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Archive for July, 2012

Guest Author: I came home from a protest today…

Linda Miller

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Source: NZ students protest outside PM’s conference

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I came home from a protest today. It was a small one, at SkyCity, about 200 students. The police poured it on, as if they were all-out to impress the elites who will soon be privatising them with how on-the-job they really are. The street was blocked off far enough away that the delegates were at no risk of being exposed to any political reality. However I could see some of them watching surreptitiously from the skywalk above. I’m beginning to believe that vicarious police violence is the only form of gratification available to some Angry White Men after a certain age. They were disappointed today. The students were peaceful as always – they had their say and left.

When I got home though, I was a little bit sad. Having the flu always makes me sad. But I was also sad that we even had to argue about the value of universal education at all.

I checked my messages, then I saw this video link and realised today was the 43rd anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing.

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It seems like a dream now, but yes, it really happened, and these days, amazingly, you can actually see their leftover gear on the Moon.

I watched the video. It reminded me of the days and nights I spent watching it all live in 1969. When Neil Armstrong stepped out onto the surface, I sat in our tiny house in California with my mother and my brothers glued to the TV. I can still see their faces, lit by the flickering grey images as if it only happened last night. It was a glorious time.

But when I watched the video, I was suddenly overcome with grief. Seeing those bright, shiny Kodachrome faces, I recalled how no one had any idea that July 20, 1969 would be the high-water mark of American Civilisation. We took everything for granted. We should have fought to keep what we had. We should have kept the Promise of the American Century – the promise to extend the American Dream of freedom, peace, prosperity and civil rights to everyone.

Naive? Less so than you might imagine. We had just landed a man on the Moon after all. We could do anything. And what we wanted to do was help the world. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. We lost our way. Or rather, our way was subverted.

As I recall the faces of the students I saw today, they can’t know how keenly I feel that my generation has betrayed them. Today, we fight just to hold onto what we have. The promise of the American Century, real as it was, and close as we were to achieving it, is as dead as the tragic Kennedy brothers who first conceived it.

Today, I am an expat, and an activist, living in New Zealand. I campaign for New Zealanders because I love them, and because this fight is winnable, far more so than the struggle going on now in the United States. New Zealand is small enough, and her people are still brave enough that it can be won. We can have our democracy and our sense of community back. The government has not yet managed to frighten and terrorise New Zealand into submission. Victory is still possible.

Of course, nobody is going to just hand it to us. If we are to stop our slide into the Global Slum the Neo-Liberals are preparing for us all, we have to dig in hard. We have to lose our fear. Non-violent struggle is not pacifism. It is not for cowards. It takes courage to stand up for your rights, to keep coming out, in the rain, even when you are sick, and you don’t exactly feel like it. You have to take risks. You have to harden up. You have to resist.

Had we done that when Reagan and Thatcher first began undermining the Great Society, after I left university, I admit, we would not be in this mess today. Had the first generation of students hit with fees fought as hard as they fight in Quebec now, education would still be free. Had Kiwis resisted to the bitter end the first time a public utility was put on the block, we would not be fighting Asset Sales today.

I hope that a future generation will not say of us, “Had our parents really fought all out when they wanted to sell the last of our assets, we would still be able to afford electricity now.” That would break my heart.

We fight, because we must. Because what you are not prepared to fight for can and will be taken away from you by those who are prepared to steal. Nothing ever turns out fine by itself.

We should remember that when we commit irrevocably to seeing something through, in spite of the risks and uncertainties, as we did on Apollo, miracles are indeed possible. Nothing is ever really beyond us.

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Related Link

Facebook Page: Kiwi Expats Against Asset Sales

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Guest Author: This Is What Democracy Looks Like: Occupy NZ Media #BTB #ShowAndTell Coverage

Occupy Savvy

21 July 2012

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(This post is now complete. Please share far and wide. Thank you so much for supporting citizen journalism. All credit to Occupy New Zealand Media team. Redstar’s livestream footage of this event is available here.)

Saturday 21st July 2012 was another awesome day for NZ students; who used the opportunity of the ruling National Party Conference hosted at SkyCity Casino (yes, THAT Sky City…) to push their message that education cuts, privatisation and forced austerity measures were NOT going to be taken lying down.

They did a brilliant job of organising this public event, which had many new features including NLG-style Legal Observers, free ‘Red Square’ pins for everyone and a welcoming crew that approached & chatted with members of the public throughout the day. The level of thought that had gone into the event really impressed us.

Below is a People’s Media mash-up of photos, tweets & our experiences on the ground. Non-commercial organisations (ie. other Occupy pages, citizen journalists, charities, organisations who openly endorse/support Occupy) are welcome to reprint/reblog/download/share any of the images below but we ask that you please credit Occupy New Zealand Media Team/Occupy Savvy. As usual the “big crowd” photos are about halfway down the post.

Kia ora koutou. It is a privilege to present this to you Aotearoa.

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These guys were the first thing I saw heading into Britomart. The mat was roll-up & they would jump into the intersection when the pedestrian crossing turned green – roll out the mat – drop a freestyle to some old school b-boy blaring from their beatbox and then roll it back up & jump back out when the lights turned green. So cool.

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These girls came straight up to me with big smiles and a free red square pin before I could even get to where the march was assembling.

Having such a friendly welcoming/outreach crew definitely made the difference, as I saw more and more members of the public enticed off the sidewalks and into the march proper.

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The sound truck from last Saturday’s Aotearoa Is Not For Sale march made a reappearance, except instead of King Kapisi on the back, it was bearing a coffin!

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Initially the police presence appeared minimal – probably a dozen cops. We found out later why so few were at Britomart… when we got to Sky City Convention Centre.

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Looking towards the port, where the beleaguered MUNZ workers spent much of the last year fighting for basic work conditions and respect from their well-heeled employers.

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They had this road truck follow them around dropping road cones opening & closing roads.

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The march begins to form – with the familiar BLOCKADE THE BUDGET banner from the last Blockade The Budget student protest, which suffered mass arrests and police assaults on peacefully protesting students and faculty at Auckland University.

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Our Occu-Mama & Occupy Media member Lyn repping Socialist Aotearoa. She is an inspirational wahine toa who is one of the 8 arbitrarily-selected members of Occupy Auckland to be personally persecuted and mercilessly prosecuted (at ridiculous ratepayer expense) by Auckland Council. (Who we prefer to refer to as Auckland Corporatouncil!)

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^^^ Take a good look at the above photo. It was one of the most telling & hilarious parts of the event. We slipped in behind the Socialist Aotearoa banner with Lyn (despite the fact I’m actually not a socialist, S.A. have done a lot to support Occupy in NZ) and was immediately descended upon by the above reporter & cameraman for TV1 News. “Can we interview you?” They asked. “Sure” we said. “But we’re just going to grab a quick pic of you first.” Camera already out, within a microsecond the shot was taken. The reporter surprised & amused – the cameraman not even slightly amused. They asked us a few questions and we answered eloquently and fluidly enough that the reporter was surprised and exclaimed, “thanks, that was great!” while the cameraman scowled bitterly at us. They disappeared off for a quick huddle and then reappeared. The dinosaur cameraman demanded that we re-shoot the piece due to having had sunglasses on (it was 1pm). We politely refused and got told that the footage “wouldn’t be used then”. Why is this significant? Wait and see what happens with these two further down this post.

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People begin to move onto the street as the march begins to fill up.

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It soon becomes apparent that there are vastly more people in the middle of the street than there are on the pavement.

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A lone motorbike cop in front of the march assembly.

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People turn to face a small stage where speakers address the crowd and the street theatre commences.

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School children hold up signs representing different types of employees and students effected by austerity measures and education cuts, then a man with a huge pair of fake scissors jumps out and literally cuts their signs in half. Pre-planned, they all laugh.

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Naomi – performed a passionate piece of spoken word poetry, beautifully.

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Jai Bentley-Payne spoke on behalf of the students, warning us “Austerity is a SCAM!!!”. We quoted him on livetweet on #BTB and #Showandtell hashtags as well as the Canadian student movement hashtags #ggi #casseroles #manifecours and within minutes, his quote was retweeted around the world by students in solidarity globally.

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And finally – we were off. The march up from the bottom of Queen Street begins.

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There was all different kinds of New Zealanders marching; of every colour, shape and background.

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“They Take Our Education – We Take The Streets!”

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The giant red solidarity square was out again – which the kids loved playing under.

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John Key….. is a duck? LOL.

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One of the greatest things about today was the brand spanking new student-provided legal observers. This is something sorely lacking at previous protests mainly due to the lack of NLG-type organisation in New Zealand to support democratic peaceful protesters. Looks like thanks to the students, this is changing. Kia ora students!

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This iconic Auckland intersection (Victoria & Queen) once again occupied by the public – for the second time in eight days.

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5000 post-grad students are estimated to be unable to continue study due to changes made by the ruling National Party and the austerity measures they are imposing upon education (and other public sectors).

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The “Fuck The Rich” guy was back and very pleased when we told him our photo of his sign at last Saturday’s Aotearoa Is Not For Sale march was picked up by a Spanish-language online newspaper with 94,000 likes on their page. Pretty impressive.

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I guess this is what they call civil disobedience! Though really, its exercise. The exercising of our democratic rights!

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The mood quickly turns from jubilant to appropriately solemn as students bear the coffin all the way up Victoria Street from Queen Street as a funeral march plays.

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Protesters observe a minute of silence but their signs speak on regardless.

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We finally make it to Sky City Conference Centre….. and arrive at a shocking sight. Police officers wall the inside of the entrance two deep. People stand around with literally mouths hanging open at the wanton display of force. Yet still it is only a fraction of what will later greet us outside the casino itself.

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Despite the police presence, protesters put signs and stickers up on the glass and the coffin is carried up to the entrance.

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Occupy Savvy 21 July 2012 Auckland  National Party Conference 2012 Skycity

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Occupy Savvy 21 July 2012 Auckland  National Party Conference 2012 Skycity

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The crowd begin to chant enthusiastically. Most of the chants are recorded on the livetweet which can be found on Twitter

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At first we thought they might be there to enforce the No Smoking policy…

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Until we saw these guys.

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As we clearly were not going to be able to enter the convention centre, off we went around the block, the long way to Sky City Casino. Completely unawares of what awaited us.

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As we hit Federal Street, we realised the bottom over-street Skywalk was filled with Casino executives and the top Skywalk was filled with cops. Being towards the back, it took a few minutes to realise what was blocking the march at the front line…

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It was awesome to see random members of the public out walking their dogs join the march… wonder what he thought of what was in front of him…

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Tried to get closer to the front to find out why no one was able to move any further…

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Passing ASB bank on Federal Street the cops were shoulder to shoulder but we still had no idea what lay ahead of the march…

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As we reached this point the jackets in front of the march gave us some indication of what was ahead..

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The police were walling off the road in Federal Street which explained why the march had ceased moving – however – we were not at all prepared for the sight of what was behind that first wall of police… take note of the far right cop in the above picture for a reference point…

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The woman pictured to the bottom right wasn’t a cop or a protester. She was actually a member of the public who found herself stuck and couldn’t get through. We politely asked the police if they could please let her through as she wasn’t with us and was genuinely being prevented from accessing public space. They initially refused outright but after we insisted they should have an officer escort her through they relented and did so. Then – to our shock – remember Mr. grumpy dinosaur mainstream media cameraman? Well he showed up to our immediate left and says to the cops “let me through for a shot.” To our utter astonishment the police immediately stand aside and allow him through the line.

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We were flabbergasted and immediately request to also be allowed through to take some shots to which we were told “that is for media only”. When we identified ourselves as media, the police supervisor told us “STAY WHERE YOU ARE” in an extremely rude and abrupt manner. We were puzzled – wondering why mainstream media could access the blocked area but not citizen journalists? Then we realise what the mainstream media camera was seeing from back there. Or more importantly – what it wasn’t.

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From where they filmed – they couldn’t see the cops above them. They couldn’t see the cops behind them. They couldn’t see the barricaded forcibly closed street nor that all of the aforementioned collectively stopped the march from proceeding, ending and dissipating as quickly as planned by organisers. It soon became clear that they were tailoring their vantagepoint.

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Apparently it wasn’t only MSM that got free access to behind police lines. There were also Sky City staff – assumedly supervisors – taking holiday snaps behind the front line. Not sure why they have more rights than the citizen journalists who were prevented from entering – would love to put in an official letter to the NZ Police to find out why corporate staff have greater access and rights when in the middle of a public street photographing a democratic protest, than our public independent media do? Ridiculous.

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Perhaps blinded by the sight of so many flourescent vests, after some spirited chanting of “Army of the rich, enemy of the poor!” at the hundreds of police present, the march turns around and heads back to the Convention Centre; where there had seemed so many cops; but now seemed few by comparison!!

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Even though by that point we were all using the sidewalk… the police preferred the road and trailed us all the way back to the convention centre…

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…helpfully again lining the streets all the way around…

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…and again blocking the entrance. Awesome.

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The protest was officially called and we were really happy to meet this cheery lady and get this great pic of her Aotearoa Is Not For Sale t-shirt. Shout out to everyone who attended and supported today. Good on you for braving the intimidation tactics and having your say.

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Leaving the site of the protest we had one last bizarre experience – we noticed a huge blacked out SUV parked across the pavement with two Sky City employees guarding it. As it is an unusual sight to see a vehicle parked on the pavement, with not a single police officer ticketing it, we stopped and took a photo. At which point the supervisor on the right hand side started to have a complete fit at us, demanding “NO PHOTOS, NO PHOTOS”. Before we could even begin to respond several members of the public interjected, with one screaming at him that he had no right to prevent the public taking photographs on public streets and essentially, who did he think he was for attempting to interfere with us. We asked him whose car it was and he snapped “it’s MY car”… because quite obviously Sky City supervisors park blacked out SUV’s across the pavement then guard them personally, with staff security guards also present? We don’t think so, buddy :)

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We spotted some pretty awesome signs throughout the day. Below is a collection of them. Thank you to everyone for being so friendly and happily having your signs photographed.

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Auckland Action Against Poverty are hosting tomorrow’s protest at the same location – click here for the Facebook event details.

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Unite Union have been a big supporter of Occupy, Aotearoa Is Not For Sale, and the student movement.

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Socialist Aotearoa, another huge supporter of Occupy and other protest movements in NZ.

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Taking the piss out of the National slogan: “Shit policies = Shit edacation. National 4 a Brighta Futur”

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Students have scrawled micro-messages to John Key all over their main “Blockade The Budget” banner.

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Some of the language is pretty colourful and spirited but the message is clear. Invest in the future of New Zealand. Not finance companies and privatisation of public assets.

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A pissed-off parent has their say.

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A serious question…

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Are you listening, “Mr” Key? No doubt your lackeys are…

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Students are often under-appreciated by our government, who like to depict them as lazy.

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This entry was posted in Occupy Auckland, Occupy Citizen Journalists, Occupy Events, Occupy Facebook, Occupy Journalism, Occupy Legal, Occupy Media, Occupy MSM Propoganda, Occupy New Zealand, Occupy Pics, Occupy Police, Occupy Social Media, Occupy Solidarity, Occupy Testimony, Occupy Twitter.

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Copyright

All images on this page are used by permission from Occupy Savvy. For permission, please contact   Occupy Savvy at content@mediasavvy.co.nz.

Acknowledgement

Reprinted with kind permission from  Occupy Savvy

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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”.

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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.

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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?

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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. ..

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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.

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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 =

ACT. Auckland. Chooks. Roosting.

19 July 2012 8 comments

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This is Stephen Franks,

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Stephen Franks was an ACT MP from 1999 to 2005, and later stood (unsuccessfully) for the Wellington Central electorate in 2008.

See: Wikipedia Stephen Franks

Stephen Franks is also an occassional guest on Jim Mora’s Afternoon Panel on Radio NZ, where Franks occassionally espouses his neo-liberal, free market ideology.

This is John Banks,

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But he’s not important.

This is Rodney Hide. He is central to this story,

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Rodney Hide was an ACT MP from 1996 to 2011, and led the party from 2004 onward, until he was replaced in a bizarre coup d’état by Don Brash, in April last year.

See: Wikipedia Rodney Hide

See: Wikipedia Don Brash

During his role as Minister for Local Affairs, Rodney Hide oversaw the forced amalgamation of several city and district councils.  By 2010, several councils were merged into one, “supercity” – Auckland Council.

This amalgamation was enabled by Parliamentary legislation  (Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009), and which was passed under urgency.

See: Auckland super city bill passed by parliament

Though quite why it was considered “urgent” has never been satisfactorily explained by National or ACT. Were they expecting Auckland to be beamed aboard a flying saucer and carried away into outer space?!

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In fact, when Rodney Hide first presented the amalgamation Bill to Parliament on 15 December 2009, he was quite enthusiastic about it,

The importance of local government to the growth and prosperity of Auckland should not be underestimated. Good governance enables civic leaders to think regionally, plan strategically, and act decisively. Governance arrangements affect the ability to solve the larger and longer-term challenges effectively.

The Auckland region needs decisive leadership, robust infrastructure, and facilities and services to cater for its people.

The provisions of the two previous Acts and the proposals in this bill will deliver a united Auckland governance structure, strong regional governance, integrated decision-making, greater community engagement, and improved value for money.

See: Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill — First Reading

When the Bill was passed on it’s third and final Reading in the House,  on 2 June 2010, it passed 64 votes to 57. Those voting for it were,

  • 58  National MPs
  • 5 ACT MPs
  • 1 United Future MP (Peter Dunne)

Thus was born the Auckland  supercity, a creature of the ACT Party.

So it is a bit rich now, that the same Stephen Franks, ex-ACT MP, is gnashing his teeth and making great wailing noises about how the Auckland Council – now two years old, in law – is operating,

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Full story

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Contrast Stephen Franks’ complaints, with that of his one-time Party Leader, Rodney Hide,

Stephen Franks: ” The law setting up the Super City deliberately created a presidential mayoralty and gave councillors no clear rights to information.

It certainly does not protect council officers who want to provide unbiased information to councillors against the wishes of their bosses, the chief executive and the mayor.

The law may have been drafted out of frustration with years of indecision fuelled by endless reporting and consultation as excuses for inaction. Perhaps the law’s designers chose to give elected dictatorship a go instead.

Amazingly till now there has been little publicised protest at the constitutional barbarity of this structure. Without clear rights to the same information available to the executive they must monitor, councillors become spare wheels.

“Carping critics” who are also unavoidably ignorant are in no position to maintain the safeguards of democratic control.

Some have called the Auckland governance structure the corporate model. If so it is a poor copy. The company model is robust about directors’ rights to oversee management. Directors have an almost unrestricted right to information from anywhere in the company. Even conflicts of interest create only a partial exception. ”

Rodney Hide:  ” The importance of local government to the growth and prosperity of Auckland should not be underestimated. Good governance enables civic leaders to think regionally, plan strategically, and act decisively. Governance arrangements affect the ability to solve the larger and longer-term challenges effectively.

The Auckland region needs decisive leadership, robust infrastructure, and facilities and services to cater for its people.

The provisions of the two previous Acts and the proposals in this bill will deliver a united Auckland governance structure, strong regional governance, integrated decision-making, greater community engagement, and improved value for money.

Just what is  Stephen Franks complaining about?

His Party voted for “decisive leadership” and “strong regional governance” – and he got it.

Why on Earth is he complaining bitterly that “perhaps the law’s designers chose to give elected dictatorship a go instead” – when it was the ACT Party,  his party, that drafted and sponsored the Bill in Parliament in 2009 and 2010?

If ever there was a case of chickens coming home to roost, then this is it.

And irony of ironies – Franks complimented Cr Cathy Casey for her outstanding attempts to instill some measure of democracy and transparency into the Auckland Council culture,

Councillor Casey has done what oppressed councillors do across the land, and asked the Auditor-General for help…

… Let’s hope Councillor Casey does not just wait for the Auditor-General fairy to give her x-ray vision. She could get alongside Councillors Fletcher, Wood and Cameron Brewer, who have been warning of this constitutional problem for some time, to get the upgrade under way. “

Ms Casey is a left-wing Councillor, having had close affiliation with the now-defunct Alliance Party.

In which case,  suggesting that Cr Casey  “get alongside ”  Councillors Fletcher and Cameron Brewer, simply beggars belief. Either  Mr Franks is woefully amnesiac like the current leader of ACT – or he is willfully mischievous.

Why, you ask?

Because Councillors Fletcher and Cameron Brewer are both members the National Party.  (Cr Wood is a member of the Citizens & Ratepayers group, which is linked to the National Party through it’s membership.)

See:   Blogpost – Right Way the Wrong Way

And the National Party supported ACT’s legislation to draft; table; and pass the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009 – the law which created the supercity and it’s current governance model.

It is unclear why Franks believes that right wing city councillors ( Christine Fletcher, George Wood and Cameron Brewer) might work with left wing Cr Casey, when Fletcher, Wood, and Brewer support the Party that enabled the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009 in the first place?!?!

If  Stephen Franks has a gripe about the legislation, he should take it up with the ACT Party – which presently consists of one man, John Banks.

But he better be quick about it. ACT is living on borrowed time, and  is soon to follow the dinosaur, mammoth, and moa, into extinction.

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= fs =

Roads, grandma, and John Key

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“However, the Government could not afford to give DHBs the $140 million required to enable rest homes to pay their staff more,”

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“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.” – John Key, 28 May 2012

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In March of this year, rest home care workers went on strike throughout New Zealand, demanding an increase in their pay rate of $13.61 an hour.

That paltry sum is only 11 cents an hour above the minimum wage, which as Finance Minister said on TVNZ’s “Q+A“, on 6 November last year, was not liveable for any long period of time,

GUYON:  Okay, can we move backwards in people’s working lives from retirement to work and to wages?  Mr English, is $13 an hour enough to live on? 

BILL:  People can live on that for a short time, and that’s why it’s important that they have a sense of opportunity.  It’s like being on a benefit.

GUYON:  What do you mean for a short time?

BILL:  Well, a long time on the minimum wage is pretty damn tough, although our families get Working for Families and guaranteed family income, so families are in a reasonable position.Source

If $13 an hour is ‘ pretty damn tough’ and ‘people can live on that for [only]  a short time’  – then how much better is $13.61 an hour? Not by much, one would think.

But, as Dear Leader told the nation on 28 May,

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.

You could certainly change the proportion of where you spend money in health. We spend about $14.5 billion in the overall health sector.

What’s going to go to pay the increase in this area? If you said all of the increase is going to go into this area, that would be roughly $600m over the forecast period which is four years… So that would have left us $1bn for other things.

“We put the money into cancer care and nursing and various other things. On balance, we think we got that about right.”

See: PM: No money for aged care workers

“On balance”, I think National is about as incompetant as it was in the 1990s, and as it was under Rob Muldoon.

To make sure that the peasantry (ie, us) got the message,  he shifted blame on to Labour by insisting, that the former Labour government “had a lot more cash floating around and didn’t meet the bill“.

I wonder how many times he’s going to blame Labour?

I thought National was BIG on people  taking responsibility?

But just when the public get used to the idea that paying hundreds of  heroic careworkers in resthomes – who look after our grandmas, grandpas, the sick, and the infirm – a measely $13.61 is the best we can afford, we discover that National does have access to pots of  cash (our cash, by the way).

And boy, do they  know how to spend it like it’s going out of fashion by 2014,

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Full Story

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Full story

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A total of  $336 million spent on consultants, and various “fees” for selling our own state assets to “mums and dads”  (aka,  corporate investors).  Of that, $216 million has already been spent on “consultants” – and that’s without  one metre of tarseal being laid.

And yet, our smiling and waving Dear Leader has the cheek to say that we can’t pay resthome careworkers any more money? He insists that,  “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.”

When I found and collated these three media stories, my jaw dropped.

I have long since given up trying to understand John Key’s “moral compass” (if he actually has one).

But I wonder what those 1,058,636 New Zealanders who voted for this wretched Party must be feeling when they read this sort of thing? Does it even register with those 1,058,636, I wonder?!

But there is a delicious irony that will eventually fall upon most of those 1,058,636.  For they too, are growing older…

And eventually, they will end up in resthomes, being cared for by low-paid, exploited, careworkers.

I wonder if those careworkers, by then, will still be the conscientious, dedicated, saints that  Human Rights Commissioner, Dr Judy McGregor said of them,

The complexity of the job was actually a surprise for me. It’s quite physical work, and it’s emotionally draining because you are obliged to give of yourself to other people.

Saint-like women do it every day so that older New Zealanders can have a quality of life.”

See: Resthome spy hails saint-like workers

Will Resthome careworkers still be Saint-like in their care for us?

Or will they have had a gutsful by then, and not give a damn? If we continue to pay them $13.61 an hour (or a future-equivalent) – is that the value of service we’ll end up receiving?

If so, I hope those exploited, burnt-out, angry workers will vent their frustrations on a specific group of 1,058,636 New Zealanders. After all, they will have paid for their care. All $13.61 of it.

Karma.

As for the rest of us – those who understand the utter futility of electing John Key into power – I hope that National’s apalling waste of our valuable tax-dollars will motivate you all for the next election.

I know that most readers who visit this blog are fair minded, decent, people. I know you will be voting to get rid of this rotten, morally-corrupt,  government in 2014 (if not earlier).

But that’s not enough. Simply voting is insufficient.

If, after reading this (and similar examples of National’s wretched policies)  you are angry and want to get rid of John Key – then at the next election, find one other adult who did not vote last year and encourage that person to walk to the nearest polling booth with you to cast his/her vote.

About a million people did not vote last year. We need to find them and explain to them why their vote is crucial.  The future of this country lies in their hands.

Our most powerful Weapon of Mass Democracy – our vote.

It is our vote that makes us powerful.

Let’s do it.

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Related Blogposts

No Rest for the Wicked

“It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash”

1 March – No Rest for Striking Workers!

Additional

Service & Food Workers Union

NZ Nurses Organisation

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Dear Leader and a basket of kittens…

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A  little girl named Suzy-Moana was standing on the pavement in front of her home.

Next to her was a basket containing a number of tiny creatures; in her hand was a sign announcing FREE KITTENS.

Suddenly a line of big cars pulled up beside her.

Out of the lead car stepped a grinning man.

“Hi there little girl, I’m John Key, the leader of the National Party, what do you have in the basket?” he asked.

“Kittens,” little Suzy-Moana said.

“How old are they?” asked Key

Suzy-Moana replied, “They’re so young, their eyes aren’t even open yet.”

“And what kind of kittens are they?”

“National supporters,” answered Suzy-Moana with a smile.

Key was delighted!  As soon as he returned to his car, he called his PR chief and told him about the little girl and the kittens.

Recognizing the perfect photo op, the two of them agreed that he should return the next day; and in front of the assembled media, have the girl talk about her discerning kittens.

So the next day, Suzy-Moana was again standing on the pavement with her basket of “FREE KITTENS,” when another motorcade pulled up, this time followed by vans from BBC,  CNN, Sky News, TVNZ, TV3, Radio NZ, NZ Herald, and News-Talk ZB.

Cameras and audio equipment were quickly set up, then Key got out of his limo and walked over to little Suzy-Moana.

“Hello, again,” he said, “I’d love it if you would tell all my friends out there what kind of kittens you’re giving away.”

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Frank Macskasy Frankly speaking  Blog

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“Yes Sir,” Suzy-Moana said. “They’re NZ First, Labour, Mana,  and Green supporters.”

Taken by surprise, Key stammered, “But…but…yesterday, you told me they were NATIONAL SUPPORTERS.”

Little Suzy-Moana shrugged, smiled, and said,

“I know.   But today, they have their eyes open.”

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com

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Is pressure getting to Key?

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1.

It would be fair to say that National’s asset sale programme is highly unpopular with the majority of New Zealanders – and with a sizeable portion of National Party voters. In fact, it would be fair to say that those individuals and organisations in favour of asset sales would be a distinct minority.

John Key doggedly maintains that National has a “mandate” for the partial-privatisation of Solid Energy, Meridian, Genesis, Meridian, and a further sell-down of Air New Zealand.

Whilst it’s true that National’s 1,058,636 party votes trumped Labour’s 614,937 – National’s support is less than one quarter of the population of this country. And when votes for Labour, NZ First, the Greens, Mana, Maori Party, and the Conservative Party are added together – they outnumber the combined votes for National, ACT, and United Future.

The only reason that National-ACT-United Future have a current one-seat majority in Parliament is because the Conservative Party did not break the 5% threshold, nor win an Electorate seat.

See:  2011 general election official results

ACT, but contrast, gained less than half the number of votes that the Conservative Party did – but because of the quirky Electorate Seat Threshold rule (which lets Parties enter Parliament despite not breaking the 5% threshold), still gained one seat.

For the second time in two elections, a small Party has won more votes than ACT – but ACT has slipped back into Parliament because of National-ACT manipulation of the Electorate Seat Threshold. The other Party failed to win seats because it failed to break the 5% threshold or win an Electorate.

The Electoral Commission is currently reviewing MMP and it is likely that they will recommend to Parliament that the Electorate Seat Threshold be eliminated, as it serves no logical, discernible purpose and undermines the proportionality of  our electoral system.

National’s “mandate” is therefore as shonkey as some of John Key’s promises.

2.

The Maori Party finds itself in the same invidious position that NZ First was in 1998, and the Alliance in 2001. Both Parties were ‘tested’ by unforeseen circumstances, and the subsequent  political stresses and public pressures tore both Parties apart.

The Alliance was effectively destroyed, and NZ First split in two, and never recovered it’s electoral hey-day support of  13.35%.

The Maori Party finds itself in a similar Rock-vs-Hard Place situation, as it contemplates public pressure over it’s support for National – even as it’s leader, John Key, has trashed the Waitangi Tribunal by stating categorically that  it is not bound by Tribunal decisions and may gnore it’s recommendationa.

It has always been known (except by low-information voters) that Waitangi Tribunal decisions are not binding on any government. But governments of both Left and Right have, up till now, had the common sense and common courtesy to reserve judgement until being handed Tribunal recommendations.

To pre-empt the Waitangi Tribunal by suggesting – as John Key did – that National may ignore any recommendation, is high-handed arrogance. And it is a slap in the face to Maori, who place a measure of  faith in the British judicial system of fairness in justice.

After all, our justice system was introduced to this land, as was the concept of private ownership, and Maori have had to adapt to both concepts. This, they have done – and with far more success than generally Pakeha have adapted to Maori tikanga.

So for John Key to dismiss, out-of-hand, any decision from the Tribunal insults not just Maori, but our faith in systems of justice that apply to everyone in this country.

If Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples want to remain aligned with a political party, that is so derisory to the Waitangi Tribunal and normal concepts of fair play,  then they risk being tarred by association.

This blogger concurs with those who call for the Maori Party to disassociate itself from National. For their own mana,  and ultimate political survival, the Maori Party must ‘walk’. There is no possible long-term benefit to be gained  by continuing to associate with, and support, John Key’s administration.

But there is a lot of damage to be gained by maintaining their association with National.

Small parties are highly vulnerable to voter backlash. The history of The Alliance Party, United Future, ACT,  and NZ First should serve as a stark warning to Ms Turia and Mr Sharples.

It is time to walk, Ms Turia, Mr Sharples. For your own dignity, if nothing else.

3.

For the first time since the 2011 election, John Key has admitted that the first partial-privatisation – that of  Mighty River Power – may be delayed.

A combination of several protest marches; thousands of letters and emails sent to MPs and Ministers; letters-to-the-editors of newspapers; and ongoing public concerns have given John Key and his National cronies one, giant, non-stop, collective headache.

On a practical level, Dear Leader seemed to be prepared to “weather the storm of public anger”, and hunkered down to wait out the first asset sale. Their thinking is that once the first power company – Mighty River Power – is part-privatised, that the public clamour would die away, and subsequent asset sales would attract less and less protest.

However, the people of this country had one last card to play; the Treaty of Waitangi. Long ignored by pakeha; the favourite rant of  demented callers on talkback radio; and the dog-whistle-of-choice by right wing politicians looking to garner a few thousand extra votes, there’s nothing quite like mentioning “Maori” and “Treaty” to whip up a bit of racist hysteria. It’s practically a basic Law of the Perverse-Universe; “Maori” + “Treaty” =  Kneejerk Racist Response.

When the Maori Council announced on 9 July that the part-sale of SOEs would result in Maori lodging an application to the Waitangi Tribunal, the response was as followed;

1. The Thinking Man & Woman

Absolute delight and a sigh of relief.  Critics of privatisation finally had a powerful means by which National’s agenda might be stalled – perhaps even halted dead in it’s tracks.

For the first time, the Treaty of Waitangi would be a document protecting the rights of pakeha, as well as tangata whenua. This was something never foreseen by anyone – but when you think about it, has a perfect logic and symmetry to it.

2. The Unthinking Man & Woman

“Maori” + “Treaty” = Kneejerk Racist Response.

See:  It’s official: racists aren’t very bright

This blogger has tried to get into the minds of reactionary racists, to try to understand how their mental processes work. Without much success, unfortunately.  The closest I can come to, to understand the mind of a redneck is that they are extremely fearful. But of what, precisely, who knows. Perhaps they whisper to  each other that Maori are coming to steal their houses through the next Treaty claim, and put us all on boats back to Mother England? (Or Eastern Europe, for this  blogger.)

Unfortunately, the Unthinking Man & Woman appears to be incapable of understanding that the Maori Council’s tactics are for all our benefits; to slow down or halt the part-sales process.  Their minds are caught in some weird “neuron-loop” where all they can think of is Maori-Treaty-Maori-Treaty-Maori-Treaty-Maori-Treaty-Maori-Treaty-Maori-Treaty-Maori-Treaty-Maori-Treaty… ad infinitum.

Even one person who took the effort to post comments on a previous blogpost  did not seem to understand. (See Mary’s comments here;   It’s official: racists aren’t very bright )

And see more comments here, on Fairfax’s website:   Harawira criticises Key over Maori water claim

No wonder Key is being stubborn on this issue; he is hoping to tap into a rich vein of racial prejudice, and to  boost his Party’s standing in the next political poll. Such a rise would be temporary, as happened when Don Brash gave his infamous “Orewa Speech” in January 2004.

3. John Key

John Key has been rattled by recent events. He may choose to dismiss public opinion polls; street marches; and other expressions of public discontent – but he cannot so easily dismiss a legal challenge.

Whilst Waitangi Tribunal decisions are not binding on governments – High Court rulings most certainly are. Even governments must obey laws and Court decisions,  irrespective of how ‘irksome’ such legal decisions may be.

To re-cap;

9 July:  Waitangi Tribunal hearing begins in Lower Hutt, after the Maori Council lodges an urgent  claim testing the rights of Maori over water.

John Key states, “The Government’s very firm view is that no-one owns water: we certainly don’t believe Maori own water; we don’t believe they own the airways, air or sea.

10 July:   On TVNZ’s “Breakfast“, John Key says, “We could choose to ignore what findings they might have – I’m not saying we would, but we could.”

10 July:   On TV3’s “Firstline“, Key says, “In the same way we don’t think anyone owns the sea and we don’t think anyone owns air.”

Unfortunately for Dear Leader, he may be engaging in a spot of wishful thinking, according to this comment made three days later;

13 July:  TV3: Crown lawyer, Paul Radich admits, “It’s accepted that Maori do have rights and interests in water.”

16 July:  “It was very matter of fact, I basically just said the Tribunal’s not binding on any government. ‘I actually said exactly the same words in front of the Treaty meeting house on Waitangi Day.”

16 July:  John Key states,  “You can’t rule that out.  It’s a matter that could be subject to court action. We certainly hope it’s not delayed. I think we should work on the principle that there is a high probability that we will be going to court. ”

Gotcha!!!

Despite all of Key’s bluster and highly provocative remarks – many offensive – he has publicly admitted for the first time,  that where public opinion and protest failed – Maori may succeed in halting National’s privatisation programme.

For the first time since 26 November 2011, there is now a distinct possibility that the privatisation agenda may be thwarted. It is a slim hope, but barring a sudden snap election, that is all we have to go on.

17 July:  Key stated, “Why wasn’t it tested in 1999 when Contact was sold. In my view it’s opportunistic.”

This was backed up by his Deputy PM, Bill English,  “The Maori Council doesn’t have any interest in any river, lake, spring or creek.  The Iwi Leadership Group and individual iwis are working constructively with the Crown.  They don’t represent any particular interest.”

Key and English seem to be going all-out to play hard-ball. Something has them ‘spooked’, and this blogger understands why, with  comments made by Dear Leader yesterday: this is heading to Court.

And still, the inflammatory rhetoric kept coming;

17 July:  John Key says,  “The Crown’s long held view is that it’s irrelevant whether there is a change of ownership structure in Mighty River Power, it has no bearing to any rights or interests in water that Mighty River Power currently has long term water rights for… There’s a chance a meteorite will hit the Earth this afternoon, but I don’t think it’s likely.”

Key seems to think that if he repeats this mantra over and over again, that Maori will “fall in line” and make it happen his way.  Dear Leader is dreaming in LaLaLand.  Maori are tough operators and have learned to use the Pakeha system to their advantage, to address Treaty breaches.

Only, this time, it will be to the entire nation’s advantage, if the Maori Council succeed. We may yet stop National from thieving our state assets.

Last point: As TV3 News reported today (17 July); up to 84,000 meteorites hit Earth each year. So Dear Leader John Key may yet be in for a surprise.

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