Archive

Archive for May, 2014

Letter to the Editor: Mana, Internet Party, Judith Collins, and “coat-tailing”

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old-paper-with-quill-pen-vector_34-14879

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Oh, the height of irony as various National MPs bleat on about Mana-Internet Party “coat-tailing” on Hone Harawira’s electorate…

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FROM: "f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT: Letters to the editor
DATE: Thu, 29 May 2014 12:51:49 +1200
TO: "NZ Herald" <letters@herald.co.nz> 

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The Editor
NZ Herald

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Gerry Brownlee, other National MPs, supporters, and assorted
hangers-on have accused the Mana and Internet Party Alliance
of "stitching" up a deal and "coat-tailing" on Hone
Harawira's electorate of Te Tai Tokerau.

I might remind Mr Brownlee and National's fellow-travellers
that, after taking hundreds of public submissions, the
Electoral Commission recommended in May last year to do away
with the "coat tailing" provision in MMP, as well as
reducing the Party threshold from 5% to 4%.

Justice Minister, Judith Collins - perhaps too busy with
trips to China and milk issues - refused to implement the
Electoral Commission's recommendations. She cited "lack of
consensus" from MPs.

Translated into plain english, Collins' reference to a "lack
of consensus" meant ACT and Peter Dunne opposed removing the
"coat tailing" provision because it would impact on a slim 
chance to bring additional MPs into Parliament on their
"coat tails".

John Key had the chance to remove this unpopular provision
from MMP and failed to do so for their own self interest.
Now the chooks have come home to roost for National.

-Frank Macskasy
[address and phone number supplied]

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References

NZ Herald: Govt rejects recommendations to change MMP system

 


 

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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Review: TV3’s The Nation – “Let them eat ice cream!”

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TV3 - The-Nation - poverty - inequality

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In the last three years I have been truly outraged and sickened only twice when watching a current affairs/documentary programme. The first was Bryan Bruce’s “Inside Child Poverty“, broadcast back on 22 November 2011.

Bryan presented the viewer with a country of increasing child poverty, disease, low-quality housing; and growing inequality that few of us (except hardcore ACT and National supporters) would have believed possible in a wealthy country like New Zealand. Especially a country which once prided itself on egalitarianism, fairness, and looking after those less fortunate than the privileged Middle Classes.

The second time was just recent – watching TV3’s current affairs programme,  The Nation, on 24 May. The one word that came to mind as I watched the episode was: revulsion. Not revulsion at the fact that our once proud egalitarian nation is now one of the most unequal on the face of this planet – but revulsion at the injection of humour in interviews; panel discussion, and levity between the hosts, Lisa Owen and Patrick Gower.

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Hosts for TV3's "The Nation", Lisa Owen and Patrick Gower

Hosts for TV3’s “The Nation”, Lisa Owen and Patrick Gower

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I am not even referring to Patrick Gower “interviewing” Ben Uffindell, editor of the satirical blogsite, The Citizen. Though one certainly has to question why this segment was deemed worthy of insertion? What was the point of suggesting that children living in poverty – many of whom go to school without food (or  are given “food” that is of dubious nutritional value); no shoes; no rain coats; or lacking other items which Middle Class families take for granted – would find it funny to be given ice cream or a South American animal?

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TV3 - The Nation - Ben Uffindell

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I recall a legend of someone else trying to “make light” of the plight of the poor. That person suggested cake, in lieu of ice cream.

The highly talented Mr Uffindell has never been  invited to comment on other pressing issues and problems confronting our country. So why start with inequality and associated problems with child poverty? A question I posed to The Nation, via Twitter;

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TV3 - The Nation - inequality -  Twitter feed 24 May 2014

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So why is levity suddenly the order-of-the-day when poverty and inequality is under the media microscope?

Because we are “just laughing at ourselves” some might say?

No. We are not “laughing at ourselves”. We are laughing at the thought  of children, living in  poverty, being given free ice cream and llamas.

We are not “laughing at ourselves”.  We are laughing at children and families living in poverty – at their expense.

That is the difference.

Funnily enough, there was certainly no humour on  The Nation (10 may) when ACT’s Jamie Whyte proposed a  flat tax policy. Where was the mirth? The satirical hilarity? Where was the wink-wink-nudge-nudge repartee between The Nation’s hosts?

Any humour must have been lost amongst the rustling sound of $100 bills been eagerly counted…

TV3 - The Nation - Torben Akel

Bill English stated in the above video,

“Income inequality has not got worse. In fact we’re one of two developed countries where the OECD has recently as yesterday have said it’s stable since 1994. And in fact in the last few years there’s some indications it’s fallen slightly.”

Torben Akel asked for evidence to back up English’s claims;

“What we got was a page lifted from a new OECD report with a graph showing income inequality here in 2010 was less than it was in the mid nineties.”

So the “new” OECD report was based on  data, taken in the midst of the Global Financial Crisis and resulting Recession?! Data that was four years old?!

Akel continued with this – and here is the relevant bit;

“As for what had happened in the last few years, we were directed to the Ministry of Social Development’s household incomes report, released last July. And specifically, this graph, which shows why the Beehive [is] so sure our income gap isn’t growing.”

A cover of the Report flashed on our television screens;

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TV3 - The Nation - inequality -  household incomes in New Zealand - Bryan Perry

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The document above is Bryan Perry’s Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2011. It used data from Treasury to assess child poverty in this country;

“To calculate disposable income Statistics New Zealand uses the Treasury’s tax-benefit microsimulation model (Taxwell1) to estimate tax liabilities for individuals and benefit units. The resulting personal disposable incomes are summed to give disposable household income. Disposable household income is sometimes referred to as net income or after-tax cash income.”

– p25

“The Treasury has also developed a set of weights for use with its HES-based tax-benefit microsimulation model, Taxwell. The Taxwell weights include the number of beneficiaries as one of the key benchmarks, in accordance with Treasury’s primary use for the HES in the Taxwell model. Treasury’s Taxwell weights therefore provide a better estimate, for example, of the number of children in beneficiary families, although to achieve this there has been a trade-off with achieving other benchmarks…”

-p33

“We know that the estimates using Statistics New Zealand’s weights consistently under-estimate the number of beneficiaries compared with the administrative data. Generally, the estimates using the Treasury’s Taxwell weights are closer to the administrative data, but the sampling error from the HES can still lead to either or both weighting regimes under- or over-estimating the population numbers. “

-p128

The relevance of all this?

As reported back in February, Treasury had under-estimated the level of children living in poverty, as Bernard Hickey wrote on the 28th,

“Treasury and Statistics said in a joint statement they had double counted accommodation supplements in estimates of household disposable income between 2009 and 2012, which meant incomes were over-estimated by NZ$1.2 billion and the number of children in families earning less than 50% of the median income was under-estimated by 25,000.”

For those who want to read the actual Media Statement from Treasury,  can be found here: Media Statement: Data error prompts process improvements. Refer to the table headed “Miscalculation – Scale – Key statistics affected”.

Bryan Perry’s revised report can be found here: Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2012 Revised Tables and Figures
27 February 2014. In it, he states,

“The revised trend-line figure is 32.9 compared with 32.7 [Gini Co-efficient] before the corrections. The trend line is still flat.”

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TV3 - The Nation - inequality -GINI inequality 1992 - 2012 - Bryan Perry

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(The Gini Co-efficient measures inequality, with the higher the value, the lower the equality in income.)

The”trend line” may still be “flat”, but I submit to the reader that for a family on low income; paying exorbitant rent; in a cold, damp house, with very little food in the pantry and fridge – it matters very little.

What does matter is that since 1984, before the Neo-Liberal “revolution”, the Gini Coefficient was only 28.

It is now 37.7.

We are going in the wrong direction.

So not only are National’s claims not backed up by evidence; not only has data been found to be incorrect; but also Torben Akel and The Nation’s research team missed the obvious; inequality has worsened since 1984.

Falling home ownership rates are another indicator which confirm increasing inequality in this country (and throughout the rest of the world).

The Nation’s comedic episode continued with this exchange between hosts Lisa Owen and Patrick Gower, and panellists, author Max Rashbrooke, and right-wing commentator and National Party cadre, Matthew Hooton;

Lisa Owen: “Let’s change to a lighter note. The Civilian Party. Let’s be clear. That was a bit of fun. It was tongue in cheek, if anyone’s confused about that out there. Do we need this in an election year. Do we need some humour?”

Max Rashbrooke: “Oh I think, absolutely. I mean it’s great to see Ben do his thing with the Civilian [Party].

If there’s a problem though, it’s that some of his policies which he puts out as satire, are actually quite close to reality. I mean he talks about we should tax the poor, more. Well actually, if you add up income tax and gst, people on low incomes are paying pretty much the same proportion of their income in tax as people at the top half. If you added capital gains into that story, the poor are probably paying a bigger chunk of their income than the rich are.”

Patrick Gower: “And, and, I, I agree with you there. Because llamas, in my opinion have been dodging tax for years and years, and until someone moves on that loophole, um…”

[general hilarity ensues]

Then Matthew Hooton had to go spoil it all by getting All Serious again, and witter on about Paradise in Scandinavia with more of his skewed ‘spin’ on those country’s taxation system.

Yup. Poverty and rising inequality. A laugh a minute.

What next on The Nation – point and laugh at people with disabilities?

“Jolly good fun”!

Postscript

TVNZ’s Q+A on  25 May also had Ben Uffindell as a guest. As usual, his wit was on form. The big, big difference between Q+A and The Nation? On the former, he satirised and poked fun at politicians. On the latter, the targets for laughter were children in poverty.

Draw your own conclusions.

 

 

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References

TV3: Inside Child Poverty

TV3: Child poverty doco ‘apolitical’ – filmmaker

TV3: Party calls for free ice-cream and llamas

Twitter: Frank Macskasy/The Nation

TV3: ACT leader steals thunder in minor party debate

TV3: New Zealand’s record on inequality

Ministry of Social Development: Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2011

Hive News: Inequality data error revealed

NZ Treasury: Media Statement: Data error prompts process improvements

Ministry of Social Development: Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2012 Revised Tables and Figures
27 February 2014

Wikipedia: Gini Coefficient

Statistics NZ: 2013 Census – Trend of lower home ownership continues

TV3: Panel – Patrick Gower, Max Rashbrooke and Matthew Hooton

Other blogs

The Standard: Snapshot of a nation: inequality

 

 


 

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 May 2014.

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Key – “I wouldn’t be here…”

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From a TVNZ news report on 27 May;

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Key - I wouldn't be here

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At 1.11, Key remarks, without any hint of irony,

“My mother was Austrian, my father was English. You know, my wife’s parents came from Ireland. So under David Cunliffe, I wouldn’t be here…”

… Nah. Too easy.


 

References

TVNZ News: Pressure on Labour to reveal immigration policy


 

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Kirk

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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Letter to the Editor: Sure, why not let the poor starve, Ms Mitchell?

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old-paper-with-quill-pen-vector_34-14879

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A letter-writer to the Dominion Post, Silvio Famularo, recently suggested that increasing benefits for the poor would be a positive move. Rightwing blogger; failed ex-ACT candidate; and self-proclaimed welfare “expert”, Lindsay Mitchell, would have none of it. She responded on 27 May with her own letter to the editor;

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letter to editor - dominion post - Lindsay Mitchell

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This was my response,

 

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FROM: "f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT: Letters to the editor
DATE: Tue, 27 May 2014 23:59:18 +1200
TO: "Dominion Post" <letters@dompost.co.nz> 

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The Editor
Dominion Post


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In replying to Silvio Famularo, who advocated for raising
benefits for the poor because they spend more, rightwing
blogger and ex-ACT candidate, Lindsay Mitchell derided the
suggestion by asserting that "to increase benefit
expenditure the government would have to increase taxation".
(27 May)

Since 1986, successive governments have cut taxes seven
times. Eight, if one includes Working for Families
tax-rebates.

Which would explain why we have high user-pays such as
tertiary education, prescription charges, "voluntary school
donations", etc, and GST rising from 10% in 1986 to the
current 15%.

Mitchell claims - without any evidence - "that means taking
more money off people who will in turn have less to spend on
the same goods and services".

If  National can provide million dollar subsidies to Warner
Bros, Rio Tinto, Charter Schools, et al, then perhaps it is
not so much a matter of "taking more money off people" - but
re-directing resources to those who need it most.

Raising progressive taxation on high income earners would
not take bread of their table - but would certainly put food
on the tables who are least well off.

Or have we totally abandoned any notion of being an
egalitarian society where we only look out for ourselves,
and devil take the hindmost?


-Frank Macskasy
[address & phone number supplied]

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References

Dominion Post: Letter – Benefit boost has direct effect

 


 

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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Who will be the new leader of the Internet Party?

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Internet_Party_NZ_logo

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Internet Party chief executive, Vikram Kumar, says that the new Leader of Internet Party will be announced on Thursday – 29 May.

My ‘pick’ is that it will be Thomas Beagle, tech expert; blogger of  Tech Liberty; sworn critic of State surveillance; and public speaker on internet and privacy-related issues.

His appointment would make perfect sense.

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References

NZ Herald: Mana confirms election year deal with Internet Party

 

 


 

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Internet Party

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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National – self-censoring embarrassing statements?

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ministry of truth update

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There is  disturbing activity taking place on National’s website.  The Party is self-censoring itself and quietly, without fuss, removing certain embarrassing information from it’s website.

In the last few weeks, this blogger has been referencing quotes from Dear Leader Key on various issues.

One such quote was from John Key, who admitted that Labour left the country in a positive economic state to weather the oncoming 2007/08 Global Financial crisis;

“The level of public debt in New Zealand was $8 billion when National came into office in 2008. It’s now $53 billion, and it’s forecast to rise to $72 billion in 2016. Without selling minority shares in five companies, it would rise to $78 billion. Our total investment liabilities, which cover both public and private liabilities, are $150 billion – one of the worst in the world because of the high levels of private debt in New Zealand.”

The original URL – http://www.national.org.nz/mixed-ownership.aspx – no longer links to the original page  on National’s website, and instead automatically refers the User to a general page on the website;

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website - our programme

 

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An alternative URL – http://old.national.org.nz/mixed-ownership.aspx – leads to a page on the National website that is mostly blank;

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website - government share offer

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An empty page signifying empty promises? Appropriate.

Whilst this blogger has no screen-shot captured from the original article, entitled “Mixed Ownership”, Google’s webcache has retained a copy of the deleted page;

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Selling shares in five companies so we can invest in areas of need.

Responsibly managing the Government’s finances is one of National’s four priorities for this term in office.

We plan to offer minority shares in four energy companies and Air New Zealand to New Zealander investors, while retaining at least 51 per cent Government ownership.  This will help ensure the Government can spend money in areas of need – such as upgrading our hospitals and schools – without loading more debt on to our economy.

What is the Government’s share offer?

We’re going to change the ownership structure of five companies over the next three to five years, by offering shares to Kiwi investors.

This ownership structure is called mixed ownership, and we’re going to apply it to:

– Mighty River Power
– Meridian Energy
– Genesis Energy
– Solid Energy
– Air New Zealand, which is already successfully operating under mixed ownership.

The Government will maintain majority control of each company – at least 51 per cent – and New Zealanders will be at the front of the queue for the remaining shares.  In fact, we’ve made it law that no shareholder other than the Government can own more than 10 per cent of each company.

We expect selling minority stakes in the five companies will return between $5 billion and $7 billion to the Government.  In addition, the Government will continue to receive dividends on at least 51 per cent of each company.

This will broaden the pool of investments for New Zealand savers and deepen capital markets, helping Kiwi companies access the funds they need to grow.

Listing on the stock exchange will also provide stronger commercial discipline, transparency, and greater external oversight for these companies.  And it will give each company access to an alternative pool of capital for growth, other than the Government.

Mixed ownership is a win-win for New Zealanders and for the companies involved.  Our decision not to pursue “shares plus” provides certainty to investors about the future of the share programme.

New Zealanders will be at the front of the queue
We’ve always said that Kiwis will be at the front of the queue for shares in each company.  The Government will make buying shares easier for New Zealanders, while encouraging long-term share ownership.

To find out more about how we will achieve this, visit: www.governmentshareoffers.govt.nz 

Why partial share sales are important

More assets
Government assets are forecast to grow over the next four years, from $244 billion to $258 billion.  By selling less than 3 per cent of the Government’s total assets, we can inject between $5 billion and $7 billion into priority assets like schools, hospitals and other critical infrastructure New Zealanders need.  And we’ll be able to do this without loading more debt on to our economy.

Selling shares in these companies is not about reducing assets, it’s about finding a solution to help pay for their growth in coming years, while getting on top of debt.

We’ve established the Future Investment Fund, which will allow us to invest every single dollar raised through partial asset sales, in new assets.

In Budget 2012, we allocated the first $558.8 million from the Future Investment Fund for:

• Modernising schools – $33.8 million (of $1 billion total)
• Health sector needs, including redeveloping hospitals – $88.1 million
• Helping KiwiRail become commercially viable – $250 million
• Creation of the Advanced Technology Institute, to help New Zealand’s high-tech firms grow • $76 million for capital costs.

Controlling debt
Getting on top of debt – by responsibly managing the Government’s finances – is one of our priorities for this term in office.  Our economy is growing, new jobs are being created, and our public finances are improving. 

The Government’s partial share offers will free up between $5 billion and $7 billion that we can reinvest in taxpayers’ large and growing asset base, while reducing our need to take on extra debt to provide the important services New Zealanders need.

The level of public debt in New Zealand was $8 billion when National came into office in 2008.  It’s now $53 billion, and it’s forecast to rise to $72 billion in 2016.  Without selling minority shares in five companies, it would rise to $78 billion.  Our total investment liabilities, which cover both public and private liabilities, are $150 billion – one of the worst in the world because of the high levels of private debt in New Zealand.

Like every household in New Zealand, we know how important it is to live within our means by budgeting carefully and deciding on our priorities.

Our programme of minority share offers means more assets with less debt.

More information

What effect will this have on power prices?
In the nine years Labour was in government, power prices went up 72 per cent – or an average of 8 per cent a year – and the Government owned 100 per cent of the assets. 

We believe it’s not who owns the energy companies that influences prices, but the regulatory environment, which the National-led Government changed to increase competition.

In our last term of government, we reformed electricity industry regulation, removed inefficiencies and brought rising generation costs under control.  Prices only increased by 14 per cent in National’s first term.

In addition, the very effective “What’s my number” campaign by the Electricity Authority has made it easier for Kiwis to understand the choices they have, and the savings they can make by shopping around for electricity. 

As a result, in the 12 months from May 2011 to April 2012, 422,256 customers changed electricity retailers (or an average of 35,188 each month).

We’re helping keep pressure on the companies to retain customers by offering competitive pricing.

Labour would load our economy with more debt
The opposition has resisted this policy at every stage, yet when they were last in office, Labour applied a mixed ownership model to Air New Zealand.

In addition, between 1984 and 1990 they sold off 100 per cent of $9 billion worth of state assets, including Telecom and the Post Office Bank.

By opposing the partial sale of shares in these companies, Labour is opposing investment in much-needed infrastructure and assets.  Their plans would see the Government borrowing $5 billion to $7 billion more from overseas lenders at a time when the world is awash with debt and consequent risk.  This is just another example of their irresponsible big-spending ways.

New Zealanders let them know what they thought of this at the last election.  Support for National, which campaigned on selling minority shares in five companies, increased at the 2011 election, while Labour received the worst party vote in its history.

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Was the “Mixed Ownership” article removed from National’s website because it contained an embarrassing, inconvenient truth? Namely, that Key had acknowledged Labour’s capable stewardship of the country’s economy when he said,

“The level of public debt in New Zealand was $8 billion when National came into office in 2008.  It’s now $53 billion, and it’s forecast to rise to $72 billion in 2016.  Without selling minority shares in five companies, it would rise to $78 billion…” 

Which was probably not helped when Key basically shafted his own government’s track record in debt when he added;

“Like every household in New Zealand, we know how important it is to live within our means by budgeting carefully and deciding on our priorities…”

No wonder the page was removed from National’s website. It had inadvertently  become a de facto election advertisement for the Labour Party.

The statement regarding “the level of public debt in New Zealand was $8 billion when National came into office in 2008″ was already ‘making the rounds’ on the internet, as blogger after blogger was picking up on the statement and republishing it, as this Google search showed;

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google - The level of public debt in New Zealand was $8 billion when National came into office in 2008.  It’s now $53 billion, and it’s forecast to rise to $72 billion in 2016

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So whoever decided to removed the page is too late. The cyber horse has well and truly ‘bolted’ and John Key’s comments will remain for a very long time. And very useful comments they are, to disprove the misleading, deceitful rubbish that certain fanatic National/ACT supporters bandy about.

Other items have also been removed from National’s website.

The URL – https://www.national.org.nz/files/2008/ECONOMY/Kiwisaver_Policy_Paper.pdf – leads to;

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Kiwisaver_Policy_Paper

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The URL – https://www.national.org.nz/files/2008/ECONOMY/Tax_Policy_Paper.pdf – leads to;

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tax_Policy_Paper

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Curiously though, Key’s 2006 speech to the  Shore National Party luncheon was seemingly so historically worthy of preservation, that it remains intact on the National Party website;

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Speech to North Shore National Party luncheon screencap

 

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Finally (?) the URL – http://www.national.org.nz/OOF/flyer.pdf – is  also a dead link;

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national org flyer 170000 new jobs

 

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It was an election flyer  bearing the promise that “National’s Brighter Future Plan will help businesses create 170,000 new jobs over the next four years“.

Now why would the Nats delete that page, I wonder?

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References

Google cache: Mixed Ownership

Google Search: The level of public debt in New Zealand was $8 billion when National came into office in 2008. It’s now $53 billion, and it’s forecast to rise to $72 billion in 2016

National Party: Kiwisaver Policy Paper

National Party: Tax Policy Paper

National Party: Speech to North Shore National Party luncheon

National Party: 170,000 New Jobs flyer

 


 

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Kirk

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 22 May 2014.

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Radio NZ: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams – 27 May 2014

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– Politics on Nine To Noon –

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– Monday 27 May 2014 –

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– Kathryn Ryan, with Matthew Hooton & Mike Williams –

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Today on Politics on Nine To Noon,

Our political commentators speak about the recent boost in National’s polling, the strengthening New Zealand economy, and the upcoming elections.

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radio-nz-logo-politics-on-nine-to-noon

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Click to Listen: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams (21′ 30″ )

  • Budget 2014, Family Package
  • Polls
  • Election 2014, voting, Labour-Green Bloc, “Missing Million” voters
  • David Shearer
  • Environment, rivers, genetic engineering, nitrate pollution, Ruataniwha Dam
  • Resource Management Act reforms, Amy Adams, Peter Dunne
  • Mana Party, Internet Party
  • Green Party list
  • Winston Peters, Parliament

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