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Archive for 21 July 2012

Letters from Parliament…

Following on from this Blog’s promotion of the Million Mail campaign (see previous blogpost: Campaign: Flood the Beehive!), several responses from National politicians have been forwarded to me.

The first two seem fairly innocuous fob-offs,

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John Key state asset sales SOEs

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Tony Ryall state asset sales SOEs

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But this following letter, and enclosed literature, is more interesting.

First, the covering letter,

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The letter seems fairly innocuous, like the two above – even with the statement “National will continue to work tirelessly to deliver on our plan to build a brighter future for all New Zealanders” (bottom of letter), which appears to be a Party-political statement. That would be illegal if the letter was paid by taxpayer-funded Parliamentary Services funding allocations.

The following literature, that was enclosed with the above covering letter, is more cause for concern,

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The first, of four pages, contain some blatant mis-representations, half-truths, and a fair measure of hypocrisy.

1.

Delivering a better public service

It is debateable if National is delivering “better public services” with 2,500 jobs lost through sackings; pared-back services such as MAF Border controls; low Army morale; naval staff shortages resulting in uncrewed ships; unanswered phones at IRD and Housing New Zealand, etc, etc…

See previous blogpost: Another case of “We told you so!”?

In fact, it might be argued that National’s budget cuts and mass-redundancies have left our state sector in a run-down, demoralised, over-stretched state.

But in National’s alternative Universe, all these problems constitute “better public services”.

2.

New Zealand is in good shape…”

“Good shape” depends on whether John Key is comparing us to Greece, Somalia, and Tonga – or Australia.

Considering that,

None of these issues are covered  in National’s brochure. In fact, Bill English sez “we’re doing alright.

3.

Operating in surplus helps keep mortage rates lower for longer

That statement is so disingenuous that it is nothing more than an outright lie.

A. National has not been “in surplus” since Labour lost the election in 2008.

B. Mortgage interest rates are determined by the Reserve Bank and corporate banks – not by government.

C. Interest rate are dependent several factors such as the OCR set by the Reserve Bank (independepent of government); overseas interest rates; New Zealand’s credit rating (the lower our rating, the higher  interest rates we pay); our Balance of Payments; private debt; and lastly, sovereign debt.

D. Interest rates are currently low because the country’s economy is stagnating; there is poor economic growth; and hence banks are lowering their rates to attract new customers.

For John Key to claim some sort of  “ownership” over low interest rates is unsurprising.

He has nothing else to claim as “good news”.

Dear Leader has as much to do with keeping interest rates down as King Canute did in commanding the tide to retreat.  Didn’t that end well?

4.

See #3 above: more pure, unadulterated bullshit.

I haven’t read propaganda like this since the Soviet Union’s last 5 Year Plan to over-take the United States in economic growth. That didn’t end well either.

Let’s check out National’s bold claims for New Zealand’s growing neo-liberal nirvana,

“... employ more people,”

Not according to the latest job-market statistics, released in early May,

New Zealand’s unemployment rate unexpectedly rose to 6.7pc in the first quarter after the labour force swelled to a three-year high as more people started looking for work in what’s been a tight jobs market. The kiwi dollar fell after the data was released.

The unemployment rate rose 0.3 percentage points to 6.7 per cent in the three months ended March 31, from a revised 6.4 per cent in the prior quarter, according to Statistics New Zealand’s household labour force survey. That’s higher than the 6.3 per cent forecast in a Reuters survey of economists. “

See: Unemployment rate lifts to 6.7pc

And businesses seemed to have their own ideas, a month previous,

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

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

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

See: Confidence up, but jobs still not a priority

We are encouraging businesses to grow through having confidence to invest…”

Oh well, at least business confidence was up.

Oh, wait, no…

Sorry, that’s changed now,

Business confidence has fallen for the first time in seven months, though National Bank’s latest survey shows confidence is still “very healthy”.

A net 27 per cent of firms expect business conditions to improve in the coming year down from 35.8 per cent in the previous month.

See: Business confidence down but resilient

Not looking terribly good for Dear Leader, is it?

“… pay them higher wages,”

Well, it’s true that Dear Leader has promised us higher wages,

“We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.” – John Key, 29 January 2008

We will also continue our work to increase the incomes New Zealanders earn.” – John Key, 8 February 2011

The driving goal of my Government is to build a more competitive and internationally-focused economy with less debt, more jobs and higher incomes.” – John Key, 21 December 2011

But, like most of his promises, they’ve either been broken, ignored, or “postponed” into the never-never,

New Zealand families are under growing financial stress as stagnating wages and salaries prove inadequate to cover spiralling costs – and even top-tier earners are feeling the squeeze.

According to Statistics New Zealand’s Household Income Survey, 29,200 more families now rate themselves as having incomes too low to meet their daily needs than in the same survey four months before John Key’s first term.

In June 2007, the number of households rating themselves income-poor was 254,100. That number has now risen to 283,300. “

See: NZ families feel the income squeeze

In  2008, wages (LCI)  increased by 3.4% for the March Quarter.

See: Salary and wage rates increase by record amount

By 2012, wages (LCI)  increased for the March Quarter by only  2%.

See: Wage Growth – March 2012 Quarter

Which is a marked improvement from only two years ago,

Statistics New Zealand’s latest Labour Cost Index showed salaries and wages increasing at their slowest rate in eight years, up 1.8 per cent in the year to the December quarter. It was the lowest quarterly increase since June 2001. “

See: Wage rises lowest since 2001

At the same time, the top 150 Rich Listers  have done extremely well,

The fortunes of the country’s 150 richest people have grown by almost 20 per cent in one year but they are still calling for the easing of constrictions around wealth creation.

The National Business Review yesterday published its annual Rich List, showing that the combined wealth of New Zealand’s richest has ballooned from $38.2 billion to $45.2 billion – the highest total ever. “

See: Rich Listers enjoy 20pc increase in wealth

Considering that rest home careworkers are still living on $13.61 an hour (perhaps marginally more), and that John Key denied these lowpaid workers a decent wage-increase, National’s committment to raising peoples’ pay is questionable. Especially when Dear Leader stated,

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

See: PM: No money for aged care workers

Which is rather ‘curious’, as National clearly has a spare $336 million to spend on consultants, and various “fees” for selling our own state assets to bogus “mums and dads”  (aka,  corporate investors)

See previous blogpost: Roads, grandma, and John Key

Furthermore, when workers go on strike to protect their current working conditions and pay-rates, as the recent Ports of Auckland dispute showed, National’s fellow-travellers are only too pleased to ‘put the boot‘ into them. In fact, National’s allies and at least one MP claimed that POAL workers were “over-paid”.

How can we raise wages in this country if the right wing are constantly resisting and even actively  attacking initiatives that would result in raising incomes and our standard of living?

Eventually, POAL workers defeated their employers attempt to casualise (and reduce their pay) the workforce – but only because of massive community support for the courageous men who work our wharves.

Far from raising wages to bridge the gap with Australia – Australia is bridging the gap with us…

“… creating a more productive and competitive economy.”

Not sure about productive, but Key has made us “a more… competitive economy” – but not in the way we thought was a good way,

Woolworths Australia this week moved a contact centre to Auckland, citing lower costs among the benefits, following similar expansion plans for cigarette manufacturing, food processing and media work to New Zealand.

“Labour does not want New Zealand to become Australia’s Mexico,” said the party’s finance spokesman, David Parker, criticising the influx of lower value jobs. ..

[abridged]

Macquarie University’s centre for workforce futures director, Ray Markey, said the pressure would continue as the mining boom pushed up wages and costs in Australia.

It was easy for Australian businesses to shift some operations to New Zealand because of the two countries’ many similarities, he said.

“I don’t think a low-wage economy is a way to go for the future, and it’s not going to help increase productivity… I wouldn’t want a call centre-based economy,” Dr Markey said. “But I’m much more optimistic if manufacturing is shifting“. “

See: Aussie firms sending business across ditch

And thus Bill English’s vision of a low-wage economy came to pass, when on 10 April 2011, he openly enthused over New Zealand’s low-wage economy compared to Australia,

GUYON Can I talk about the real economy for people?  They see the cost of living keep going up.  They see wages really not- if not quite keeping pace with that, certainly not outstripping it much.  I mean, you said at the weekend to the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum that one of our advantages over Australia was that our wages were 30% cheaper.  I mean, is that an advantage now?

BILL Well, it’s a way of competing, isn’t it?  I mean, if we want to grow this economy, we need the capital – more capital per worker – and we’re competing for people as well.
 
GUYON So it’s part of our strategy to have wages 30% below Australia? 

BILL Well, they are, and we need to get on with competing for Australia.  So if you take an area like tourism, we are competing with Australia.  We’re trying to get Australians here instead of spending their tourist dollar in Australia.

GUYON But is it a good thing?

BILL Well, it is a good thing if we can attract the capital, and the fact is Australians- Australian companies should be looking at bringing activities to New Zealand because we are so much more competitive than most of the Australian economy.

GUYON So let’s get this straight – it’s a good thing for New Zealand that our wages are 30% below Australia?

BILL No, it’s not a good thing, but it is a fact.  We want to close that gap up, and one way to close that gap up is to compete, just like our sports teams are doing.  This weekend we’ve had rugby league, netball, basketball teams, and rugby teams out there competing with Australia.  That’s lifting the standard.  They’re closing up the gap. 

GUYON But you said it was an advantage, Minister.

BILL Well, at the moment, if I go to Australia and talk to Australians, I want to put to them a positive case for investment in New Zealand, because while we are saving more, we’re not saving more fast enough to get the capital that we need to close the gap with Australia.  So Australia already has 40 billion of investment in New Zealand.  If we could attract more Australian companies, activities here, that would help us create the jobs and lift incomes.

See: TVNZ Q+A Bill English interview Transcript

Not looking too good for National, thus far…

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Two Dear Leaders. Propaganda. ‘Nuff said.

6.

In Budget 2012 we’ve allocated the first $558 million of the proceeds of mixed ownership. We’re modernising schools ($34m), upgrading hospitals ($69m), supporting infrastructure such as Kiwirail ($250m), and research through the new Advanced Technology Institute ($76m). Over the next few years, $1 billion of the [Future Investment]  fund will be invested in New Zealand schools.

One of National’s oft-quoted spin-rhetoric is that the partial-sale of five state assets is to invest in new state assets,

Those points around companies operating more efficiently and effectively have been well made by the Government, as has the view that we’d like to see New Zealanders investing more in their country and the fact that we want to buy new assets without having to incur more debt. I think those points have been made”. ” – John Key, 19 July 2012

See: Key defends asset sales policy promotion

This is a lie.

National is not investing in “new assets”. They are spending on maintenance,

...We’re modernising schools ($34m), upgrading hospitals ($69m), supporting infrastructure such as Kiwirail ($250m)

There is a difference.  This blogger has some degree of business experience, and understands the difference between capital expenditure (aka “capex”)  and maintenance expenditure.

A. Capital investment: purchasing a new fishing boat, to add to a fleet, to generate addition income.

B. Maintenance: regular painting; cleaning;  motor and equipment maintenance, to keep existing income-generation.

As the astute reader will understand,  Capital Investment involves purchasing a new item which contributes to increasing turnover for a business.

Maintaintenance (or modernising, upgrading, and supporting infrastructure)  is just that;  keeping existing items up to operating standards.

So when Dear Leader, Bill English, Steven Joyce, Tony Ryall, et al, claim that National is selling state assets to buy new state assets – they are willfully misrepresenting their actions.

Building a new school is a capital purchase (a new state asset).  Slapping a lick of paint on an existing school is not a new state asset – it’s whacking a coat of Dulux on an existing building.

Key, English, and Joyce know this.  All three have  been involved in finance or business in one way or another.  But it suits their purpose to perpetrate this “spin”, to make it look as if we are replacing “Asset A” with “Asset B”.

They are doing no such thing.

The reason that National is now having to partially-privatise five SOE’s is that they lost an estimated $2 billion in tax-revenue, per annum,  after cutting taxes in 2009 and 2010. After considerable research, the Green Party discovered,

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

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

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

“Borrowing $2 billion in 18 months to fund upper-income tax cuts is fiscally irresponsible.

“National’s poor economic decisions have led to record levels of government debt and borrowing. “

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

According to a Treasury report,

The Budget deficit is running $1.2 billion worse than forecast as tax revenue continues to lag.

Treasury today released the Government’s financial statements for the eight months to the end of February showing an operating deficit of $8.8 billion.

See: Budget deficit keeps getting worse

Considering that the tax cuts benefitted high-income earners the most, what we have here is that,

  • National cut taxes in 2009 and 2010
  • National is now having to flog off our state assets to pay for maintenance that otherwise would have been paid out of taxation
  • The people of New Zealand are paying for tax-cuts through the loss of their assets
  • The richest are benefitting the most from this wealth-transfer.

If you’re starting to feel angry about now, rest assured that is a normal response. After all, who likes being ripped of?

Pass the paint brush, please, Mr Key?

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7.

Welfare will always be there for those in genuine need but too many New Zealanders are welfare dependent, trapping families in work. We believe those who can  work should work. We’re investing $287.5 million to break long term dependence blah blah blah...”

This is dog-whistle politics geared toward the Uninformed and Intolerant. It is not based in fact – it is based purely on prejudice.

Welfare dependent“?

Breaking long term dependence“?

Those who can work should work“?

When National’s economic performance is criticised – John Key reminds us that they inherited a Global Financial Crisis and the resultant Great Recession.

But that doesn’t stop National from blaming welfare recipients for being out of work. Some actual facts here may help,

In four years, unemployment has DOUBLED since National became government.  We should ask Dear Leader why this has happened.  There are three possible causes,

  1. A global recession has resulted in a sharp rise in unemployment
  2. National’s policies has caused unemployment
  3. 83,000 New Zealanders  chucked in their jobs and decided that getting a benefit of $204.96 was better than earning the average wage of $1,016.95. Go figure.

Perhaps we should let Welfare Minister Paula Bennett provide the answer,

No. There’s not a job for everyone that would want one right now, or else we wouldn’t have the unemployment figures that we do. ” – Paula Bennett, 29 April  2012

See:   Q+A: Paula Bennett interview

It seems fairly clear. There’s nothing quite like engaging in a bit of bene-bashing to win support in Voter Land.  National has no hesitation in using the victims of the global financial crisis to make itself look “tough on welfare beneficiaries”.  Meanwhile, National uses the same global financial crisis as an excuse for it’s own unimpressive economic performance.

8.

Budget 2012 includes $101 million of extra funding over the next four years for 4000 more elective operations a year, faster access to important scans and test results, and better cancer support services.”

Anything to do with “better cancer support” is an instant vote-winner. It almosts succeeds in putting a “human face” on National’s neo-liberal, “small government”, policies.

Until we read this,

To help meet cost pressures and fund these new initiatives, the Government will increase the $3 prescription charge to $5 per item, up to a maximum of 20 items, after which items are free...”

So to pay for cancer patients; other sick people, including children over 6 will be paying more for their medicines?!

When we have 200,000 children living in poverty; going to school without shoes or food; and living in cold, damp, rundown housing – charging more for medicine is the height of inhuman cruelty. There are families in this country for whom $5 might as well be $5,000 – threy simply don’t have the money.

Scrub my earlier reference to putting a “human face” on National.

9.

“… We’ve hired over 2000 extra nurses and and 800 extra doctors while there are 1000 few back-office staff.”

Really?

So who’s doing the paperwork? Who is keeping patient records up-to-date? Who is handling every day matters such as procurements? Invoices and bill-paying? Salaries? Rosters?  Equipment requisitions and maintenance?  Building maintenance? Personnel issues? Appointment-making? Contacting patients? Etc, etc?

Let me guess – each of those 2,000 “extra nurses” and 800 “extra doctors” have their own desks and share of paperwork to complete?

10.

In the tertiary sector we’re re-balancing our investment between student support and future tuition and research.  This will see student loans repaid faster and student allowances restricted to the current 200 week maximum. We’ll re-invest the savings into improving quality in the tertiary sector, especially in our universities.”

That’s a whole lot of meaningless blah, blah, blah… with the exception of this slipped into the rhetoric,  “…and student allowances restricted to the current 200 week maximum.

With a stroke of a Minister’s pen, 5,000 students are denied student allowances to undertake their postgraduate study.

National talks about upskilling; having a modern, educated workforce – and then pulls the rug out from under students. And this is not the first time National has done this kind of thing.

Aside from cutting the Training Incentive Allowance, National has also,

It seems fairly obvious that far from ” re-investing the savings into improving quality in the tertiary sector “, National has been making sly cuts as part of their maniacal obsession with “balancing the books’ and returning to surplus by 2014/15.

Unfortunately,  our children are paying for it through their education.

11.

Our National Standards are keeping parents informed about their child’s progress and identifying  kids falling behind. Experts are working with schools and teachers to help raise the bar…”

Bollocks.

National Standards does nothing of the sort.

National Standards are an ideological construct leading ultimately to League Tables, and the social stratification of our schools. Ghettoisation follows soon after.

As for  “experts are working with schools and teachers to help raise the barthat has to be the most absurd claim on this entire leaflet.

What “experts”?

Who could possibly be more “expert” than our teachers and principals?!

New Zealand has consistantly ranked high on the  OECD PISA Rankings. We are in the top six of nations.

The United States – from whence National is ‘borrowing’ much of it’s ideological claptrap such as Charter Schools, ranks number 15 – with Poland.

National can take no credit for this, and has even tried undermining many of the  excellent achievemant New Zealand has built up in the last decade.

It’s attempt to slash teacher numbers and increase class sizes in State schools was a potential recipe for disaster.

Meanwhile, John Key’s children were attending private schools.

12.

To meet these targets, we need to lift quality teaching and leadership across the education system.”

Call me cynical, but whenever I read rhetoric like this from National, it sends a chill down my back. “Lifting quality” is usually code for some nasty right-wing policy that usually involves cost-cutting, user-pays, and some manner of  private-commercial involvement.

So far all we’ve seen from National involves,

  • plans to cut teacher numbers (cancelled)
  • plans to increase classroom sizes (cancelled)
  • Charter schools involving private companies (School for Burger King?)
  • League Tables
  • National Standards

All of it based on right wing ideology. Parents should be very afraid – National is planning to use our schools to implement American-style ideological policies.

Which begs the question why we would want that? Remember that the US is far below NZ on the OECD PISA rankings.

Why are we not following Finland instead, which remunerates it’s teachers very well?

Should we ask Gerry Brownlee?

Maybe not.

13.

And in Budget 2012 we are investing a record $9.6 billion across ECE and schooling – the most ever.”

How can National be spending “the most ever”, when Bill English has declared the 2012 Budget to be a “zero” budget?! National insists they are not spending a cent more than last year?

In which case, what has National been cutting?

We do know one thing that National has cut,

One of the smaller Budget moves removes a tax credit on schoolchildren’s incomes, supposedly to reduce compliance costs for the employers of youngsters with part-time jobs.

It is forecast to save the Government $14 million a year, but Labour has described it as “picking the pockets of paper boys”.

See: Budget: Our big fat zero Budget

Taxing kids on a paper run…

Charming.

14.

We’re spending $14.12 billion this year on our public health service – the most ever.”

Ditto above. When National gives with one hand – you can bet your booties they’ve taken from somewhere else, with the other.

Keep your hand on your wallet.

15.

National is focused on raising achievement through quality teaching…”

In which case, National should consider proper resourcing of schools; increasing training for young unemployed (15-19); raising salaries for teachers – and abandon the lunatic right wing agenda it has borrowed from the United States.

If National is serious about raising achievement, we should be following Finland – not the US.

Charter Schools do not offer the success that National would have us believe. Even our American cuzzies are starting to realise this.

See: Denver Post –  Charter schools, They’re not better for our kids

See: New Stanford Report Finds Serious Quality Challenge in National Charter School Sector

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16.

None of the above claims are easily verifiable. Taking into consideration that most of the “statements of fact” on the above pages are spin, rhetoric, and of dubious accuracy, one would be wise to take all statements in #16 with a significant quantity of salt grains…

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17.

More children in early childhood education,  especially in areas of highest need.”

This would be a positive move by National. But to achieve it, there has to be adequate funding – and this is not happening. Under National, it has budgetted for a nil increase in funding, and not taken inflation nor wage increases into account,

Early childhood education subsidy cuts worth tens of millions of dollars are likely to be passed on to some parents through increased fees.

Education Minister Hekia Parata has kicked a total revamp of ECE funding into a future Budget, opting instead to stop cost increases to the Crown by cancelling the annual upward inflationary adjustment in rates.

The subsidy freeze takes effect on the next funding round, stripping about $40 million out of ECE payments to 5258 ECE centres. About 1427 of those centres are eligible for “equity funding,” however, and will get a boost through $49m extra directed to them over four years in a bid to enrol more children from the lowest socio-economic parts of the country.

But the scrapping of an annual inflationadjustment for other centres will be an effective funding cut as inflation pushes the cost of running ECE centres up. “

See: Parents face burden of preschool squeeze

National is adept at saying one thing – whilst doing something completely the polar-opposite.

And politicians wonder why we don’t trust them?!

18.

Rolling out ultra-fast broadband and investing in roads and rail.”

Two things:

A. If our economy is now a free market, where the State no longer owns Telecom, and subsidies went out in the late 1980s…

… why are we – the Taxpayer -funding private telco companies to lay down broadband in this country? Shouldn’t this be left up to private enterprise to fund?

Or is this indicative of yet again private enterprise unable to meet nationally-set goals to build infra-structure, and instead reliant on the State?

Seems like it.

B. If National is “investing in rail” – why are they continually knocking back Auckland’s attempt to build new rail infra-structure?!?!

After overseeing a record seven million public transport passenger trips in March, the organisation fears having to cut service costs by $31.2 million in the next financial year because of savings sought by its two main funders, the Auckland Council and the Government’s Transport Agency.

A capital projects wish-list of $674 million of public transport infrastructure and local roading proposals inherited from Auckland’s former regional, city and district councils will also have to be hacked back after a gloomy Government subsidy forecast…

[abridged]

… Transport Minister Steven Joyce, who in 2009 ditched a proposed regional fuel tax for Auckland public transport projects, has in this election year cited continuing tight economic conditions in postponing a planned 1.5 cent-a-litre rise on petrol excise. “

See: Public transport faces subsidy cuts

In May last year, then-Minister of Transport Steven Joyce said the case for building the rail link had not been proven. “

See: $8m boost given to city rail link

It came to a head just over a year ago when Transport Minister Steven Joyce rejected an Auckland Council report claiming a stunning $3.50 cost benefit for every $1 invested in its proposed city rail loop.

The Government, which opposes the loop, demanded that Government boffins do the sums again. They did, with predictably less flattering results. But before that, up popped a secret independent analysis of the Puhoi to Wellsford highway commissioned by the Government which showed a cost-benefit ratio of 0.4, which meant for every dollar invested the return was only 40c.

In other words, if the politicians were to put the political clamour of their supporters to one side, the holiday highway was a non-starter. “

See: The big winners from cost-benefit studies

It appears that National does not want Len Brown to succeed in any public transport initiatives?

19.

Tougher sentencing, parole, and bail laws.”

Oh god, not that hoary old “tough-on-crime” chestnut again?! Hasn’t that been thrashed to death?

And didn’t Bill English admit that,

”  Prisons are a fiscal and moral failure. And building more of them on a large scale is something I don’t think any New Zealander wants to see. They want a safer community and they want protection from the worst elements of criminal behaviour, but they don’t want to be a prison colony … It’s the fastest rising cost in government in the last decade and my view is we shouldn’t build any more of them. “

See: The problem with prisons

Firstly, it take guts for a Tory politician to be so candid and forthright on such a basic, dog-whistle, issue. Kudos to Bill English for his honesty on this matter.

Secondly, if  National politicians are indeed aware that prisons are such a failure, then promoting harsher sentences and other “tough-on-crime” rhetoric is  nothing more than sheer dishonesty. It is a cynical, deceptive manipulation of the public’s fear of victimisation by random criminal acts.

It is dishonest. It is manipulative. In fact, it could be called criminally irresponsible

20.

Reforming local government.”

“Reform”? In what way?

Does it need reforming?

Is there something wrong with local government that demands the question to be asked?!

It is a vague question that has no clear purpose, and utterly meaningless.

21.

Reducing long-term welfare dependency, with a focus on work.”

Oh, here we go again…

Aside from the fact that this is a repugnant, loaded question – shouldn’t we be asking,

A. Where are the jobs?

B. Didn’t John Key pledge the creation of 170,000 new jobs?

C. Why isn’t National “focused on work” – as in creating jobs?

Blaming beneficiaries – many of whom were in paid employment  not too long ago – is like blaming the office cleaner at Lehmann Bros for it’s bankruptcy and collapse.

In asking this “question”, National isn’t seeking an answer. It is pushing a subtle, subliminal message that beneficiaries are on “long-term welfare dependency“.

As Paula Bennett herself said,

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

The real tragedy is that far too many low-information voters actually believe National’s rubbish.

22.

Selling minority shares in four energy SOEs and Air  New Zealand.

Not only is this the only honest question that is not loaded or framed in a pre-determined manner – but I suspect that the rationale for this entire leaflet is this one, single question.

As the reader will note, the respondent is asked to “Please tick the three issues that are important to you“. In other words, National is worried that the issue of state asset sales may be impacting on their polling.  But they’re uncertain. So they are trying to determine how deeply people are opposed to asset sales.

This questionnaire contains two “dog whistle” issues (crime and welfare), plus other issues surrounding economic growth, education, and health.

How will asset sales rate amongst all these issues?

If  all/most respondents rate asset sales as one of the top three – then they’re in trouble.

If asset sales is a minor choice, or hardly rates at all, it will embolden National to stay on-course with selling Mighty River Power.

This is the real crux of the matter.

23.

Raising achievement and accountability in schools

Again, a loaded question, as it assumes that there is a problem with accountability in our schools.

What – have all the principles left for Australia? Have all the School Boards resigned en-masse?

As for “raising achievement” – see #12, #13, and #15 above.

24.

Rebuilding Christchurch

Another question  with double meaning.

Firstly, it suggests to the respondent that this is an issue of important to National. Otherwise, why include it on the leaflet?

Secondly, how does the respondent rate this? Should it be chosen above asset sales in priority? Or is asset sales more important? Now we begin to see the craftiness of this questionnaire…

25.

Practical environmental policies supporting growth

A coded question.

What National is really asking is; “Is  environmental protection ok, so long as we can do mining on conservation land or protected marine  areas, as money is more important than protecting trees and fish?”

It is a dishonest question.

But then, the entire leaflet and it’s contents is dishonest.

And worst of all, at a time when the public are expected to tighten their belts; 2,500 state sector workers have been sacked; and essential services like MAF Biosecurity are being run down – National is wasting our tax-dollars on rubbish like this.

They forgot to ask one last question,

Should we be spending your money on leaflets like this?”

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= fs =

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