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 junk food
A fire sale of public assets
Less civil liberty
More toadying to foreign powers
More toadying to foreign corporates
More spying snooping and videoing of New Zealand citizens
More tax cuts
More job cuts
More benefit cuts
Have they actually done anything worthwhile or positive? “
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.
National’s “Master Plan” for economic growth and job creation seems to revolve around four events – none of which have been particularly successful,
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- Asset sales. With weak growth; a stagnant economy; high 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.
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.
2. Asset Sales
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,
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.
” 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. “
” 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,
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.
This is a Party totally out of touch with the rest of the country.
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.
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,
[click on image to go to TV3 website]
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.
- Hakes Marine; 15 redundancies
- Telecom; 400 redundancies
- Brightwater Engineering; 40 redundancies
- Pernod Ricard New Zealand; 13 redundancies
- Depart of Corrections; 130 redundancies
- Summit Wool Spinners; 80 redundancies
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade; 80 redundancies
- Norman Ellison Carpets; 70 redundancies
- IRD; 51 redundancies
- Flotech; 70 redundancies
- NZ Police; 125 redundancies
- CRI Plant and Food; 25 redundancies
- Te Papa; 16 redundancies (?)
- PrimePort Timaru; 50 redundancies (?)
- Kiwirail; 220 redundancies
- Fisher & Paykel; 29 redundancies
- Goulds Fine Foods; 60 redundancies
- Canterbury University; 150 redundancies (over three years)
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“.
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.
4. Sky City/Convention Centre
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.
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,
“ 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,
Cycleway jobs fall short
“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
Who can remember the initial cycleway project and the promise of 4,000 new jobs?
From March, this year,
Key defends casino pokie machine deal
.“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
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?
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.”
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. “
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.”
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. “
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“.
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. “
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?!
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. “
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.
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:
- Maori and Pacific people experience more gambling-related harm than other people
- people living in more socioeconomically deprived areas are more affected by gambling-related harm.
- 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. “
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. “
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.
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.
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. “
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?
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
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.
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. “
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?
7. ETS – Another of Key’s broken promises
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.”
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. “
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. “
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’ ?
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,
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…
8. Tax Cuts & Government charges
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. “
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”. “
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. “
(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.
9. More on those tax cuts
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.
10. Alcohol law reforms
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.”
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. “
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,
See previous blogpost: A kronically inept government
11. Government Cost cutting = Economic suicide
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,
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,
- John Key must accept the resignation of David Carter, Minister for Bio-security immediatly.
- National must reinstate biosecurity services to pre-2009 levels.
- 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. “
” 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. “
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,
- Millions – even hundreds of millions of dollars of valuable export dollars lost,
- Jobs lost,
- Businesses ruined,
- 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.
12. The Terminally Ill
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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?
Thanks to ‘S’ for proof-reading.
= fs =
… they will always default to one of three positions;
1. Blame the previous government
2. Blame the welfare state and/or beneficiaries
3. Blame the global recession (but not for an increase in welfare beneficiaries – that’s a “lifestyle” choice”)
Pick a public on-line messageboard at random. Look at the postings on political discussion-threads. Note the response from right wingers and neo-liberals.
When confronted by a failure of the ‘free market’, the neo-liberal and/or right winger will always respond with one of the three options above.
Rule #1 of the Right Wing mentality: never accept responsibility. (That’s only for welfare beneficiaries and the poor.)
It’s all they have to explain the failure of their ideology.
= fs =
Warren Buffet is regarded as one of the most successful investors in the world. He is ranked among the world’s wealthiest people and was ranked as the world’s wealthiest person in 2008. He is the third wealthiest person in the world as of 2011.
He is not a disaffected socialist, nor “random leftie” – he has serious money in his bank account(s). So when this guy warns us that the wealthy are not paying their way, and have been “coddled by billionaire-friendly governments” – you know he’s saying something important.
And that we should take note…
Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as “carried interest,” thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors.
These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places.
Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.
If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine. But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine — most likely by a lot.
To understand why, you need to examine the sources of government revenue. Last year about 80 percent of these revenues came from personal income taxes and payroll taxes. The mega-rich pay income taxes at a rate of 15 percent on most of their earnings but pay practically nothing in payroll taxes. It’s a different story for the middle class: typically, they fall into the 15 percent and 25 percent income tax brackets, and then are hit with heavy payroll taxes to boot.
Back in the 1980s and 1990s, tax rates for the rich were far higher, and my percentage rate was in the middle of the pack. According to a theory I sometimes hear, I should have thrown a fit and refused to invest because of the elevated tax rates on capital gains and dividends.
I didn’t refuse, nor did others. I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what’s happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation.
Since 1992, the I.R.S. has compiled data from the returns of the 400 Americans reporting the largest income. In 1992, the top 400 had aggregate taxable income of $16.9 billion and paid federal taxes of 29.2 percent on that sum. In 2008, the aggregate income of the highest 400 had soared to $90.9 billion — a staggering $227.4 million on average — but the rate paid had fallen to 21.5 percent.
The taxes I refer to here include only federal income tax, but you can be sure that any payroll tax for the 400 was inconsequential compared to income. In fact, 88 of the 400 in 2008 reported no wages at all, though every one of them reported capital gains. Some of my brethren may shun work but they all like to invest. (I can relate to that.)
I know well many of the mega-rich and, by and large, they are very decent people. They love America and appreciate the opportunity this country has given them. Many have joined the Giving Pledge, promising to give most of their wealth to philanthropy. Most wouldn’t mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering.
Twelve members of Congress will soon take on the crucial job of rearranging our country’s finances. They’ve been instructed to devise a plan that reduces the 10-year deficit by at least $1.5 trillion. It’s vital, however, that they achieve far more than that. Americans are rapidly losing faith in the ability of Congress to deal with our country’s fiscal problems. Only action that is immediate, real and very substantial will prevent that doubt from morphing into hopelessness. That feeling can create its own reality.
Job one for the 12 is to pare down some future promises that even a rich America can’t fulfill. Big money must be saved here. The 12 should then turn to the issue of revenues. I would leave rates for 99.7 percent of taxpayers unchanged and continue the current 2-percentage-point reduction in the employee contribution to the payroll tax. This cut helps the poor and the middle class, who need every break they can get.
But for those making more than $1 million — there were 236,883 such households in 2009 — I would raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1 million, including, of course, dividends and capital gains. And for those who make $10 million or more — there were 8,274 in 2009 — I would suggest an additional increase in rate.
My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.
(Warren E. Buffett is the chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway.)
Buffet’s analysis holds true for New Zealand as much as it does for his own country, the USA.
In April 2009 and October 2010, this government awarded the highest income earners and the wealthiest the most in tax-cuts.
At the same time, the top ten wealthiest people in NZ (and probably others throughout the world also increased their wealth by 20 percent) – whilst the rest of the global economy was wracked by the worst recession since the 1930s, and millions lost their jobs.
The old excuse that the “wealthy work hard and should be rewarded for their labours” no longer deserves to be taken seriously. Most of us work hard, and long hours.
It is time that governments stopped coddling the rich. It’s not like they can take their wealth off-planet to Mars or elsewhere. The rich will still invest their vast wealth.
But it’s time they paid their fair share as the price of living in societies that gave them the opportunities to create their wealth.
It’s high time National looked at a fairer taxation system, and paid for the social services and job creation-friendly policies, rather than the top 10% of the population and middle-class rich-wannabees.
Otherwise, prepare yourselves for a society of growing inequality.
So far, the indicators are not good…
Well, I think the ‘message’ is reasonably clear for all but the most ideologically-blind. Question is – what are we going to do about it?
(Hint: more of the same will probably not work.)