Archive

Posts Tagged ‘tax cuts’

Letter to the Editor: Sure, why not let the poor starve, Ms Mitchell?

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A letter-writer to the Dominion Post, Silvio Famularo, recently suggested that increasing benefits for the poor would be a positive move. Rightwing blogger; failed ex-ACT candidate; and self-proclaimed welfare “expert”, Lindsay Mitchell, would have none of it. She responded on 27 May with her own letter to the editor;

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letter to editor - dominion post - Lindsay Mitchell

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This was my response,

 

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FROM: "f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT: Letters to the editor
DATE: Tue, 27 May 2014 23:59:18 +1200
TO: "Dominion Post" <letters@dompost.co.nz> 

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The Editor
Dominion Post


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In replying to Silvio Famularo, who advocated for raising
benefits for the poor because they spend more, rightwing
blogger and ex-ACT candidate, Lindsay Mitchell derided the
suggestion by asserting that "to increase benefit
expenditure the government would have to increase taxation".
(27 May)

Since 1986, successive governments have cut taxes seven
times. Eight, if one includes Working for Families
tax-rebates.

Which would explain why we have high user-pays such as
tertiary education, prescription charges, "voluntary school
donations", etc, and GST rising from 10% in 1986 to the
current 15%.

Mitchell claims - without any evidence - "that means taking
more money off people who will in turn have less to spend on
the same goods and services".

If  National can provide million dollar subsidies to Warner
Bros, Rio Tinto, Charter Schools, et al, then perhaps it is
not so much a matter of "taking more money off people" - but
re-directing resources to those who need it most.

Raising progressive taxation on high income earners would
not take bread of their table - but would certainly put food
on the tables who are least well off.

Or have we totally abandoned any notion of being an
egalitarian society where we only look out for ourselves,
and devil take the hindmost?


-Frank Macskasy
[address & phone number supplied]

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References

Dominion Post: Letter – Benefit boost has direct effect

 


 

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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Letter to the Editor: Kiwi style or American style?

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

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FROM:       "f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT:     Letters to the editor
DATE:        Wed, 14 May 2014 23:59:33 +1200
TO:         "Dominion Post" <letters@dompost.co.nz> 

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The Editor
Dominion Post

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I am dumbfound. Absolutely gobsmacked.

With New Zealand's sovereign debt now around $60 billion (as
at November 2013) and having increased by $27 million a day
since National took office - John Key is kite-flying with
suggestions of further tax cuts?!

Is this how National exercises fiscal responsibility -
bribing voters with yet more unaffordable tax cuts?

Previous tax cuts in 2009 and 2010 were paid for with assets
sales; taxing children on their paper rounds; increasing
prescription charges; as well as unsuccessful  attempts to
tax carparks and cellphones. Currently, National is planning
to sell off 5,000 State houses that were once homes to
low-income families.

Instead of tax cuts, New Zealanders might care to tell the
Prime Minister that we should be funding education so that
parents don't have to fork out  $357 million a year in
so-called "voluntary donations" and spend long hours 
fundraising to pay for  supposedly "free" schooling.

It is patently simple. We can have free education and public
healthcare. Or we can have tax-cuts. But we cannot have
both. 

This is the moment we decide whether we want public services
for all New Zealanders, regardless of their financial
circumstances - or an American-style user-pays.

I hope we choose wisely.


-Frank Macskasy
[address & phone number supplied]

 

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References

NZ Herald:  Parents fundraise $357m for ‘free’ schooling

Fairfax media: Public debt climbs by $27m a day

Radio NZ: PM John Key dangles tax cut carrot


 

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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The Mendacities of Mr Key #3: tax cuts

2 March 2014 2 comments

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john key lying

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3. Tax cuts

Background

19 May 2008

In the bitterly contested lead-up to the 2008 general election, National promised three tax cuts, to be spread over three years.

These were prompted by the nine consecutive Budget surpluses that Labour’s Finance Minister, Michael Cullen, had posted between 2000 and 2008. The public perceived that the government had too much of our money and demanded tax cuts.

Cullen resisted, as his main priority was continuing to pay down billions in debt that Labour had inherited in late 1990s.

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Key  and  National Party strategists heard the insistent  calls for tax cuts, and duly obliged – even though by November 2008, the global financial crisis had plunged the world into a recession, with only Australia and China escaping the worst effects.

In May 2008, Key promised voters tax cuts ‘‘North of $50‘‘.

April 2009

On 1 April 2009, National delivered the first of two rounds of tax cuts (a third round had been scrapped, as by then the recession had blown a hole in the government’s revenue).

This is what the 2009 tax cuts delivered.

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tax-cuts-april-2009

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Anyone earning under $40,000 received nothing. Not even close to “north of $50″.

October 2010

The following year, the second round of tax cuts was implemented,

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Tax rates October 2010

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Susie Nordqvist wrote in the Herald on 20 May 2010,

* Average income household – $24.71c per week better off

* Average wage worker – $15.91c per week better off

* Couple receiving New Zealand superannuation – $10.77c per week better off

* Professional property investor with 25 properties – $288.18c per week worse off

* Couple saving for their first home – $40.38c per week better off

* Domestic purposes beneficiary – $2.45c per week better off

* Minimum wage worker – $6.36c per week better off

* Student – $2.66c per week better off

* Business owner structuring income to claim for Working for Families – $153.03c per week worse off.

As the reader can easily determine, very few in the above group were receiving “north of $50″. When the rise in GST was taken into account, the actual real cut in  taxes for average workers’ and families was reduced even further.

The only tax bracket that received a tax cut “north of $50″ were those earning around $80,000 or more. Such as government ministers. And John Key.

When you factor in the rise in GST from 12.5%  to 15% – even fewer got the much promised “north of $50″, except the wealthiest.

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Key defends tax cuts for wealthy

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Conclusions:

  1. Key had no choice but to cancel the third round of tax cuts (scheduled for 2011), and to reduce the amount on offer. The GFC and recession were biting into our economy so badly, that National was borrowing $450 million a week by the end of 2009. Adding the 2010 tax cuts into the mix eventually left this country with a $60 billion fiscal hole.
  2. Key knew that the tax cuts were unaffordable during the 2008 election campaign. The world was deeply mired in the global financial crisis and recessionary effects were beginning to hit economies around the world. To pursue the promised tax cuts was the height of irresponsibility.
  3. Key bought the election with unaffordable promises.
  4. Our debt will have to be re-paid. (Foreign creditors insist.)

Beware of politicians bearing promises and gifts. We will be the ones paying for it.

Charge: broken promise/deflection/half-truth/hypocrisy/outright lie/mis-information?

Verdict:  Outright Lie, Broken Promise

 

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References

NZ Herald: Cullen – Tax cuts but strict conditions

Trading Economics:  New Zealand Government Debt To GDP

Dominion Post: Nats set for $50 tax cut trump

Otago Daily Times: Key says donate tax cuts to charity

NZ Herald: Budget 2010: What the tax cuts mean for you

NZ herald: Key defends tax cuts for wealthy

Parliament:  Tax System Changes—Impact on Operating Balance

Otago Daily Times: Government now borrowing $450 million a week – claim

Radio NZ:  English confirms national debt set to rise

Previous related blogposts

Labour: the Economic Record 2000 – 2008

The Mendacities of Mr Key #2: Secret Sources

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Vote these traitors out

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

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Radio NZ: Nine to Noon – Brian Easton – 7 February 2013

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- Nine To Noon -

 

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- Friday 7 February 2014  -

 

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- Kathryn Ryan & Brian Easton -

 

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Income inequality in New Zealand is set to become a central election issue, but is it really getting worse?

Brian Easton offers a solution how to address income inequality. Listen and find out what he suggests.

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Radio NZ logo -  nine to noon with Brian Easton

 

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Click to listen: Brian Easton, Economist ( 13′ 37″ )

 

 

 

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Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

(Hat tip: Murray Simmonds)

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Corporate Welfare under National

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begging-corporations

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In case there are still one or two New Zealanders remaining who haven’t yet cottoned on to one very simple truism about National in office, let me spell it out; they are rank hypocites of the highest order.

And in case you, the reader, happen to be a true-blue National supporter, let me explain why.

In the last four years, National has been beavering away,

  • slashing budgets
  • sacking nearly 3,000 state sector workers
  • closing schools
  • attempting to close special-needs services such as Nelson’s Salisbury school
  • cutting state services such as DoC, Housing NZ, Police, etc
  • freezing wages for state sector workers (whilst politician’s salaries continue to rise)
  • cutting back on funding to various community services (eg; Rape Crisis ands Women’s Refuge)
  • and all manner of other cuts to  state services – mostly done quietly and with minimum public/media attention.

In return, the Nats successfuly bribed us with our own money, giving us tax-cuts in 2009 and 2010. (Tax cuts which, later, were revealed not to be as affordable as what Dear Leader Key and Little Leader English made out – see:  Key: $30b deficit won’t stop Nats tax cuts, see: Government’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting)

One such denial of funding for public services is an on-going dispute between PHARMAC and the New Zealand Organisation for Rare Disorders (NZORD) which is struggling  desperately to obtain funding for rare disorders such as Pompe’s Disease,

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mum-not-prepared-to-wait-and-die

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Mum not prepared to wait and die

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NZORD and it’s members have been lobbying National for the last four years to gain funding for much-needed medication. They are in a dire situation – this is a matter of life or death for them.

This blogger has blogged previously about their plight,

Previous related blogposts

This blogger has also  written directly  to the Prime Minister and to Health Minister, Tony Ryall.

One response from Minister Ryall is presented here, for the reader’s attention,

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email-tony-ryall-pompe-disease-5-dec-2012-b

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So there we have it, folks. If you’re a New Zealander dying from a rare disease, and PHARMAC won’t fund life-saving medication – don’t expect an assistance from this rotten government. Their response will be, and I quote,

While I share your concern [snort!!!]  for people with Pompe disease, as I advised you in my letter of 22 November 2012, in the current fiscal environment, unfortunately funding is not available for all treatments.”

So “in the current fiscal environment, unfortunately funding is not available for all treatments“?!

But funding is available for;

$1 Rugby – $200 million to subsidise the Rugby World Cup (see:  Blowouts push public Rugby World Cup spending well over $200m)

$2 Movies – $67 million paid to Warner Bros to keep “The Hobbit” in New Zealand (see:  The Hobbit: should we have paid?) and $300 million in subsidies for “The Lord of the Rings” (see:  Hobbit ‘better deal than Lord of the Rings’ – Key)

$3 Consultants - After sacking almost 3,000 state sector workers (see:  555 jobs gone from public sector) – and with more to come at DoC – National seems unphased at clocking up a mind-boggling $1 billion paid to “consultants”.  (see:  Govt depts clock up $1bn in consultant fees)

And on top of that, we are now faced with the prospect of a trans-national corporate – Rio Tinto – with their hands firmly around Meridian Energy’s neck, attempting to extract a greater subsidy from the SOE powerco. The story began in August last year,

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Rio Tinto seeks power deal revision

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Rio Tinto seeks power deal revision

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We know why. Despite implausible assertions to the contrary by National Ministers, Genesis Energy, and Rio Tinto executives – the partial sale of SOE powercos (Meridian, Genesis, and Mighty River Power) have made them vulnerable to the demands of Big Businesses.

Rio Tinto  knows that the share price of each SOE will be predicated on marketplace demand for shares.

They know that if there is less demand for electricity, then the price of power may (note: may) drop; those SOE’s profits will drop; and the price of shares will drop.

That leaves shareholders out of pocket and National with egg on it’s face. And a whole bunch of  Very Pissed Off Voters/Shareholders.

Think: Warner Bros. Think: corporate blackmail to shift ‘The Hobbit’ overseas. Think: National not wanting to risk the wrath of Peter Jackson and a thoroughly manipulated Public Opinion. Think: National looking at the 2011 election. Think: panic amongst National ministers and back-room Party strategists.

National capitulated.

This is precisely what is happening with Rio Tinto, Meridian, and National.

In the space of six and a half hours yesterday (28 March 2013),  events came to a dramatic head. The following happened in one day:

9.15am:

Via a Press Release from Merdian Energy;

Thursday, 28 March 2013, 9:15 am
Press Release: Meridian Energy

New Zealand Aluminium Smelter’s electricity contract

For immediate release: Thursday, 28 March 2013

Meridian was approached by Pacific Aluminium, a business unit of global mining giant Rio Tinto Ltd, the majority shareholder of New Zealand Aluminium Smelters Ltd (NZAS), in July 2012, to discuss potential changes to its existing electricity contract.

Since talks began, various options have been discussed and Meridian has offered a number of changes and concessions to the existing contract.

Chief Executive of Meridian Energy, Mark Binns, says that Meridian has advised Pacific Aluminium of its ‘bottom line’ position.

“Despite significant effort by both parties there remains a major gap between us on a number of issues, such that we believe that it is unlikely a new agreement can be reached with Pacific Aluminium,” says Mr Binns.

In the event no agreement can be reached, Meridian will seek to engage with Rio Tinto and Sumitomo Chemical Company Ltd, the shareholders of NZAS, who will ultimately decide on the future of the smelter.

Meridian signed a new contract with NZAS in 2007, after three years of negotiations. This current contract commenced on 1 January 2013 and remains unaltered and binding on the parties.” - Source

To which Rio Tinto replied,

10.15am:

In a NZ Herald story,

CEO  of Pacific Aluminium (the New Zealand subsidiary of Rio Tinto), Sandeep Biswas responded with,

“We believe a commercial agreement that is in the best interests of NZAS, Meridian, the New Zealand Government, and the people of Southland can be reached. We look forward to continuing productive negotiations with a view to achieving a positive outcome for all parties.” – Source

De-coding: “This ain’t over till the Fat Chick sings, and she’s nowhere to be seen. You guys better start hearing what we’re saying or this is going to turn to sh*t real fast; we’ll close our operations at Bluff; 3,200 people employed by us directly or  indirectly will be told ‘Don’t Come Monday’;  your Southland economy will collapse like a Cyprus bank, and National can kiss goodbye to it’s re-election in 2014. Ya got that, sunshine?”

11.15am:

That got the attention of National’s ministers Real Quick,

The Government has opened discussions with Tiwai Point aluminium smelter’s ultimate owners Rio Tinto in a bid to broker a deal after talks between the smelter and Meridian Energy reportedly broke down.

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“With this in mind, the Government has been in contact with Pacific Aluminium’s international parent company Rio Tinto this week to discuss helping to bridge the gap in their positions over the short to medium term, if this could be of assistance in concluding an agreement.

“In the meantime, we understand Meridian’s existing contract with Pacific Aluminium remains in place at least until 1 January 2016 with significant financial and other obligations beyond that.” – Source

Barely two hours had passed since Meridian had lobbed a live grenade into National’s state asset sale programme, and it’s fair to say that the Ninth Floor of the Beehive was in a state of panic. It was ‘battle stations’. Red Alert. National ministers were, shall we say, slightly flustered,

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http://fmacskasy.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/headless-chickens.jpg?w=320&h=274

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12.00pm:

By noon, the markets were reacting. Though share-market analysts were attempting to down-play the so-called  ‘Phoney War’ between Meridian and Rio Tinto, Devon Funds Management analyst, Phillip Anderson, remarked that,

“…the announcement had hit Contact’s share price – the company was down 3 per cent in early trading but is now down only 1.2 per cent.” - Source

If Contact’s (a fully privatised ex-SOE) share price had dropped 3% on the strength of these media stories, it is little wonder that share-market analysts were down-playing the brinkmanship being played out by Meridian and Rio Tinto. If the share-market was spooked enough, Contact’s share price would plummet, as would that of Mighty River Power – estimated to be in the $2.36 and $2.75 price-range. (see:  Mighty River share tips $2.36 to $2.75).

In which case, National would be floating shares worth only a fraction of what ministers were seeking. In effect, if Rio Tinto closed down operations, Key could kiss goodbye to the partial sale of energy SOEs. They would be worthless to investors.

3.43pm:

By 3.43pm, and six and a half hours since Meridian’s press release, National had negotiated some kind secret deal with Rio Tinto.  We don’t know the terms of the deal because though it is our money, National ministers don’t think we have a right to the information,

The Government is negotiating a new taxpayer-funded subsidy with Tiwai Point aluminium smelter’s owners and has all but acknowledged its assets sales programme is being used by them to get a better deal on power prices.

State Owned Enterprises Minster Tony Ryall this morning said the Government has opened discussions with the smelter’s ultimate owners global mining giant Rio Tinto in a bid to broker a deal over a variation to the existing electricity contract.

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“With this in mind, the Government has been in contact with Pacific Aluminium’s international parent company Rio Tinto this week to discuss helping to bridge the gap in their positions over the short to medium term, if this could be of assistance in concluding an agreement.”

Mr Ryall indicated the Government had offered Rio Tinto “a modest amount of money to try and help bridge that gap in the short to medium term but there’s still a very big gap in the long term… We’re not interested in subsidising this business in the long term”. – Source

Ryall added,

“…they’re pretty tough negotiators and I’m sure they look at what else is happening in the economy when they make their various decisions…

…”they certainly haven’t got the Government over a barrel.”

Three questions stand out from Ryall’s statement,

  1. If  State subsidies for electricity supply to Rio Tinto’s smelter are “short to medium term” – then what will happen when (if?) those subsidies are lifted? Will shareholders “take a bath” as share prices collapse in value?
  2. Does Ryall think we are fools when he states that Rio Tinto did not have the government “over a barrel” ?! Is that how National views the public – as morons?
  3. How much is the “a modest amount of money” that Ryall is referring to?

Perhaps the most asinine comment from Ryall was this, as reported by TVNZ,

“The electricity market is capable of dealing with all the issues relating to the smelter,” said Ryall.

Acknowledgement: TVNZ News – Talks break down over Tiwai smelter contract

Really?! In what way is “the electricity market … capable of dealing with all the issues relating to the smelter” when the government has to step in with what could be millions of dollars worth of subsidies? Is that how “the market” works?!

This blogger has two further questions to put to Minister Ryall. Both of which have been emailed to him,

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Date: Thu, 29 March 2013, 6.43pm
From: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: Your correspondence to Hon Tony Ryall
To:  Tony Ryall  <Tony.Ryall@parliament.govt.nz>

Kia ora,  Mr Ryall,

I am in receipt  of your emailed letter to me, dated 5 December 2012, regarding the non-funding of certain medications for sufferers of Pompe Disease. Firstly, thank you for taking the time to respond to this issue in a thorough and timely way. Several of your other ministerial colleagues seem to lack that simple etiquette.

I note that, as Minister of SOEs, you have been in direct negotiations with Rio Rinto, and have offered the company subsidised electricity for the  “short to medium term”.

This will no doubt cost the taxpayer several millions (hundreds of millions?) of dollars.

If  National is able to provide such largesse to a multi-national corporation, please advise me as to the following;

1. Why is the same subsidy for cheaper electricity not offered to ALL New Zealanders? Or even those on low-fixed incomes? Why provide a multi-million dollar subsidy just to a billion-dollar corporation when New Zealanders could do with a similar cut in their power bills?

2. In your letter to me, dated 5 December 2012, you point out that,

“While I share your concern  for people with Pompe disease, as I advised you in my letter of 22 November 2012, in the current fiscal environment, unfortunately funding is not available for all treatments.”

If National has millions of dollars available to subsidise multi-national corporations, them obviously your statement on 5 December 2012 that “in the current fiscal environment, unfortunately funding is not available for all treatments” – is simply not credible.

It is obvious that your government can find money when it wants to. This applies to Rugby World Cup funding, consultants, movie-making subsidies, etc.

As such, I hope you are able to find the necessary funding for medication for people suffering rare disorders.

You are, after all, Minister for Health as well as Minister for State Owned Enterprises.

Regards,

-Frank Macskasy
Blogger

PS: Please note that this issue will be canvassed further on the blogsite, The Daily Blog.

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Minister of Health. Minister for SOEs. Minister for corporate welfare.

Which ‘hat’ will Tony Ryall be wearing today?

And will he find the necessary funding to save the lives of sick New Zealanders?

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 31 March 2013.

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References

NZ Herald: Rio Tinto seeks power deal revision (10 Aug 2012)

Scoop.co.nz:  New Zealand Aluminium Smelter’s electricity contract Press Release (9.15am, 28 March 2013)

NZ Herald:  Smelter counters Meridian – power deal still possible (10.15am, 28 March 2013)

NZ Herald:  Govt steps in to sort out stalled Tiwai power deal (11.15am, 28 March 2013)

NZ Herald:  Tiwai stoush may affect Mighty River price  (12.00pm, 28 March 2013)

NZ Herald:  Govt offser Tiwai subsidy (3.43pm, 28 March 2013)

Related references

NZ Herald:  Mighty River share tips $2.36 to $2.75 (20 March 2013)

Related to previous blogposts

Pharmac: The politics of playing god (16 June 2011)

$500,000 a year to keep toddler alive (5 Feb 2013)

Rare disease sufferers want pricey treatments (1 March 2013)

Rare disease takes awful toll on boy (1 March 2013)

Call for an Orphan drugs access policy to overcome Pharmac’s systems failure (28 Feb 2013)

Bill English – do you remember Colin Morrison? (4 Feb 2013)

Related Opinion

NZ Herald – Fran O’Sullivan – Govt intervention doesn’t cut mustard (30 March 2013)

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More dispatches from Planet Key

17 March 2013 4 comments

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planet key

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Planet Key’s #3 Moon “Brownlee”; Largest of the Moons, it tends to disturb other bodies through it’s presence. “Brownlee” has a rough surface and highly abrasive atmosphere that many find obnoxious. “Brownlee’s” gravitational influence has a negative, perturbing,  influence on nearby bodies such as Planet Christchurch.

Brownlee recently let rip at Christchurch City Council for not carrying out repairs to council-owned community housing fast enough,

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Brownlee says housing councillor should go

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

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Consider for a moment that Brownlee, as the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery  Minister, is in constant contact with CERA, Christchurch’s mayor, and anyone else remotely connected with that city and it’s re-build.

Brownlee has channels of communications that are open to him that allows him to discuss issues and problems as they arise.

So what was the purpose of this display of public excoriation of the Christchurch Council and especially the vilification of one Councillor, Yani Johanson?!

Does Mr Johanson not have a telephone?

Email? Skype? A paper letter? Smoke signals? (The latter seems to work well for the Vatican.)

Could Brownlee not have sat down around a table and asked the most basic of questions,

How can we help?”

Or is the public display of testosterone-fuelled machismo Minister Brownlee’s new modus operandi when dealing with those who fall within his ministerial orbit?

This kind of authoritarianism may be the norm in Zimbabwe, Burma, or North Korea – but here in New Zealand it comes across as the cries and foot-stamping of a petulant child.

Meanwhile, National ministers should look in their own backyard when it comes to housing,

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Pomare housing demolition begins

Acknowledgement: Dominion Post

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Christchurch has been wracked by two massive earthquakes and thousands more quakes since. Every aspect of their basic infra-structure was damaged or ruined to varying degrees.

I think we can cut them some slack when it comes to re-building an entire city, from beneath ground-up.

Meanwhile, nearly eighteen months later, with no earthquakes or any other major disasters (unless one  calls a National Government a major disaster), one wonders why National ministers have not progressed any further to re-build Pomare’s state housing?

After nearly a year and a half, all we’re seeing is a vast vacant lot, where once peoples’  homes existed,

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Pomare state housing_vacant lot_farmers cres

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Pomare state housing_vacant lot_farmers cres

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Any ideas, Mr Brownlee?

(More on this issue in an up-coming blog-story)

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Planet Key’s #4 Moon “Dunne”; covered in a dense, white atmosphere; “Dunne” is known to move from Planet Key to Planet Labour depending on which mass is greatest. The largest surface object on “Dunne” is the ‘Make Me a Minister’ volcano, which erupts whenever there is a nearby power-source.

As Minister of Revenue and Flashy Hairstyles, Peter Dunne is charged with taxation issues in this country.

No doubt his job was made considerably harder with two tax cuts (2009 and 2010) which considerably reduced taxation revenue for the State. (see:  Govt’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting, see:  Outlook slashes tax-take by $8b) Indeed, English was forced to tax children and their paper-rounds. (see:  Key rejects criticism of ‘paperboy tax’)

Taxing kid’s meagre earnings. That’s how low and desperate National ministers have gone, to make up for the 2009/10 ‘lolly scrambles’ when the Nats  gave away billions in unaffordable tax cuts.

To try to fill the fiscal hole that Bill English, Peter Dunne, et al, have put themselves into, they’ve been scrambling to raise government charges  and tax everything and anything else that moves. (see: Prescription fees increase, see: Vulnerable children at risk from Family Court fees increase, see: Student fees rise faster than inflation, see: Petrol price rises to balance books)

The latest attempt to raise new taxes is Peter Dunne’s ‘carpark tax’,

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Business will evade car park tax

Acknowledgement: Fairfax media

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Well, well, well… a new tax?

A new fringe benefit tax?!

This is interesting.

Because John Key has always insisted that his Party cuts taxes and doesn’t increase them. Specifically, way back on 4 April 2005, when National was in Opposition,

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National Party Finance spokesman John Key has signalled an overhaul of the Fringe Benefit Tax, during a speech to the Auckland Rotary Club today.

“The next National Government will cut the red tape and compliance costs that are choking our businesses and preventing them from getting off first base,” he says.

“A practical example of what I am talking about is in the area of Fringe Benefit Tax.

“Today I want to announce that National will revamp Fringe Benefit Tax to remove a substantial amount of the paperwork that currently occupies too much administrative time for many of our businesses, especially the small ones.

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- We won’t entertain suggestions of applying FBT to on-premises car parks.” 

Acknowledgement: Scoop.co.nz

And again in 2010, when a video was uncovered where Dear Leader was quoted as saying,

National is not going to be raising GST. National wants to cut taxes, not raise taxes.

See: Key ‘no GST rise’ video emerges

When challenged on this in the House, just recently,  Minister for Everything, Steven Joyce, responded with this bit of bovine faecal material,

I would say that I think a fair amount has changed since that statement was made back in April 2005, which was when Don Brash was leader of the National Party. Since that time we have had three leaders of the Labour Party, and maybe a fourth leader of the Labour Party—”

Source: Parliament Hansards – 9. Tax System Changes—Employee Car-parks

Yeah. Lot’s of things have changed. Like, for example, the difference between being in Opposition and Promising the Moon – and being in Government and having to explain why the Moon is still out of reach.

And when the Nats have to make smart-arse comments about Labour’s leaders, then you know they’re really on the ropes. Defensive much, Mr Joyce?

Like Key’s broken promise on GST, the “carpark” tax is another instance of National breaking it’s election promises. Which indicates, mainly, that National’s tax-cuts were never as affordable as they made out in 2008.

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Special Edition Tax cuts today - John Key

Acknowledgement: National Party

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Planet Key’s #5 Moon “Bennett”; “Bennett” originated from the asteroid belt, where many poorer dwarf-planets with low mass; minimal mineral wealth; and mostly invisible, are locked in orbits that will take them nowhere. “Bennett” gravitated to the National Zone where her mass and mineral wealth increased by close association with  Planet Key and it’s many  moons.

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To repeat and quote Bennett, when she stated on TVNZ’s Q+A on 29 April 2012,,

There’s not a job for everyone that would want one right now, or else we wouldn’t have the unemployment figures that we do. “

See:  TVNZ  Q+A: Transcript of Paula Bennett interview

To quote Minister Bennett’s latest utterances on this issue, on 12 March 2013, when hundreds of  people recently queued for just seven jobs at Carter Holt Harvey in Auckland,

“Well I am absolutely thrilled that 200 turned up quite frankly we’ve got more than 50,000 on the unemployment benefit but work expectations of them I think the fact that they are lining up that they want those jobs um speaks for itself and about peoples’ motivation to get work.”
 

“There’s always a lot of people going for certain types of jobs and if in particular if they are lower skilled they feel they can do them, they don’t have a lot of work experience, they have been out of work for some time.”

 
“No I don’t feel there is a job for everyone and I think it’s damn tough but I am incredibly proud of New Zealanders and their  motivation and the fact that they want them and I know that the economy is improving and we are going to see more happening.”

See: TV3  – Campbell Live:  Sign of the times: hundreds queue for 7 jobs

Acknowledgement for transcript:  Waitakere News – Don Elder, Paula Bennett and the rest of us

Ok, so the lightbulb has finally clicked in Bennett’s head. New Zealand has a problem. We do not have enough jobs for the number of unemployed and solo-parents who want to work.

It’s not often that a politician acknowledges the bleedin’ obvious – so kudos to her for having the  courage to do so. (John Key might learn a thing from Bennett in terms of not ducking  issues.)

However, if there are not sufficient jobs to go around – what is the point in wasting taxpayers’ money and Parliament’s time on this exercise in futility,

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Welfare reform bill passed into law

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald

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And why is language like this used by Bennett,

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Reforms to help beneficiaries out of 'trap'

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald

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If there are insufficient jobs – as Bennett herself has now acknowledged on at least two occassions, then ipso facto, the following must be true;

  1. The only ‘trap’ is a lack of work – not welfare
  2. Why “reform” the welfare system  when welfare itself is not broke – it’s the economy that is not working (as are 170,000 people)
  3. Why muddy the waters with  rhetoric like  “trap of benefit dependency“; “introduce expectations for partners of beneficiaries and make beneficiaries prepare for work“; or that welfare had “become a bit of a trap for quite a few people“?

What does “a bit of a trap for quite a few people” mean? That it’s a “little” trap as opposed to a “big” trap? Or is she attempting to minimise the impact of her beneficiary-bashing by trying to soften her rhetoric?

So the “dog whistle” rhetoric filters down to the right wing; the ill-informed; and other welfare-hating cliques in our society – but the message is watered-down for the Middle Classes who are uncomfortable with victimising the unemployed, or who may even know someone who recently lost their jobs.

That’s the trouble with beneficiary bashing during times of high unemployment. Most of us know someone who has lost their job through no fault of their own. Bennett is walking a tight-rope here.

Eventually, people will be asking; why are National ministers  wasting time on pointless welfare “reform” when it’s jobs we need?

Once that message percolates into the collective consciousness of the masses, National will be left standing naked – their corrupt, bene-bashing, dog-whistle politics exposed for all to see.

A few questions for Ms Bennett,

Why are you messing around with welform “reform”, when it’s jobs that we need?

Why aren’t you and your well-paid ministerial colleagues reforming the economy to create more jobs?

How much are these “reforms”  costing us, the tax-payer?

How many extra jobs will welfare “reforms” create?

I don’t expect answers to these questions because, really, they are unanswerable.

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Links

Facebook: Pomare save our community

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Did National knowingly commit economic sabotage post-2008?

24 January 2013 16 comments

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cheesecolour tax cuts

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By now, it has become fairly well known that National’s tax cuts in 2009 and 2010 were unaffordable and impacted disastrously on government revenue (and subsequent spending) in following years.

In 2008, National tempted voters with promises of “self funding” tax-cuts. (Though “self funding” was never very clearly explained.)

National’s rebalancing of the tax system is self-funding and requires no cuts to public services or additional borrowing.

[...]

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.

Source: Economy – Tax Policy 2008

The pledge of  “no requirement to cut public services  ” was also one that was made (and subsequently broken in dramatic fashion).

In May 2008, Key was making bold statements  of  “meaningful”  tax cuts,  “north of $50“,

John Key…  said National would be looking at economic figures and what other promises Dr Cullen made in the budget on Thursday… But he was very confident” National could deliver an ongoing programme of tax cuts, like that promised in 2005”.

See: National’s 2005 tax cut plans still credible – Key

Despite the growing black clouds of  a global downturn, Key was still optimistic. When questioned by Sue Eden of the NZ Herald whether National’s tax cuts programme of 2005 were still credible given uncertain economic circumstances, Dear Leader replied,

Well, I think it is.”

See: IBID

By early August 2008, as United States mortgage-institutions Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac  were  sinking into a credit crisis, Key remained defiant in the face of looming recessionary forces,

National will fast track a second round of tax cuts and is likely to increase borrowing to pay for some of its spending promises, the party’s leader John Key says.

But Mr Key said the borrowing would be for new infrastructure projects rather than National’s quicker and larger tax cuts which would be “hermetically sealed” from the debt programme.

The admission on borrowing comes as National faces growing calls to explain how it will pay for its promises, which include the larger faster tax cuts, a $1.5 billion broadband plan and a new prison in its first term.

It has also promised to keep many of Labour’s big spending policies including Working for Families and interest free student loans.

Mr Key today said there would be “modest changes” to KiwiSaver.

See: Nats to borrow for other spending – but not tax cuts

How does one ” “hermetically seal” tax cuts  from the debt programme ” ?!

The ‘crunch’ came on 6 October 2008, when Treasury released a document known as the “PREFU” (Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Update). This Treasury report analyses and discloses the fiscal and economic state of the nation, with short and medium-term outlooks, based on international and local trends.

The 2008 PREFU started with this dire warning,

The economic and fiscal outlook has deteriorated since the Budget Update

In the five months since the Budget Update was finalised, we have witnessed a number of significant domestic and international developments: in particular, the deepening of the international financial crisis, the slowing housing market, and growing pressure on households and businesses. These developments are key factors in our updated view of the economy and the government’s finances set out in this Pre-election Update.

We are now expecting weaker economic growth over the next few years, resulting in slower growth in tax revenue and higher government expenditure. Combined with increases in the costs of some existing policies, these factors lead to sustained operating balance deficits and higher debt-to-GDP ratios.

The economic outlook is weaker …

Imbalances have built up during nearly a decade of sustained growth, including inflation pressures, an overvalued housing market, high household debt and a large current account deficit, with implications for interest rates and the exchange rate. With the economy slowing, these imbalances are starting to unwind – as are imbalances in the global economy – but there is a long way to go.

See: PREFU 2008 – Executive Summary

The opening statement went on to state with unequivocal frankness,

The international financial crisis has deepened and is having an adverse impact on global economic growth. New Zealand is expected to feel the effects of the financial crisis principally through the tighter availability and increased costs of credit, but also through a fall in business and consumer confidence, falling asset values and lower demand and prices for our exports.

[...]

The weaker economic growth that we are forecasting is reflected in reductions in our tax revenue forecasts. Compared with the Budget Update, we expect tax revenue to be on average around $900 million lower for each of the next three years.

  • The weak outlook for the household sector will have a direct impact through GST, which is forecast to grow by around 4% per annum over the next five years, compared with 7.5% over the six years to 2007.
  • With firms’ margins under pressure and profitability low, underlying corporate income tax is forecast to decline by 3% in the 2009 June year, and growth is expected to be negligible in 2010 as accumulated tax losses offset profits.
  • A relatively robust forecast for wages over the next few years helps to keep underlying growth in PAYE up at around 5% per annum.

The largest single change in government spending in the Pre-election Update is an increase in the expected costs of benefits. Compared with the Budget Update, benefit expenses are around $500 million per annum higher, reflecting both an increase in numbers of beneficiaries as a result of the slowing economy, and the impact of higher inflation on the costs of indexing benefits.

[...]

As a result of the various factors set out above, the government’s debt outlook deteriorates. This leads to higher debt servicing costs, which are forecast to be around $500 million per annum higher

See: IBID

Treasury continued – in considerable detail – to outline the gloomy prospects  for New Zealand’s fiscal and economic short-term and medium-term outlooks (see:  Fiscal Outlook),

In Risks and Scenarios, Treasury wrote,

Since the Budget Update, global developments have been more in line with the alternative scenario than the Budget forecast and global financial and economic conditions have worsened significantly. On the domestic front, finance companies have continued to face reduced debenture funding and more finance companies went into receivership or moratorium in the past three months. The speed and magnitude of the slowing in domestic demand has been more abrupt and greater than forecast in the Budget Update.

Reflecting these recent international and domestic developments, we have made significant downward revisions to our growth forecasts in this Update. However, the financial turmoil has intensified since the finalisation of our economic forecasts. As a result, we have seen the downside risks to our growth forecasts increase markedly, particularly in the years to March 2010 and 2011.

See: 2008 PREFU – Risks and Scenarios

Unlike his “lack of knowledge” over the GCSB monitoring of Kim Dotcom, or the Police report on John Banks, John Key cannot feign ignorance over the 2008 PREFU report,

John Key has defended his party’s planned program of tax cuts, after Treasury numbers released today showed the economic outlook has deteriorated badly since the May budget. The numbers have seen Treasury reducing its revenue forecasts and increasing its predictions of costs such as benefits. Cash deficits – the bottom line after all infrastructure funding and payments to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund are made – is predicted to blow out from around $3 billion a year to around $6 billion a year.”

See: Key – $30b deficit won’t stop Nats tax cuts

Especially when Bill English admitted his knowledge of the PREFU,

The figures outlined in the Prefu are a bit worse than we expected, and we are currently digesting them. However, National is not content to run a decade of deficits.”

See: IBID

In an example of black-humoured irony, English went on to say,

New Zealand can no longer afford Michael Cullen and Labour’s big-spending low-growth policies.”

See: IBID

But evidently New Zealand could afford National’s  “ big-tax-cutting low-growth policies“?

On 6 October 2008, Key reacted to the PREFU (proving he had full knowledge of it’s contents, and made this astounding comment when questioned about National’s planned tax cuts, at 0:40,

“REPORTER: What is your growth programme, does it include tax cuts?.”

“JOHN KEY: It certainly does include tax cuts. We have a programme of tax cuts.”

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Key reacts to 2008 PREFU figures

See: Key reacts to [2008] PREFU figures

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Key’s comments following 0:40 seem equally bizarre, and at 2:28 admits that “… we can’t deliver anything other than, ‘yknow,   a legacy of deficits for New Zealand…” – and still continues to warble on about cutting taxes, including trying to justify “debt for future growth“.

The consequences were a $2 billion hole in government tax revenue (see:  Outlook slashes tax-take by $8b;   Govt’s 2010 tax cuts ‘costing $2 billion and counting’); budget deficits (see:  Budget deficit $1.3b worse);   increased borrowings (see:  Govt borrowing $380m a week); cuts to the State sector in terms of services and jobs (see:  Early childhood education subsidies cut; 10 August: Unhealthy Health Cuts, 2500 jobs cut, but only $20m saved); and surreptitious increases in government charges and taxation elsewhere (see:  Petrol price rises to balance books; Student loan repayments hiked, allowances restrictedPrescription charges on the rise); and asset sales  (see: Govt says asset sales will cut debt).

The point of this blogpost is simple.

It’s not to look back, at the past…

… it is to look forward to the future.

When National makes Big Promises, be wary of the nature of said promises, and the underlying , invisible “hooks” contained within them.

Quite simply when the Nats offer you a “tax cut”, the first question that should pop into your head is not, “Oh goody, I wonder how much I’ll get!”

The first thought should instead be, “Uh oh, I wonder how much that’s going to cost me!”.

Because as sure as evolution made little green apples and the sun will rise tomorrow, the Nats care very little about your pay packet.

They care only about “rewarding hard work” [translation: more income for the rich] and “making the veconomy more competitive”  [translation:  implementing their neo-liberal agenda for their ideological crusade to turn this country into a Market-driven economy, away from an egalitarian society].

In the process, if they have to turn our country into a slow-rolling, economic train-wreck, then so be it.

They can always blame someone else,

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Key blames Labour for his Govt's wage gap failings

See video: Key blames Labour for his Govt’s wage gap failings

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Key even blames Labour for the  global recession !? (see @ 0:48)

In the meantime, did National recklessly  damage the New Zealand economy with unaffordable tax cuts, despite Key & Co being given ample warning by Treasury – simply to get elected in 2008?

Draw your own conclusions.

The evidence speaks for itself.

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I lied  get over it!

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Additional reading

The Atlantic: Tax Cuts Don’t Lead to Economic Growth, a New 65-Year Study Finds (16 Sept 2012)

References

National Party: Economy – Tax Policy 2008

NZ Herald: National’s 2005 tax cut plans still credible – Key (20 May 2008)

NZ Herald: Nats to borrow for other spending – but not tax cuts (2 Aug 2008)

The Treasury:  Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update 2008 (6 Oct 2008)

NZ Herald: $30b deficit won’t stop Nats tax cuts (6 Oct 2008)

BBC News: Bank shares fall despite bail-out (13 Oct 2008)

Bay of Plenty Times: John Key: We cannot afford KiwiSaver (11 May 2011)

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Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment – Growth

9 January 2013 7 comments

To Whom It May Concern; the following Report Card detail’s Johnny’s achievements over the last four years.

The following contrasts compare four years, ranging from the end of 2008 to the end of this year, 2012.

Whilst it is acknowledged that the Global Financial Crisis impacted harshly on our society and economy, it is also fair to say that National has had the benefits of starting out with a sound economy (surpluses, low unemployment, etc)  in 2008 and four years in office to make good on it’s election promises.

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Growth

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Recent history:

In the past, whenever National (or the right wing “Labour-ACT” government of the 1980s) came to power, the result was never very good,

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Decline in economic activity

Source: Dunedin Star

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Highest jobless rate in 2 years - 7 May 1998

Source: Otago Daily Times

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Redundancies hit Tranz Rail workers hard - 2 Oct 1998

Source: Otago Daily Times

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Current Account deficit blows out to 10-year high - 28 Jan 1997

Source: Otago Daily Times

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The rhetoric:

The National Party has an economic plan that will build the foundations for a better future.

* We will focus on lifting medium-term economic performance and managing taxpayers’ money effectively.

* We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.

* We will cut taxes, not just in election year, but in a regular programme of ongoing tax cuts.

* We will invest in the infrastructure this country needs for productivity growth.

* We will be more careful with how we spend the cash in the public purse, monitoring not just the quantity but also the quality of government spending.

* We will concentrate on equipping young New Zealanders with the education they need for a 21st century global economy.

* We will reduce the burden of compliance and bureaucracy, and we will say goodbye to the blind ideology that locks the private sector out of too many parts of our economy.

And we will do all of this while improving the public services that Kiwis have a right to expect.  ” – John Key, 29 July 2008

See: 2008: A Fresh Start for New Zealand

Growing the economy is the Government’s number one priority, and science and innovation have a key part to play in that growth.

Indeed, this Government has made science and innovation one of the six cornerstones of its economic growth agenda. We’ve done this because New Zealand needs an economic jolt. Our productivity and economic growth have been sluggish for decades and as a result we have slipped down the OECD’s ranking of national wealth per capita.

Our performance compared to other smaller advanced economies has been uninspiring at best. For example, in 1976 our per capita income was slightly ahead of Australia. It was nearly 20 percent greater than the OECD average.

We are now 20 percent behind the OECD average. Australia, by contrast, is still about 20 percent ahead.

Finland is another example of our relative decline. In 1979 our per capita income lines crossed – New Zealand going down and Finland going up. The Finns are now about 20 percent ahead of us.

So, how do we turn the situation around? ” – John Key, 1 July 2011

See: National Economic Development Forum

Present  reality:

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Declining traffic bad for the economy

Full story

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Unemployment up to 7.3pc - a 13 year high

Full story

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KiwiRail under fire over job cuts

Full story

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Current account gap narrows as trade balance shrinks

Full story

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Two things would be fair to say,

    1. National inherited an economy with low unemployment and net government debt at an all time low of 5.6% of New Zealand’s GDP, net. (Far from being fiscally profligate as National claims, Labour actually behaved more responsibly than National has done, as the information below clearly illustrates.)
    2. The Global Financial Crisis was not an event of National’s making. (Though the ideology of corporate greed, profiteering, and minimal government oversight which contributed to the Crisis is most certainly one that National shares.)

As Treasury data shows, New Zealand’s net government debt situation worsened from 2008 to June of 2012,

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NZ Government net debt 2008 - 2012

Source: Treasury – Financial Statemement of the Government of New Zealand

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NZ Government net debt 2008 - 2012 table 16

Source: IBID

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Table 16 above opened with a net government debt of 5.6% – left by the outgoing Labour government.

It closed with 25% net government debt – a fourfold increase – courtesy of National’s “prudent fiscal management”.

As the Treasury document explained,

Net debt increases as a result of cash deficits and
declines as a result of cash surpluses. It also
fluctuates in line with valuation movements in the
underlying financial assets and liabilities of the Crown
and movements in the amounts of currency issued to
New Zealand banks.

Net debt increased this year, continuing the steady
increase since the global financial crisis (figure 11).
Net debt increased from last year primarily due to
additional borrowings over the year to meet the
residual cash deficit (refer table 17).

Source: IBID

In other words, National took in lower revenue – taxes – which  inevitably resulted in increased borrowings; slashing of State services and funding; increasing user pays for other state services;  mass redundancies of state sector workers, and impending partial state asset sales.

The Treasury document goes on to show how much revenue was lost between 2008 and 2012,

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NZ Government tax revenue 2008 - 2012

Source: IBID

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A recent NZ Herald report has updated Treasury’s expections. The tax-take, GDP growth, and unemployment outlooks are not good,

A weaker economic outlook over the next four years has taken a bite of nearly $8 billion out of the Government’s forecast tax revenues for that period.

Nevertheless the Treasury is still forecasting a return to surplus, though only just, on schedule by 2015.

The forecasts in yesterday’s half-year economic and fiscal update are in line with the latest consensus forecasts, which means they are significantly weaker than in the Budget.

The growth track is lower by around 0.5 percentage points a year.

It reflects downwards revisions to expected growth among New Zealand’s trading partners, and a kiwi dollar expected to remain around present levels until the first half of 2014, so that net exports subtract from growth for the next couple of years.

Unemployment has been revised higher; it is 7.3 per cent now and still expected to be 5.6 per cent by March 2016.

See: Outlook slashes tax-take by $8b

The forecast rate of tepid growth is on top of low to negative growth in the last four years,

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NZ GDP growth rate 2000 - 2012

Source: tradingeconomics.com

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So what caused the drop in government tax revenue? And why did the lower tax revenue impact on higher unemployment and lower domestic growth?

The answer, in part, is not hard to uncover, and the following reports tell the story of how National undermined (sabotaged?) our nation’s government accounts.

First, we were offered The Bribe,

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National's 2005 tax cut plans still credible - Key

Full story

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Then we got the warning signs,

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Treasury to Rescue Fannie and Freddie

Full story

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Russia Halts Trading After 17% Share Price Fall

Full story

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Lehman folds with record $613 billion debt

Full story

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We were not exempt from the looming storm that was the coming Global Financial Crisis ,

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Recession confirmed - GDP fall

Full story

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National’s response?

The prudent step to take would have been to cancel the tax cuts as simply unaffordable.  (Labour’s Phil Goff generously promised to support National had it taken such a prudent measure. See: Labour would support deferral of tax cuts)

As a nation, we  would then maintain social services (education, housing, healthcare, justice system, early childhood education, superannuation, etc)  – or cut taxes. We could not have both. Not without even further massive borrowings from overseas.

National’s decision to persevere with their taxcuts beggered belief for those who understood the seriousness of the GFC and the recession we had fallen into,

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Key - $30b deficit won't stop Nats tax cuts

Full story

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The consequences of  National’s irresponsible cutting of taxation revenue was utterly predictable,

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Govt borrowing $380m a week

Full story

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Govt's 2010 tax cuts 'costing $2 billion and counting'

Full story

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Writing for the NZ Herald, Brian Fallow put the cost of taxcuts at $8 billion. (See:  Outlook slashes tax-take by $8b)

Only a fool (or devoted National supporter – the two are not mutually exclusive) could believe that we could give away billions in tax cuts without resorting to massive borrowings to cover the shortfall.

The result was a government deficit rising fourfold from 2008 to 2012, as the above Treasury stats clearly show.

National then desperately needed to balance the books. It scrimped and scrapped by cutting the state sector; raising taxes (gst, fuel tax, ACC levies, government charges, etc) elsewhere; closing tax exemptions for property investors; and cutting back on services (see: Student allowances a thing of the past for post-graduate students ).

Even paper delivery kids were not exempt from the grasp of this Scrooge-like ‘government’. See:  Budget 2012: ‘Paper boy tax’ on small earnings stuns Labour)

It also desperately needed to proceed with it’s state asset sales.

A cynic with a conspiratorial ‘bent’ might suspect that National deliberately manufactured it’s own debt crisis so that it could justify the partial privatisation of Meridian, Genesis, Might River Power, Solid Energy, and Air New Zealand, to it’s corporate/investor/aspirationist constituent-base.

In doing so, not only was the door left open for their privatisation agenda – but the side-effects of tax cuts left National with few options and manouvering room for job creation policies.

With net government debt quadrupling in four years from $10.2 billion (2008)  to $50.6 billion (2012), and taxation revenue falling from $56.7 billion (2008) to  $55 billion (2012), their hands were seemingly “tied”.

Compounding matters,    National cut back state services and  fired thousands of state sector workers, resulting in a further drop in  expenditure, all of which  impacted harshly on the economy.

Whether Free Marketeers like it or not, the state is the #1 business generator in our economy and society. When it cuts spending, the flow-on effects on  other, down-stream businesses, is inescapable.

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Govt austerity slows growth, keeps rates low - RBNZ

Full story

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With higher income earners either saving their tax cuts or paying down debt, tax cuts failed to “fire” the economy as Little Leader said in 2009 and Dear Leader adamantly predicted in  2010,

By taking firm, early and decisive action, the Government is managing the downturn to cushion the immediate impact on New Zealanders and to enhance future growth.” – Bill English, 28 May 2009

See: Budget 2009 – House goes into urgency

We’ve cut all personal income tax rates, GST has increased to 15%, and we’ve boosted NZ Super, Working For Families, and benefit payments by 2.02% to compensate for the rise in GST.

Today’s changes are just one part of our comprehensive plan to grow the economy, create jobs, boost incomes, and raise living standards for all New Zealanders. The tax package improves incentives to work, and tilts the economy towards savings, investment, and exports.” – John Key, 1 Oct 2010

See: Tax cuts today

In May 2010, Key had even used the migration issue as justification to cut taxes for higher income earners, professionals, and others in top brackets,

We can be envious about these things but without those people in our economy all the rest of us will either have less people paying tax or fundamentally less services that they provide.

They include doctors, entrepreneurs often, scientists, engineers, lawyers, accountants, school principals and nurses.

On Thursday you will see a deliberate attempt to make sure those people stay and put their skills to work here in our economy.” – John Key, 18 May 2010

See:  Key again defends tax cuts

BS. All of it is, BS.

None of it worked, of course. The economy not only failed to grow – it  stagnated or contracted (see:  Economic recovery stagnates – NZIER). And despite two tax  cuts, migration to Australia skyrocketed – ten thousand higher than under the previous Labour government’s last four years.  (see related blogpost:  Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment y/e 2012: migration)

Up until 2011, two of our most important  industries – manufacturing and construction – contracted, at a time when the Christchurch re-build should have been growing their turn-over and profitability. The downturn in manufacturing and construction had a flow-on effect on the  Wholesale Trade sector,

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New Zealand in Profile_2012_economy

Source: New Zealand in Profile: 2012 – Economy

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Other measures of the economy show no sign of improvement,

Bank profits back over $3 billion while economy stagnates (24 April 2012)

then “good news”,

Pickup in economic growth predicted (29 Aug 2012)

followed two months later by bad news,

Businesses gloomy about economic growth (9 Oct 2012)

Current Account Deficit Widens (19 Sept 2012)

 Trade deficit widens as dairy values fall (27 Nov 2012)

Terms of trade continue to drop (4 Dec 2012)

Govt deficit up as tax take dips (5 Dec 2012)

Deficit $169m wider than predictions (6 Dec 2012)

Growth forecast cut, debt seen higher (18 Dec 2012)

Current account gap narrows as trade balance shrinks (19 Dec 2012)

Outlook slashes tax-take by $8b (19 Dec2012)

Whichever way one looks at it, it’s a mess.

And it’s simply a bad joke for Key to reassure us,

While I think we have to acknowledge that the last three years have been pretty tough with the Global Financial Crisis, on a relative basisNew Zealand’s been doing a better than a lot of other countries.” – John Key, 17 Nov 2011

See: Key and Goff Q&A: Creating jobs

Trying to suggest that we  are nowhere as bad off as other nations such as the US, Spain,  Greece, etc – so our current stagnating economy is somehow  acceptable – is sheer rubbish.

One might as well justify National’s poor performance and reckless decision-making by stating we are better off than Zimbabwe, Haiti, or Bangladesh,

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catching-up-with-bangladesh

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We should not be “worse off” than those nations – we headed into the Global Financial Crisis with relatively good economic indicators!

There is Always An Alternative!

A responsible government would have abandoned any prospect of taxcuts and prepared policies to keep people in work; off the unemployment queues;  paying taxes; and contributing to the economy.

Policies such as,

With Option #3, National appears to have missed the obvious.

Injecting several billion into a crash-programme to build ten thousand homes for New Zealanders, who are currently struggling to buy their own houses, makes sense.

The Christchurch re-build has proven this to be the case, as the NZ Herald reported on 20 December 2012,

The economy grew at an annual pace of 2.5 per cent, and was 2 per cent higher than the same quarter a year earlier. Revisions to previous quarters showed New Zealand dipped back into recession in the second half of 2010, with two 0.3 per cent contractions in each quarter.

 The New Zealand dollar dropped to 83.33 US cents after the figures were released, from 83.60 cents immediately before.

Construction kept the economy ticking over with a 4.5 per cent expansion, contributing 0.2 of percentage point to overall GDP. Electricity, gas, water and waste services grew 4.4 per cent in the quarter, contributing 0.1 of a percentage point in growth to GDP, underpinned by an increase in hydroelectric generation.

“Residential and non-residential building activities were both up strongly this quarter, and both were boosted by Canterbury,” Statistics NZ said in its report. “The upper North Island also contributed to the growth in residential building activity.”

The Canterbury rebuild, which is expected to top $30 billion, is widely seen as the saving grace for an economy that has struggled to recover from its deepest recession in two decades, and has been getting some help from a resurgent property market in Auckland in recent months.

See: Economy grows 0.2pc – saved by construction

Statistics NZ national accounts manager Rachael Milicich didn’t split hairs. She bluntly stated,

 “The growth in the latest quarter was driven by construction.”

See: Economic activity up 0.2 percent

As for the tax cuts stimulating the economy with extra spending – you can forget that pipedream. According to Statistics NZ,

Household consumption expenditure, which measures the volume of spending by New Zealand households, was flat this quarter (0.0 percent).

See: IBID

National not only bought the 2008 election with promises of unsustainable, unaffordable tax cuts – Key, English, Joyce, et al, squandered an opportunity to keep 70,000 New Zealanders in paid employment (see: Employment graph, 2008-2012).

It was all so unnecessary.

Addendum

In March 2008, the then Finance Minister, Michael Cullen said,

Even before these challenges hit home John Key wants to increase our debt to at least 25 per cent of GDP. But he does not pretend he wants to borrow more to pay for more services and he does not really believe he needs to borrow more to pay for roads. He only wants to outspend Labour on tax cuts.”

See: [Labour]Government will not borrow for tax cuts

According to Treasury, the current net government debt as at 30 June 2012  stands at… 24.8% of GDP – just shy of 25%,

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NZ Government net debt 2008 - 2012 - Cullen's prediction

Source: Treasury – Financial Statemement of the Government of New Zealand

Cullen called it 100%.

It’s a shame that 1,053,398 voters couldn’t look past their own selfishness, and the lure of cash dangled before them, by a Party that was hell-bent on it’s own agenda to win power at any cost.

For New Zealand, that cost measured $50 billion and 175,000 unemployed.

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Report_Card_growth

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Did this catch Dear Leader Key by surprise as well?

15 November 2012 8 comments

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Full story

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The sale of Hillside Workshops will affect it’s workers badly,

KiwiRail is making 80 to 90 workers at the Hillside railway workshop in Dunedin redundant after making only a partial sale of the site.”

See: Dozens of railway workshop jobs to go

I wonder – was John Key as surprised with this announcement today as he was a week ago,  when the HLFS   figures were recently  released, revealing that  unemployment was now at 7.3%?

I’m very surprised with the numbers I’ve seen this morning, goodness knows what the next one will look like.” – John Key, 8 November 2012

Perhaps he was. Perhaps, as Bryan Gould pointed out in the NZ Herald today,

In the wake of the grim news about factory closures and lay-offs over recent months, the figures were only to be expected. Indeed, the warnings about a crisis in manufacturing have been coming thick and fast, and from all quarters.

There was, though, one person, it seems, who was blindsided by the bad news. The Prime Minister, we were told by the television news, was “taken by surprise”. The only explanation for this is that John Key has paid little attention to the unemployment issue over the past four years, despite its destructive impact both on individuals and their families, and on society as a whole.”

See: Bryan Gould: Plight of jobless makes us all poorer

After four years of  Key’s “leadership”, what do we have?

  • High unemployment
  • A shortage of housing, and rising house prices
  • Exporters suffering under a high dollar
  • National policy designed to drive down wages (see: John Key’s track record on raising wages)
  • A stagnating economy

Adding to the above,  this report out today,

Continuing bad economic news is prompting forecasters to speculate the economy may have gone backwards for the first time in two years.

Retail figures for the September quarter showing a big fall in spending follow weak inflation and job numbers for the same period have been released in recent weeks.

Westpac economist Michael Gordon says there is a reasonable likelihood the economy contracted in the most recent quarter.

Deutsche Bank senior economist Darren Gibbs believes that at best, the economy failed to grow at all and possibly went backwards during the period.

He said a manufacturing survey for October due in the next fortnight will give the first indication of whether or not the economy’s loss of momentum is continuing in the current quarter.

Finance Minister Bill English told Morning Report that the numbers bounce from quarter to quarter and the latest figures are not of concern.

He said the economy is as uncertain as it has been for years, and the Government will continue to focus on straight forward objectives, like getting back to surplus and rebuilding Christchurch.”

See: Economy may be going backwards

No wonder New Zealanders are escaping to Australia faster than East Germans climbing The Wall, during the Soviet era,

A net loss of 39,500 people to Australia contributed to New Zealand’s net loss of migrants in
the September 2012 year. This is down from the record net loss of 40,000 in the August 2012
year. The September figure resulted from 53,700 departures to Australia, offset by 14,200
arrivals from Australia. In both directions, most migrants were New Zealand citizens.”

See: International Travel and Migration: September 2012

It’s not just the low pay (which is being driven lower by National policies); nor the cost of housing rising higher and higher as a minority speculate on  property for tax-free gains; nor rising unemployment; nor the growing wealth-divide.

What is driving New Zealanders to escape – and I use that word with precise deliberation – is that our society has a strong impulse for self-flagellation that manifests as constantly making wrong economic decisions. Instead of looking at the long term – sufficient numbers of New Zealand voters opt for short term benefits. The result is that few of our economic problems are actually  addressed in a meaningful way.

The joke is that so many New Zealanders still hold a quasi-religious faith in the National Party as “prudent managers” of the economy.

Which is sad, really.

National is the last political body to earn the reputation of “prudent manager”.

Any Prime Minister who reveals surprise at a worsening economic situation – despite data  screaming “Red Alert! Red Alert!” on every indicator, is one who is asleep at the wheel and hasn’t a clue what is going on around him.

How can a Prime Minister with an entire government department at his disposal, which spends $17,547,000 a year,  be oblivious to 13,000 people losing their jobs in the last three months?

See: Household Labour Force Survey: September 2012 quarter

Does he not read a newspaper?

Or, as with the GCSB briefing in February, was Key simply not paying attention?

Or perhaps, as with the John Banks police file, did he wilfully choose not to look at the information?

Precisely why are we paying this man $411,510 each year?!

One other reason why so many New Zealand voters are so deluded into voting for National; the old ‘aspirational middle class‘ thing.

We all want to be affluent, succesful, and secure. The National Party is filled to the brim with millionaires, rich lawyers, businessmen and women, etc. Even Paula Bennett knew how to rort the welfare system when she was on the DPB, and bought a nice house with WINZ assistance.

Mowst of us want that. So by electing National,  some of that success will rub of onto us, right?

Right?

So f*****g wrong.

Who benefitted from National’s 2009 and 2010 tax cuts? Check out the data,

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2009 taxcuts

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2010 taxcuts

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As the numbers above show, the higher your earnings, the greater your tax cut. Conversely,  the lower your earnings, the less you got.

If you earned $40,000 p.a. your tax-cuts in 2009 and 2010 was – $9.94.

At the same time, GST went up. That meant you were now paying 15% on food, electricity, fuel (more actually), rates, etc.

High income earners have done very nicely out of the tax cuts.

By contrast, the Australian governments treated their low-middle income earners somewhat differently,

As part of the Government’s policy to spread the benefits of the mining boom, one million people will be freed from paying tax when the tax-free threshold is trebled from A$6000 to A$18,200.

More than seven million earning less than A$80,000 ($102,000) will receive tax cuts and parents with children at school will be paid A$410 a year for each primary school pupil and A$820 for each secondary student.”

See: Fed-up Kiwis head to Oz en masse

That is called re-distribution of wealth to those who need it.

As compared to National’s re-distribution of wealth to those who do not need it.

It takes a while for the Aspirationists to wake up and realise that they’ve been conned. In the meantime, Key smiles and waves and bats away serious economic problems; Paula Bennett targets and blames the unemployed for daring to be unemployed; Hekia Parata is busy undermining our education system; John Banks is throwing taxpayers money at private Charter schools; and the rest of the National Party are further dismantling our once egalitarian society, and doing dubious back-room deals with casinos, big business, foreign governments, and god-knows-who-else.

The only thing that would really, really, really piss me off is that National voters became disenchanted with their own “government” – a mess of their own making –  and headed off to Australia. To hell with that!

It’s a shame that Aussie Customs can’t made a small addition to their Immigration Declaration Form,

Have you ever,

[] been convicted of a drugs offence?

[] been a part of a terrorist group?

[] voted National?

Ticking the last box should be grounds for immediate repatriation to New Zealand.

The Aussies may already have started: I understand that Paul Henry is being sent back to New Zealand?

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= fs =

Tax cuts and jobs – how are they working out so far, my fellow New Zealanders?

10 November 2012 10 comments

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Setting the scene

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The Rhetoric…

National’s rebalancing of the tax system is self-funding and requires no cuts to public services or additional borrowing.”

National Party: Tax Policy 2008

The Reality…

The public service has slashed 555 jobs in the past year and is expected to lose almost 400 more by June 2014, the government has revealed.”

Fairfax Media: 555 jobs gone from public sector

“Treasury today published the Government’s financial statements for the 10 months ended April 30, which showed the debt mountain had grown to $71.6b.”

Fairfax Media: Government debt rises to $71.6 billion

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The Rhetoric…

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.”

National Party: 2008: Personal Tax

The Reality…

Thousands of New Zealanders – including many disillusioned immigrants – are looking for new jobs and new lives in Australia…

… And, judging by the long queues for the $15 event, it seems many of the employers will have no problem finding takers among job seekers who say they are fed up with New Zealand and believe the lifestyle, pay and opportunities are far better across the Tasman.”

NZ Herald: Fed-up Kiwis head to Oz en masse

The unemployment rate rose half a percentage point to 7.3 per cent in the September quarter, the highest level since June 1999, according to Statistics New Zealand’s household labour force survey.

NZ Herald: Unemployment up to 7.3pc – a 13 year high

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Consequences

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On 1 October 2010, as National implemented it’s second round of tax cuts, John Key made this statement,

Our changes to the tax system are about:

  • Helping hardworking families get ahead
  • Boosting growth to create jobs and lift incomes
  • Encouraging savings and investment
  • Making the tax rules fairer for all New Zealanders.

Many of you have told me that you are worried about the increasing cost of living. That’s why the tax changes are so important.

From today, the average family will be about $25 a week better off, even after the increase in GST. The average earner will be about $15 a week better off. A retired couple receiving only NZ Super will be about $11 a week better off.

National was elected to secure a brighter future for New Zealanders and we are delivering on our promises.”

See: National Party: Special Edition – Tax cuts today

It is a common theme amongst the New Right and neo-liberal dogma that cutting taxes equates to more jobs. The idea is that with more money in people’s pockets; they spend more; consumption rises; industry has to produce more; and subsequently hires more staff.

That’s a lot of assumptions to make. As John Key, Bill English, and other National ministers stated, many people used their tax cuts to save and/or pay off debt,

One of the things we are trying to do is lift the national savings rate. When you lift the consumption taxes and lower personal taxes, you encourage people to save. That’s definitely happening, we’ve got a positive savings rate in New Zealand now.” – John Key, 2 April 2012

See: Key defends tax cuts in light of zero Budget

And I think it is going to keep dropping. Kiwis have got the message that debt is a bad thing” – but they had been convinced about the merits of saving more. People do want to save and they know there is no free lunch.” – Bill English, 14 March 2012

See: Debt being paid off, but savings not growing

And even if people do spend more, there is no guarantee that businesses will hire more staff. Much of our consumer goods now originates from overseas, and what we spend here in NZ probably has little effect with overseas manufacturers.

Even locally, there is certainly no guarantee that an extra $15 or $20 in taxcuts will result in more jobs. Especially when gst, fuel, electricity,  and government charges have risen to eat up tax cuts for low and medium paid workers.

New Zealand finance bosses are feeling good about the economic recovery, but research shows that optimism doesn’t extend to hiring new staff.

Global finance and accounting firm Robert Half’s survey of 200 chief financial officers and finance directors found 79 per cent were confident about the prospects of national growth in 2012.

Those who thought their own company would pick up speed in the year ahead made up an even higher proportion, at 87 per cent.

However, the rise in confidence did not translate to more jobs – just 13 per cent planned to take on new finance and accounting staff. “

See: Confidence up, but jobs still not a priority

So John Key’s hopelessly optimistic vision of   “boosting growth to create jobs” has become a distant dream, based on -?

  • Naive faith in a discredited “free market” dogma?
  • Helping out his rich mates?
  • A misguided belief that creating jobs could be easily done at the stroke of a pen?
  • Free Market fairies and Employment angels?!
  • All of the above?

To make the picture complete, I present for the reader’s interest this graph, correlating the ’09 and ’10 tax cuts, with unemployment levels,

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Source

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The graph above vividly illustrates the fallacy linking tax cuts to job creation.

Indeed, after two taxcuts, this country has little to show for it except slashed state services; thousands of state sector workers sacked; and having to borrow billions more from overseas to make up for the shortfall in the tax-take.

The closure of two schools for disabled children, Salisbury Residential School in Nelson and McKenzie Residential School in Christchurch, is perhaps the most tragic face of National’s harsh policies.  When we cut taxes, we cut essential state services, there is no other option.

National supporters and low-information voters may hold cherished beliefs  that cutting taxes are a good thing – until they themselves, or a family member,  requires a state service that has been wound back, or eliminated altogether.

Whilst most of us understand that cutting taxes does not lead automatically to the Holy Grail of  more jobs, our Dear Leader seemed stunned by the shock rise in unemployment,

I’m very surprised with the numbers I’ve seen this morning, goodness knows what the next one will look like.

Oh goodness, Dear Leader. “Surprised”, were we?

How can he have been surprised when unemployment has been rising since January, when it was at 6.4%?!

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Source

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Was he not paying attention – much like his briefing at GCSB offices when Kim Dotcom’s arrest was discussed?

Mr Key really needs to bring his mind back from the golf courses of Planet Key.

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Postscript

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Speaking from Japan (where it’s probably the safest place for him, right about now) John Key dismissed ideas of investing in job creation policies, saying,

 “It would be a dangerous precedence for us to start saying we are going to support a particular industry over another where there’s change. If you want to roll that all the way back we’d still be producing cars in New Zealand and that probably wouldn’t be in New Zealand’s best interests.

See: No tax break plans to keep jobs in NZ – Key

Key is happy to throw  tax breaks at the highest income earners in this country – but thinks that tax breaks for preserving jobs “wouldn’t be in New Zealand’s best interests“?!?!

And let’s not forget the generous tax breaks he gave to Warner Bros – a multi-billion dollar corporation – as a ‘sweetener’ to keep “The Hobbit” in New Zealand (when there was in reality no risk of production going overseas, according to Peter Jackson).

This man may have been raised in a state house, by a solo-mum, but it appears that he has lost all perspective. His fitness to be Prime Minister has to be seriously questioned.

Only six months earlier, Key was reported in the Dominion Post thusly,

The number of unemployed people increased 6.1 per cent to 160,000 but the labour force participation rate also rose, by 0.6 points to 68.8 per cent.

Key said the unemployment rate was “a very weird one at the moment”.

About 9000 jobs had been created and the Government was on track to create 170,000 over four years, he said.” – Dominion Post, 7 May 2012

See: Key – “Europe shows zero Budget wisdom”

Deluded? Make up your mind after  he went on to say the following (Warning: Contains Crazyiness),

The number of people looking for work or in work is virtually a record in New Zealand, the second highest rate ever. What that shows you is that New Zealanders are more confident the economy is coming right and actually bothering to look for work. I know it sounds crazy.” – John Key, 7 May 2012

See: Ibid

Well, yes; crazy.

Only John Key could be so utterly disingenuous as to laud rising unemployment as ” New Zealanders are more confident the economy “.

Batshit crazy, actually.

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Sources

Fairfax Media: Key defends tax cuts in light of zero Budget

National Party: Special Edition: Tax cuts today

Radio NZ: Tax breaks to save jobs ‘a dangerous precedent’

TV3: Opinion – Is our economy collapsing?

Sh*t to p*ss you off

TV3: NBR Rich List 2011 – NZ’s wealthy doing just fine

NZ Herald: We’re doing all right, says English, despite GDP slowdown

NZ Herald: Fed-up Kiwis head to Oz en masse

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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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National’s 2005 tax cut plans still credible – Key

From four years ago…

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Frank Macskasy  Blog  Frankly Speaking

Full Story

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Note this bit,

Questioned on whether National’s tax cuts programme of 2005 was credible today given the different economic circumstances, Mr Key said: “Well, I think it is”.  “

By the end of  2008, the global financial crisis was in full force,

  • March: 76 banks in the USA in financial trouble and at risk of failure – a 52% increase from the previous year – source
  • July: Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, Countrywide Financial, Bear Stearns, and other US corporations in financial trouble – source
  • September: Lehmann Bros files for bankruptcy – source
  • September: AIG files for bankruptcy – source
  • September: Russian stock exchange closes after 20% drop – source
  • September: New Zealand officially in recession – source
  • September: NZ Super Fund drops $880.75 million – source
  • October: Bush signs US$700 billion Wall Street bail out – source
  • October: Icelandic banks declared insolvent – source
  • October: UK government intervenes to bail out banks Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc, Lloyds TSB and HBOS Plc – source

Despite major banks, financial institutions, and other corporations collapsing or requiring massive bail-outs by tax-payers; despite New Zealand lready being in recession  – John Key went into the 2008 November elections promising,

John Key has defended his party’s planned program of tax cuts, after Treasury numbers released today showed the economic outlook has deteriorated badly since the May budget. The numbers have seen Treasury reducing its revenue forecasts and increasing its predictions of costs such as benefits. Cash deficits – the bottom line after all infrastructure funding and payments to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund are made – is predicted to blow out from around $3 billion a year to around $6 billion a year. ” – Source

By 1 April of this year, Bernard Hickey wrote in the ‘Herald’,

It is clear now that the Government has effectively cut the income tax rate and paid for it by borrowing money overseas, in large part from China. It is an act of economic treason and generational selfishness when a government has decided an already-wealthy part of the population deserves higher incomes paid for by loading foreign debt on future generations of taxpayers. ”  – Source

Hickey added,

The charts reveal the results of the cut in the income tax rate from 39 to 33 cents, which was in theory partly paid for by an increase in the GST rate from 12.5 to 15 per cent. They also reveal a massive reversal in a decade-long trend of improvement in New Zealand’s public debt position.

Our tax-to-GDP ratio has crashed from almost 34 per cent in late 2008 to 29 per cent last year, which means yet more borrowing on the horizon.

At the same time, the tax from individual incomes has fallen from around 32 per cent to around 24 per cent.

This is a direct result of the cut in the top personal tax rate and consumers’ shift to spending less and saving more. This means the higher GST rate is not collecting the revenue expected.

Meanwhile, interest-free student loans and Working For Families are deepening budget deficits. That is being paid for with increased Government borrowing to the tune of 15 per cent of GDP.

A collapse in the corporate tax take is only partly responsible and is largely due to the recession rather than any change in policy. It is now rebounding but the tax-to-GDP ratio is worsening.

This is unsustainable without an immediate and extended surge in economic growth, which few expect.

Voters will have to repay this debt in decades to come. Why are they not revolting at this national act of selfishness?

Why indeed?!

Because people are generally fiscally illiterate?

Because National supporters are intrinsically self-centered?

Because those who voted National allowed themselves to be persuaded by a smooth-talking, plausible-sounding moneyman-come-politician?

And for National – they were so desperate to replace Labour as government that they were willing to promise anything – no matter how irresponsible and unaffordable – to win the election.  It is this same willingness to make outrageous promises that are little better than bribes that got New Zealand into economic trouble during the Muldoon years.

To demonstrate how “credible National’s 2005 tax cut plans” really were, Bernard Hickey shared his “chart porn” with ‘Herald‘ readers,

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The charts reveal the results of the cut in the income tax rate from 39 to 33 cents, which was in theory partly paid for by an increase in the GST rate from 12.5 to 15 per cent. They also reveal a massive reversal in a decade-long trend of improvement in New Zealand’s public debt position.

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Frank Macskasy  Blog  Frankly Speaking

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Frank Macskasy  Blog  Frankly Speaking

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Frank Macskasy  Blog  Frankly Speaking

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Frank Macskasy  Blog  Frankly Speaking

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And some New Zealanders still delude themselves that National are sensible, prudent fiscal managers of our economy?

Not only have we borrowed billions  from China, America, etc to fund our tax cuts – but National is also having to cut social services. Like, teacher-numbers. Which will result in larger class-sizes.

Was it all worth it?

(National supporters need not answer that question. It is purely rhetorical.)

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References

Numbers reveal National disgrace

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

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

Full story

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Kudos to Human Rights Commissioner,  Dr Judy McGregor, for getting out of her office  to  work  ‘undercover’ in a residential aged care hospital. She discovered, first hand, the incredible hard work that rest home care-workers do – for the obscenely pitiful sum of $13.61 – caring for our elderly parents, grandparents, other family members, spouses, and friends.

The media report referred to,

” Although there were hoists to pull people from beds, there was still a lot of heavy lifting, and she was constantly worried she would hurt or drop someone.   ” – Ibid

This blogger is aware of the risks to resthome workers from heavy lifting. I am aware of one young woman who was a worker for Presbyterian Support Services, in the late 1990s. She damaged her back and went on  ACC for rehabilitation. Within a few months, she had lost her job at PSS;  ACC used one of their corporate medical specialists in Auckland to “re-assess” her; and she was ‘transferred’ to WINZ and put on to a sickness benefit. No further rehab – she was now a beneficiary and someone elses’ problem.

New Zealanders should be very worried about the poor pay and support given to resthome careworkers.

We are all aging.  A growing number of us will end up in rest homes – to be cared for by these low-paid workers. And we’ve been lucky so far in that resthome workers are deeply dedicated to their clients. As Dr McGregor said,

The complexity of the job was actually a surprise for me. It’s quite physical work, and it’s emotionally draining because you are obliged to give of yourself to other people.   Saint-like women do it every day so that older New Zealanders can have a quality of lifeAt the end of the day, carers are being paid less than the minimum wage for work that is grossly undervalued.

The question we should be asking ourselves is; how much longer can we rely on the good will of these workers?

All New Zealand workers are getting older – and this includes those rest home workers currently caring for the aged and infirm. The number of workers paying taxes to support retirees will be dropping from now onwards  (a fact which National continues to ignore),

At present, there are about 18 elderly people (i.e., 65 years and over) per 100 people of ‘working age’ (i.e., 15-64 years). By 2051, this ratio is predicted to increase to 43 per 100. ” – Source

Which means that as we move closer to the middle of this century, there will be fewer and fewer people in the workforce. This will put pressure on labour demand. That will result in pressure on wages. That  will result in  a labour shortage, as we saw in the early 2000s, during the previous Labour government.

As we Baby Boomers and Gen Yers reach retirement – who will be caring for us? Who will be wiping our chins and butts?

CTU spokeswoman Eileen Brown said that pay and work conditions had been a concern since the 1990s, and had continued to worsen. She’s right,

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

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When this issue was presented to Dear Leader, he leapt into instant, immediate, action,

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

Full Story

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As Key said,

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

“You could certainly change the proportion of where you spend money in health. We spend about $14.5 billion in the overall health sector.

“What’s going to go to pay the increase in this area? If you said all of the increase is going to go into this area, that would be roughly $600m over the forecast period which is four years… So that would have left us $1bn for other things.

“We put the money into cancer care and nursing and various other things. On balance, we think we got that about right. “

No, Mr Key, you did not “get this about right”.

How can you have “got it about right”, Mr Key,  when careworkers for our aged and infirm are paid rates that have been thoroughly condemned, by Dr McGregor, as  ” a form of modern-day slavery “?

It is interesting that John Key complains about a lack of funds,

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

Perhaps National would not have to wait until “ the country moves back to surplus ” – had they not cut taxes in 2009 nand 2010.

The 2009 tax cuts cost New Zealand $1 billion in lost revenue – there was no corresponding rise in GST,

New Zealand households will get a billion-dollar-a-year boost from tax cuts which take effect this week, Finance Minister Bill English and Revenue Minister Peter Dunne said today.

See:  Government delivers April 1 tax cuts, SME changes

Despite a rise a GST, the 2010 tax cuts  resulted in a $1.6 billion to $2.2 billion drop in taxation revenue.

See: Government’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting

That’s roughly $3 billion in lost revenue. Which would have been ample cash to even double the wage rate for careworkers.

The  first round of tax cuts on 1 April 2009 defies any logic. Especially when one considers that Treasury was already predicting a massive Budget blow-out and deficit as the global financial crisis and recession impacted on our own economy. The looming deficit was already known, a month before,

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Full story

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Even the Opposition Labour party was supportive of a more rational, prudent fiscal approach,

Labour has recently said it would support the government if it deferred the April tax cuts because of the rapid deterioration of the global economy. Prime Minister John Key has said the cuts will go ahead. ” – Ibid

Madmen were in control of the country’s treasury, and were hell-bent of spraying tax-dollars around,  as if we were still in the booming mid-2000s.

Unfortunately, three years later, the tax-cut revellry was over; Treasury was empty; and we are living the consequences of the ‘Mother of All Fiscal Hangovers‘, owing billions in debt. (As an aside – it’s crazy how so  many New Zealanders still harbour delusions of National’s “prudent fiscal management”.)

Little wonder that John Key is adamant that we don’t have the cash to raise the wages of our lowest paid healthcare/resthome workers. He’s telling the truth.

Because Dear Leader and National ‘partied like drunken sailors’ and frittered $3 billion away in an orgy of profligate tax cuts.

That is why rest home workers are struggling to survive on $13.61 an hour.

I wonder… who’s going to look after us when we retire?

Because as more workers retire, and the labour market shrinks, we are  faced with only two stark choices,

  1. Reverse the taxcuts and/or User Pays to pay for rest home workers in the coming decades,
  2. Or learn to wipe your own chins and butts.

It’s our call.

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Postscript

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Full story

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Mainstream Media Reports

Resthome spy hails saint-like workers

PM: No money for aged care workers

MPs get pay rise package of $7000

Related blogposts

1 March – No Rest for Striking Workers!

No Rest for the Wicked

References

Facing an Ageing Workforce: Information for Public Service HR Managers

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That was Then, This is Now #13

National prescribes bad medicine for the poor

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

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National’s tax cuts are coming back to bite us firmly on our collective arses.

In April 2009 and October 2010,  National cut income tax and raised gst from 12.5% to 15%.  Key and English insisted that the tax cuts/gst rise were “fiscally neutral”.

Like so many of National’s statements, that “fiscal neutrality” turned out to be a fiction,

The Green Party has today revealed that the National Government has so far had to borrow an additional $2 billion dollars to fund their 2010 tax cut package for upper income earners.

New information prepared for the Green Party by the Parliamentary Library show that the estimated lost tax revenues from National’s 2010 tax cut package are between $1.6-$2.2 billion. The lost revenue calculation includes company and personal income tax revenues offset by increases in GST.

“The National Government said that their signature 2010 income tax cut package would be ‘fiscally neutral’ – paid for increased revenues from raising GST. That hasn’t happened. The net cost for tax cuts has been about $2 billion,” Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman said today. “

See:   Govt’s 2010 tax cuts ‘costing $2 billion and counting’

As taxation revenue dropped,  National’s deficit has risen alarmingly,

The government took in $1.57 billion less tax than expected in the first nine months of the fiscal year, reflecting a tepid economy, Treasury figures show – reflecting what the Finance Minister says has been a ‘difficult year’.

The Crown took in $39.8 billion in tax in the nine months ended March 31, against a forecast in the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update estimate of $41.3 billion, according to the government’s financial statements. “

See:  Govt tax take down by $1.57 billion

Massive borrowings over the last three years has not staunched the bleeding of government revenue. Soon after the April 2009 taxcuts, government revenue had begun to drop,

The Crown accounts for the year to June, released yesterday, showed an all-up deficit of $10.5 billion, compared with a surplus of $2.4 billion the previous year.

The state’s core operations – such as health, education and defence – recorded a deficit of $4.5 billion as tax revenues fell while spending grew. “

See:  $250 million: What our Govt borrows a week

After the October 2010 tax cuts, that borrowing had risen, and by mid-2011 stood at around $380 million a week,

”  The Government is borrowing $380 million a week and next week’s budget will carry a record deficit of about $16 billion, Parliament was told today.

Finance Minister Bill English said the Government’s financial position had deteriorated “significantly” since late 2008.

“The pre-election update in 2008 forecast that the deficit for this year would be $2.4 billion,” he said.

“It’s much more likely to be around $15b or $16b.”

That level of deficit, as NZPA has previously reported, will be the highest in New Zealand’s history and Mr English confirmed that today.  “

See:  Govt borrowing $380m a week

See:  Government debt rises to $71.6 billion

History lesson over.

Test: what can we deduce from tax-cuts – especially made during a recession?

  1. Government revenue will fall.
  2. Government will have to borrow to make up the short-fall.
  3. Goverment will have to either increase taxes or cut services and/or increase User Pays charges for the public.
  4. All of the above.
  5. We don’t have to do anything, because National is a fabulous fiscal manager;  John Key waves his hands; and money magically falls from the sky.

If you, the reader picked anything except Option 4 – feel free to re-read the above and go do some further research on Basic Economics 101.

If you picked Option 5, then you are a  hopelessly committed National supporter.  Seek professional help – stat.

The fact of the matter is that none of the tax-cuts were ever affordable.

Common sense will tell even the most die-hard National groupie that if you reduce revenue, then one  has to cut expenditure and services; borrow to make up the shortfall; raise  user-charges; or all three. There ain’t no other way.

National has borrowed billions – that much is crystal clear from media reporting using  Treasury data.

What the New Zealand public also need to understand is that National will also be cutting expenditure and services and raising user-charges.

National has begun a programme of increasing user-pays charge for,

  • Prescription Charges

Prescription charges will increase from $3 an item to $5 an item in next week’s Budget, as the Government moves to offset the cost of extra health spending in the “zero Budget”.

The new charge will cover up to a maximum of 20 items from January 1 next year, raising $20m in the first year and $40m after that. “

See:  Prescription cost to rise to help pay for Budget

  • Raising the compulsory student loan repayment rate and cutting student allowances,

Up to 5000 students will be affected by the National-led Government’s cut to student allowances, Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce revealed this afternoon.  The Government announced a raft of changes to student loan and allowance schemes last week, including a stop to allowances after 200 weeks. “

See: Allowance cuts to affect up to 5000 students

”  The changes would see more than 500,000 people forced to pay back their student loans more quickly and people studying for more than four years would no longer be able to claim an allowance…

… The repayment rate for loans will be increased to 12 per cent from 10 per cent for any earnings over $19,084.

See:  Outrage at student loan changes

  • Government has cut back on the state sector, sacking 2,500 employees, including  60 frontline bio-security border staff.

The cost to our economy, should the Queensland fruit fly take hold, would be in the hundreds of millions. And if foot and mouth ever took hold, the cost to our economy could be in the order of  $10 billion over a two year period!  National is gambling with our economy, simply for the sake of a few million dollars.

Pests such as the Varroa mite and the Psa virus have already taken hold in our environment. The latter, the Psa virus, could impact on our $1.5 billion kiwifruit export industry.

See:  Kiwifruit disease Psa explained

See:  2500 jobs cut, but only $20m saved

See:  Risks involved in cutting MAF Biosecurity jobs

  • Teachers numbers “capped” and class numbers increased.

The ratio of teachers to students in New Zealand schools is set to be changed, Education Minister Hekia Parata announced today.

For year one the ration will remain at one teacher for every 15 pupils while the ratio for those preparing for NCEA exams in years 11-13 will be standardised to one teacher for every 17.3 pupils…

…  The Government is also putting a cap on the number of teachers by keeping it at the present level.

Parata says the Government is not reducing teacher numbers, but claims $43 million can be saved by not hiring any extra teachers. “

See:  Teachers ‘pushed out the door’ in Budget shake up – Greens

The implications of this cost-cutting exercise are mind boggling. Not only will be see class sizes increase, but there is the strong possibility that students with special needs will miss out. Larger class sizes will put extra pressure on teachers and students; make one-on-one teaching harder; and will possibly force many teaching staff to quit or move to Australia.

At a time when our society desperately needs more educated and trained young people, this is a counter-productive step that beggars belief.  Only a bean-counter (unmarried, no children of his/her own) could devise such a crazy proposal.

Ian Leckie, the New Zealand Educational Institute national president, said,

Essentially every child gets less attention, and if we’re ever going to be concerned about what happens for our children, we want them to get the best of service, put more children in the class, it makes it harder for the teacher, harder for children to succeed.”

New Zealand’s youth unemployment currently stands at 83,000 – up from  58,000 last year. How many believe that National’s plan will improve on that dire situation?

See previous blogpost:  Bennett confirms: there are not enough jobs!

How many believe that is not a desperate cost-cutting exercise?

And how many suspect that the “cap” will quickly become staffing cuts – as happened with state sector workers?

  • Government closes down Gateway Scheme – where those on low incomes were assisted to buy there own homes,

Prime Minister John Key says a scheme to provide up to 100 affordable homes at Auckland to people on low incomes is not needed because low interest rates mean there is greater capacity for people to buy their own homes.

Mr Key has been explaining the Government decision to scrap its Gateway scheme to help those on lower incomes buy homes in its flagship Hobsonville Point development, in Auckland.

It would have provided affordable homes in a flagship Auckland housing development but has been wound up with just 17 houses built. “

See:    Low interest cuts need for cheaper houses – Key

See:    Key backs cut-off for cheap homes plan

There will be other cuts to social services and/or rises in User Pays charges.

The net effect is that those who received tax cuts under $40,000 will find that the cuts have been swallowed up. Low and middle income earners may find that they are now not only no better off – but are having to put up with higher government charges and  less services.

Those on $100,000+ p.a.  have done very well.

Those earning $70-$80,000+ p.a. may escape  relatively unscathed.

Low income earners, on minimum wage ($13.50 p/h) or just above,  facing higher prescription charges,  will effectively  be paying for tax cuts for the high-income earners, wealthy, and asset-rich.

If the tax cuts were designed to reduce government expenditure; increase user-pays; and raise incomes for the top 10% – then National has achieved it’s goal.

National is continuing it’s 1990s agenda, albeit more slowly, and stealthily.

I wonder – is this what 1,058,638 New Zealanders voted for, when they cast their ballot for National. More user pays?

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Information

Tax Cuts April 2009

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking  tax cuts april 2009

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Tax Cuts October 2010

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking tax cuts 2010

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By contrast,

Health Minister Tony Ryall said the $5 cost would be applied to the first 20 items of medicine per family each year, so no family would pay more than $100 a year for their prescription costs.

The current maximum for prescription costs was $60 a year. “

See:  Meds price hike: ‘Children will die’

The last word goes to Mana MP, Hone Harawira,

”  Doctors are saying right now that children’s health is being threatened by the price of medicine now. You have to assume that if Government raises that price then children will die as a result of that measure.

I don’t believe that any Government could be so callous.

Absolutely I think that these measures, although it is going to be difficult to prove, will lead to children dying, through the inability of their parents to afford the charges for medicine that are being proposed by this National/Maori Party Government.

Every price rise impacts poor people in a far greater way than it does people on the kinds of levels of income that him and his mates are on. So yes it is going to hurt every poor person in this country – Maori, Pacific and Pakeha”.

See: Ibid

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Additional

Government delivers April 1 2009 tax cuts, SME changes

Budget 2010: What the tax cuts mean for you

Prescription cost to rise to help pay for Budget

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How Paula Bennett and National are wasting our taxdollars

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Frank Macskasy - Frankly Speaking - Blog - Welfare - unemployment - reforms

Source

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National today announced that “there will be an upfront investment in welfare reform of $520 million over four years to support more beneficiaries into work“.

What, precisely, does that mean; “to support more beneficiaries into work“?!

A NZ Herald report attempted to provide some answers,

The funding package includes $80 million for early childhood education and childcare assistance payments, $55.1 million for 155 Work and Income staff who will be dedicated to support people back into work, and $148.8 million for youth services.

Ms Bennett said the $287.5 million included $81.5 million of additional funding, but the remainder would come from “reprioritised” funding from within Social Development.” – Source

Bennett added,

The Government’s welfare changes require significant up-front financial support. We’ve made a commitment to provide that investment to ensure fewer people are on welfare long term.” – Ibid

Extra funding for childcare  is always a good thing (though with National, expect the obligatory ‘fish hooks’ – National gives nothing away without a hidden barb somewhere in the deal), and this Blogger congratulates such a move.

But where this Blogger has serious concerns is the euphemism employed by  Bennett, Key, and other well-paid right wing politicians,  when they claim that ‘reforms’  “will be to support people back into work “.

National’s idea of what constitutes “support” is often at stark variance with how others might define support.

The all important issue is; are there enough jobs in the country for beneficiaries to go into?  This is no empty question, as Paula Bennett herself admitted last Sunday (29 April), on TVNZ’s Q+A,

SHANE         
Can I ask you about work, though? Do you think that there is a job out there for all these young people who really really want a job? Is there a job out there for young people who really want a job?

PAULA         
No. There’s not a job for everyone that would want one right now, or else we wouldn’t have the unemployment figures that we do.

- Source

If, as Bennett admits, there there’s not a job for everyone that would want one right now, then what is the purpose of spending over  half a billion dollars of taxpayers’ money on “welfare reforms”?

Next question: why not invest that $520 million in job creation progammes? We have a critical housing shortage; growing poverty;  and unemployment is rising again – why not invest in job creation?

Why invest in welfare “reforms” – when welfare ain’t broke? Welfare is working precisely as intended and is keeping people alive, fed, and housed at a time of economic recession/stagnation.

As Bennett admitted on Q+A, it is the employment market that is broken and there are not enough jobs for those who want one. It’s as simple as that: not enough jobs.

Which means that John Key and Paula Bennett are wasting $520 million of our taxes on a pointless, futile exercise.

How many new jobs will  welfare “reforms” create? Not a single one.

This may give ‘jollies’ to National Party groupies; assorted right wing zealots; anti-beneficiary bigots; and low-information voters – but in the end this waste of resources and obvious exercise in beneficiary victimisation will be  as useful as seeking a meaningful relationship by scouring internet porn-sites.

I don’t mind if right wingers indulge in a mindless,  political, circle-jerk. But not when we, the taxpayer, have to pay for it.

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Postscript

Our Dear Leader, the Prime Minister of New Zealand enjoyed the benefits of a modern welfare society that protects those in need;

  • 1967: Key’s mother would have had access to the widow’s benefit when her husband passed away,
  • The Key family lived in a low-rent,  State House, in Christchurch
  • 1979-81: Key received a free tertiary education at Canterbury University (BCom in accounting)
  • Key would most likely have received a student allowance during his tertiary studies
  • Key received an extra $5,096 p/a from the April 2009 taxcuts
  • Key recieved an extra $7,100 p/a from the October 2010 taxcuts

Source

Paula Bennett, Minister of Welfare,

  • Paula Bennet was a solo-mother, at age 17
  • Just two years later, she used a Housing Corporation loan to buy a $56,000 house in Taupo.
  • All of this while on the domestic purposes benefit.
  • Paula Bennet was a recipient of the Training Incentive Allowance (a WINZ benefit)
  • Paula Bennet obtained her degree at Massey University, through the TIA – a taxpayer-funded benefit

Source

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References

NZ Herald: Budget: Welfare plans revealed

NZ Herald: Unemployment rate lifts to 6.7pc

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Is this where I insert, “I told you so, NZ!”?

In the last couple of years,  this blogger has been pounding away, wearing out one keyboard after another; shooing cats of piles of documents; drinking enough coffee to deny me sleep for the rest of the decade…

To make a point.

By early 2008, recession was looming following a banking crisis that started in the US,

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John Key’s history in international finance would have alerted him immediatly of the looming crisis. It was irresponsible of him to campaign on tax cuts when he must have known they were unachievable, as New Zealand’s economy began to slump.

To point out the blindingly obvious:  New Zealanders in 2008 voted tax cuts for themselves that we could ill-afford as a nation. We were warned, even as far back as 2008,

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No one who voted for National in 2008 can genuinely claim ignorance – we were warned. News of the building crisis and recession filled the media. New Zealanders’ greed for money simply outstripped their common sense,

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We should have taken note when John Key “assured” us,

Our tax policy is therefore one of responsible reform…  We have ensured that our package  is appropriate for the current economic and fiscal conditions… 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… National’s rebalancing of the tax system is self-funding and requires no cuts to public services or additional borrowing.’ “ – National Party: Tax Policy

Yeah, right.

Despite all the media reports; despite all the warnings; despite all the criticisms that National’s programme of tax cuts was unaffordable, on 8 November 2008,  1,053,398 New Zealanders voted for National.

As a result of cutting taxes in April 2009 and October 2010, government revenue dropped. The supposedly “fiscally neutral “tax-switch” wasn’t so much a “switch” as a parlour-trick. It wasn’t our money that John Key was giving back to us – it was money borrowed from overseas.

The first tax cuts kicked in on 1 April 2009. That was followed by this media report,

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The second round of tax cuts took effect on 1 October 2010. Predictably, that was followed by this media report, eight months later,

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Yesterday, the NZ Herald  published this piece penned by Bernard Hickey. It wasn’t just highly critical of the National  – it accused the John Key’s government of;

  • being fiscally irresponsible
  • enacting policies designed to please its wealthy backers
  • borrowing money overseas, to fund taxcuts
  • economic treason
  • and generational selfishness

Bernard Hickey did not mince his words,

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Hickey went on to state,

“The charts reveal the results of the cut in the income tax rate from 39 to 33 cents, which was in theory partly paid for by an increase in the GST rate from 12.5 to 15 per cent. They also reveal a massive reversal in a decade-long trend of improvement in New Zealand’s public debt position.

Our tax-to-GDP ratio has crashed from almost 34 per cent in late 2008 to 29 per cent last year, which means yet more borrowing on the horizon.

At the same time, the tax from individual incomes has fallen from around 32 per cent to around 24 per cent.

This is a direct result of the cut in the top personal tax rate and consumers’ shift to spending less and saving more. This means the higher GST rate is not collecting the revenue expected.

Meanwhile, interest-free student loans and Working For Families are deepening budget deficits. That is being paid for with increased Government borrowing to the tune of 15 per cent of GDP.

A collapse in the corporate tax take is only partly responsible and is largely due to the recession rather than any change in policy. It is now rebounding but the tax-to-GDP ratio is worsening.

This is unsustainable without an immediate and extended surge in economic growth, which few expect.

Voters will have to repay this debt in decades to come. Why are they not revolting at this national act of selfishness?” – Ibid

To illustrate his point, Hickey charted New Zealand’s economic progress (or lack, thereof),

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Hickey condemns the borrowing-funded tax cuts by calling it for what it is: inter-generational theft. It is a massive debt that will have to be repaid by loading that debt onto future generations of taxpayers.

Like hell !!

Many of the next generation won’t have a bar of paying of their parents’ debt. They’ve already decided to take the only logical step,

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Bernard Hickey, and many other political, economic, and social commentators have highlighted the bad decisions that voters continually make. Unsurprisingly, we all like tax cuts – who wouldn’t want more money to spend on nice, new, shiny things.

Voting for wealth is not enough to make us wealthy. Especially if, at the same time, we expect all the nice things that a modern social democracy has to offer; free education; free healthcare; good roads and public transport; a pension at retirement; and lots of other state services funded by – taxation.

Well and truly, we have shot ourselves in the foot. We voted for more wealth, through taxcuts, and comprehensive social services – and we’ve ended up with neither.

And we have no one to blame but ourselves. We did this; 1,053,398 New Zealanders voted for it.

Here’s an idea: every single person who voted for National in 2008 and 2011 should be sent an invoice for their share of our country’s debt. Wouldn’t that be a lovely prospect?

Meanwhile, the final word goes to National’s Finance Minister, Bill English,

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A few previous blogposts on tax cuts

A warning from a very, very rich man (17 August 2011)

Greed is good? (28 August 2011)

Blood from a stone? (27 January 2012)

Tax cuts & school children (2 February 2012)

Authors of our own mis-fortune? (20 February 2012)

The Muppet Show – Kiwi style! (21 February 2012)

Additional

Surplus date looks increasingly tough, says Key

Budget deficit keeps getting worse

 

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An Expensive Lesson?

18 March 2012 5 comments

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Once upon a time, New Zealand had free education. (Including free university education as well.)

Then, madness set upon us in the 1980s and 1990s.

We welcomed bribes from successive centrist or right wing governments who gave us seven tax cuts from 1986.  As a society, we were warned by the like of Jane Kelsey, Jim Anderton, and many others that this would not end well; that tax cuts demanded corresponding cuts in social services and more and more User Pays.

As Jim Anderton often said at public meetings,

User pays means that if you can’t pay for it, you can’t use it!”

Students and their families  are discovering that truism the hard way.

User pays;

Free medical prescriptions (remember those?) went out the door.

Free University education – now not free. We have a massive mountain of student debt, with 834,000 students having borrowed $13.9 billion since 1992.

In 2005, Otago Polytechnic Student’s Association President, Rachel Dibble said,

This debt will have an outrageous effect on the country. There will be a flow on cost to services supplied by graduates, and drive the cost of living higher. The current brain drain overseas will worsen.

School fees – once voluntary, to pay for “extras”, are now chased up by schools using debt collectors.  No longer used for “extras”  like trips away, they are now a critical part of school operations.  Fees  buy toilet paper and chalk.

A recent media report stated,

Family First NZ says that parents have paid over $1 billion in school donations over the past four years to prop up state school budgets – and low income families in low decile schools are also paying significant amounts.

According to information gained under the Official Information Act, the total amount of school voluntary donations/fees actually paid by families in the last four years has been $234m (2007), $247m (2008), $272m (2009), and $266m (2010) – totaling $1.02b.” – Source

The latest news in our ongoing  saga of education’s self-destruction in this country is that now NZQA is denying thousands of students from being awarded NCEA credits that they have achieved through their studies.

This is not just unfair; it is a lunatic policy enabled by an insular right wing National government that is so far out of touch with mainstream New Zealand, that it was last sighted by the Hubble telescope passing the orbit of Pluto, and heading further out into Deep Space.

But metaphors aside, New Zealanders need to take stock and ask themselves: where the hell are we headed? When further barriers are erected in front of disadvantaged families and their childre; to make it harder to take up opportunities to better themselves – just what the hell are we trying to achieve here?!

Earlier today, before I read the article above, I wrote this piece;  What will be her future? The piece was about three possible futures for a young child.

By no means do I blame schools, Universities, or the NZQA. Even successive governments – to a degree – are only doing what they can get away with,  using tax cuts to  chase after our  votes.

No, the responsibility lies with  voters who have permitted this sad state of affairs to happen and to get progressively worse. Too many people have been seduced by the offerings of politicians without questioning some pretty basic issues;

  • If we accept tax cuts – how will we pay for essential social services? Funding for these services do not materialise out of thin air, at the wave of Harry Potter’s magic wand. These services require cold, hard cash – taxes.
  • Is an ever-increasing User Pays in education helping or hindering? How will the disadvantaged cope? Do we even care?
  • If we don’t care about the disadvantaged in our society – why should they care about society itself? And how does a society survive and prosper if the majority care more about what elected politicians can do for them (eg, tax cuts) – rather than what those same politicians should be doing for the country as a whole?

A wise man  (or, his speech writers) once remarked,

“…ask not what your country can do for you — ask what can you do for your country.”

It seems we have forgotten that very simple philosophy.

This current government is rotten. It has no inkling of how to address the critical social problems plaguing our society. It is more concerned with shuffling ministries; cutting the state sector; sacking workers; cutting taxes (for some); and cutting social services. Expect no sensible solutions from them.

If we look at the political alternatives, it is up to each and every New Zealander to tell the leaders of Labour, Greens, NZ First, and Mana what kind of  society we want. And that we are willing to pay for it.

I may be a left-winger, but even I know a simple truth; there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. If we want free education and free healthcare, we better be prepared to pay for it. (And that includes those who have escaped taxation because their wealth is not in the form of taxable income.)

The solution is in our own hands.

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“Please Explain” email sent to Education Minister, Hekia Parata,

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From:      “Frank Macskasy” <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
To:            hekia.parata@parliament.govt.nz
Date:        Sunday, 18 March, 2012 11:31 PM
Subject:  NCEA fees demanded from students

Kia ora Ms Parata,

I noted a recent media article which stated that “a $76.70 fee is stopping thousands of students from being awarded NCEA credits they have achieved” and that “all high school pupils who sit NCEA must pay the fee to their school and those who don’t will not have their achievements formally awarded, meaning some students have to re-sit assessments in order to complete NCEA levels. In 2010 more than 3000 students did not have their achievements formally awarded”.

Could you please comment on this issue and explain why, when we supposedly have free education in this country, that NZQA is demanding a fee from students in return for awarding their NCEA  Credits?

Is this National policy and does the government stand by this?

Link: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/6593846/NCEA-fee-shuts-out-hard-up-students

-Frank Macskasy
Blogger,
Frankly Speaking

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Related Blogpost

What will be her future?

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“We must depoliticize children’s issues…”

9 March 2012 3 comments

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An OECD comparitive table on international tax rates (OECD average income tax, %,  single person at 100% of average earnings, no child). Australian, Swedish, and New Zealand comparisons highlighted in red,

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OECD average income tax (%) single person at 100% of average earnings , no child sweden australia new zealand

Source

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As the table clearly shows,

  • New Zealand’s tax rate (single person at 100% of average earnings, no child) is lower than Australia,
  • New Zealand’s tax rate (single person at 100% of average earnings, no child) is marginally lower than Sweden,
  • The OECD average is dragged down by countries such as Mexico, Korea, and Greece,
  • During the Clark-led Labour Government (2000-08), New Zealand’s tax rate was consistantly lower than Australia.

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Comparing taxation with social outcomes for our children and families, we find the following. The table shows, with grim clarity, that we are lagging behind. Australian, Swedish, and New Zealand comparisons highlighted in red.,

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OECD child wellbeing sweden australia new zealand

Source

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Meanwhile, from “Inside Child Poverty New Zealand’s” Facebook page…

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” 63 people voted in this week’s Friday Poll on National’s Welfare reforms. 55 don’t like them, 5 do like them and 3 don’t know.

Me? I think yet again here are policies which do not think through what impact the economic policy will have on the current and future well being of the child.

All the long term research tells us that if we do not get the first 6 years of a child’s life right in terms of meaning health, social and emotional needs – we risk spending huge amounts of money in crisis management is the child grows into an adult with health problems and anti-social attitudes and quite possibly emotional scarring from having to live with strangers for the better part of each day from year 1.

Opting for short term populist solutions instead of long terms planning and ring fencing our children from the storms of politics is not statesmanship, it’s salesmanship .

The legacy of the 1991 mother of all budgets was a dramatic increase in the all the diseases of poverty that affect poor children most. What part of that do the current architects of welfare reform not understand?

We must depoliticize children’s issues, come to a common cross party agreement about the appropriate level of community responsibility for ALL our children, work out the most cost effect method of meeting those needs and then ring fence it so no future governments can mess with it. This is the Swedish system. It is why they are No2 in the OECD for child well being and we are No 28 with only Turkey and Mexico below us.”

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Bryan Bruce is 100% correct. The OECD stats paint a grim picture of Sweden achieving much superior outcomes for their children than we do. (The link to the relevant report is given below, under “Resources” – it’s worth having a look.)

This is one table, showing data on “Comparative policy-focused child well-being in 30 OECD countries”. New Zealand and Swedish comparitive rankings are underlined in red,

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Comparative policy-focused child well-being in 30 OECD countries Australia New Zealand Sweden

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And a similar table, this time compiled from UNICEF data. Whilst New Zealand and Australia are not represented on this graph, it is interesting to note that the Scandinavian social-democracies rate consistantly better for children than the market-led, more capitalist-oriented nations of America and Britrain (both of which have considerable problems with poverty and other social problems),

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Only the de-politicisation of child poverty can achieve practical, serious, and long-lasting solutions to this growing problem. National and Labour must work together if this is to be achieved.

Both parties have achieved cross-Party concensus on issues such as superannuation and our Nuclear Free policy. We need to be asking the question; why can’t the same be done for child poverty?

If Sweden and the other Scandinavian social-democracies can achieve a measure of success in this area – we need to be asking ourselves; why can’t we?

This issue is not beyond our means, abilities, and wealth to address. We have all that.

What’s missing is one thing to resolve this problem; the will to do it.

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Additional

Food parcel families made ‘poor choices’, says John Key

No track kept of ‘lost’ kids

New Cabinet must get busy working for children

Fear of dangerous rift from wealth gap

Children absent from new welfare policy

Resources

OECD Report: Comparative Child Well-being across the OECD

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Why did the Kiwi cross The Ditch?

6 March 2012 3 comments

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During the Cold War, Eastern Europeans used to “vote with their feet” and escape to the West. Often that migration was done at great personal risk to themselves and their families.

The Poles, Hungarians, Czecks, East Germans, et al, who crossed from the Eastern European Zone did so in search of freedom – political, economic, and social. For them, the repression in their home nations was sufficient motivation to up-root and leave behind family and friends, in search of something better.

Whilst the risk isn’t quite the same for us (no armed border guards; semi-rabid guard dogs; sentry towers with searchlights and machine-gun posts), New Zealanders are still voting with their feet,
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Unlike their Eastern European cuzzies, New Zealanders are not leaving simply to improve their financial lot (though that certainly plays a major part).

I believe there is much more involved in the psychology behind this migration.

Since the Rogernomics New Right “reforms” of the late 1980s, New Zealand  has been socially re-engineered. New, neo-liberalistic values of obeisance for wealth; state sector “efficiency”; low taxes; minimal government;  user pays in many, previously free social services; and a quasi-religious intolerance of those at the bottom of the socio-economic scale who are left behind in the mad scramble for money and status.

A new creed of Personal Good trumps Social Needs, and Individual Rights/Needs trumps Community Well-being.

It is a New Right puritanism that demands solo-mothers (but not solo-fathers) “go out to work” –  blind to the concept of raising a family as being a vital form of work.

It is the demand for Individual Rights to have 24/7 access to alcohol – irrespective of harm caused to society (see BERL report) and the eventual cost to tax-payers.

It is the craven reverance shown to 150 Rich Listers who increased their wealth by a massive 20% in 2010 – whilst condemning working men and women who are struggling to keep their wages and conditions in the face of an onslaught by employers, emboldened by a right wing government. (Eg; AFFCO, Maritime Workers, ANZCO-CMP Rangitikei)

It is a nasty streak of crass, moralistic judgementalism that blames the poor for being poor; invalids for being born with a disability or suffering a crippling accident; solo-mums (but not solo-fathers) for daring to be responsible enough to raise a family; and the unemployed for being in the wrong Place/Time when the global banking crisis metastasized into a full-blown worldwide Recession, turning them from wage earning tax-payers – to one of crony capitalism’s “collateral damage”.

In all this, having a sense of community; of belonging to a wider society; and of being a New Zealander  – has been sublimated. Except for ANZAC Day; a national disaster; and when the All Blacks are thrashing the Wallabies, we show very little sense of nationalistic pride or social cohesion.

Indeed, I recall some years ago being in a 24/7 convenience store in downtown Wellington, on ANZAC Day. It was not yet 1pm, so by law alcohol could not be sold.

I noticed a customer in the store selecting a bottle of wine from the chiller and taking it to the checkout, to purchase. As per liquor laws, the checkout operator could not legally sell that bottle of wine, until after 1pm.

The operator explained that it was the law; it was ANZAC Day; and it was a mark of respect (most shops weren’t even open before 1pm).

The customer, a  fashionably-dressed young(-ish) man remonstrated with the checkout operator and said in a voice loud enough for everyone in the shop to hear; “I don’t give a shit about ANZAC Day. I just want to buy this wine.”

And that, I believe sums up our present society. That young man simply didn’t care. He  wanted something and he couldn’t believe it was being denied to him.

To him (and others like him, who usually vote ACT and/or National), all he knew was that he WANTED a THING and his right to have it, if he could pay for it, was paramount.

What does that say about a society?

Firstly, what it says is, to some folk,  a society is little more than a flimsy, abstract concept – and not much more – with ‘Society’ being subservient to the demands of the Individual.

Secondly, if Society is nothing more than an abstract concept – as one person recently wrote to me on Facebook – then there is no way whatsoever that an individual can feel a sense of “belonging”.

“Belong” to what? A geographic place on a map that happens to have a different name and colouring to another geographic place adjacent to it?

If people who happened to be born in a Geographic Area; designated “New Zealand”; coloured pale-green on the map; decide that they can earn more money in another Geographic Area; designated “Australia”; coloured ochre on the map – then moving from “A” to “B” is nothing more than a logistical exercise. Kinda like shifting house from one street to another.

When we have no concept of “society” – then people will “vote with their feet”. They simply have nothing else to consider when making a decision except solely on material factors.

An expat New Zealander, living in a Geographic Area across the Tasman Sea, told the “Dominion Post“,

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“A Victorian-based Kiwi with a student loan debt, who did not want to be named because he did not want to be found by the Government, said he did not intend to pay back any of his student loan.

The 37-year-old’s loan was about $18,000 when he left New Zealand in 1997. He expected it was now in the order of $50,000. The man was not worried about being caught as the Government did not have his details and he did not want to return to New Zealand.

“I would never live there anyway, I feel just like my whole generation were basically sold down the river by the government. I don’t feel connected at all, I don’t even care if the All Blacks win.

“I just realised it was futile living [in New Zealand] trying to pay student loans and not having any life, so I left. My missus had a student loan and she had quite a good degree and she had paid 99c off the principal of her loan after working three years.”Source

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If we extrapolate this situation to it’s logical outcome, it becomes obvious that New Zealand’s future is to become a vast training ground for the global economy, with thousand of polytechs, Universities, and other training institutions churning out hundreds of thousands of trained workers for the global economy.

Our children will be born; raised; schooled; educated; and then despatched to  another Geographic Area. It gives a whole new meaning to Kiwis “leaving the nest”.

When Finance Minister Bill English  told Radio New Zealand,
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We know roughly what the recipe is, policies that support business that want to employ and create opportunities, that provide people with skills and reward those skills.

“We are getting those in place, despite the fact that we’ve had a substantial recession. We believe we can make considerable progress over the next four to five years.” – Source

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… he was quite correct – though not quite in the way he was intending. New Zealand will “provide people with skills and reward those skills” – just not for this country.

National leader John Key, once again, was of in la-la land as usual when he said,
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Over the last three years I believe we’ve made some progress, so much that we have been closing that after-tax wage gap, we are building an economy that is now growing at a faster rate than Australia, but it will take us some time to turn that around.” – Source

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Dear Leader really should stop smoking that wacky baccy. It’s all utter rubbish of course. The economy is not “growing at a faster rate than Australia” (except in Key’s fantasies) and rather than “closing that after-tax wage gap” – it’s actually been widening.

Worse than that, employers – with support from National  – are actively engaged in a “class war” against their own employees to lower wages and to destroy workers’ rights to bargain collectively through a  Union.

The lockout of AFFCO workers  and threat by Ports of Auckland Ltd to casualise and contract out their workforce is nothing more or less than a campaign to reduce wages and increase profits for shareholders.

So much for Key’s bizarre claim “we have been closing that after-tax wage gap“. (No wonder we trust politicians at the same level as used-car salesmen.)

Not a very pretty picture… and yet that is the future we seem to be creating for ourselves.

How do we go about undoing the last 27 years of free-market, monetarist obsession?

Do New Zealanders even want to?

We should care – quite a bit, in fact.

The more skilled (and semi-skilled) people we lose to another Geographic Area, the fewer taxpayers we have remaining here.  Those taxpayers would be the ones who would be paying for our retirement; our  pension; and caring for us in Retirement Homes up and down the country.

Which means, amongst other things, that we’d better start paying Rest Home workers a more generous wage rather than a paltry $13.61 an hour  –  or else we’ll be wiping our own drool from our mouths and sitting for hours on end in damp, cold, incontinence pads. Even semi-skilled workers contribute more to our society than we realise.

If we want to instill a sense of society in our children – instead of simply living in an “economy” or Geographic Area – then we had better start re-assessing our priorities and values.

We can start with simple things.

Like; children. What is more important; a tax-cut, or providing free health-care and nutritious meals at schools for all children?

(If your answer is “Tax cut” because feeding children is an Individual and not a  Social need, then you haven’t been paying attention.)

Children who are all well-fed and healthy tend to do better at school. They learn better. They succeed. And they go on to succeed in life.

But more importantly, if society as a whole looks after all children – irrespective of whether they were lucky enough to be born into a good family,  or unlucky to be born into a stressed family of poverty and despair – then those children may, in turn look after us in decades to come.

If we want our children to feel a part of a society – our society – then we have to instill that sense of society in them at an early age.

Who knows – instilling a sense of society in all our children may achieve other desirable goals; lower crime; lower imprisonment rates; an urge to contribute more to the community;  less family stress and divorce; stronger families; less community fragmentation and alienation…

We’ve tried everything else these past three decades – and things aren’t getting better.

The focus on materialism and Individualism has not delivered a better society, higher wages, or other beneficial social and economic outcomes. Instead, many of our fellow New Zealanders are turning away and going elsewhere for a better life.

Quite simply, if people are Voting with their feet, then this is a Vote of No Confidence in our country.

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How Can A Minister of Finance Get It So Wrong???

28 February 2012 4 comments

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Five days ago, Finance Minister Bill English released a statement on the part-privatisation of several State Owned Enterprises. It is worthwhile re-printing his statement in full, and responding to it, point-by-point,

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Running up $5-$7b more debt not the answer

by Hon Bill English, Finance
23 February 2012

Opponents of the Government’s mixed ownership programme need to explain to New Zealanders why it would be better to borrow an extra $5 billion to $7 billion from overseas lenders, Finance Minister Bill English says.

Speaking to an Auckland Chamber of Commerce and Massey University business lunch today, he said the challenge was how the Government pays for forecast growth in taxpayers’ assets over the next few years.

“Taxpayers own $245 billion of assets, and this is forecast to grow to $267 billion over the next four years. So we are not reducing our assets. Our challenge is how we pay for their growth, while getting on top of our debt.”

The rationale for offering New Zealanders minority stakes in four energy companies and Air New Zealand is quite simple, Mr English says.

“First, the Government gets to free up $5 billion to $7 billion – less than 3 per cent of its total assets – to invest in other public assets like modern schools and hospitals, without having to borrow in volatile overseas markets.

“Our political opponents need to honestly explain to New Zealanders why it would be better to borrow this $5 billion to $7 billion from overseas lenders at a time when the world is awash with debt and consequent risks.

“We would rather pay dividends to New Zealanders on shares they own in the energy companies than pay interest to overseas lenders on more borrowing.

“The fact is, the Government is spending and borrowing more than it can afford into the future. So it makes sense to reorganise the Government’s assets and redeploy capital to priority areas without having to borrow more.

“Most nights on television, we see the consequences of countries in Europe and elsewhere borrowing too much. We don’t want that for New Zealand.”

Secondly, under the mixed ownership programme New Zealanders will get an opportunity to invest in big Kiwi companies so they can diversify their growing savings away from property and finance companies.

“Counting the Government’s controlling shareholding, we’re confident 85-90 per cent of these companies will be owned by New Zealanders, who will be at the front of the queue for shares.”

Thirdly, mixed ownership will be good for the companies themselves, Mr English says.

“Greater transparency and oversight from being listed on the stock exchange will improve their performance and the companies won’t have to depend entirely on a cash-strapped government for new capital to grow.

“We already have a living, breathing and successful example of mixed ownership in Air New Zealand, which is 75 per cent owned by the Government and 25 per cent by private shareholders.”

In his speech, Mr English reiterated the Government’s economic programme this term would focus on rebuilding and strengthening the economy.
It’s main priorities are:

  •     Responsibly managing the Government’s finances.
  •     Building a more productive and competitive economy.
  •     Delivering better public services within tight financial constraints.
  •     Rebuilding Christchurch.

“So there will be no big surprises from this Government,” Mr English says. “We have laid out our economic plan and Budget 2012 will focus on implementing that plan.”

Source

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Firstly, let’s call a spade, a spade here. Whilst National ministers use the euphemistic term, “mixed ownership model”, the issue here is partial-privatisation of state owned enterprises.  National’s spin-doctors may have advised all ministers and John Key to always use the phrase “mixed ownership model” – but the public are not fooled.

To begin, I take great exception to English’s opening statement,

Opponents of the Government’s mixed ownership programme need to explain to New Zealanders why it would be better to borrow an extra $5 billion to $7 billion from overseas lenders…”

Opponants of National’s part-privatisation do not “need to explain” anything. It is up to National to explain why it feels the need to part-privatise tax-payer owned corporations that are efficient and give a good return to the State.

Demanding that the  opponents of the Government’s mixed ownership programme need to explain” their opposition is the height of arrogance.  Governments in western-style democracies are accountable to the public – not the other way around.

English then goes on to say,

Taxpayers own $245 billion of assets, and this is forecast to grow to $267 billion over the next four years. So we are not reducing our assets. Our challenge is how we pay for their growth, while getting on top of our debt.”

Pardon?

“…we are not reducing our assets” ?!?!

Selling 49% of Genesis, Meridian, Solid Energy, Might River Power, Air New Zealand (from 75% to 51%) down to a 51% holding is “not reducing our assets” ?!?!

Bill English’s command of his namesake language is strange at best. I believe this is what George Orwell wrote about in his dystopian novel, “1984“, when he described “doublethink“,

To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them…”

English laments that “our challenge is how we pay for their growth, while getting on top of our debt”.

This involves two distinct issues;

Paying for the growth of state assets.

Genesis, Meridian, Solid Energy, Might River Power,  and Air New Zealand are all profitable enterprises in their own right. In the 2010 financial year, these  assets made a combined profit of $581 million dollarsNone of these five SOEs are loss-makers.

They can each pay for whatever growth programme they require, using their profits.

Where National interfered in SOE operations, the results were highly distorted,

Genesis paid out no dividend and had a zero yield on its operating profit of $293 million.

It had a 30.5% shareholder return on total assets.

Meridian had a dividend yield of 10.4%, achieved by paying out 428.8% of its profit. The increase came from the $300 million special dividend it received during the sale of Tekapo A and Tekapo B stations to Genesis, which was forced by the Government to borrow to pay for the purchase.” – Source

The reason that there is a  “challenge [in] how we pay for their growth”  is simple: National demands high dividends from these  SOEs (often by forcing them to borrow) leaving little for the companies to reinvest in their own growth.

Under-funding is a problem only because National has created the problem.

Getting on top of debt.

Linking  New Zealand’s $18-plus billion dollar debt to funding the growth of SOEs is  deliberate sophistry (ie; a deliberate deception).

The reason we have out-of-control debt is because,

As a society and as an economy, we had no control over the first two crises to hit us.

But we sure had control over our taxation policy, and doling out generous tax cuts to millionaires and wealthy businesspeople was a luxury we could not afford. (Many maintain that National was “rewarding” certain affluent socio-economic groups for electoral support at the ballot box.)

Next. English states,

First, the Government gets to free up $5 billion to $7 billion – less than 3 per cent of its total assets – to invest in other public assets like modern schools and hospitals, without having to borrow in volatile overseas markets.

???

National appears confused (as with most of its ad hoc policies) as to the proceeds it may gain from the partial sales. Only a year ago, Key stated authoritatively,

“If we could do that with those five entities … if we can make some savings in terms of what were looking at in the budget and maybe a little on the upside you’re talking about somewhere in the order of $7 to $10 billion less borrowing that the Government could undertake.” – John Key, 26 January 2011

Then again, as recently as eleven days ago, English let slip that,

I just want to emphasise that it is not our best guess; it’s just a guess. It’s just to put some numbers in that look like they might be roughly right for forecasting purposes.  That’s an honest answer.” – Bill English, 17 February 2012

The best description of Key and English on asset part-sales: clueless.

It is also worrying that National is selling state assets to pay for  “other public assets like modern schools and hospitals, without having to borrow in volatile overseas markets“.

Every householder will tell you that if  you have to sell of your furniture; whiteware; tv, family car, to pay to maintain your home – then you are in deep financial trouble.

What National is doing is “selling the household furniture to pay for painting the house”.  Selling off assets to pay for maintenance is not sustainable – eventually you run out of stuff to sell. It is a really dumb idea.

But more than that, it indicates that National is not “earning” enough, by way of taxation revenue to pay for it’s house-keeping. If we have to borrow or sell assets to do simple things like paint schools or properly resource hospitals – then it is a fairly clear indication that taxation revenue is insufficient for day-to-day operations of public services.

It also indicates that we are paying for the 2009 and 2010 tax cuts by selling state assets.

This is not “fiscal prudence” – this is foolish profligacy.

Bill English again demands, in his speech,

Our political opponents need to honestly explain to New Zealanders why it would be better to borrow this $5 billion to $7 billion from overseas lenders at a time when the world is awash with debt and consequent risks.”

No,  Mr English. Perhaps you should “honestly explain to New Zealanders” why you believe it makes greater commerciall sense to part-sell  profitable assets that are returning a higher yield on investment, than what the government pays to borrow?


The Government is estimating a $6 billion reduction in net debt after the sale of the state-owned enterprises – but concedes the savings on finance costs will be less than what it would have booked from dividends and retained earnings if it kept them.

Treasury  forecasts released today in the Government’s budget policy statement outline the forecast fiscal impact of selling up to 49 per cent in each of the four State-owned power companies – Mighty River Power, Meridian, Genesis Energy and Solid Energy – and by reducing the Crown’s current shareholding in Air New Zealand.

They assume a price of $6 billion – the midpoint in previous estimates of a $5 billion to $7 billion sale price – and a corresponding drop in finance costs of about $266 million by 2016.

But the trade-off is the loss of an estimated $200 million in dividends by 2016 and the loss of  $360 million in forecast foregone profits in the same year.

Documents supplied today state that the overall fiscal impact of selling a partial stake in the SOEs is a reduction in net debt, but the Government’s operating balance will also be smaller, because foregone profits would reduce the surplus.” – Source


Yet, only a year ago, Bill English was forced to concede that state owned power companies were indeed, highly profitable. In fact, he was complaining bitterly about State-owned generators  “earning excessive returns”,

Generally the SOE model has been quite successful in that respect. But if you look at those returns being generated particularly out of the electricity market, the Government has taken the view that that market is not as competitive as it should be.” – Source

The State will be losing money on the deal; earning less dividends from the SOEs than the cost of borrowing. The sums simply don’t add up.

There also seems to be some confusion (no longer a surprise) as to what National intends to do with sale proceeds.

On the one hand Bill English sez he wants to reduce debt,

We are firmly focused on keeping the Government’s overall debt as low as possible and that is the most important consideration over the next few years.” – 16 February 2012

And a week later, English is spending it,

First, the Government gets to free up $5 billion to $7 billion…  to invest in other public assets like modern schools and hospitals…”  – 23 February 2012

I guess Mr English is hoping that no one is paying attention?

Further in his speech, English makes this rather candid admission,

The fact is, the Government is spending and borrowing more than it can afford into the future. So it makes sense to reorganise the Government’s assets and redeploy capital to priority areas without having to borrow more.”

And there we have it, folks: the clearest statement yet from our Minister of Finance that the partial-sale of our state assets has little to do with giving “mum and dad” investors a share in our power companies; or making them more efficient; or paying down any of our $18+ billion debt; or putting a new coat of paint on your local school – the government is desperate to raise cash because it  “is spending and borrowing more than it can afford “.

The tax cuts of 2009 and 2010 were never “fiscally neutral” as National kept insisting.

The “tax switch”  left a $1.4 billion “hole” in the government’s revenue and this is how they are attempting to “plug that hole”.

We have been conned.

The tax cuts will be funded by the sale of state assets that we, as citizens of this country, already own. And because the bulk of tax cuts benefitted the highest income earners/wealthy – who are also in a better position to acquire shares in Genesis, Meridian, Solid Energy, Might River Power,  and Air New Zealand – the transfer of wealth from low and middle income earners will be two-fold.

The legacy of John Key’s government will be to make the rich richer, and for the rest of us, we can look forward to,

  • more expensive power
  • losing half ownership of our taxpayer-created state assets
  • and the top 10% to increase their wealth even more

But, to be generous, I will leave the last word to the Hon. Bill English,

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"Would you be willing to increase the mortgage on your house to go and borrow the money to buy shares on mighty river power?" Bill English, 16 February 2012

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Authors of our own mis-fortune?

20 February 2012 5 comments

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“Those who would actively choose to drive New Zealand into further debt to pay for tax cuts lack real ambition for our economy.”Finance Minister Michael Cullen, 7 March 2008

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“…in 2005 we promised tax cuts which ranged from about $10 to $92 a week, roughly $45 a week for someone on $50,000 a year. I described it as a credible programme of personal tax cuts and I’m committed to a credible programme of personal tax cuts. I believe that an ongoing programme of personal tax cuts that delivers the sort of magnitude that we’ve had in the past is potentially possible.”John Key, Leader of the Opposition, 20 May 2008

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“National will fast track a second round of tax cuts and is likely to increase borrowing to pay for some of its spending promises.” –  John Key, Leader of the Opposition,  2 August 2008

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“Our tax policy is therefore one of responsible reform…  We have ensured that our package  is appropriate for the current economic and fiscal conditions… 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… National’s rebalancing of the tax system is self-funding and requires no cuts to public services or additional borrowing.”John Key, Leader of the Opposition, 20 October 2008

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“Taxpayers do not want further tax cuts if they mean more government borrowing, a new survey shows. The survey comes as social welfare campaigners say tax cuts failed to help those most in need. The New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development survey found that while most people wanted tax cuts planned for 2010 and 2011, they did not want them if it meant further borrowing… The survey found most people would spend the tax cuts on living expenses, while others looked to credit-card debt and mortgage payments. “New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development, 11 April 2009

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In 2008, National campaigned on promises of tax cuts knowing full well this country could not afford them. By November 2008, as New Zealand went to the polls, the international global banking crisis was in full swing, and recession was beginning to hit nearly every single nation on Earth (Australia and China were the lucky exceptions).

By March 2008, the US Federal Deposit Insurance Corp had identified 76 American banks as “in trouble”.

By July 2008, US financial giants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were in trouble – and by September, both corporations were placed into a form of receivership.

A week later, and Lehmann Bros – one of the largest financial institutions in the US filed for bankruptcy. On the same day, the Russian stock market was forced to close, as shares plunged by up to 20% in a day.

On 26 September 2008, it was officially declared that New Zealand was in full recession.

(See full Time here.)

Against this backdrop, National proceeded with it’s election promises of tax cuts. As unfolding events would show, they were irresponsible promises – and carrying them out in April 2009 and October 2010 was even more reckless,

“John Key has defended his party’s planned program of tax cuts, after Treasury numbers released today showed the economic outlook has deteriorated badly since the May budget. The numbers have seen Treasury reducing its revenue forecasts and increasing its predictions of costs such as benefits. Cash deficits – the bottom line after all infrastructure funding and payments to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund are made – is predicted to blow out from around $3 billion a year to around $6 billion a year.”NZ Herald, 6 October 2008

Fast-forward four years, and we are now having to pay for those taxcuts – which were funded by borrowing other peoples’ savings from offshore banks,

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Source

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It is obvious to all but the most blinkered National/ACT supporter that our debt is growing because we have a shortfall of revenue, caused by this government’s ill-conceived tax-cuts. That shortfall is in the order of $1.4 billion.

A business columnist for the NZ Herald wrote,

“Just how much became apparent yesterday with the $1.4 billion drop in forecast tax revenue for this financial year.

The overall upshot is the Government’s cash deficit has blown out from $13.3 billion to $15.6 billion this year taking into account the unexpected expenditure and the drop in forecast tax revenue.”Fran O’Sullivan, 15 December 2010

CTU President, , Helen Kelly wrote,

“The unsuccessful tax switch (we called it a “tax swindle” at the time) last year was not fiscally neutral as was claimed. There is a $1.4b revenue hole. It wasn’t a fair switch. The gap in take- home pay between someone on $30,000 and someone on $150,000 a year grew by $135 a week as a result of tax cuts made by this Government.”Helen Kelly, 23 May 2011

And ex ACT MP, Muriel Newman said,

If we look back at the state of the books just before the last election, the impact on the country of the recession and the earthquakes become more evident. Crown revenue today is $1.4 billion lower than three years ago and Crown expenses $2.2 billion higher.Muriel Newman, 14 November 2011

Interestingly, Ms Newman blames the  blow-out in  government debt on “the recession and the earthquakes” – but makes no reference to the ’09 and ’10 tax cuts. In fact, she pours petrol on a bon-fire by saying that “ACT would lower the top rate of income tax to 25% and the company tax to 12.5%“.

One can imagine what that would do to the government deficit! (But then again, ACT would sell every single state-owned enterprise and scrap most welfare, to fund their deep tax cuts.  A society governed under ACT policies would be utterly alien to anything most New Zealanders could have dreamed of. I suspect Australia’s population would rise by four million, practically overnight.)

And, spelling it out in even simpler terms, the PSA’s analysis of the figures,

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“Tax Cuts Widen the Gap Between Rich and Poor

  • Government chose to make tax cuts in worst recession in 70 years
  • Total tax cuts worth $5.5 billion
  • Top 10% income earners got tax cuts worth $2.5 billion
  • GST increased to 15% – hurts low and middle income most
  • Tax cuts + GST left $1.4 billion hole in budget

Since 2008, National has introduced tax cuts that cost New Zealand around $5.5 billion a year in lost revenue. Most of the benefit has gone to the wealthiest.

National’s first set of tax cuts – the personal tax cuts and ‘Independent earner rebate’ taking effect in April 2009 – cost approximately $1 billion a year.

The second set of cuts – cutting the top income tax rate from 38% to 33%, and the company rate to 28% – will cost $4.5 billion a year, according to figures from the 2010 Budget. That gives a total of $5.5 billion.

National claimed that because it was also increasing GST, the tax changes would be “revenue neutral” – that is, the increase in GST would cancel out the income tax cuts. In fact, the losses from the income tax cut will outweigh the gains from GST by $1.4 billion. In other words, the so-called “tax switch” has blown a $1.4 billion hole in the budget.

The tax cuts have also made New Zealand a less fair place. According to Labour, the wealthiest 10% of New Zealanders will get 43% of the tax savings. And the gap in take-home pay between someone on $30,000 and someone on $150,000 a year grew by $135 a week as a result of the tax cuts.

New Zealand’s income tax rates are among the lowest in the OECD, as the Tax Working Group acknowledged.

In Australia , for example, income over $80,000 is taxed at 37%, and income over $180,000 is taxed at 45%.

Figures from the OECD itself show that, before National’s tax cuts, New Zealand’s “all in” top income tax rate – a measure that includes all taxes on income, including local and regional ones – was 38%. In contrast, the all in top income tax rate in Australia was 47%, and in most countries it was higher still.”PSA.org.nz

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This blog can confirm the PSA’s statement that “figures from the OECD itself show that, before National’s tax cuts, New Zealand’s “all in” top income tax rate – a measure that includes all taxes on income, including local and regional ones – was 38%“.

Why did they do it? Why did National make a $1.4 billion committment it knew we could ill-afford?

Answer:

  1. Because they could.
  2. Because they wanted to be the government. Badly. And nothing quite wins votes like promises of tax cuts (even unaffordable ones).
  3. Because they probably had no idea how bad the recession would be? Rubbish. Of course they knew: John Key’s background was in international finance. He knew precisely how bad the Recession was – and how bad it was likely to get in Europe.

The question is: why did we, the voters, do it? Why did 1,053,398 New Zealanders cast their vote for National in 2008? Why did we vote for tax-cuts – something we knew was unaffordable?

Whatever the reason, we are having to pay for those tax-cuts – or rather, the $1.4 billion in revenue short-fall that we now have to borrow from overseas.  In doing so, as this government continues to post budget deficits, it continues to cut back on services; raise government charges; and sack those state workers who have spent many years of their lives doing all the things we expect done for us in education, health, defence force, border control, conservation, etc.

It is inevitable that, unless New Zealand wins the international equivalent of Lotto, this government (or it’s successor, sometime in the next three years) will have to raise taxes again. Or, steal a page from Gareth Morgan’s book and implement a new, Land/Wealth tax. There is no other way to pay of our debt and pay for Christchurch’s re-build.

Something for all New Zealanders to ponder, next time National (or any other Party) promises us a tax cut, in return for our votes.

In the mean time, Bill English signed a document last year called a “PREFU” – Pre Election Economic & Fiscal Update,

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This document is now worthless. It may have only one use left.

And finally, will Finance Minister Bill English accept “overall  responsibility for the integrity of the disclosures within the Update“?

Does any politician ever accept responsibility for anything?

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Christchurch – Picking the bones clean?

11 February 2012 2 comments

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

Gerry Brownlee recently  stated,

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

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

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Full Story

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

Ok, got it.

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

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

Brownlee stated,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even the business community said as much,last year,

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

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

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

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

It’s a win-win-win scenario.

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

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

Your call, Mr Key.

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Additional

The Press: Brownlee turns up heat on council over rebuild

Green Party: How an earthquake levy could look

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

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Tax cuts & school children

2 February 2012 3 comments

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Source

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Despite recession hitting our economy in 2008, and despite a looming $30 billion deficit, John Key’s government proceeded with tax cuts in April 2009 and October 2010.

To make up for the billions lost in taxation revenue, government borrowed millions every week,  from overseas banks, and began a programme of harsh cost-cutting,

Finance Minister Bill English is is not ruling out an increase to the ratio of students to teachers, saying all Government departments are tasked with finding ways to save money, and staff costs are one of them.

Mr English says there is clear evidence that class size does not affect the quality of students’ education.” – Source

What did the tax cuts cost us?

The PSA published the following report,

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Tax cuts widen the gap between rich and poor

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  •  Government chose to make tax cuts in worst recession in 70 years
  •  Total tax cuts worth $5.5 billion
  •  Top 10% income earners got tax cuts worth $2.5 billion
  •  GST increased to 15% – hurts low and middle income most
  •  Tax cuts + GST left $1.4 billion hole in budget

Since 2008, National has introduced tax cuts that cost New Zealand around $5.5 billion a year in lost revenue. Most of the benefit has gone to the wealthiest.

National’s first set of tax cuts – the personal tax cuts and ‘Independent earner rebate’ taking effect in April 2009 – cost approximately $1 billion a year.

The second set of cuts – cutting the top income tax rate from 38% to 33%, and the company rate to 28% – will cost $4.5 billion a year, according to figures from the 2010 Budget. That gives a total of $5.5 billion.

National claimed that because it was also increasing GST, the tax changes would be “revenue neutral” – that is, the increase in GST would cancel out the income tax cuts. In fact, the losses from the income tax cut will outweigh the gains from GST by $1.4 billion. In other words, the so-called “tax switch” has blown a $1.4 billion hole in the budget.

The tax cuts have also made New Zealand a less fair place. According to Labour, the wealthiest 10% of New Zealanders will get 43% of the tax savings. And the gap in take-home pay between someone on $30,000 and someone on $150,000 a year grew by $135 a week as a result of the tax cuts.

New Zealand’s income tax rates are among the lowest in the OECD, as the Tax Working Group acknowledged.
In Australia , for example, income over $80,000 is taxed at 37%, and income over $180,000 is taxed at 45%.

Figures from the OECD itself show that, before National’s tax cuts, New Zealand’s “all in” top income tax rate – a measure that includes all taxes on income, including local and regional ones – was 38%. In contrast, the all in top income tax rate in Australia was 47%, and in most countries it was higher still.

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Bill English says,

…all Government departments are tasked with finding ways to save money, and staff costs are one of them.”

No doubt as part of government’s desperate attempt to cover the “$1.4 billion hole in the budget“, courtesy of their  ’09 and ’10 tax cuts.

The tax cuts have benefitted the top 10% of our economy, with the top 1% increasing their wealth by a staggering 20%,

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Full Story

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Even John Key did rather well out of the tax cuts,

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Source

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For John  Key,  to suggest that the latest research showed the income gap in New Zealand was actually narrowing, is breath-takingly disingenuous. The reality of every day life for New Zealanders is different from that of a millionaire who has long since lost touch with Mr and Mrs Everyperson,

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It’s abundantly clear: Government is cutting the very social services that we need, to remain a First World nation.

National gave us tax cuts and put a few extra dollars into our pockets – and a whole lot more into the deep pockets of the country’s richest people.

New Zealanders obviously haven’t got their heads around one simple, inarguable fact; we don’t get something for nothing. If we want social services, then we need to pay for them.

Now, the chooks have come home to roost. We are having to pay for those tax cuts – or rather, our children are paying. Children who never voted for this shabby government.

I wonder what the 1,058,638 people who voted for this government are feeling right now? Are you folks feeling warm fuzzies?

Because all I’m feeling is the chill of a society that values tax cuts more than our children and their future.

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Greed is Good? Part Deux

6 January 2012 8 comments

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Bryan Bruce’s eye-opening documentary, Inside NZ: Child Poverty,  was broadcast last year on TV3,  and finally brought out into the open what had only be barely acknowledged: New Zealand as a society was failing it’s children, especially in low-income families.

Radio New Zealand TV Reviewer, Simon Wilson, described the documentary as;  “Outstanding. The most significant piece of New Zealand Television in years” – for good reason.

Bruce’s  doco raised public awareness, for sure. But I think it’s done more than that. Along with the “Occupy Movement”, I think we are finally seeing a new realisation that the last 27 years in New Zealand has not produced the “trickle down” benefits.

When 150 Rich Listers increase their wealth by 20%; when tax cuts have to be funded by borrowing other peoples’ savings from overseas, and have benefitted mostly the top 10%; when the income/wealth gap continues to widen; when we have to sell the family “silverware” just to paint schools – something is seriously wrong with this picture.

New Zealanders may choose to overlook your documentary (I hope TV3 re-broadcasts it) , but they won’t be able to ignore the next message, and the next, and the next.

Eventually it will percolate into our collective psyches that the promises made of  by the New Right economists; politicians; and their fellow-travellers; of “trickle down” benefitting us all – has been a hoax. Or a scam. (Pick whichever word you prefer.)

The next message that our socio-economic values are terribly awry, will be the increasing flood of New Zealanders leaving for Australia.

The more I look at this phenomenon, the more I’m thinking that our brothers and sisters are not leaving (just) because of “higher wages”.

There’s more to it than that. There is a massive dislocation in effect. People have lost that sense of belonging to a community – and once that no longer exists, why not shoot through to richer pastures?

What’s to keep our children here?

The answer is; not much. Our children can’t even buy their own home in NZ anymore. Why? Because my generation (baby boomers) have bought up most of the available stock, using borrowed funds from offshore, which has pushed up prices and “locked in” ownership to my generation.

New Zealanders can turn all this around. But it means making decisions at the ballot box based on what is good for our country, rather than our own wallets. (John F Kennedy said it much more eloquently.) Until then, we will be the victims of our own selfishness and short-sightedness.

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Sourced from “Inside Child Poverty NZ”

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On his Facebook page, Inside Child Poverty, Bryan Bruce has started a Poll; Should we raise the retirement age by 1 year to pay for free school lunches to all school children?

The responses opposing raising the retirement age are not just unhelpful – they are indicative of the very nature of our society; our self-centredness; and how badly we have gone so far off the tracks.

Raising the retirement age by one year, to pay for free lunches? Absolutely!!And there are some very good reasons to do so.

  1. If we don’t have healthy children, we have no future (or not much of one). Because it is our children who pay for the retirement of the elderly. The connection is fairly simple.
  2. My generation, the “baby boomers”, have had it “sweet”. We had free education; free healthcare; and many other state-provided services.
  3. Then, after 1984, all that changed; “baby boomers” voted seven tax cuts for themselves; implemented User Pays in tertiary education, and elsewhere; sold off state assets that had provided many of these services; and succeeding generations made do with much less of what my generation enjoyed.
  4. The feeling I’m getting from the responses on Bruce’s FB page is that it is  becoming a generational  “resource war”  –  the aging baby boomers vs succeeding generations.
  5. Well, I can tell you now who will lose that “war”; the elderly. If we continue to deny the services that we ourselves enjoyed – expect to see the flood of migration to Australia turn into a torrent. We’ll be “killing the Golden Goose” for sure because it is the younger generations who will be the ones who support the elderly and greying Baby Boomers into their retirement.

Am I painting the picture clearly enough here?

The question, to me, is not whether we should be raising the retirement age by one year – we should be asking our children; is one year enough? Can we do more for you, our children?

Because as sure as sunrise follows night, if we don’t look after our children; if baby boomers continue to vote more and more resources for themselves – the result will be predictable. And I for one will not blame our young people for leaving this country for richer pastures.

If we don’t look after our children, why should they look after us?

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Additional Blog Entries

Greed is Good?

“Building better public services” – Really?

Further Reading

Greed of boomers led us to a total bust

Rich list shows rich getting richer

New Zealand’s wealth gap widens

Rolls Royce sales rocket as super-rich drive in style

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