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Nick Smith

21 March 2012 10 comments

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I take no satisfaction from Nick Smith’s resignation.  Dear Leader will simply appoint another National MP to take Smith’s portfolios. Nothing has changed.

In the scheme of things, his letter to ACC on behalf of former National Party activist and friend, Bronwyn Pullar, appears to be one of those gaffes that all politicians of species Homo Sapiens are capable of.

What I find unjust is that Dr Smith fell on his own sword – whilst John Key  got away with something even more questionable, last year, when on 4 October, John Key made this statement in the Debating Chamber,

When Standard & Poor’s were giving a meeting in New Zealand about a month ago, what they did say was there was about a 30% chance we would be downgraded – that’s what happens when you’re on negative outlook. They did go on to say though, if there was a change of government, that downgrade would be much more likely.”

That statement was the beginning of a political furore that, for the first time, attacked Key’s credibility.

Less than a week later, on 10 October, Standard & Poors issued a firm rejection of John Key’s assertion that Standard & Poors stated “if there was a change of government, that downgrade would be much more likely“. In fact, S&P was quite adamant,

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Key’s staff eventually released the so-called “email” that Key claimed had been sent to him by a friend (un-named), which made the S&P claim. The email was (supposedly)  sent on 6 September 2011 at 11:24 am,

Hi John

I was part of a session with a range of economists yesterday morning – every year they do this session – with economists from Aus plus all the main NZ banks, and this year two from Standard and Poors, including the guy who obviously has a lot to do with the NZ grading.

Anyway, the S&P guys were very complimentary about how the NZ Govt is managing fiscally and their trust that what you say will happen happens, and your unwavering commitment to getting NZ’s balance sheet sorted for the long term.

But there was a key one-liner that I thought you could well use. S&P said that there was a 1/3 chance that NZ would get downgraded and a 2/3 change it would not, and the inference was clear that it would be the other way around if Labour were in power. They discussed the impact on interest rates if NZ got downgraded and how that would quickly impact on the home owner mortgage market, so net net there is a much higher risk to NZers that they will face higher interest rates under a Labour Government.

Don’t know how you use it but they were quite serious.

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So, who was telling the truth?

In an effort to uncover the truth, Key fronted to a media conference,

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To this day, the identity of the mysterious  author of that “email” has never been disclosed and we have no clue as to the veracity of who-said-what.

Perhaps the wrong person resigned.

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Voting with their feet…

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"Too many Kiwis are looking at those stats and choosing to join their cousins across the ditch. We have to give them better reasons to stay." - 29 January 2008

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It seems that far from “giving them better reasons to stay“, John Key and his incompetant government may be accelerating the exodus to Australia,

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Despite bribing us with two tax cuts, New Zealanders continue to migrate to Australia.

No – “migration” is the wrong word. They are not just migrants, they are  economic refugees. This is a mass break-out and escape of New Zealanders and their families for whom life in this country no longer holds any future.

Far from “giving them better reasons to stay“,  social ties to this country appears to be weakening.

John Key raised voters’ expectation with grandiose promises of job creation,

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Much of National’s campaign was predicated on new jobs and boosting the economy,

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Instead, we have been given mass sackings of state sector workers, for no discernible purpose,

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With more sacking to come, and instead of boosting the economy, National is content to rearrange government departments, to form monolithic, Soviet style Ministeries,

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Is this making sense to anyone?

It may be perfectly “sensible” to National and ACT and their slowly diminishing support-base – but not 53,000 New Zealanders who have had a bellyful of a stagnating economy; tax cuts for high income earners; tinkering; and not much more,

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Which is why it is interesting to remind ourselves of  Dear Leader’s speech in 2008,

We know Kiwis are suffocating under the burden of rising mortgage payments and interest rates.  We know you cringe at the thought of filling up the car, paying for the groceries, or trying to pay off your credit card.  ” – John Key, 29 January 2008

It seems matters have not changed much in four years,

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It’s unsurprising that Kiwis who have been thrown onto the economic scrap-heap by a government that has no vision and no plan, except to cut and slash, are deserting their country of birth,

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Is this the “Brighter Future” which our Dear Leader promised us?

This is no plan for a “Brighter Future”. National  is hell-bent on an ideological crusade to cut the state sector; cut taxes for companies and the rich – and then hope for the best.

This, folks, is what a neo-liberal, “free market”, government does. They wait on the ‘Market’ to deliver jobs, higher wages, and better living standards,

Sustainable economic growth which creates permanent worthwhile jobs is best achieved by building a competitive economy that allows business to trade successfully with the rest of the world,the Ministers say,13 March 2012 .

We’ll be waiting an awful long time.

Actually, some of us will be waiting. The rest are off.

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Previous Blog Post

Why did the Kiwi cross The Ditch?

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Finland, some thoughts…

21 March 2012 7 comments

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Finland & Capital City, Helsinki

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When David Shearer mentioned Finland in his speech on 15 March,  the right wing were quick to leap onto that reference and gleefully point out that our Finnish cuzzies had elected a right wing government, which had part-privatised some of it’s own state own enterprises. A grinning, mocking,  John Key made a Big Thing of it in the Debating Chamber (see video at 2:10), in a response to a ‘patsy’ question from National MP, Michael Woodhouse.

As usual, John Key told us only half the story. (What else is new?)

It is quite true that the centre-right party, imaginatively called – The Centre Party– and it’s Keysque leader, Esko Aho, were elected into office in 1991. It’s also true that The Centre Party and Aho were thrown out of office after just one term.

It seems that the Finns had little appetite for Right Wing governments.

And last year’s elections resulted in the Centre Party drop from the largest single party in the Finnish Parliament, to the fourth, it’s support dropping from 23.11% to 15.82%.

The Finns has ‘flirted’ with right wing governments, it’s true. But generally that flirtation results in a quickie-divorce.

Finland does indeed hold  lessons for New Zealand. As well as having a benevolent social welfare system;  a higher rate of personal income (Finland: $35,885  – New Zealand: 28,409); and one of the highest standards of (free) education in the world – they also have a low tolerance for right wing governments that attempt to mess with their Scandinavian model of social democracy.

In Finland, they hold the teaching profession in high regard and pay them well. Here in New Zealand, certain political and public elements prefer denigration and questioning if teachers are paid too much. Charming.

This is worth thinking about,

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The flexible curriculum is set by the Ministry of Education and the Education Board. Education is compulsory between the ages of 7 and 16. After lower secondary school, graduates may either enter the workforce directly, or apply to trade schools or gymnasiums (upper secondary schools). Trade schools prepare for professions. Academically oriented gymnasiums have higher entrance requirements and specifically prepare for Abitur and tertiary education. Graduation from either formally qualifies for tertiary education.

In tertiary education, two mostly separate and non-interoperating sectors are found: the profession-oriented polytechnics and the research-oriented universities. Education is free and living expenses are to a large extent financed by the government through student benefits. There are 20 universities and 30 polytechnics in the country. Helsinki University is ranked 75th in the Top University Ranking of 2010.

The World Economic Forum ranks Finland’s tertiary education #2 in the world. Around 33% of residents have a tertiary degree, similar to Nordics and more than in most other OECD countries except Canada (44%), United States (38%) and Japan(37%). The proportion of foreign students is 3% of all tertiary enrolments, one of the lowest in OECD, while in advanced programs it is 7.3%, still below OECD average 16.5%.

More than 30% of tertiary graduates are in science-related fields. Forest improvement, materials research, environmental sciences, neural networks, low-temperature physics, brain research, biotechnology, genetic technology and communications showcase fields of study where Finnish researchers have had a significant impact.

Finland had a long tradition of adult education, and by the 1980s nearly one million Finns were receiving some kind of instruction each year. Forty percent of them did so for professional reasons. Adult education appeared in a number of forms, such as secondary evening schools, civic and workers’ institutes, study centers, vocational course centers, and folk high schools. Study centers allowed groups to follow study plans of their own making, with educational and financial assistance provided by the state. Folk high schools are a distinctly Nordic institution. Originating in Denmark in the nineteenth century, folk high schools became common throughout the region. Adults of all ages could stay at them for several weeks and take courses in subjects that ranged from handicrafts to economics.

Finland is highly productive in scientific research. In 2005, Finland had the fourth most scientific publications per capita of the OECD countries. In 2007, 1,801 patents were filed in Finland. ” – Wikipedia

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Unlike New Zealanders, who seem to tolerate right wing policies that ultimately do more harm than good (and then leave us wondering why we’re in such a mess) – Finns boot their right wing governments out faster than you can say ‘Don’t let the door hit your neo-liberal arse on the way out‘.

Shearer was right. We can learn from our cuzzies in Finland.

But we probably won’t.

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Additional

OECD Country statistical profile:  New Zealand 2011-2012

OECD  Country statistical profile:  Finland 2011-2012

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