foul Winston-bashing.  And the irony of this is that I am no friend of NZ First, it’s leader, or their populist policies – but he does deserve a fair go.

Time for a breather, boys.

Tea’s off.

Coffee, anyone?

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