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Archive for February, 2014

Radio NZ: Focus on Politics for 28 February 2014

28 February 2014 Leave a comment

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– Focus on Politics –

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– Friday 28 February 2014  –

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– Brent Edwards –

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A weekly analysis of significant political issues.

Friday after 6:30pm and Saturday at 5:10pm

It’s election year and political parties have already begun rolling out policies to win the support of voters. But what role will leadership play in the election? National’s John Key is determined to hold on to the Prime Ministership and Labour leader David Cunliffe is equally determined to prise it off him. Our political editor Brent Edwards talks to both leaders.

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Radio NZ logo - Focus on Politics

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Click to listen: Focus on Politics for 28 February 2014 ( 17′ 11″ )

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Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

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Letter to the Editor: What is the price of justice? (In dollar terms)

28 February 2014 2 comments

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FROM: 	"f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT: Letter to the ed
DATE: 	 Fri, 28 Feb 2014 11:52:01 +1300
TO: 	"Dominion Post" <letters@dompost.co.nz>
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The Editor  
Dominion Post

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Revelations that Peter Whittal's solicitor, Stuart Grieve,
made a $3.41 million payment to Crown Law in return for
dropping all charges in the Pike River Mine court case are
an incredible, jaw-dropping, new development for our
judicial system.

According to Mr Grieve's remarks on Radio NZ (27 Feb), it
would appear that the Solicitor General was involved in this
backroom deal making.

So for John Key to suggest, 

"My understanding is no, it was an unsolicited letter. They
looked at lots of different factors but in the end they
could have spent millions and millions and millions with the
lawyers and actually got nowhere - or practically make a
payment to the families, which made more sense."

- is a cynical attempt to trivialise a clearly dangerous
precedent that  undermines our justice system.

If justice can now be purchased in New Zealand, when will
John Key's government issue an Order in Council publishing a
tariff chart for payments to drop Court cases, calculated
according to the severity of charges? 

And will there be a bulk discount for multiple charges?

-Frank Macskasy
(address & phone number supplied)

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References

Radio NZ:  Pike families convinced deal was done

Previous related blogposts

Purchasing “justice” on the New Zealand open market – did National sell Pike River victims out?

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Latest TV1-Colmar Brunton Poll – Back To The Future IV?

28 February 2014 Leave a comment

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local-news-takes-stupid-poll

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It was a shocker of a poll on Sunday evening (23 February); the TV1-Colmar Brunton poll had National soaring to stratospheric heights. At 51%, the Nats would hold around 62 seats in the House – sufficient to govern alone in a 120 seat Parliament.

The numbers;

National: 51%

Labour: 34%

Greens: 8%

NZ First: 3%

There is no figure given for Undecideds/Refused to Say, which kind of makes the stats a bit dodgy.  The Colmar Brunton website, however, does have a download facility to download the full report;

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colmar brunton Feb 2014 - undecideds

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The “Don’t Know/Refused to say” was a whopping 13%!

That’s a sizeable chunk of voters who could yet decide the election outcome.

But how credible is a polling figure of 51% for any political party?

The answer? Not very.

The highest Party Vote for any political party since the introduction of MMP in 1996, was 47.31%, achieved by National in the 2011 election.

So is 51% a credible indicator for National’s re-election chances?

Again, not very.

In a February 2011 TV1-Colmar Brunton poll, National stood at… 51%. In fact, the 2011 Poll is a remarkable mirror of the current Colmar results;

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National's popularity falls, but no party near it - Colmar Poll - feb 2011

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It’s almost as if Colmar Brunton has simply ‘dusted off’ the 2011 poll results; given Labour an extra one percentage point; and slapped a February 2014 label on it.

It is further worth noting that the actual election night result on Saturday 26 November 2011 was as follows;

National:  47.31%

Labour: 27.48%

Greens: 11.06%

NZ First: 6.59%

No other Party breached the 5% threshold.

At 34% current polling (by Colmar Brunton), this is still 6.52 percentage points above the 2011 election night results. Not a bad starting point to go into an election.

But 51% for National? Not in the realm of possibility. That is the polling they started from in February 2011 – and still they finished at 47.31%.

Let the campaigning continue.

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References

TVNZ:  National’s popularity falls, but no party near it – Colmar Poll

Colmar Brunton: ONE News Colmar Brunton Poll 15-19 February 2014

Colmar Brunton: ONE News Colmar Brunton Poll 15 – 19 February 2014 Report (Pdf)

Wikipedia: New Zealand general election, 2011

TVNZ: Surge in support for National – poll

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Labour Mana Green

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

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What do you call…

28 February 2014 2 comments

…  nine National MPs deciding to stand down?

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Answer: A good start.

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What a gutless wanker you are, Paul Henry…!

27 February 2014 7 comments

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paul henry matt mccarten tv3 26 february 2014

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Our household watched the Paul Henry Show on Thursday night (26 February). Henry’s guest was Matt McCarten – freshly appointed as David Cunliffe’s Chief of Staff.

McCarten’s reputation was such that there was intense media interest in the appointment, and quite rightly so. Matt McCarten is a shrewd, experienced, clever political activist, tactician, and (when necessary) butt-kicker.

Henry put questions to Matt McCarten. Matt McCarten answered each and every one very well. Watch the interview here.

What followed the conclusion of the interview absolutely astounded and disgusted us. After Henry had thanked McCarten for appearing on his show, and the link to the  Wellington studio was closed, Henry turned to another camera and read out this statement,

“Matt McCarten who once said “I can’t escape the feeling that he” – meaning David Cunliffe – “has the same phoniness as the Republican  US presidential nominee, Mitt Romney. His every nuance and action seems calculated.” You be the judge. We’ll watch and see him change.”

What a vile, cowardly thing to do; to read out an editorial statement  after closing the interview, and not saying it straight to McCarten’s face. It was a shocking, shabby,  way to treat a guest on his show.

Gutless.

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References

TV3: The Paul Henry Show – 26 Feb 2014?

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Get ya boots on and vote

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

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Letter to the Editor: Cunliffe’s plan for jobs – Big Tick!

26 February 2014 1 comment

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FROM:   "f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT: Letters to the editor
DATE:    Wed, 26 Feb 2014 11:22:52 +1300
TO:      Otago Daily Times <odt.editor@alliedpress.co.nz>

 

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The editor
Otago Daily Times

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In an interview on Radio NZ on 25 February, David Cunliffe
announced;

“We will create incentives for private employers to be
certified living wage employers, who pay the living wage  to
all their employees, by giving them a preference in  Crown
contracts.”

This simple, common-sense policy will achieve more than
raise wages - something that John  Key's lame-duck
administration has failed spectacularly to accomplish - but
will be a much-needed boost for local business.

We have lost thousands of jobs to overseas countries with
pitifully-low wages. The contracts awarded to Chinese
manufacturers to build rail stock resulted in over a hundred
jobs lost in Dunedin; most of the Hillside rail engineering
plant closing; and an opportunity lost to inject millions
into the Otago economy. 

This country will never overcome high unemployment if we
continually opt for cheaper (and often lower-quality)
products from low-wage economies. Not unless we want to pay
ourselves similar low wages.

Cunliffe's committment to a living wage and a procurement
preference for local businesses  is the kind of proactive
policy which we have long lost, and desperately need again.

"Muddling through" is simply not good enough.

-Frank Macskasy
(address & phone number supplied)

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References

Radio NZ: Election year interviews – David Cunliffe (27′ 50″ )

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John Key is really hoping that dudes like me don't vote

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

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Tiwai Point – An exercise in National’s “prudent fiscal management”?

26 February 2014 Leave a comment

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corporate welfare 1

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Timeline

3 October 2007: Meridian and NZAS/Rio Tinto sign agreement for the continuous supply of 572 megawatts of power to the Tiwai Point smelter for 2013 to 2030.

30 October 2011: National government announces partial asset sales, of Genesis, Meridian, Mighty River Power, Solid Energy, and a further sell-down of Air New Zealand.

9 August 2012: Meridian Energy (electricity supplier to Rio Tinto) announces that Rio Tinto/Pacific Aluminium is demanding to renegotiate its electricity supply contract between the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter and Meridian.

10 August 2012: Rio Tinto CEO, Tom Albanese, warns that the smelter will be closed “if they cannot be viable, we have difficult decisions to make”.

7 September 2012:  Rio Tinto/New Zealand Aluminium Smelters  announces it will  make 100 workers redundant by November 2012.

7 August 2013: Rio Tinto/New Zealand Aluminium Smelters  announces 30 maintenance workers to be made redundant at the Tiwai Point smelter.

8 August 2013: National government announces agreement to give cash subsidy of  $30 million  to Rio Tinto, and Meridian Energy to supply the smelter with cheaper (price undisclosed) electricity than agreed in 2007.

9 August 2013: Bill English confirms that he has not sought a guarantee from Rio Tinto that jobs will not be lost at the smelter.

20 August 2013: National government announces details to sell 49% of Meridian Energy.

14/15 February 2014: Rio Tinto announces a   $4.43 billion ($US3.7 billion) annual after-tax profit. Rio Tinto shareholders recieve a 15% increase in dividends.

An exercise in National’s “prudent fiscal management”?

We were conned.

There is no other way to describe events between October 2007 and February this year; we were conned by a multi-national mining/metals giant that exploited National’s core-policies, for their own gain.

How else to describe the above events?

Once National announced their intention to partially-privatise Meridian Energy and float it on the New Zealand  (and Australian) stock exchanges – Rio Tinto realised that the price of Meridian shares would be determined by the income they derived from selling electricity.

As Green Party co-leader, Russel Norman stated,

”Rio Tinto took advantage of Mr Key’s obsession with asset sales by threatening to derail the sale of Meridian by closing the Tiwai smelter, so Mr Key gave them $30 million of public money.”

Rio Tinto was Meridian’s biggest customer, supplying  Tiwai Point  with approximately 15% of New Zealand’s total  electricity output. As such, Rio Tinto had Meridian  (and by proxy, the National Government) by the balls. And on 7 September 2012 and 7 August 2013, Rio Tinto squeezed.

By making  130 workers redundant, it sent National, and it’s compliant  leader, a clear message; “Don’t f**k with us, Johnny-boy. These 130 plebes are an example of what we can do to screw you over“.

Had Rio Tinto followed through on it’s threats (and make no mistake – they were threats), it would have brought down the government. That would have ended Key’s career and his reputation would have been in tatters. No Knighthood or beersies for Johnny-boy!

Key had no choice but to capitulate. Key admitted as such when he said on 14 February,

“At the end of the day I think the Government took a modest step to ensure there was a smooth potential transition there – that we didn’t have a glut of electricity we couldn’t use or that thousands and thousands of Southland jobs are out at risk.”

The resulting loss of 700 jobs at the smelter,  and a further 2,500 downstream throughout Southland, would certainly have been embarrassing for Key and damaging to National .  But this is a government that has overseen the sacking of approximately 3,000 state sector workers (up to August 2012) and 29,472 few jobs in the manufacturing sector, since 2006 (2013 Census results), so unemployment per se is not a problem that overly concerns right-wing government ministers.

What really threatened this government was Key’s reference to a “glut of electricity” – note the words. A glut of electricity would have de-railed the entire asset sales programme. Result; end of National; end of asset sales programme (and the neo-liberal agenda on the whole), and the end of Key’s career.

This shabby, self-serving, politically-expedient exercise, has cost us – the tax-payer – $30 million, plus an even cheaper electricity deal than probably anyone else in this country gets. No wonder the contract price is even more uber secret than the goings-on at the GCSB – the public would erupt in fury if they came to know what our electricity was being sold for, whilst the rest of us have mounting power prices, year after year after year.

Meanwhile, the lowest paid workers in New Zealand’s rest homes are paid just barely above the minimum wage;

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Resthome spy hails saint-like workers

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To which our well-heeled Prime Minister responded thusly,

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PM  No money for aged care workers

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To quote Dear Leader,

“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.”

Interesting. Key and his Cabinet cronies found $30 million to throw at a multi-national corporation – which only six months later posted a $4.43 billion ($US3.7 billion) annual after-tax profit.

But no money for the lowest paid, hardest-working people (predominantly women) in our community. Key responded to Russell Norman’s criticism of the $30 million welfare handout,

“If Tiwai Point had closed straight away then hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of jobs would have disappeared and the Greens would have said the Government doesn’t care about those workers and is turning their back on them so they really can’t have it both ways.”

If only we could believe Key. But considering that thousands  lost their jobs since the Global Financial Crisis, and National has not bailed out any other company, the Prime Minister’s protestations ring hollow.

In fact, it’s fairly well obvious that the taxpayer-funded payout to Rio Tinto had nothing to do with jobs or the Southland economy – and everything to do with the state assets sales. As David Hargreaves wrote on Interest.co.nz,

“So, it will cost you, I and him and her a combined NZ$30 million of our hard-earned to keep the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter open just long enough so that the Government can flog off 49% of Meridian Energy.

That’s about the size of the deal struck between Meridian and the company controlled by global giant Rio Tinto, with additional sugar coating supplied by the Government, courtesy of us.

From the point the Government first stepped in earlier this year in an attempt to ‘help out’ it was always obvious tax payers were going to be forced to front up with some readies for the pleasure of keeping the always controversial smelter running for a while longer.

I have no doubt that the smelter will be closed in 2017, which is now when the owners get the first chance to pull the plug.”

The most asinine aspect to this deal (and there are many) is that Finance Minister,  Bill English, told Radio New Zealand on 9 August 2013 that “ensuring the safety of those jobs was not part of the deal and no undertakings were sought on the operation of the company”.

No guarantee for preserving jobs?!

Question: So what, precisely, did $30 million buy?

Answer: Rio Tinto not rocking the boat and upsetting National’s asset-sales programme.

This was a most odious, repugnant deal.

Every New Zealander contributed some of their hard-earned cash, which ended up in Rio Tinto’s shareholder’s pockets.

All done to achieve the sale of state assets which we own.

John Key gave away our money; which ended up in shareholder’s pockets; to sell assets we own; to other share investors.

This is the crazy side of National’s economic policy. This is  corporate welfare and crony capitalism rolled into one. Which begs the question to National’s supporters; is this what they see as “prudent fiscal management”?

How “prudent” is it to pay a subsidy to a multi-national corporation, that posted a multi-billion dollar after-tax profit,  that will most likely close the smelter regardless in some near future date (2017?)?

And why was that $30 million not invested in other job creation industries in Southland, so that a multi-national corporation could not hold this country to ransom? After Rio Tinto and Warner Bros – who is next to hold a gun to our collective head demanding a taxpayer subsidy/payout?

This was an odious, repugnant and wasteful deal.

This should not be allowed to be forgotten this election.

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John Key says I'd like to raise wages but I can't

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References

NZ Herald:  Meridian boss hails deal with smelter

Radio NZ: Details of Meridian share offer announced

Radio NZ: National announces plans for asset sale profits

TV3: Rio Tinto seeks new Bluff smelter terms

TV3: Rio Tinto eyeing smelter closures

Australia Mining: Rio Tinto’s New Zealand smelter to axe jobs

Fairfax Media: More jobs to go in smelter revamp

Interest.co.nz: Govt pays NZ$30 mln to smelter owners in a deal that will clear the way for the float of Meridian Energy

Radio NZ: No job guarantees sought in smelter deal

Otago Daily Times: Rio Tinto profit more than $4.4b

NZ Herald: PM defends $30m payout to Rio Tinto

NZ Statistics: 2013 Census QuickStats about national highlights

Dominion Post: 555 jobs gone from public sector

Fairfax media: Resthome spy hails saint-like workers

Fairfax media: PM – No money for aged care workers

Interest.co.nz:  Opinion: There was a certain inevitability the long-suffering taxpayer would be ‘invited’ to cough up for the pleasure of keeping the Tiwai Point smelter open

Previous related blogposts

John Key’s track record on raising wages – 4. Rest Home Workers

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

2013 – Ongoing jobless talley

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The Cost of Living

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 18 February 2014.

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