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Archive for 8 May 2012

The Dark Art of ‘Spin’ – How It’s Done (Part #Rua)

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Continued from:  The Dark Art of ‘Spin’ – How It’s Done

And relevant also: The wheels are coming off, and there’s a funny ‘plink-plink’ sound

And: How Paula Bennett and National are wasting our taxdollars

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Make no mistake – National’s scheme to “offer” subsidised contraception is a cunning plan to deflect attention from a raft of bad news that has been in the headlines lately,

Three years of neo-liberal “reforms”;  slashing state services; tax cuts; introducing labour market “flexibilities” – have produced very little gain for this country.

On top of that are the run of scandals afflicting National; Nick Smith and Bronwyn Pullar;  John Banks, Sky City,  and Kim Dotcom; Murray McCully and MFAT; John Key’s secret deals with Sky City…  It is an eye-opening  litany of failure, stuff-ups,  and dodgy dealings.

Cue – the Spin Doctors.

Method;

  1. Pick a dog-whistle issue, preferably one loaded with misconceptions, prejudice, and moralising
  2. Choose a vulnerable group in our society who are powerless and easily demonised
  3. Offer a naive, simplistic “solution” to a problem that doesn’t exist – but still pushes people’s emotional buttons
  4. Encourage moral hysteria, before calling for “calm”.

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Full Story

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There is good reason why National has released this crazy plan at this point in time.

It has nothing to do with assisting beneficiaries in any way, shape, or form.

It has everything to do with deflecting attention from National’s own failures.

If National was truly interested in assisting people with subsidised contreaception – it would offer this choice to everyone.

And along with free contraception, National should be offering free dental care for children; meals in schools; and other programmes to help New Zealanders.

Otherwise, Paula Bennett’s “offer” of subsidised contraception for beneficiaries should be seen for what it really is: Spin Doctors deflecting public attention away from National’s shocking economic performance. It’s pointing a finger and yelling, “Look over there“!

Once upon a time they burned women as witches.

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The Dark Art of ‘Spin’ – How It’s Done

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The beginning of May contained bad news for National: unemployment was up again to 160,000 people – 6.7% of the workforce.

With the recession “officially over”, unemployment is supposed to be tracking down – not up. This is not in accordance with neo-liberal economic theory.

John Key’s response, four days later was this incredible statement,

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

See:  Key: Europe shows zero Budget wisdom

Key’s statement beggars belief; “ What that shows you is that New Zealanders are more confident the economy is coming right and actually bothering to look for work “, and adds ” I know it sounds crazy “.

Key is right – it is crazy.

His statement is the product of National’s  spin doctors – highly skilled experts at media manipulation; deflection; and bending the truth until it crosses the line into outright lies.

The simple truth is that National, and it ‘smiling and waving  Dear Leader, have been blind-sided by the realities of their own neo-liberal doctrine.

Despite everything promised by National and it’s devotion to free market economics, their  results have been damning.

Outcome: nil.

Verdict: fail.

On 16 July 2010, John Key stated that the 90 Day Trail Employment scheme had  been successful,

The results of that have been stunning, it has ensured that a lot more New Zealanders have the opportunity to engage in work.”

See: Govt to extend 90-day dismissal law

In June 2010, unemployment was at 6.8% in the household labourforce survey. Since the introduction of the 90 Day Trial Employment scheme, unemployment has remained stubbornly high.

See: Employment and Unemployment – June 2010 Quarter

Outcome: nil.

Verdict: fail.

* In October last year, John Key announced National’s “Starting Out” wage-scheme  set  at 80%  of the $13 an hour adult minimum wage. It would apply to;

  • 16 and 17 year olds in their first six months with a new employer
  • 18 and 19 year olds entering the workforce after being on a designated benefit and
  • 16-19 year olds training in a recognised industry course worth at least 40 credits a year

Key stated that,

The starting out wage will give some of our youngest and most inexperienced workers a much-needed foot in the door.”

Key added that “the changes to industrial law were aimed at giving businesses the confidence they needed to invest, grow and create higher-paying jobs”.

See:  Nats ‘starting out’ youth wage plan

In August last year, youth (15 – 24) unemployment was at 58,000.

See: TV3 -Unemployed youth would fill Eden Park

This year, it has climbed to a staggering 87,000 unemployed – a massive increase of 29,000.

See:  Scoop – Youth unemployment needs to be a priority

Interestingly, this was predicted as far back as June last year, when trade unionist James Sleep said,

Research from the Treasury, Motu and the Department of Labour clearly states there is no link between the abolition of youth rates and the loss of jobs. When youth rates were abolished for 18-20 year olds, employment increased, not decreased. If the Government do consider this as a way to solve youth unemployment, they have chosen to ignore the informed advice of their officials and that’s bad policy making

The Government’s cavalier approach to solving youth unemployment is going to leave behind a lost generation. Youth unemployment for the 15-19 age group has gone from 17% to 27.5% under National. This is a social disaster and a ticking time bomb that is going to come back to bite.”

See:   Scoop – Youth rates will not solve youth unemployment

Mr Sleep was 100% on the nail – National’s quasi-youth rate scheme not only failed to reduce youth unemployment, but actually increased it.

Outcome: nil.

Verdict: fail.

* Throughout National’s programme of tax cuts, both John Key and Bill English have steadfastly maintained that the tax cuts; rise in GST; and other policies have been   “fiscally neutral”. In March last year, Bill English said,

A number of property and other tax changes will encourage sound investment decisions, make the tax system fairer and ensure the overall tax package is broadly fiscally neutral.”

See:  April 1 tax changes will mean govt’s 2010 tax package will be fiscally negative for 2 more years as it struggles with quake costs

Even as National’s budget deficit was ballooning, despite massive cuts in spending, as late as last month,  John Key was almost religiously adamant in his beliefs,

The tax reforms we are introducing have been designed to be broadly fiscally neutral.

See:  Impact of tax switch in 2010 yet to be realised

And yet, revenue was dropping and the government deficit was growing – threatening to “crash” the budget, as Greens co-leader Russell Norman stated,

It is wrong for the Government to cut important public services and support for people to get an education at the same time it is borrowing $800 million a year for tax cuts for the wealthy,” said Dr Norman.

“Two years ago, National told us it could afford these so-called ‘fiscally neutral’ tax cuts.

“Now, it is crying poverty and telling New Zealanders they will have to pay with cuts to services and student loans.

“National has manufactured a crisis by committing itself to an arbitrary goal of eliminating the deficit in 2014/15 while cutting revenue needed to get there.

“Did National not realise its unaffordable tax cuts for the rich would crash the budget, or did it cynically reduce government revenue to give it an excuse to cuts services in the future?

“Neither option can give New Zealanders confidence in the economic management of their government.”

See: Scoop –  National’s Tax Cuts At Heart Of Budget ‘Crisis’

The government’s looming budget deficit is due to lower  tax revenue for the last nine months. The drop in tax revenue  was $1.58 billion (almost 4%)  less than previously forecast, by Treasury.

See: Govt tax take below forecast

So much for tax cuts in April 2009 and October 2010 being “fiscally neutral. Clearly, that claim is utter bollocks and is no longer credible.

Outcome: nil.

Verdict: fail.

Other indicators of a failed economic policy that take no account of realities,

Current account deficit widens to $2.7 billion

* Jobs-driven migration to Oz at high of 53,000

* $12 billion student debt a national liability

* Treasury’s Monthly Economic Indicators – Numbers reveal National disgrace

And adding insult to injury, Australian businesses are coming to New Zealand to set up shop, to exploit our lower wages,

* Aussie firms sending business across ditch

How does it feel, I wonder, when New Zealanders realise that corporations are viewing New Zealand as another Third World country, with cheap labour?

Little wonder that our best and brightest are leaving this country as fast as they can pack a suitcase and board the first available flight out of here.

Unless the reader happens to be a National Party groupie who worships the ground that Dear Leader walks on, it is fairly plain to see that National’s policies in job creation and sustainable fiscal policies have been a miserable failure. National has paid more attention to nutty neo-liberal economic doctrine rather than common sense.

It is reaping the consequences of blindly pursuing economic policies that have been failing since the early 1980s.

John Key and his ministers have no answer to the failings of their policies. Which is when highly paid (from our taxes) Spin Doctors take a miserable failure such as the rise in unemployment, and re-write it as a bizarre “positive,

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

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The Dark Art of political spin; avoiding acceptance of the truth at all costs, and spinning a yarn that – hopefully – the punters will accept with a shrug.

Yeah, it sounds crazy.

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The wheels are coming off, and there’s a funny ‘plink-plink’ sound…

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Frankly Speaking - Blog - Frank Macskasy

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… coming from the noddy-car that is the National Government.

So far this year

We saw the resignation of Nick Smith;  Minister of Foreign Affairs Murray McCully blaming his own Ministry for enforcing government mandated budget and staffing cuts;   Minister Banks with worsening Alzheimers; as well as other bad-news and cock-ups for National…

When McCully  discovered a planned million-dollar upgrade of our Tokyo Embassy,  he was not a happy chappy,

It runs expressly against the instruction I gave some weeks ago that at a time when people were having to have their jobs reappraised for the ministry, we should cut back the capital expenditure budgets and significant maintenance to bare essentials only.”

Oh? Mr McCully issued “instructions“? So the cuts to MFAT’s budget and staffing was a Ministerial directive, and not an initiative by MFAT  chief executive John Allen because he was bored and had nothing to do on a Friday afternoon??

If I understand Murray McCully correctly, the fact that National has cut 2,500 jobs thus far from the State Sector – has nothing to do with proposed staff cuts at MFAT?!

Because that’s the inescapable conclusion from media reporting of Murray McCully, such as this Radio NZ piece,

Minister of Foreign Affairs Murray McCully is criticising his own ministry for cost-cutting measures he says he disapproves of.

The measures – unveiled a month ago in a bid to save $25 million a year – will now be revised.

One of the ministry’s ideas was the outsourcing of jobs to contracting agencies.

But Mr McCully says that would not work in many places where New Zealand is represented, such as the Pacific Islands.”

Well, obviously. I wonder how many advisers it took to come up with the blindingly obvious?!

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The furore over the ACC continues to simmer, and  so far involves,

  • Files mistakenly emailed  to ACC clientBronwyn Pullar,
  • Nick Smith’s letters to ACC to help friend and National Party activist Bronwyn Pullar,
  • Ex-National Party president, Michell Boag’s involvement,
  • Ms Pullar’s name and details leaked to the media by ???
  • Claims and counter-claims of demands/offers for a ACC benefit to be paid to Ms Pullar,
  • Nick Smith’s resignation,
  • Ms Pullar’s public letter expressing her “regret” at Dr Smith’s political demise,
  • Calls for a full Inquiry by Labour, The Greens, and by Nick Smith himself!
  • Lyn Provost, the Auditor-General  says she is “considering requests for an independent inquiry”.
  • And Bronwyn Pullar’s recording of her meeting with ACC, which shows that ACC misrepresented what was said between the two parties. Extraordinary!

Whilst this blogger has no time for the National Party and it’s proven illicit love-affair  with  cronyism; nor it’s disastrous economic and social policies – that does not diminish a sense of fair play. If Dr Nick Smith requests an Inquiry, then in all fairness there should be one.

It is heartening to see the Auditor General becoming involved.  Dr Smith and all  New Zealanders deserve this most basic aspect of justice. We need to know what the hell is going on.

As for Dear Leader stating that he sees no reason for an Inquiry,

“”Everyone has moved on…”

Yes, well, Key would say that, wouldn’t he? Especially if, as many suspect, there is much more to this story than we’ve been made aware.

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In March, John Key announced that local bodies would be constrained by a new law to fund “core business” only. When asked what a “core business” was – he couldn’t say – but it would be a “broad focus“.

Nick Smith then complicated matters by saying that the words “social” and “environmental” were being removed from the broad focus, and that “ it was clear councils had an important social role and environmental role through the Resource Management Act“.

Well that’s clear. As clear as a Rotorua mud-pool.

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Finance Minister, Bill English, has conceded that partial-privatisation of Meridian, Genesis, Mighty River, Solid Energy, and further sell-down of Air New Zealand might result in the government having to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars to invest in those SOEs.  But that’s ok, because English said,

You’re looking at over the next three or four years growth in the Crown balance sheet net value of 20 or 25 billion dollars, so a few hundred million here and there is not acutally that big a commitment.

Oh, that’s ok then;  “…a few hundred million here and there is not acutally that big a commitment “, eh?

It’s a pity that English isn’t quite as generous with ” a few hundred million here and therefor sufferers of Pompe’s Disease – who have a life threatening disease – and are campaigning for National to fund life-saving medicines for half a dozen people in the country. The cost would be far less, and would save lives.

Is saving lives enough of a  “big committment“, I wonder?

After all, in 2008, Key campaigned on over-riding Pharmac’s purchase-policy on herceptin, to make it  available for a longer period of time. But that was 2008 – Election Year. Things tend to be a bit different Election Time.

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Nearly two months ago, in his 15 March “State of the Nation” speech, John Key announced that his Party had “four priorities this term”. Then, because four is not enough, he stated that he wanted “10 areas” that would be targetted by National.  Which, of course, is still less than the “economic action plan with the 120 key things“…

Personally, I’m hanging out for the 1,000-Point Uber-Plan to Conquor the Universe… [cue: Darth Vader’s Imperial March]

So what is Dear Leader’s Master Plan to bring fiscal salvation and neo-liberal nirvana to our islands?

Well…

We’ve brought the Ministry of Fisheries, MAF and the Food Safety Authority together to make the new Ministry for Primary Industries…”

Huzzah!

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After two tax cuts; sacking 2,500 state sector workers; reforming/restructuring/re-anything government departments; the 90 day employment trial-period law; cutting social services; and turning a blind eye to employers attempting to force Unions out of workplaces – what have we got to show for ?

Unemployment is back up to 6.7%.

That’s right, folks; National is implementing classical neo-liberal policies, as per doctrinal orthodoxy,  and still economic growth is low and unemployment is increasing, not decreasiing.

This isn’t what the Friendmanites promised us!

On top of that, youth unemployment (definied as between 15 to 24 age bracket) has risen from 58,000 last year – to a disturbing 83,000 this year. When questioned on this rise, Welfare Minister Paula Bennet said,

We’ve been supporting them. We’ve seen that the number of youth unemployed come down.

That’s right, folks, you haven’t mis-read it: Paula Bennet considers an increase of 25,000 as “youth unemployed coming down”.

However, she was gracious enough to admit a simple truth the the rest of the country already knew,

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

Which then begs the question; if there aren’t enough jobs – what is the point of National’s proposed welfare “reforms”?!?! What good will come of  “reforming” welfare when welfare ain’t broke – the job market is?!

But then again, this is the same government that sacked 2,500 state sector workers to cut back on the $74.2 billion debt that National has incurred since 2008.  How much has National “saved” by sacking 2,500 workers?

$20 million.

That’s 10% of the .2 billion figure previously mentioned.

If it weren’t for the tragedy of workers having lost their jobs because of this mickey mouse government, I’d be laughing my arse off at that.

  • $74.2 billion in debt.
  • 2,500 men and women lost their jobs.
  • $20 million ‘saved’.
  • *facepalm*

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Unemployment is up – 160,000, at last count, and National is shown to have little in the way of job creation policies. According to  National, job creation is the prerogative of the free market – not central government.

When National  does become  involved, it is  a weird, mutant-form of   “Think Big”,  consisting  of mining on conservation estates (hugely unpopular); deep-sea drilling (perceived as dangerous by the public); and building a convention centre in Auckland (raising eyebrows).

The problem with the latter is that Sky City wants a quid-pro-quo. If they win the contract to build a $350 million convention centre they want legislation amended to permit an extra  350 – 500  pokies and/or gaming tables. Legislation-for-sale, as some call it.

This is viewed with concern by some – and outright dismay or hostility by others. New Zealand already has a considerable  social problem with  gambling addiction, affecting many families and communities.

John Key attempted to sooth community concerns by stating,

In a casino they are in a better environment say than attached to a pub deliberating targeting low income people in South Auckland.” – Source

By now, people tend to view Key’s assertions with a  generous measure of  suspicion. He has previously demonstrated a willingness to ‘bend the truth‘ when it suits him. So claiming that “casinos are a better environment” went down like a pool of cold vomit on a Courtney Place footpath, after a normal Friday night.

The issue was not helped when Sky City boss, chief executive Nigel Morrison, asserted that,

The incidence of harm cited from Lotto is greater than that from pokie machines in casinos. Getting those facts across is difficult.” – Source

Yes, Mr Morrison, it is difficult getting that across. Difficult because it is rubbish.

The actual facts surrounding problem gambling is;

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POKIES v LOTTO

Number of problem gamblers seeking help for:

2011:
* Pub gaming machines:  681
* Casino electronic gaming machines:  100
* Casino tables/cards:  57
* Lotto:  6

2010:
* Pub gaming machines:  693
* Casino electronic gaming machines:  91
* Casino tables/cards:  64
* Lotto:  0
(First time callers, Gambling Helpline New Zealand Report for National Statistics)

Source: NZ Herald,  Experts trash ‘Lotto danger’ claim

See also:  Problem gambler numbers swell at SkyCity

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Soon after,  Key put his Prime  Ministerial foot in it, by revealing that the Sky City pokies-for-convention-centre deal was his bright idea,

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

As this blogger pointed out, in a previous blogpiece, Key seems to be in a habit of doing deals in “informal social settings”; Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How. It is not the first time that Dear Leader has stitched up a deal over a few drinks and nibbles.

This may be how business is done in Wall St or City of London – but not in any Westminster-style Parliament. The word dodgy springs to mind.

And that, folks, is the rep that Dear Leader seems unwittingly to be creating for himself;  dodgy.

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And then, we come to the players of the next National Guvmint drama-farce,

  • Kim Dotcom
  • John Key
  • Maurice Williamson
  • Sky City Casino
  • and our favourite ACT MP (actually, our only ACT MP) – John Banks!

ACT MP and Leader is in serious trouble over donations he received from Sky City Casino (2010) and Kim Dotcom (last year).  The problem for Banks is,

  1. Why did he declare the $15,000 donation from Sky City as anonymous – when Len Brown – who received the same amount – declared Sky City as the donor on his Electoral Return?
  2. Has  John Banks change his views on gambling after the $50,000 donation from Sky City and will he vote to allow Sky City to install 350-500 new pokies?
  3. How does one forget a helicopter ride?
  4. How could John Banks have had time to seek legal advice regarding  speaking to the media, when the first conversation with John Campbell, on TV3, on 27 April, 7pm, could not possibly have allowed him the chance to phone his lawyer(s)?
  5. If Banks didn’t know that Dotcom had donated $50,000 to his mayoral fund in 2010 – why did he phone Dotcom to thank him?
  6. How does Banks reconcile his initial statement of “barely knowing” Dotcom and “having met him” for only 20 minutes – when he met the web entrepreneur four times; attended a Party with him; raised a toast in Dotcom’s honour; and then had Big Man Hugs with our Germanic cuzzy afterwards?!

As for our esteemed Dear Leader, here are some questions for him,

  1. Why has Key set the bar so low for Banks, when he stood down Richard Worth, Phil Heatley, and Pansy Wong whilst they were being investigated? Phil Heatley was stood down over two bottles of wine, for gods’ sakes!
  2. Majority of 15 – good; majority of 1 – bad?
  3. What is Key’s new definition of “ethics” – and is it a ‘dynamic situation’; “There is quite a wide definition of ethics“.
  4. How on Earth does John Key arrive at the conclusion that he trusts Banks’ word when, (a) Banks’ story has been changing/evolving/mutating  since 27 April, (b) nothing that Dotcom has alleged has been disproven, and,  (c) Key has not even personally met with Banks to discuss this issue?

The last item is perhaps the most bizarre of this entire ‘Pythonesque‘ affair; John Key has admitted to the media that he has not met John Banks to discuss this issue, and nor has he directly asked Banks for an explanation!?!?

Instead, Key has stated that he has left the matter for his Chief  of Staff,

Key said his chief of staff has received assurance from Banks that he paid for all expenses on the trip.” – Source

It’s not like John Key has been too busy to meet Banksie;  “John Key reveals his dream job“,

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Mr Key was interviewed by a group of year six students during a visit to Lower Hutt’s Eastern Hutt School this afternoon, and answered a range of questions stretching from his exercise regime, to what he carries in his pockets at all times.
When asked about the most rewarding aspect of his job, Mr Key said he got to do quite a lot of “cool things”.
“In about three weeks I’m going to London for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and I’m going on the boat with the Queen … and I get to have lots of free food,” he told the students.

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Ok, so Dear Leader and his political advisors reckon that by not meeting Banks face-to-face and avoiding  directly asking awkward questions, that Key can keep his hands clean?!

If they truly believe that, then they are seriously deluded. If/when more sh*t hits the fan, or Police prosecute Banks, then the media will be all over John Key, demanding to know why the Prime Minister avoided his responsibilties in the first place.

Got a ready-made answer waiting for that curly one, Teflon John?

John Key is playing a dangerous political game here, and has backed himself into a corner should the Banks-Dotcom-Sky City affair worsen.

By not confronting Banks,  he will be seen  by the public as  having abrogated his duty as Prime Minister. He may have to smile and wave a bit harder to get out of that particular pickle…

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National has decided to be magnanimous and spare Ambrose Bradley from the chopping block; they will not be seeking court costs from the cameraman.

Ambrose Bradley flared into brilliance in the public consciousness last year when his recording device was discovered on the cafe table where John Key was enjoying a quiet cuppa tea with John Banks. Along with thirty-plus media reporters, photographers, cameramen, etc. It was all very ‘cosy‘…

… until the recording device was discovered; allegations of deliberate spying were made against Mr Ambrose;  complaints were laid with the Police; and media offices around the country were raided by Darth Vader’s Stormtroopers searching for a little droid Police armed with search warrants,

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It never went anywhere, of course. No one was arrested or prosecuted. The only ‘crime’ committed was  an assault against the sensibilities of Epsom voters – but unfortunately our law books are silent on such matters. Pity.

So it was quietly dropped, and an appeal to the Supreme Court by Mr Ambrose was inconclusive – though the bill for it was not. National contemplated seeking court costs – $13,600 – from Mr Ambrose.

It was an exercise in petty  vindictiveness by National – much like Paula Bennett mis-using the personal files of two solo-mothers, when they dared criticise the Minister of Social Welfare.

Make no mistake – there was no point whatsoever in unleashing the paramilitary arm of The State onto media and one lone journalist. This was Latin American/Middle East/former Soviet republic stuff. It was a naked mis-use of  Police  power with the aim of coercing people into silence and submission.

The most tragic aspect of this entire fiasco is that many/most National Party apologists and their low-information support-voters  approve of what took place. (Hell, some of them would probably approve of a One Party police state – as long as it was National that was the One Party, and ‘not those other fullas‘.)

That is the single thing that saddens me the most. That some of my fellow New Zealanders have a closet, quasi-fascist streak within them.

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On a more positive note, as the wheels of the National government are coming off, and there’s a funny ‘plink-plink‘ sound coming from under the Party bonnet, the public are beginning to wake up to the ‘lemon’ that they’ve been sold. National is not the finely-tuned, high-performance sports-car they were presented with last year, at the Election Show Rooms.

Instead, it’s an old ‘clunker‘, with a second-hand motor,  and it’s about to be written off the road.

It’s replacement, a two-tone red-green model is bound to be an improvement.

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Other Blogs

Fearfactsexposed:  Key’s budget spin gets another free ride on stuff.co.nz

Pundit:  National 101: How to hate debt & raise it at the same time

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