Fairfax Media has a ” new columnist for the Waikato Times” (see: Bill denies kids what they need). Narelle Hensen’s first piece appeared in the Waikato Times on 18 March, followed five days later by another piece, Dole queues long but bosses can’t get workers. (Note: Ms Hensen has previously written and worked under her maiden name; Narelle Suisted, for the Auckland publication, “Auckland Now“, and TV3′s “The Nation“.)
Her first column-piece was a thinly-disguised, homophobic lecturing against gays, lesbians, marriage equality, and their fitness (or lack thereof) as parents.
The second was a nasty little smear against the unemployed.
(This blogger is waiting for her next target. Solo-mums? Maori? There are plenty of minorities available.)
What Fairfax hasn’t disclosed is that Ms Hensen also worked as a Communications Officer for the right-wing think-tank, Maxim Institute (see: Wikipedia Maxim Institute). The Maxim Institute is virulently opposed to marriage equality, as outlined in their submission to Parliament on the Marriage Amendment Bill (see: Submission to the Marriage – Maxim Institute).
It appears that the right-wing in this country have a new voice in the msm (mainstream media).
In her first article, Bill denies kids what they need, Ms Hensen railed against marriage equality. She used children as her weapon-of-choice, and started of with this bizarre statement,
“Most of us, no doubt, would agree, and would find it difficult to decide which of our parents to give up for another mum or dad. But that is what the Marriage Amendment Bill will require of some kids in generations to come. That is why I don’t support the bill.”
Did I read that right? She condemns the Marriage Amendment Bill because a child “would find it difficult to decide which of our parents to give up for another mum or dad” ?!
Why would marriage equality demand that of children now? And in what way would that be different to divorce as it is presently?
As most of us are perfectly aware, it is the Family Courts that determine access to children – not the concept of marriage equality. I doubt if Ms Hensen could point to any aspect of the Marriage Amendment Bill that would demand that a child has to “decide which of our parents to give up for another mum or dad”.
She offers another justification to oppose marriage equality,
“That means some kids will be denied the right to either a mother or a father, while their peers, by luck of birth, will be allowed both.”
Really? And what about the thousands of children who already have only one parent? What about the thousands of heterosexual couples who have separated and their children are “denied the right to either a mother or a father”? Or one has died through illness or accident – that’s real bad luck!
And just why is it “luck” to have heterosexual parents as opposed to gay or lesbian parents? The implication being that having gay/lesbian parents is “bad luck”. Perhaps being born to a mixed-race couple is also “bad luck” for a child? Or born to parents, one of whom might have a disability?
Not to mention the bad luck of being born to right wing parents…
If a child is ‘lucky’, it is that they have a stable family, with love, attention, set boundaries, support, respect, nutritious food, warmth, good housing, access to education; healthcare, etc. The gender/orientation of parents and caregivers doesn’t really seem to factor as a life-giving necessity.
Indeed, Ms Hensen seemed eager to dismiss love as a trivial matter not worthy of consideration,
“Of course, a lot of people argue the Marriage Amendment Bill is about love, and equality. But love or equality for who? These terms sound great, and they capture our emotions, but taking a moment to think about them makes us realise that in practice, they demand compromise from someone – either gay couples who must compromise the right to raise children, or children, who must compromise the right to have both a mum and a dad.”
It is unclear why gay (or straight) couples need to “compromise” – except in Ms Hensen’s mind where, for some reason, having gay or lesbian parents is a lesser option than heterosexual parents. Is love a transaction that “demands a compromise”? She doesn’t explain what she basis that idea on.
What a strange world that Ms Hensen inhabits.
Ms Hensen referred to a particular group to justify her prejudices,
“That is why the group Homovox started in France. It consists of homosexual couples who disagree with same-sex marriage, and same-sex adoption. As one contributor says: “The law should seek what is best for a child, and that is to have a mother and a father“.”
It took only a few clicks and poking around on a Search Engine to find out a little more about “Homovox“.
For one thing, it is not a LGBT organisation at all. It’s a front group set up by the Catholic Church, as GAYNZ reported on their website,
When is an LGBT organisation not an LGBT organisation? When it has been established by an antigay French conservative Catholic to make it seem as if there is “French LGBT” opposition to marriage equality. Thus it is with France’s “Homovox”, allegedly a “French” gay organisation of “LGBT” marriage equality opponents. However, on his website, Joe. My. God’s commenters uncovered who was actually behind the website, which turned out to be someone from the French Catholic Right. To be more precise:
A google search of Maillard Jean-Baptiste turned up this:
He appears to be an anti-gay French Catholic.
Doing some more research on these guys–they are all Catholics, some are ex-gay, most are right-wingers, and some can’t be found online.
None of these men–an no women–give their full names, where they work, and the man who claims to be the mayor of a “village” doesn’t actually name his village.
Source: “Homovox” Exposed
It seems that the Catholic Church in France has copied the tactics of the Unification Church and Scientologists, who also employ front-organisations as smoke-screens to the parent-church.
Did Ms Hensen know this? If she didn’t, she’s not much of a journalist.
If she was aware of the true nature of “Homovox” – and chose not to disclose it – then she has an agenda of her own. And the presentation (or lack) of facts is not part of it.
Ms Hensen is not above claiming statistics to back up her prejudices,
“Of course, there are those who argue it is better to bring up a child in a loving homosexual relationship than it is for them to be raised in an antagonistic heterosexual relationship. But if we are going to make comparisons, they must be fair. And when you compare a loving, heterosexual marriage with a loving homosexual union, the statistics paint a very clear picture.”
- but tellingly, she refuses to disclose any such statistics for the reader. So much for her comment that “if we are going to make comparisons, they must be fair”.
We are, I guess, expected to take her word that such statistics exist? Perhaps they are held by her former employers at Maxim Institute – an organisation known for it’s hostility toward gays and lesbians having full equal rights.
The point of that last paragraph, I suggest to the reader, is to undermine any notion that having loving parents who care for children should not be judged on the basis of sexual orientation. Note her reference,
“And when you compare a loving, heterosexual marriage with a loving homosexual union…”
What about comparing a dysfunctional heterosexual household with a loving gay/lesbian household? God knows there are plenty of the former. Our newspapers are full of stories where children, infants, babies were mercilessly ill-treated until their fragile bodies could no longer cope with dad’s punches whilst mum looked on, or vice versa.
The parents of Delcelia Witika were good, solid, heterosexuals who engaged in Maxim Institute-approved, heterosexual, sex. Then they killed their little girl.
I submit to Ms Hensen, that at such a point in a brutalised child’s life, they are not really going to give a damn if the wearer of steel-capped boots kicking their heads to pieces, is heterosexual or not.
Ms Hensen’s says,
“It is often very difficult to decide whose rights win, which is why there are so many court cases, and indeed courts, all about human rights. But when it comes to adults’ rights conflicting with the rights of children, most of us would agree that children should come first.”
Except when good parents are gay or lesbian, right, Ms Hensen?
Ms Hensens next article on job seekers, was nothing less than a hate-fest on one of society’s minorities; the unemployed. (See: Dole queues long but bosses can’t get workers)
Her entire article was dedicated to a simple premise; that job seekers in this country are unemployable, with anti-social personalities and severe behavioural flaws consisting of;
Failing drug tests
Physicality when told to leave site
Not turning up for interview
Smoking throughout interview
Chewing gum throughout interview
No CV prepared
CVs full of basic spelling mistakes”
Her column mercilessly depicted the unemployed as unfit for employment. One of her commentators even questioned their right to be citizens.
She quoted anecdote after anecdote of unemployed people with allegedly poor personal habits and poor work ethics – though she gave few details what the jobs were or any other specifics.
Employers and Manufacturers Association Northern chief executive, Kim Campbell, referred to New Zealand’s unemployed as being “the dregs” - a theme typical of Ms Hensen’s piece.
Dave Connell, vice-president of the New Zealand Contractors Federation and managing director of Connell Construction, was somewhat more subdued in his criticisms,
“We have dealt with absenteeism, drunkenness, drugs . . . We are persevering for three to six weeks sometimes.”
As a damning propaganda piece, with the purpose of vilifying the unemployed, it was masterfully done.
Other than that, though, one has to ask the question; what the hell was the point of it? What possible purpose did it serve? Because it sure as hell didn’t shed much light on the subject.
I have an idea.
Up till now, the unemployed have been painted as lazy, boozing, and unwilling to go out and find work.
That myth has been well and truly dispelled with stories of thousands of unemployed queuing for a few jobs. Just recently, on 12 March, ‘Campbell Live’ did a series of stories of hundreds of workers lining up for just seven jobs at an Auckland factory (see: Sign of the times: hundreds queue for 7 jobs)
Or any of these stories of job seekers outnumbering vacancies,
Ms Hensen could not write a credible story desparaging the unemployed as “lazy”. In these times of high unemployment, the public no longer accepts that generalisation. In fact, most people probably know someone who has lost their job, or, fresh our of school or University, cannot land a job, and has been turned down application after application.
So, for Ms Hensen that avenue was closed off.
Instead, in the best tradition of right wingers who blame the victims of this country’s on-going recessionary fall-out, she attacked and desparaged the quality of job seekers.
Repeating anecdotal stories, without any supporting context to offer a deeper understanding, she wrote a piece that painted job seekers as poorly educated; drug addicts; inarticulate – even chewing gum!
As a hatchet job, it certainly perpetuated negative stereotypes about the unemployed. It also reinforced the unacknowledged class structure that has been developing in this country for the last 30 years; the unemployed are “riff raff, beneath our contempt; and not worthy of being treated as our equals”.
As a “dog whistle” it attracted 321 comments (as at the time of this blogpost being written) – many of which were little more than ill-informed, offensive, stereotyping.
Ms Hensen might care to reflect on the irrational hatred expressed by those who supported her story. Is that the readership she is pandering to?
It also showed of some of Ms Hensen’s sources as less than ideal unemployers, with barely concealed prejudices.
But even if Ms Hensen’s poisonous polemic was 100% accurate, reflecting an unvarnished reality – employers and government have only themselves to blame.
How many times have trade unionists, economists, and leftwing commentators warned employers and government that if New Zealand continued to drive down wages – as National has been doing with it’s labour law “reforms” – what did they think would happen?
On 1 April, the minimum wage will rise by 25 cents to $13.75 per hour. In Australia the rate is NZ$19.96 an hour, though wages are usually higher than that.
On 1 May, young people 16 to 19 will also have a new youth rate, that will be 80% of the minimum wage. That’s $11 per hour. How will young New Zealanders react to what is effectively a wage-cut?
And employers are whinging their heads off that the best and brightest are buggering off to Aussie?
The reality, though, is more prosaic. People want work. The unemployment benefiit ($204.96/wk/net) is not sufficient to live on. Many looking for work will be University graduates. Others will be poorly educated. But they all want a job.
Perhaps the real purpose of Ms Hensen’s article - dressed up as a “news story” - was designed to serve as propaganda in a prelude to relaxing immigration laws and allow immigrant workers to flood the country? By creating a new urban myth that unemployed New Zealanders are “dregs”, it gives National the excuse to bring in labour from overseas. Cheap labour. Workers who will not kick up a fuss about exploitation; lax safety practices; and abuse.
The abuse of workers on Foreign Charter Vessels fishing within our EEZ waters gives an idea what might be our future (see previous related blogpost: A Slave By Any Other Name).
I suspect Ms Hensen is not finished with excoriating minorities in this country. Her poison pen is poised. It’s only a matter of who is next in her sights. And what her agenda is.
What a waste of intellect.
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 March 2013.
Bill denies kids what they need (18 March 2013)
Dole queues long but bosses can’t get workers (23 March 2013)
The Jackal: National’s Campaign of Disinformation
= fs =
Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Perfect chance to can Tiwai
There’s nothing quite like a threat to the New Right economic theory to bring the apologists slip-sliding out of the wood-work.
Case in point: John Roughan’s column in the NZ Herald on 30 March. According to Mr Roughan, the ‘blame’ for this latest fiasco can be sheeted home to John Maynard Keynes and our post-War desire for full employment.
Because, as we (except for neo-liberals) all know, full employment is a good thing for society.
First of all, read Mr Roughan’s article. Then come back to this blogpost, and scroll down…
Ok, read it?
Now who spotted the outrageous piece of delusional rubbish that Mr Roughan wrote in his column?
Let me quote;
“The price of most things at that time was controlled or subsidised and nobody knew or cared that prices didn’t align the item’s cost of production to its value in a competitive market. The economy was a job-creation scheme that ended with double-digit unemployment in the 1970s.”
Either Mr Roughan doesn’t know his history – or he is being wilfully mendacious to promote his rather obvious neo-liberal views.
Let’s have a look at unemployment in the 1970s though to the 1990s,
And to put that graph into actual stats,
Source: NZIER, Statistics NZ.
At no point in the 1970s did unemployment ever rise above 1.7%. Hardly the “double-digit unemployment in the 1970s” that Mr Roughan presented as the unvarnished truth.
In fact, if we look at the actual stats, the only time unemployment rose into double-digit figures was from Jun-91 to Jun-93, when National implemented it’s infamous “Mother of all Budgets”. That Budget, written by arch-neo liberal Ruth Richardson, sent businesses to the wall as well as unemployment skyrocketing,
John Roughan then attempts to use his bogus “facts” to push the typical New Right line,
“Pacific Aluminium asked Meridian to renegotiate a price that was set just before the world economy went sour in 2007 and demand for aluminium dropped. Meridian agreed to a lower price until 2016 but would not commit to a lower price beyond that.
Last week the Government intervened. Some of your taxes and mine are going to be promised to a global mining conglomerate that wants to sell its New Zealand smelter but cannot find a buyer.
The Government could not have better demonstrated the pitfalls of public ownership if it had tried.”
Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Perfect chance to can Tiwai
“The Government could not have better demonstrated the pitfalls of public ownership if it had tried”, wrote Roughan.
Based on – - – ?
Or just plain bullshit.
The stoush between Rio Tinto and Meridian Energy does not “demonstrate[d] the pitfalls of public ownership” at all.
What it demonstrates is that Rio Tinto has seized the main chance to re-negotiate it’s contract. Does anyone who is not on hallucinogenic drugs not believe even for a moment that Rio Tinto wouldf not try it on with Meridian even if that powerco was 100% privately owned?
Does Mr Roughan honestly believe, with hand-on-heart, that Rio Tinto would behave differently if Meridian was a private company, like Contact Energy?
How f*****g naive can some commentators get, for gods-sakes?
John Roughan’s column is nothing less than neo-liberal propaganda. It is a blatant attempt to twist the current situation, and mis-represent the facts. It is a deflection. It is an acolyte of neo-liberalism trying to white-wash his failed dogma and blame everyone else except his own failed system for this total screw-up.
As if the 2007/08 Global Financial Crisis wasn’t enough to show us that neo-liberal capitalism is a failed ideology. (Who would Mr Roughan blame for that collapse, I wonder? Solo-mums in South Auckland?)
But then, we all know how well Right Wingers take responsibility, don’t we?
Not very well.
NZ Herald: NZ Herald – Perfect chance to can Tiwai (30 March 2013)
The Daily Blog: Chris Trotter, Lying For The Revolution: John Roughan Defends Neoliberalism (1 April 2013)
= fs =
- Citizen A -
- 28 March 2013 -
- Marama Davidson & Efeso Collins -
Issue 1: Is Dame Susan Devoy’s appointment as Race Relations Commissioner a step forwards or backwards for Race Relations in NZ?
Issue 2: Do Nick Smith or Len Brown have any affordable housing options for the poor?
and Issue 3: Why must we be burning DoC to save DoC?
Acknowledgement (republished with kind permission)
= fs =
- Citizen A -
- 14 February 2013 -
- Matthew Hooton & Keith Locke -
Issue 1: Richard Prosser – is he racist? What are the ramifications for NZ First and does this reflect poorly on MMP?
Issue 2: Salvation Army gives the Government a D for child poverty, housing and employment – what is the Government doing?
and Issue 3 tonight: John Key’s decision to take Australia’s refugees – what do we get?
Acknowledgement (republished with kind permission)
= fs =
Is Dear Leader losing his touch? He doesn’t seem quite so “dear” to some people any more…
- The Novopay foul-up just gets worse and worse and worserer with each passing pay cycle. Wouldn’t it have been cheaper to just delegate the pay-system into the hands of Lotto? The results would’ve been about the same.
- Education Minister, Hekia Parata, screws up on a semi-regular basis. Does Key hand her the ceremonial sword and with a smile tell her, “you know what to do with this”. Nah, he annoints her as National’s “most effective communicator. Has anyone ever seen 4.4 million people do a collective face-palm?! Meanwhile, Joyce is the new de facto Minister of Education and Parata is given duct-tape to put over her mouth. This, for National, is seen as a “solution”.
- Unemployment keeps going up and up and up and up… And when the stats cannot get any worse, they do a massive West Auckland-style u-turn and wheelie burn-out… Unemployment is no longer up – people have given up banging their heads against a brick wall. So the stats are now a mess. What they do indicate is that people are turning off from looking for work. It must be depressing getting knocked back time after time after time after… And if you think it’s bad now, in bright sunny summer – wait till the gloom and shortened days of Winter really kick in with mass-depression.
- Manufacturing and exporters are screeching like banshees that the high Kiwi Dollar is sending them to the wall… and Steven Joyce smiles benignly and sez, “things are challenging”. Not helpful, Mr Joyce. Not one bit.
- The country’s third biggest construction company goes to the wall and the Nats do… nothing. Question: at a time when we have to rebuild the second (or third) largest city in the country – how does a fricken construction company manage to go into receivership?!?! Someone explain this to me. Wouldn’t that be like a water-tanker truck in the Saharan desert unable to sell water???
- We have a critical housing shortage in the country… A shortage of housing?! But, but, but… isn’t the free market supposed to prevent these shortages??? What goes on here?
- We have a shortage of skilled tradespeople, IT specialists; healthcare professionals… whilst on the other hand, we have 175,000 unemployed. Hmmmm… shortage of skilled staff… 175,000 unemployed… shortage of skilled staff… 175,000 unemployed… shortage of skilled staff… 175,000 unemployed… why don’t we-? Nah. What a silly idea. For a moment there I had this ridiculous thought in my mind about re-training 175,000 unemployed to meet our skills shortages… Bugger me, where do I get these daft notions from.
- National doesn’t want to build housing for New Zealanders. They say it’s up to the Free Market to do this. Government, sez Joyce, Brownlee, Key, et al, say that it’s not the role of government to offer subsidies or state housing. Unless you’re a private school. Or farmers wanting irrigation systems. Or Rugby World Cup. Or investors in a finance company. Or insurance companies. Or a movie producer – especially a foreign one. Then there’s plenty of money. Whoopie – lolly scramble!
- But just don’t get silly over housing.
- Steven Joyce wants to put the bulldozers and excavators into our conversation lands and have deep-sea drilling off our coast, in deep waters… because, you know, we don’t mind if the remaining few native forests in New Zealand are destroyed for the benefit of foreign investors. Or that we run a risk similar to the horrendous disaster in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico which spewed millions of barrels of oil into the Caribbean. After all, the oil companies will look after us… *snort!*
- Because National is not a hands-on government to create jobs and support local businesses. But if you’re a private school or Warner Bros, then the question becomes, “How much did you want me to make that cheque out for?”
- Tony Ryall wants $30 million shaved from the Health budget (where else will we get the cash to subsidise those lovely furry Hobbit movies?!). So grommett operations for kids may be cut. Hey who needs a pesky grommett anyway – and did I say how cool Hobbits are…? And of course those seven New Zealanders who are suffering from the terminal Pompe disease… they aren’t as cool as Hobbits.
But I think you, the reader, get’s the point. (Unless you’re a dedicated National/ACT supporter – in which case don’t you just lerrrve those cute Hobbits?)
But it seems that the bad news and continuing incompetance and just sheer lack of bright ideas from National is becoming too much for even National’s traditional cheer leaders…
Fran O’Sullivan wasn’t impressed. Not by a long shot. In fact, she seemed a bit ‘put out’ by Key’s inaction (as if it had suddenly dawned on her),
For Fran O’Sullivan – who is widely noted as a bit of a Nationalphile – to be chiding her beloved Dear Leader indicates that even his adoring legion of glassy-eyed admirers are starting to feel frustration. When O’Sullivan criticises Key for “waffling” and then berates Key for “simply shrugging his shoulders” – then we know that not only is the honeymoon well and truly in the past, but the ‘marriage’ is verging on a trial separation.
O’Sullivan didn’t mince words when she bluntly stated that “faith is no excuse for a failure to act” and demanded that “it’s time, surely, for Key to call an economic summit to address the issues New Zealand faces“.
Good call, Fran.
A few years too late, but hey, some of us are a bit slower than others.
Right wing/all-over-the-place media “personality” and talkback host, Kerre Woodham wrote an extraordinary column on 23 December, last year. Had it been written at any other time than two days before Christmas – when 99% of the populace is bleary eyed with the so-called “Festive Season” (said through gritted teeth, I might add) – her words would have had far more clout.
In fact, I could just barely recall her column piece and retrieve it from my Bookmarks (filed under WTF?). For the reader’s edification – read and enjoy (if you’re a National/ACT supporter you may want to put down your deluxe, Jackson-autographed, mink-lined Hobbit and read this bit),
If Kerre Woodham speaks closer for the Middle Classes, then National should be in high-gear panic mode by now. Her attitude was summed up thusly,
“I thought John Key said that by cutting income tax rates we would be able to stimulate the economy. Guess that didn’t work. I thought Key said that he would be able to stem the flow of New Zealanders to Australia by building a competitive economy and offering after-tax earnings on a par with those across the ditch. Well, that hasn’t worked, either.There are now more people moving to Oz under National than there were under Labour. But instead of ‘fessing up and conceding nothing the Government has come up with has worked, the Prime Minister has produced a classic example of Orwellian double-speak.
Akshally, says Key, moving to Australia is a GOOD thing for New Zealanders to do. They’ll see the world, gain experience – no, just like everything else, Key is comfortable with the numbers of Kiwis farewelling this country.”
That, readers, was the sound of a Middle Class person coming to the realisation that our esteemed Dear Leader; dodgy Party; and worthless policies – are a fraud.
That, readers, was the realisation by a Middle Class person that National was not about to meet their aspirations.
It is the same sound of National’s ‘House of Cards’ crashing that we heard in the late 1990s. A crash which culminated in National’s election defeat on 27 November 1999.
When bene-baiting right-wing talk-back hosts like Woodham can make statements like,
“Well, they may know how to make money for themselves but they don’t seem to have any answers when it comes to making the country richer.
If, after four years of government, the best strategy they can come up with to produce a surplus is to raise the fuel tax, they are devoid of initiative and bereft of imagination.”
- then we know that the Middle Classes are starting to wake up. And they’re noticing that the Emporer is naked and it ain’t a pretty sight.
Businesspeople are running as fast as their feet can carry them – to a joint inquiry run by the Opposition Parties in Parliament – and it’s a brave/stupid/both National Government that ignores the signals,
When a businessman – in this case managing director Gordon Sutherland - says,
“We know that – we’ve known that for a very, very long time. Of course we get efficient, of course we try and work as hard as we can to be efficient – it’s the only way we can exist. It drives me insane when people say, ‘Get efficient’. What do you think we are – idiots? We’re not.”
- then the Nats are treading on very thin ice to ignore such messages.
National is supposed to the the Party for business. So when business people begin to turn on the Nats – that’s a pretty bloody big signal that it’s the beginning of the end for this government. And considering Key has stated he will not lead National from the Opposition benches (see: Key says he’ll quit politics if National loses election) – it’s ‘bye-bye’ Dear Leader.
Once he’s gone, the Nats will have left in their wake a poorly performing economy; high unemployment; growing income divide; higher child poverty; businesses about to collapse (Mainzeal already gone); and a raft of other tragic consequences.
The 2011-14 Key-led administration will be remembered in the same way many New Zealanders view with derision the Bolger/Shipley-led National government from 1996-99.
Going by the next story, however, Key is already despised by a wide sector of the community.
But more to the point, that hostility is no longer held in check and is being voiced out loud,
What we are seeing now seems to be a seismic shift in public opinion on Key and National. But more importantly, where only a year ago people were reluctant to voice their dissatisfaction or hostility in public – now that shyness is disappearing. People are pissed off and they know who to vent at,
In 2008, Key raised levels of expectation to new heights (see: A fresh start for New Zealand).
With promises of higher wages and other warm-fuzzy, populist nonsense, people voted for him in droves. Their expectations were raised as Key’s supreme self-confidence; personal rags-to-riches story; and plausible rhetoric made them line up and put their trust in him.
The trouble with raised expectations, though, is that failing to deliver “the goods” results in an inevitable backlash. Not just at the ballot box, but in terms of vitriol. We tend to pull people of a pedestal mighty quick, if they stuff up.
National’s failure to meet those expectations may already be a foregone conclusion, as NZ Herald columnist, John Armstrong wrote on 22 December last year,
“A slight sense of desperation was evident in National’s reaction to this week’s release of the Treasury’s latest forecasts.
National is not going to let anything stand between itself and its Holy Grail of a return to Budget surpluses within the next three years.
What was once merely a target now seems to be an obsession. The reason is straightforward. Some major economic indicators are starting to confirm anecdotal impressions of an economy close to tipping into recession,
National is therefore clinging ever tighter to the increasingly vain hope of balancing the books by its target date of the 2014-15 financial year.
Meeting the target is all part of National’s branding as the party of sound economic management. Failure on that front would be a major blow to its credibility.”
If meeting an accounting target is all that National has left – Shearer better start packing up now. He’ll be in the Prime Minister’s residence at the next election.
Interest.co.nz: Stats NZ reports 23,000 jobs lost
NZ Herald: Time for Key to call an economic summit
NZ Herald: Kerre Woodham: Nats run out of petrol
Fairfax media: Mixed reception for Key at Big Gay Out
= fs =
Without a doubt, the following story by the NZ Herald on Key’s latest utterances deserves an Award for Outstanding Bullshitting – with a special mention for Self Delusion.
WARNING: do not be drinking anything when you read this – not unless you can stop your gagging-reflex from spraying over your monitor and keyboard,
If Dear Leader truly believes that,
“Personally, I think if I got hit by a bus this afternoon, I will have left New Zealand in a better shape than I found it.”
… then he is dangerously more out of touch with reality than the rest of us ever imagined.
But because John Key gives no indication of any head trauma or diagnosis for delusional psychosis, the only remaining option is that this was a pathetically weak attempt to shore up his Party’s waning public support.
Almost every poll has National’s voter support dropping. This blogger suspects very strongly that National’s own internal polling reveals a much more dramatic fall in public support – and that John Key’s credibility as an honest politician has taken some serious battering this year.
One poll in July of this year, by Fairfax/Ipsos, had this unflattering picture of Key,
” A new poll has found Prime Minister John Key is increasingly becoming a polarising figure – especially among women.
The first Fairfax Media/Ipsos political poll shows National has enough support for a third term, 44.9 per cent to Labour’s 32.6 per cent, assuming the current mix of support parties. But it also reveals a growing divide, with many still strongly backing Key, but a growing sense of anger and distrust among others.
Interviewers asked 1000 people to describe Key in as few words as possible. The pollsters said many voters rated him a straight-shooter and good or excellent leader, but a significant number thought he was arrogant, smarmy and out of touch.
Key still has the confidence of an overwhelming majority – 63 per cent saying he had a clear vision for the country, and was a strong and effective leader. “
Since that poll, National’s support has dropped to 45% and Key’s personal support has plummeted to 42%, in a One News/ Colmar Brunton poll released on 4 November.
National is clearly in trouble with the public and Key’s extraordinary statement that “I will have left New Zealand in a better shape than I found it ” is utterly laughable.
This blogger’s guess is that Key made this statement, off the cuff, and without his tax-payer funded spin doctors crafting a more credible message.
On almost every level, it is a demonstrably false assertion.
Looking at the facts on Planet Earth, rather than on Planet Key, we find the following;
When Key took office at the end of 2008, the household labour force survey reported unemployment at 4.6% or 105,000 real people.
The latest household labour force survey released on 8 November this year had unemployment at 7.3% or 175,000 living, breathing people.
In other words, there are 75,000 more unemployed people now, than there was four years ago.
This blogger accepts that the Global Financial Crisis has been a major factor for rising unemployment, but three questions still remain to be answered,
- Why has National not done anything practical to counter the effects of the GFC, despite having four years to implements job-creation programmes?
- Why did National proceed with tax cuts in 2009 and 2010 when the lost tax-revenue could have been used for upskilling; job creation; building new houses to meet our critical housing shortage; etc?
- Why does National continue to blame the unemployed for being unemployed, when they – the Nats - play the GFC Card when ever it suits them, as an excuse?
Report Card: F – Total Fail
Retail Trade dropped from NZ$18.8 buillion in December 2011 to the current NZ$16.8 billion, in September,
Sourc: Reserve Bank of New Zealand
This constitutes a $2 billion drop in retail activity.
By comparison, the drop from December 2010 to September 2011 was less - NZ$900 million. (See: Reserve Bank A1 Domestic trade)
Balance of Trade
Our Balance of Trade has definitly worsened since November 2008, when the Global Financial Crisis had begun to impact on our export sector,
In part, this may be due to our high dollar, which makes our exports less profitable – but makes imports (consumer goods, fuel, building materials, plant & equipment, etc) cheaper. However, whilst this may benefit one sector of our economy, it means that we are not paying our way with our trading partners.
Economists are expecting the figures to worsen in the coming months and year,
” The annual current account deficit has widened to 4.8 per cent of GDP and economists expect it will keep getting worse, with sharply falling export prices and rising demand for imports.
The current account records the balance of trade between New Zealand and the rest of the world for goods and services, net investment income and net transfers.
ANZ economists said the 4.8 per cent figure was worse than market expectations and given the worsening trade position with lower commodity prices, the deficit was trending closer to the 5 per cent of GDP “danger zone” for international lenders.
The falling value of dairy exports and a drop in spending by tourists after the Rugby World Cup have seen the current account deficit worsen by $600 million to $2.8 billion, seasonally adjusted, for the March quarter.
That takes the annual deficit back up to $9.7 billion for the year to March 31 or 4.8 per cent of GDP according to latest Statistics NZ figures out earlier today. The deficit was equal to 4.2 per cent of GDP in the December year. “
Despite JohnKeys perennial promises (see previous blogpost: John Key’s track record on raising wages – preface), wages have not risen to anywhere near Australia’s levels.
In fact, wage rises in the last four years have not matched those under the previous Labour government, despite Dear Leader’s pledges and claims to the contrary,
As Statistics NZ states in it’s June Quarter report,
” In the year to the June 2012 quarter, there was no significant increase in:
- median weekly income from all sources – up 1.8 percent from $550 to $560
- median weekly income for those receiving income from wages and salaries – up $6 (0.7 percent) to $806
- median hourly earnings – up 48 cents (2.4 percent) to $20.86.”
New Zealanders are generally not fools, and many have taken to voting with their feet to where there are better opportunities for jobs, wages, housing, etc…
Migration to Australia was one of John Key’s major election platforms in 2008. He was scathing of Labour and the exodus of New Zealanders to Australia,
“We want to make New Zealand an attractive place for our children and grandchildren to live – including those who are currently living in Australia, the UK, or elsewhere. To stem that flow so we must ensure Kiwis can receive competitive after-tax wages in New Zealand.
One of National’s key goals, should we lead the next Government, will be to stem the flow of New Zealanders choosing to live and work overseas. We want to make New Zealand an attractive place for our children and grandchildren to live – including those who are currently living in Australia, the UK, or elsewhere. To stem that flow so we must ensure Kiwis can receive competitive after-tax wages in New Zealand. We must cut taxes and grow our economy, and National will have policies to ensure both occur.” – John Key, 6 September 2008
“I don’t want our talented young people leaving permanently for Australia, the US, Europe, or Asia, because they feel they have to go overseas to better themselves. That’s why this Government is focused squarely on improving New Zealand’s economic performance. And to be frank, New Zealand’s economic performance over a number of years has been disappointing. ” – John Key, 15 July 2009
The result? Wholly predictable by now,
As the NZ Herald story reported,
“The number of New Zealanders moving across the Tasman hit a record 53,000 in the year to February, but the unemployment rate at home and Australia’s new tax breaks that would make millions better off are tipped to lift that number.”
As Massey University sociologist Paul Spoonley stated on TV1 on 3 September,
“We can’t afford to bleed the numbers of people we see leaving for Australia. We can’t afford to lose the skills. We’ve got to do something.”
“Maybe we want to think about doing a bit more [mining] to encourage people to stay. It’s been a 40-year problem, and if we want to resolve it, we need to get on top of all of those issues.”
Oh really? “Maybe we want to think about doing a bit more “?! Gosh, Mr Key – you think?
Key’s statement encapsulates one simple reality; that his inept “government” is utterly clueless. Dear Leader does not even know whose responsibility it is to create jobs;
“We agree with you, it’s the government’s responsibility to do everything within it’s powers to try to get people jobs.” – John Key, 17 November2011
“Nothing creates jobs and boosts incomes better than business growth. For New Zealand to build a more productive and competitive economy, we need more innovative companies out there selling their products on the world stage.” – John Key, 24 August 2012
Whenever National does become proactive, it tinkers with labour laws which will ultimately have the effect of driving down wages. This, in turn simply accelerates the flow of Kiwis to Australia and elsewhere.
On the other hand, when exporters cry out for relief from a high Kiwi Dollar that is ruining their trade, National either ignores their plight, or derides any possible remedies.
As president of the New Zealand Manufacturers and Exporters Association and Managing Director of two export companies, Brian Willoughby, said in utter desperation,
“I’m concerned that this vitally important discussion is degenerating to the point that it is the guy with the biggest foghorn that is going to get heard the most. The Government had the biggest foghorn.
What is starting to irritate me is, here I am just down the road in Christchurch, representing manufacturers producing $2.6 billion [worth of product]. So why doesn’t someone from the Prime Minister’s department pop along and see me? I am far easier to get in touch with than the guys in Hollywood, and I don’t need any special concessions. The ones I need are the same ones with the dollar that the film industry needs.
But the issue is to develop a more balanced economy.
There are a whole lot of people [in manufacturing] who are hanging on by the skin of their teeth and there are a whole lot of redundancies going on that the public never hears about.
The other thing that is poorly understood is that manufacturing jobs support three jobs outside – the courier guy, the guy that cleans the towels, the cafes near the factory. We have the contractors and suppliers – the guy that supplies the nuts and bolts and screws, the guy that does the laser cutting, the guy that does the painting, the guy that does the polishing, the guy that provides the plating service.”
It’s wrong to sit on our hands and say there is nothing that we can do.
We need a proper debate because it is extremely important to the New Zealand economy as a whole, not just to my members. In the long run, exporters ensure that we have a reasonable standard of living. If we can’t sell off-shore with good added value margins, we’ll go broke.“
The Herald story goes on to reveal that Willoughby’s two Christchurch-based companies together employ twenty people. A year and a half ago, it was thirty.
On 25 October, Reserve Bank Governor, was forced to concede,
“Offsetting this, fiscal consolidation is constraining demand growth, and the high New Zealand dollar is undermining export earnings and encouraging substitution toward imported goods and services.”
Our export sector is being damaged by our over-valued dollar (pushed up by speculators); profits are down; and redundancies are occurring.
Meanwhile, John Key smiles and waves and does nothing except make derogatory comments against visiting sports people.
Report Card: E – Verging on Total Fail
One of Key’s oft stated “successes” is that “crime has dropped”.
That may well be. But their may be several factors involved here,
“New Zealand’s crime rate has dropped to an all-time low, latest figures reveal.
The annual crime statistics released by the police today showed recorded crime dropped 5.2 per cent on the previous year.
There were 394,522 recorded offences in the 2011-2012 fiscal year, compared with 416,324 the previous year – a decrease of 21,802 offences.
New Zealand’s population increased by 0.7 per cent during the period, resulting in a 5.9 per cent decrease in the number of offences recorded per 10,000 of population.”
And as well,
“The largest decrease was in Canterbury, where recorded crime fell by 11.7 per cent.
Following the earthquakes there was a sudden large decrease in recorded theft and property damage offences.
Less serious offences reduced the most.
Although small by value, these offences are large by volume.
“This decrease appears to be partly due to the public not wanting to bother us with minor matters when they knew we were dealing with the earthquake,” Mr Rickard said.”
The biggest decrease occurred in the Canterbury region in the same year as the February earthquake that killed 185 people.
Surely Dear Leader is not going to take credit for something that a natural disaster caused?! Of course he will.
This is John Key we’re talking about.
Report Card: none (someone nicked it)
As is usual for John Key, his statements often contain loose “facts”; half-truths; and often outright untruths. His claim that “if I got hit by a bus this afternoon, I will have left New Zealand in a better shape than I found it ” is patently false.
On almost every indicator known to humanity, New Zealand is nowhere near “in a better shape than [Key] found it “. Not unless he is using voodoo socio-economic ‘science’ that the rest of us are not privy to?
Perhaps they originate from Planet Key?
On an end note, I leave the reader with not just the results of my Fact Checking – but this dire warning from economists,
Roll on 2014.
= fs =
See previous blogpost: Job Hunting, Bennett-style
As unemployment continues to rise and rise and rise and rise and rise and rise and… National Ministers have apparently been making friends with Mr Walker, Mr Beam, or indulging in some other relaxing substances…
There’s no other way to explain some of the weirdness emanating from Parliament.
Take, for example, Little Leader, Bill English, and his comments about the latest unemployment figures – now at 7.3%, or 175,000 in real people-numbers.
English responded with these curious comments,
“What we have found through this recovery is that it has been a bit hard to predict and we’ve seen these sort of numbers jump around, they can be up one quarter and diown another quarter.”
“Jumping numbers“, huh?
Hmmm, maybe Paula Bennet might want to try some of that work-place drug-testing on Little Leader?
Mind you, it didn’t help when English tried to suggest that the reality of unemployment didn’t match his reality,
“These numbers don’t fit with some of the other indicators, just for this quarter. For instance, the number of people on the unemployment benefit continues to drop, including in Auckland where the survey shows a rise in the number of people unemployed.”
It’s a bugger when “numbers just don’t fit”. Perhaps he needs a bigger shopping bag? Like, enough to hold 175,000 unemployed?!
However, it’s interesting that English sez that “the number of people on the unemployment benefit continues to drop”. He’s either telling fibs (unusual for a National Party politician), or is not aware of MSD unemployment figures which are easily available on the internet…
Registered unemployed on WINZ benefit
December 2011 – 59,964
March 2012 – 53,479
June 2012 – 49,622
September 2012 – 50,390
Source: MSD 2012
Source: MSD 2011
From June to September, there has been an increase in registered unemployed – not a a drop as English claimed.
So registered unemloyed are rising.
But why are they not rising anywhere near the same numbers as Statistics New Zealand’s Household Labour Force Survey?
The HLFS survey states that 13,000 more people were unemployed in the September quarter. Which is certainly indicated by the number of redundancies we see almost on a daily basis in media reports.
This blogger suggests that there are a number of factors why the number of registered unemnployed does not match the HLFS – though both are tracking upward, proving that unemployment is most certainly on the rise.
Quite simply; if you’ve lost your job and your spouse/partner is still working, you’re not eligible for WINZ assistance.
This is one of those quirks in our welfare system that a partnered couple can both be working and the State demands that they both pay taxes. Yet if one of them loses his/her job, s./he is not entitled to WINZ assistance. Both would have to be jobless before being eligible unemployment benefits.
Conversely, if two people are flatting together and not ina relationship, the situation is completely different. If both are working and one loses his/her job, s/he is eligible for the unemployment benefit.
Moral of this story; WINZ want to know who you’re in bed with. A quaint bit of 1950s-style moralising by the State?
This blogger suggests that a substantial number who have lost their jobs recently are in relationships will not bother to register with WINZ because it is pointless. They will not receive State assistance. (Despite having paid their taxes.)
2. Redundancy/Holiday Pay
It’s quite like that those made redundant recently still have holiday pay, savings, or redundancy pay to live on. WINZ will not offer an unemployment benefit if the applicant has money in his/her bank account.
3. Stand-down Period
After redundancy or holiday pay is used up, WINZ can then put an applicant on a 13 week stand-down. (I’ve no idea why. Sadism? Just for the hell of it?)
This blogger suspects that the numbers on unemployment benefits will rise in the next few months, more closely mirroring the Household Labour Force Survey.
Another factor to consider is that Paula Bennett has directed WINZ to make life more difficult for the unemployed, when registering with WINZ. As if losing one’s job wasn’t stressful enough, Bennet has forced the implementation of some draconian rules and requirements for beneficiaries. (The implication being that it’s the fault of the unemployed for being unemployed?!)
One of the bureacratic bundles of red tape are the number of forms given to WINZ applicants.
Forf those readers who have never had the “delight” of dealing with WINZ – these are the forms that are required to be filled out. Note: every single applicant is given these forms (in a little plastic carry-bag).
The cost of printing these things must be phenomenal.
And if you have to reapply to WINZ for a benefit (if, say, you’ve lost your job again) you are required to fill out these forms all over again.
This is where taxpayer’s money is really going to waste in welfare.
This is the first booklet; the ‘Unemployment Benefit Application‘ – a thirty-page application form.
A thirty page document – to apply for a sum of $201.96 a week (WINZ benefit, nett, for a person over 25).
By contrast, banks have a couple of pages for a mortgage application form where sums in excess of $200,000 are being lent, and repayments start at $400 a week.
Next form, something called ‘Find a job build a future Tools to help you find work’,
And just because the initial 30-page WINZ application form may not have satisfied the Minister; her Ministry; and sundry bureacrats, another application form was enclosed in the “pack”; “Jobz4u Manual Jobseeker Enrolment“.
This one was ‘only’ nine pages,
Another form, this time only four pages long, the ‘Employment-Earnings Verification‘ form,
Bizarrely, the above form is replicated on page 4 of the thirty-page ‘Unemployment Benefit Application‘. One wonders if Bennett is aware of the duplication of these forms?
The next form (yes, there’s more!) was the ‘WINZ – How can we help you‘. When assisting the person fill out these forms, there was a strong urge within me to scribble across each of the following eight pages,
“How can we help you?
By cutting down on these goddamn forms!! How many forests had to die for this crap???“
I have a sneaking suspicion that might not have helped the person I was assisting in her application.
The ‘WINZ – How can we help you‘ form,
And the last two, the ‘Unemploymen Benefit Application – What to Bring ‘ and the ‘WINZ Online Services ‘ (both one page),
All up, seventythree pages of information and forms to read, understand, fill out, collect information…
This system becomes even more laughable when one considers that if an an applicant has been a WINZ beneficiary before, they are still on MSD’s computer files. Much of the information sought would already be on-file.
The cost of this must be horrendous, and it is ironic that at a time when National is cutting “back room” support staff to save money, that they are permitting taxpayer funding for this ‘Monty Pythonesque ‘ exercise in out-of-control form-filling.
No wonder that this was reported in Fairfax media,
” Social Development Minister Paula Bennett this morning said latest figures showed 328,043 people were now on benefits, with 57,058 of those on an unemployment benefit.
Reforms passed by Parliament require people on an unemployment benefit to reapply for it after one year. Bennett said this change had led to 5000 people cancelling their benefit.
More than 1400 of those said they had found work, more than 2600 didn’t complete a reapplication and more than 1000 were no longer eligible. “
How many people with minimal education could hope to fill out so many forms of such complexity?
Applying for a bank mortage is vastly simpler – an irony considering the vastly greater sums of money involved.
Date: Tue, Wednesday, 14 November 2012 1:38 PM
From: Frank Macskasy
Subject: Information Request
To: Paula Bennett “Paula.firstname.lastname@example.org”
Kia Ora Ms Bennett,
I would like to make an official Freedom of Information Request.
Please provide information as to the costings of the following forms and information leaflets produced by MSD/WINZ;
“Work and Income Employment-Earnings Verification” (VO6-mar 2011)
“Work and Income Find a job build a future Tools to help you find work” (JOBSW0007-nov 2010)
“Jobz4u Manual Jobseeker Enrolment” (-)
“Work and Income Unemployment Benefit Application” (M18-JUL 2011)
“Work and Income Unemployment Benefit Application – What to bring” (M18-JUL 2011)
“Work and Income How can we help you” (CM0001 – OCT 2010)
“Work and Income Online Services” (-)
“Work and Income” plastic carrybag for above items.
Please provide total costings for EACH item printed, on an annual basis for the last four years, and a break-down of costings for usage per year and per WINZ client.
Thank you for your assistance in this matter.
= fs =
- 10 November 2012 -
- Selwyn Manning & Phoebe Fletcher -
- 7.3% unemployment – Pike River Mine – US Elections -
Issue 1: Does the Pike River Mine report herald a change in the culture of self regulation and deregulation?
Issue 2: Big gay red shirts and David Beckham’s intelligence rated by the thickness of bat feces – is it Prime Ministerial?
and Issue 3: What can the world expect from an Obama win?
Citizen A broadcasts 7pm Thursday Triangle TV
Acknowledgement (republished with kind permission)
= fs =
In an extraordinary development, TV3 launched a full scale criticism of National’s failure to meet it’s Budget Day promise, last year, to create 170,000 new jobs.
Bill English at first tried to dismiss the horrendous rise in unemployment (7.3%, from the previous 6.8%) as,
“You could call it a blip. There are slow patches but we are on track for 2 to 3% growth.”
But he was eventually pressured to admit,
“In the past two years, [there are] 26,000 people in new jobs, but in the last quarter no new jobs – which is why we want to crack on. We are behind the 170,000 track.”
Which is as close as we will ever get to a National politician conceding that they and their neo-liberal, free market, hands-off, approach has failed.
Every other country on this planet is actively engaged in proactive management of their economies and social policies. Only New Zealand – ‘governed’ (and I use that term loosely) by a Party that is slavishly pursuing a thirty year old dogma – is standing back as our economy goes down the proverbial toilet and will end up flushed out somewhere in the Cook Straight.
The economic realities;
- Unemployment: up from 6.8% six months ago, to 7.3%
- Export sector: in crisis as our over-valued dollar makes selling our products overseas barely worthwhile, losing profits and ending up with staff redundancies
- A critical housing shortage
- A growing poverty-wealth gap
- and thousands more New Zealanders heading overseas
This is in stark contrast to John Key’s vision of the ‘Bright New Future’ that he promised us last year, and the many fine-sounding speeches he made before that in 2008 and since. Unfortunately the rhetoric doesn’t match National’s deeds or results – not by a long shot.
Faced with trenchant criticisms from all direction, English lamely replied,
“We think we have the balance about right.”
God help us.
TV3′s handling of the story left the viewer in no doubt that National was being hauled over the coals. And with a critical analysis not seen for a long time during Dear Leader’s reign.
The steep rise in unemployment was the final signal that National has had an Epic Fail, and from now on it is “gloves off ” by the mainstream media.
As BERL’s economist, Ganesh Nana said bluntly,
“You have a seven in front of unemployment, you have a five in front of dairy forecast payout, a zero in front of inflation and export growth – how many warning signs do you need on the dashboard until you do something different?
Without changes to our policy settings, the short term picture is not pretty, with our models projecting even further rises in jobless numbers.”
Only a year ago, centre-left bloggers had come to this same conclusion when, after the last election, it quickly became apparent to the likes of Tumeke!, The Jackal, The Standard, Bowalley Road, Waitakere News , The Dim Post, et al, that National was reliant on a failed neo-liberal agenda to ‘govern’.
National was not going to govern with pragmatic common sense – it was going to govern from an ideological stance, and nothing was going to change it’s direction.
Since last year’s election, New Zealand has been at undeclared war with it’s own “government”, as unpopular policy after unpopular policy was dumped on us. Coupled to Key’s unhealthy, blind support for the corrupt Member for Epsom; the lies that followed from both men; and this was a “government” we were losing faith in.
TV3′s Duncan Garner simply repeated what bloggers and other commentators have been saying for the past year,
“ Key says now is not the time to change course. But economists are all largely saying the economy has gone into a fragile state.
[...]A change of course is urgently required if New Zealand is to avoid yet another damaging recession.
The Government was shell-shocked by yesterday’s numbers, but it’s praying with its fingers crossed that things come right.
It’s risky. The expensive tax cuts from three years ago have had little impact.
Christchurch needs to be rebuilt fast and Auckland has alarmingly softened, although its house prices haven’t.
That’s seriously concerning, especially when your second largest city is in rubble.
Forget gay red shirts, comments about ‘batsh*t’ and what Key knew or didn’t know about Dotcom.
This blows all that away in terms of importance. This is fundamental. This is the serious stuff.
It’s people’s lives, their jobs, their mortgages, their families, their hopes, their dreams and their security.
It’s the economy, stupid. It wins and loses elections.
The Prime Minister’s sole focus needs to be the economy.
If he can’t turn this around or halt the slide – National will likely lose the Treasury benches in 2014.”
“Is our economy collapsing” askes Duncan Garner? The answer, Duncan, is yes; it is. You just needed to pay closer attention to what the rest of us were saying all along.
As for John Key – I suspect he’ll be avoiding other media from now on, and not just Radio New Zealand.
Dear Leader’s bunker awaits, as critics close in on him and his harried Party.
= fs =
With unemployment soaring to 7.3%, the highest in thirteen years…
As international speculators push up the value of the Kiwi dollar, wrecking our export sector…
As the gulf between poor and wealthy grows…
As the migration of New Zealanders to Australia continues to increase…
I’m happy to announce to the 1,058,636 people who voted for John Key, that National has their priorities carefully sorted,
Isn’t it reassuring for National Party voters that Key and his Ministers are carefully focused on… punctuation.
And all paid for out of our taxes.
= fs =
Last year, on 19 May, Solid Energy was one of five SOEs that National announced would be partially privatised (see: Budget 2011: Govt seeks $7 billion in asset sales). Bill English announced, with a naivetee usually reserved for wildly idealistic, wide-eyed youth,
“Well targeted investment in infrastructure helps lift productivity, which over time will mean better wages and higher living standards for New Zealand families.”
To which, as the youth of today might reply,
By 29 August, this year, as demand from China lessened, and the price of coal dropped, Solid Energy announced plans to make 363 workers redundant.
CEO, Don Elder, said,
“I am very aware of the impact these decisions will have on affected staff members and our communities, but we’ve had to make these difficult decisions to cushion the impact of the market and protect as much as we can of the long-term value of the business.”
On 25 September, Key stated,
“Now that the coal price is collapsing, essentially Spring Creek is not viable.
It’s never been in the position where it was going to come on to the market today. It’s been a five-year programme, and if you ask me in three, four, five years’ time, the anwer might be different.” .
Along with Maori Treaty claims over water rights, and papers being filed in the High Court on 23 October (see: Mighty River sale paused during court action) which will see a delay in removing Mighty River Power from the SOE Act, the realisation that Solid Energy was also unsaleable under current economic conditions was another unwanted ‘hiccup’ for National.
On the same day, Solid Energy anounced that redundancies would increase from 363 to 460 and staffing levels would reduce from 1,800 at the beginning of the year, to 1,360.
Christchurch was to lose half of the 313 jobs at Solid Energy’s head office – another ‘hit’ against this quake ravaged city, along with planned school closures; problems with insurance companies; and Cantabrians leaving the area.
Remember that, ostensibly, redundancies were related to international coal prices and profit losses – not the deferred partial-privatisation of the SOE.
Yet, according to Solid Energy’s own Results Announcements 2012 report, the company’s income was actually better than the preceding year,
Good operating performance overtaken by asset write downs
• Trading performance was good in a deteriorating market with strong NZD. Underlying earnings were $99.7 million (2011: $86.2 million).
• Asset write downs of $110.6 million net of tax and other adjustments have resulted in a $40.2 million loss after tax (2011: $87.2 million).
In plain english (not the mumbled Prime Ministerial version), Solid Energy made an after-tax profit of $99.7 million – an increase from $86.2 million in 2011.
Employing a book-keeping, accountancy “trick”, Solid Energy reduced their own asset values by $110.6 million. (That’s like saying your house was worth $300,000 in 2011, but only $250,000 this year. You still have your house and you’re living in it – nothing else has changed. Only the theoretical valuation has ‘reduced’. Next year that valuation could rise back to $300,000 or even more or maybe less. That’s creative accountancy for you.)
The point is that Solid Energy’s profit rose from $86.2 million to $99.7 million.
In fact, Solid Energy’s revenue in 2012 was $978.4 million – almost a billion dollars – an 18% increase from the previous year.
The proposition that Solid Energy is more profitable than either Don Elder or National make out is born out by this interesting article, in Taranaki’s ‘Daily News‘, on 12 October this year. It appears that Australian coal mining giant, Bathurst, is experiencing a growth in share value as it discovers greater coal reserves at its Buller project on the West Coast,
Bathurst is proceeding with “an extensive drilling programme” – indicating that the company appears unphased by current coal prices and is investing long-term in recovering this resource.
So what to make of the planned 460 redundancies?
What to make of Bathurst’s share price rising and continuing to invest in a comprehensive drilling programme?
The only conclusion that one can arrive at is that planned redundancies are a covert operation to “maximise” Solid Energy’s value and “efficiency”. The cost of redundancies – estimated at around $10 million – will be paid by the taxpayer and not the shareholders of any future part-privatised company (see: Foreign workers lured by ‘work for life’ among sacked miners).
Reducing staff numbers – commonly referred to as “re-structuring” – is a common technique for companies to cut costs in an attempt to return to profitability, or to make it more attractive to potential investors or buyers.
It is interesting to note that National’s secret agenda of “re-structuring” Solid Energy, to make the SOE viable for privatisation, is a technique quite familiar to our Prime Minister, John Key,
” During Key’s brief spell for Merrill Lynch in Sydney in 2001, he helped fire 500 staff as part of savage worldwide retrenchment by the bank. In the past, Key has appeared proud of his ability to sack without feelings. He told Metro magazine: “They always called me the smiling assassin.”
These days he insists these were not cheerful sackings.
“In the end I had to carry out wider responsibilities, but I think I’m fundamentally a nice guy, but have to follow instructions,” he says. “
As Don Elder said,
“I am very aware of the impact these decisions will have on affected staff members and our communities, but we’ve had to make these difficult decisions to cushion the impact of the market and protect as much as we can of the long-term value of the business.”
460 workers face the sack.
No doubt John Key is simply “having to follow instructions“?
Related previous blogpost
The real cause for Solid Energy mass redundancies? (5 September 2012)
Sunday Star Times: Who is John Key? (3 February 2008)
NZ Herald: Spring Creek mine work suspended (29 August 2012)
Dominion Post: Miners march on Parliament (25 September 2012)
Radio NZ: Hundreds of jobs going at Solid Energy (25 September 2012)
Daily News: Bathurst lifts Buller coal totals (12 October 2012)
= fs =