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Archive for March, 2015

Letter to the editor – This is how much John Key really, really cares for Northland

31 March 2015 2 comments

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: NZ Herald <letters@herald.co.nz>
date: Sun, Mar 29, 2015
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor

NZ Herald

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During the Northland by-election, our esteemed Prime Minister was at great pains to show Northland voters how really, truly, deeply concerned he was for the regions.

So much so that he and other Ministers took their tax-payer funded ministerial limousines around Northland, campaigning for votes.

So much so, that lots of promises were made by Mr Key – promises that more cynically-minded critics cruelly  dismissed as election bribes.

So much so, that when it came to election night, Mr Key showed his earnest support for his candidate and for the Northland electorate… from the MCG where the Black Caps were playing against our Aussie brethren. Speaking from Melbourne, Key voiced his love for Northland and how much his thoughts were with the people of that region;

“I am delighted to be attending the final between New Zealand and Australia.”
With support like that, Northlanders, as well as other New Zealanders, can begin to understand how much this current government really, truly,  cares deeply about them.
-Frank Macskasy

 

 

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[Address and phone number supplied]

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References

Scoop media: PM to attend the Cricket World Cup Final

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key-loves-you

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Christchurch City Council – Having your asset-cake and eating it

28 March 2015 2 comments

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Prelude

On 29 January 2013, Prime Minister John Key announced that the rebuild of Christchurch would be a Herculean, multi-billion dollar task;

New Zealand also faces a domestic construction boom. That will be centred, of course, on Christchurch, where the total spend is now estimated to be around $30 billion.”

By 15 May 2014, National’s Finance Minister, Bill English delivered his sixth Budget speech to Parliament. The cost of the Christchurch re-build  had escalated by $10 billion;

The total cost of the rebuild has been estimated at $40 billion and the Government’s share will be significant.

On current estimates, the Government’s contribution to the rebuild is expected to be $15.4 billion, of which $7.3 billion will be incurred by the Earthquake Commission, net of reinsurance proceeds.

Despite central government’s massive re-build bill for Christchurch, in his Budget Conclusion, English was at pains to repeat his new mantra;

The Government’s books are on track to surplus next year and are the envy of most developed countries.”

The surplus English referred to was an Operating balance Before Gains and Losses (OBEGAL),  forecast to be a hair-thin  $86 million for 2014/15.

English’s  Budget document pointed out;

Government is still borrowing a net $78 million a week, and in dollar terms, net debt is expected to peak at $64.5 billion in 2015/16...”

Little wonder that English stated, with blinding obviousness four days earlier;

It means we will need to maintain firm expenditure control beyond our return to surplus...”

Which is why an increasingly nervous Finance Minister, conscious of spiralling re-build costs, came down hard and crushed any suggestion that taxpayer’s money be used to subsidise the proposed SkyCity convention centre;

There’s no contingency for that. If the less preferred option ended up being the option then that money would be part of the Budget process.”

Firm expenditure control in this case meant that the government-purse was firmly shut. And padlocked.

National Government’s Predictable Response

In May 2011, barely three months after Christchurch’s devastating earthquake that killed 185 people, there were already suggestions from Gerry Brownlee that the Christchurch Council would have to sell part of their community-owned assets to fund the re-build.

National’s mis-handling of the economy, with two unaffordable tax-cuts,  as well as the Global Financial Crisis and resultant recession,  had left the government’s books deep in the red.

At first, Brownlee was coy at any suggestion of asset sales;

I don’t foresee the council having to sell any assets, though in the end that will be their choice.

But in the next breath, he added;

I would suspect that Treasury have had a look at the city council’s balance sheet, given that we are going to have to take a whole lot of debt onto our [the Government’s] balance sheet.

It’s only natural we would have a look at what the council can stand [to pay].

Yes, there is provision in this legislation for Cera [Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority] to suggest to council that they might need to sell something.

Brownlee denied that government or Treasury had been scoping CCC assets with a view to partial (or full) privatisation;

The accusation is that Treasury have been looking at council assets with a view to what the council will sell. That is, I think, completely erroneous.

On 9 February 2012, a year after the second earthquake,  Brownlee admitted in Parliament (in response to questioning by the future mayor of Christchurch, Lianne Dalziel);

In the days leading up to that particular injudicious comment from me there were numerous discussions going on with the council—between the senior executives, the mayor, me, and the senior executives of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority—over a number of issues that we want the council to take some responsibility, alongside us, for. Although Treasury officials will have talked to the council, I am unaware of exactly what that discussion would have been about. But let me tell you that when the Government is spending $5.5 billion anywhere we expect the recipients of that to have some plan for how they will participate in what will be a very, very expensive recovery, and that plan has to be a lot better than saying “We’re just going to put up the rates, and we’re going to borrow a lot more money”.”

Brownlee would have us believe that he was “unaware of exactly what that discussion would have been about” between Treasury officials and  Christchurch council?  As Minister of Earthquake Recovery of that devastated city, that proposition is simply not credible.

Brownlee was not being truthful.

The Minister’s denial was further shown to be less than truthful with this evasive response in Parliament on 2 August 2012;

I have received advice from Treasury and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority on a range of funding options for the rebuilding of Greater Christchurch, to which the Government has committed $5.5 billion to date. Alongside the Christchurch City Council, I support the regeneration of our city, which will be enhanced by the development of the central city plan, released on Monday. I have publicly acknowledged the funding challenges for both the city council and the Government. Councillors and I have agreed to discuss, alongside our respective organisations, a sensible and achievable time line and funding programme for the delivery of the blueprint. I approach these discussions in good faith, as the thousands of city residents would expect us to do so. I intend to say no further on this matter.

The full text  of a remarkable, and somewhat ‘testy’ exchange between Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery, Gerry Brownlee, and the then-Speaker of the House, Lockwood Smith, under-scored the sensitivity of any suggestion that central government was putting the “squeeze” on Christchurch to sell community-owned assets and relieve pressure on English’s struggle to balance the books.

By May 2013, all pretences that asset sales were not being discussed were firmly kicked to the side, with John Key entering the political fray (and Gerry Brownlee standing pensively and obediently in the background);

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Christchurch rebuild - Council needs to come to the party - PM

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Key was clear with Christchurch residents in his expectations;

The only other option available to it is that it doesn’t actually embark on some of the projects it might want to embark on. In the end Cantabrians will have to have a say on what they think is the right mix.

I actually personally hold the view that for Canterbury, where you love sport, happen to be pretty darn good at it, and have climatic conditions that argue that a covered stadium might make sense, then actually it could be a really sensible thing to do.

And if it was up to me I would make that choice in a heartbeat if it meant changing the mix of assets, but I understand for lots of other people they might not hold that view.

This is the chance to get it right. I just urge everyone to think that through.  There is the opportunity to have some quite fantastic facilities here.

The Government is quite happy to step up and put $15bn in, and there is a limit as to how much we can put in, and some of it must come from the council.

The threat is obvious; ‘cough up the extra cash by selling some of the family silver, or  no more rugger for you lot’!

Faced with National firmly closing off any options to meet ever-increasing re-build costs, Christchurch was faced with few alternatives and on 1 August last year the Council caved to central government pressure in the form of a report from investment bankers, Cameron Partners. As Mayor Lianne Dalziel admitted;

We’ve got nothing, there isn’t even wriggle room any more, there’s just nothing there, we’re over the line and we have to pull it back before 2017.

Creating financial certainty will attract much needed investment in the rebuild. We want to work alongside the Canterbury earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) to scope the possibilities for a one-stop landing point for both local and foreign investors.”

Note the year Dalziel refers to: 2017. An election year.

Dalziel’s reference to “both local and foreign investors” is an oblique acknowledgement that the Christchurch City Council will have to part-privatise community assets to raise money that will not be forthcoming from Key’s government.

She was more forth-coming here, on the same day;

Releasing capital from our balance sheet alongside the other options, (including increased income, reduced operational expenditure and government assistance), is clearly one of the ways we can address the uncertainty around the city’s finances.

Dalziel also hinted at why Christchurch was forced to undertake asset sales;

The purpose of releasing capital would be to generate funds to assist in solving the identified funding shortfall; provide the level of confidence and certainty required to develop a credible long term financial strategy and get on with the rebuild of our community facilities, infrastructure and housing; allow CCC to buffer Christchurch residents and businesses from the exponential rates increases; and allow CCC to align our vision and strategic objectives for the rebuild with our asset portfolio – that is, what we own and operate.

It is simply untenable – both from a commercial perspective, as well as morally – that citizens in one city should be forced to pay for the rebuild of their infra-structure. This was a disaster not of their making.

Any suggestion that the cost should not be spread more evenly around the country would create a precedent that we are each solely responsible for any disaster that might befall our own region. Do New Zealanders really want to go down that road? They should think long and hard if that is the kind of society they want for themselves and their children.

Earthquake Recovery Minister could not endorse the Cameron Partners report fast enough, releasing this statement on the same day – 1 August;

The Cameron Partners report makes it clear some major areas of financial uncertainty are causing headaches for Christchurch City, including the cost of repairing and replacing the city’s essential horizontal infrastructure [pipes, roads, waterways].

When we signed the cost-sharing agreement with the council in June 2013 we foresaw this and undertook to do a thorough review of where the shared costs of the rebuild lay by 1 December this year.

Once we have this information we can consider if any amendments are required to the cost-sharing agreement.

Officials from CERA and the Treasury are working with the council already to ensure the review provides Christchurch City with the clarity it needs to help make some of the big decisions ahead of it.”

National had won.

Brownlee had successfully forced Christchurch Council to adopt unofficial National Party policy; that Council’s were expected to divest themselves of strategic assets if funding for extraordinary projects was required. This was the same policy that Brownlee had forced on Auckland, to fund it’s rail loop, and which he outlined on TV3’s ‘The Nation‘, on 30 June 2013;

Rachel Smalley:John Key said on Thursday that Auckland should consider selling its assets in order to meet some of these costs. Should the Council consider that?”

Gerry Brownlee: Well I think it’s one of those things that’s inevitably going to be on the table. Remember that we’ve got a programme that is now set out for the next 10 years, and as we come up to the point where you’re getting the business case together for the city rail link and that huge expense that’s involved in that, and recognise that you’ve got a 2016 Local Body Election as well, I’d be very surprised if it wasn’t something that was considered by some people.”

But more was come on 6 December 2014, Brownlee was demanding that Christchurch Council increase the level of asset sales;

So it’s a positive step but it’s not the end yet. I do have some worries that it might be a little timid and particularly if it were to lead to much higher rates there in Christchurch.

Murray Horton, from the lobby group ‘Keep Our Assets Canterbury’, was correct when he warned;

Once a chunk of ownership of those assets, the council’s assets, is gone then it won’t be long before there are calls for more to go.

Horton’s prescience was proved barely three months later.

Costs & Consequences

On 26 February, 2015, four years and four days after the city’s second quake, the Christchurch City Council voted;

“...subject to public consultation, the council will release $750m in capital through the sale or partial sale of assets the council owns through its commercial arm, Christchurch City Holdings, to help plug its $1.2 billion funding shortfall.

By the following day, Brownlee was demanding more asset sales, which he repeated more forthrightly on TVNZ’s Q+A on 

I don’t think you can put a particular price on it. What I think they need to do, and I’m sure that the council will get there. I’ve got to say the council have been edging their way to a position that I think will leave them in a good space progressively. What really is necessary is a sales process that gets you the highest possible price. If you go out and say, ‘Look, I’m just going to sell a little bit of this and a little bit of that,’ then you’re not going to get any premium on it at all. And if you’re going to sell something, you may as well get as much for it as you possibly can. That’s my real point.

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…if you look at something like the airport. It’s essentially a real estate company that just provides parking for planes. You could break it down to being that simple. It’s still going to get used. It’s still going to provide the service the city requires whoever owns it. It is partly price controlled through the Commerce Act, as is Orion. Completely price controlled. So the idea that someone else would buy it and the pricing of your electricity lines are going to become completely out of control is completely wrong. ”

The sale of community assets is a perfect fit with National’s ideological and fiscal needs;

  1. Ideologically, National is as wedded to privatisation as it ever was. It is only held back from a  more radical asset sales programme by public opinion – a point no doubt reinforced through National’s on-going secret polling.
  2. Fiscally, forcing local territorial authorities to finance infra-structure through sales of community-own assets lets central government off the hook, and gives English his desperately needed surplus.

Territorial Authorities have little control over Point 2.

With regards to Point 1, however, Territorial Authorities finding themselves under financial pressure can be more strategic when it comes to finding ways and means to navigate political pressure from the likes of right-wing governments and ministers like Gerry Brownlee.

One such mechanism is found within Christchurch City Council’s own document, “Council decision on proposed Financial Strategy“, where it states;

The sale of 14.3 % of Orion on condition that the shares are only offered to another public entity, such as another TA [Territorial Authority], or an institutional investor such as NZ Super Fund, and that any agreement would be subject to the shares returning to the CCC should the investor wish to sell down its share at a future date.

The same document suggests the sale of 34% of Lyttleton Port Company and 9% of Canterbury International Airport Ltd to “a suitable strategic partner“.

The latter measure opens the proverbial slippery slope to further down-selling of Christchurch Council’s shares in both companies. As such, it would be unacceptable to most Cantabrians (and New Zealanders, who have experienced the down-side of sales of strategic assets).

The NZ Super Fund would be an ideal partner for a Territorial Authoritory such as Christchurch Council. At present the NZSF’s investment in New Zealand amounts to only  13.8% in 2014  (down from 14.2% in 2013).

Not only would the NZSF offer an ideal means by which to keep these assets in New Zealand ownership, but would retain the profits instead of seeing them sent off-shore, worsening our Balance of Payments even further.

It would also fulfil the Super Fund’s  2009 directive from the Minister of Finance “requiring us to, while always investing in a prudent and commercial manner, identify and consider opportunities to increase the allocation to New Zealand assets in the Fund“.

Lastly, the Christchurch Council could eventually re-purchase the shares from the NZSF once the city’s re-build was essentially completed and it’s books were back to some semblance of normality.

The first option should always be that local strategic assets remain in local ownership, so that everyone in the community benefits.

In the face of intransigence from an ideologically-bound, and fiscally inept National Government, the best we can hope for is Plan B.

Plan B: transferring ownership, by temporary sale, to the New Zealand Super Fund. It ticks nearly all the boxes.

Additional – Christchurch City Asset Holdings

  • Christchurch City Holdings Ltd (CCHL) is the commercial/investment arm of the Christchurch City Council.
  • CCHL manages the Council (ratepayers’) investment – worth around $2.6 billion – in these seven fully or partly-owned council-controlled trading organisations.
  • CCHL is forecasting to paying $46 million in dividends for 2015/16 period.
  • CCHL Special dividend for 2015/16 period: $549,300,000
  • “The return on our CCHL investment from cash dividends has averaged 3 per cent in the last three years and 4 per cent in the last 10 years. When the appreciation in the capital value of its investments is taken into account, CCHL has achieved an internal rate of return over the past five years of 8.0per cent a year, or 25.9 per cent a year since its inception in 1996.” (Source)

Trading Organisations

Orion New Zealand Ltd: 89.3% shareholding

Christchurch International Airport Ltd: 75%

Lyttelton Port Company Ltd: 78.9%

Christchurch City Networks Ltd (trading as Enable Networks): 100%

Red Bus Ltd: 100%

City Care Ltd: 100%

Selwyn Plantation Board Ltd: 39.3%

[Acknowledgement Fairfax Media]

 

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References

National Party: Prime Minister’s Statement to Parliament

NZ Treasury: 2014 Budget Speech

NZ Treasury: Rebuilding Christchurch

NZ Treasury: Budget Priorities

Beehive.govt.nz: Budget will confirm track to surplus in 2014/15

Interest.co.nz: Finance Minister prefers not to spend taxpayer cash to avoid Sky City ‘eyesore’; no money in Budget 2015 for it

Fairfax media: Christchurch door open for asset sales

TV3 News: Government accounts show $18.4 billion deficit

Scoop media: Parliamentary Questions And Answers Feb 9 2012

Green Party: Eugenie Sage questions the Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery on Christchurch asset sales

NZ Herald:  Christchurch rebuild – Council needs to come to the party – PM

Fairfax media: Cameron Partners Review – full report

TV One News: Christchurch facing huge financial black hole

Sharechat.co.nz: Christchurch considers selling strategic assets stake to fund rebuild

The Press: Council asset sales mooted to help raise $900m

Scoop media: Brownlee says its up to Len to sell assets for loop

Radio NZ: Asset sales plan ‘may be too timid’

The Press:  Christchurch City Council votes for $750m asset sales

The Press: Gerry Brownlee says Christchurch rate rise as ‘too much’

Scoop media: TV1 Q+A – Govt will protect identities of NZ troops – Brownlee

NZ Super Fund: 2014 Annual Report

NZ Super Fund: 2009 Ministerial Directive

Statistics NZ: Balance of Payments and International Investment Position – December 2014 quarter

Christchurch City Council: Christchurch City Long Term Plan 2015 – 2025

Christchurch City Council: Council decision on proposed Financial Strategy

Additional

Christchurch City Council: Long Term Plan consultation document adopted

Previous related blogposts

Christchurch, choice, and charter schools

Christchurch – Picking the bones clean?

The “Free Market” is a fair-weather friend


 

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This blogpost was submitted to the Christchurch City Council as a submission to the Long Term Plan, on 22 March 2015.
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 23 March 2015.

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That was Then, This is Now #27 – John Key on GST

27 March 2015 1 comment

Letter to the editor – Northland voters have been warned

24 March 2015 9 comments

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Northern Advocate <editor@northernadvocate.co.nz>
date: Thu, Mar 19, 2015
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
Northern Advocate

.As National’s candidate struggles to gain traction in the Northland by-election, various government ministers would have us believe that the promised up-grade to  ten single-lane bridges; a suggested roll-out of fast-broadband in the North; and bringing forward the  Puhoi to Wellsford motorway are not bribes. 

On 10 March, our esteemed Prime Minister said he “unashamedly” wanted to win the by-election.
Northland voters should be wary of whatever promises Key makes.
He has a steady track record of fudging, back-flipping, and out-right breaking promises when he suits him politically.
Many of National’s recent promises have hundred-million dollar price tags, and will impact negatively on the government’s books. Bill English will not be pleased as he tries to balance government accounts back to surplus as well as find hundreds of millions for election bribes.
Remember that it was Finance Minister Bill English who firmly squashed any suggestion of tax-payers footing a $130 million subsidy toward the Skycity convention centre on 11 February when he said,

“There’s no contingency for that. If the less preferred option ended up being the option then that money would be part of the Budget process.”

Northlanders should brace themselves that if the National candidate wins, many of the promises will most likely be delayed, wound back, or dumped altogether for fiscal reasons.
Key’s track record on keeping promises is not reassuring. Voters have been warned.
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-Frank Macskasy

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[address and phone number supplied]

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References

Radio NZ: Government pulls out the stops for Northland

NZ Herald: John Key unapologetic about Northland byelection promises

Fairfax media: Government rolls out more ultrafast broadband

Interest.co.nz: Finance Minister prefers not to spend taxpayer cash to avoid Sky City ‘eyesore’; no money in Budget 2015 for it


 

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 20 March 2015.

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Letter to the editor – How much will a ‘free’ trade deal with Sth Korea cost us?

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: NZ Herald <letters@herald.co.nz>
date: Mon, Mar 23, 2015
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
NZ Herald
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On 23 March, John Key and Tim Groser signed a “free” trade agreement with South Korea (before Key scooted back to New Zealand to prop up National’s lame-duck candidate in the Northland by-election).

Key tried his best to push for the benefits of the NZ-Korea FTA by claiming;

“At the moment, New Zealand exports into Korea attract $229 million a year in duties. Tariff reductions in the first year of the FTA alone will save an estimated $65 million.”

It may well “save” exporters $65 million in tariffs.

But how many jobs will it create?

Before New Zealand opened it’s borders to imports from low-wage economies, our unemployment was much lower. In 1981, the Five Yearly Census showed unemployment numbering at 60,258.

Thirtytwo years later, after trade liberalisation; abolition of tariffs; and other so-called “free” trade initiatives, the 2013 Census showed unemployment to number at 153,210 – two and a half times more than the early 1980s.

Perhaps it is just as well that we have cheap goods pouring in from China and elsewhere. We certainly have more unemployed to purchase them.

 

-Frank Macskasy

 

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[Address and phone number supplied]


 

References

TV3 News: NZ signs Korea free trade agreement

1983 New Zealand Yearbook – Unemployment

2013 Census QuickStats about national highlights


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Latest Horizon Poll – Who paid for survey questions on mass surveillance/data collection?

23 March 2015 2 comments

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A recent Horizon poll had the usual mix of political and business-oriented questions. It is usually fairly easy to get a rough idea who commissioned certain questions in a poll. In this Horizon poll, received on 19 March, it seems fairly obvious that a powerco and peer-to-peer/crowd-equity -under commissioned two sets of questions.

The last set of questions, though, related to the topical issue of mass surveillance and data collection.

Note the bottom of page 20. Someone is very keen to know how the public feel about John Key’s “management of the issue of the mass interception of personal data”.

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Horizon poll - GCSB - mass collection of personal data - mass surveillance

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Horizon poll - GCSB - mass collection of personal data - mass surveillance

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Horizon poll - GCSB - mass collection of personal data - mass surveillance

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Horizon poll - GCSB - mass collection of personal data - mass surveillance

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Horizon poll - GCSB - mass collection of personal data - mass surveillance

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Horizon poll - GCSB - mass collection of personal data - mass surveillance

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Horizon poll - GCSB - mass collection of personal data - mass surveillance

 

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Horizon poll - GCSB - mass collection of personal data - mass surveillance

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Horizon poll - GCSB - mass collection of personal data - mass surveillance

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Horizon poll - GCSB - mass collection of personal data - mass surveillance

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Note the questions on the page below;

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Horizon poll - GCSB - mass collection of personal data - mass surveillance

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Horizon poll - GCSB - mass collection of personal data - mass surveillance

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Horizon poll - GCSB - mass collection of personal data - mass surveillance

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Horizon poll - GCSB - mass collection of personal data - mass surveillance

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It will be interesting to know what the results are. And even more interesting to know who commissioned the questions relating to mass surveillance/data collection?

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Max Bradford

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Have the media finally learned to ask the right questions?

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planet key

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When right-wing, normally pro-National,  columnists like the NZ Herald’s John Armstrong question the veracity of this government’s assertions, then it is another indication that things are not going well for John Key’s six-year old administration.

Specifically, Armstrong’s questioning  Steven Joyce’s claim on 12 March that thousands of new jobs have been created in Northland;

When you add that to the 7,500 extra new jobs created in Northland in the last year, it is clear that the region is turning the corner and beginning to grow well.”

Armstrong replied two days later, lambasting the National Minister;

Deserving of special scrutiny is the repeated claim by Steven Joyce that 7500 new jobs were created in Northland last year. It certainly sounds impressive. The Economic Development Minister’s assertion is based on Statistics New Zealand’s household labour force survey. That indeed showed an increase of 7500 more people in employment in Northland at the end of last year as against the previous December.

The survey, however, stipulates that anyone who does paid work for as little as one hour a week is classed as being in employment. When people talk about “new” jobs, they usually mean full-time or part-time with a reasonable number of hours. We simply do not know what types of jobs were actually created.

Note Armstrong’s comment; “The survey, however, stipulates that anyone who does paid work for as little as one hour a week is classed as being in employment”.

He is indeed correct. Statistics NZ considers a person to be employed if they;

  • worked for one hour or more for pay or profit in the context of an employee/employer relationship or self-employment 
  • worked without pay for one hour or more in work which contributed directly to the operation of a farm, business, or professional practice owned or operated by a relative 

Note that a worker does not even have to be paid for Statistics NZ to consider you officially “employed”.

Which Armstrong duly noted;

The risk of making bald assertions without qualification is underlined by the survey’s other finding that despite the apparent strong lift in employment, the number of unemployed in Northland fell by only about 100 during the same 12 months.

It is refreshing that some in the media are finally starting to pick up the mendacities of this government. Key and his cronies are simply not be be trusted and every utterance they make should be fact-checked.

If an openly pro-National columnist understands that the governments claims are bogus, it should not be beyond the abilities of other journalists to undertake basic research as well. There is simply no excuse; the information is readily available through search engines.

Even Cameron Slater has picked up on National’s blatant  propagandising and seems less than impressed.

As I blogged in early February;

If the last six years have shown us one thing, it is that the next scandal and revelations of dodgy ministerial practices and inept Prime Ministerial behaviour is not too far away.

The media are alerted. The public now have some awareness of dirty politics behind the scenes. And journalists are starting to exercise a form of collective memory.

It is said that the public no longer care about politics, and that Key has “de-politicised” it. But, like the continuing bad stories that finally destroyed Jenny Shipley’s government, continuing negatives stories can have a corrosive effect on this government.

The more times Key is caught out lying or being tricky with the truth or breaking promises – the more that the public will slowly but surely distrust his “brand”.

The loss of Northland will not only be damaging to the National government, it will be the clearest indication yet that the value of “Brand Key” has been  irrevocably tarnished and diminished.

This will be Key’s final term in office.

Hat-tip: Maria Sherwood – ‎John Key has Let Down New Zealand

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References

National Party: Strong economic performance in Northland

NZ Herald: John Armstrong – Questionable tactics in race for Northland votes

Statistics NZ: […] Definitions

Whaleoil: Wheels come off Steve Joyce’s Northland campaign

Previous related blogposts

Un-employment; under-employment; and the plain unvarnished truth

Un-employment; under-employment; and the plain unvarnished truth*** UP DATE ***

Roy Morgan Poll: Unemployment and Under-employment up in New Zealand!

Witnessing the slow decay of a government past it’s Use-By date

When the teflon is stripped away


 

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3000 more jobs - fantasy by J Key

 

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 16 March 2015.

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Someone at Fairfax is a subversive?

16 March 2015 2 comments

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Pointed out to me by several Facebook readers…

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fairfax - stuff - story - Customs seeks powers to disclose passwords  - customs can go fuck themselves

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Note the URL?

http://www.stuff.co.nz/66957924/customs-can-go-fuck-themselves

Someone at Fairfax/Stuff has a wickedly subversive sense of humour.

I may have to re-new my subscription to the ‘Dominion Post‘…

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 11 March 2015.

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Opposing the TPPA – the Heavens hold their deluge ’till the People speak

14 March 2015 5 comments

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TPPA - No Deal

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NZ, Wellington, 7 March – It had been raining intermittently through the the morning, but as mid-day rolled into 1pm, the skies partially cleared and the sun broke through over a city glistening with rain drops. It was well-timed, as citizens began to assemble in down-town Midland Park. This was to be another expression of public anger against the so-called “Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement”.

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anti-tppa-7-march-2015-wellington

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There were a wide variety of signs. Some professionally printed, others hand-made;

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anti-tppa-7-march-2015-wellington

 

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Entertainment was provided by the “Brass Razoo” band;

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This sign was especially clever;

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A panoramic view of the growing crowd;

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The Green Party was very much in evidence;

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As were unions – for whom “free” trade agreements are never free and come at a cost of  lower wages, reduced conditions, job-insecurity, and lost jobs;

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The host and one of the organisors of the event was Dr Sandra Grey, National President of the Tertiary Education Union;

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TPPA - trans pacific partnership agreement - protest march - wellington - sovereignty - 7 march 2015

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One of the first speakers was Green Wellington city councillor, Sarah Free;

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TPPA - trans pacific partnership agreement - protest march - wellington - sovereignty - 7 march 2015

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Ms Free said she was proud that Wellington City Council had joined with Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Nelson, Palmerston North, and other local bodies around the country in opposing the secrecy of the TPPA. She said,

“We want trade but not at any cost. Not at any cost. We want to keep those freedoms we have at the moment, to look after our public health, to look after our working conditions in the city, to make sure that people and the environment are looked after. We actually value those freedoms.

We are here because we are nervous. Nervous what that government’s proposing to do with our sovereign rights. Nervous about the power they’re going to give to these faceless corporations.

It’s not a trivial nervousness that we have because these corporations under these investor state dispute clauses,  have sued governments. They have sued governments for things like trying to get plain [cigarettes] packaging in Australia. They’ve sued Ecuador for just changing the size; making the size of the health warnings on the cigarette packages a little bit bigger. They’ve sued Peru for trying to shut down the smelter that was causing lead poisoning in it’s communities.

In fact they scared the Peruvian government so much that they actually backed away from shutting down the smelter!”

She said that a mining company had sued the government of Ecuador after the company had been found to be breaking the law.

Ms Free said we had good cause to be scared of the investor state dispute clauses, which the American government had been very keen to implement after it’s North American Free Trade Agreement of 1994. She said that disputes were arbitrated in secret dispute-tribunals and had risen exponentially from 69 cases in 1999, to 370 in 2012.

Ms Free told the crowd, to loud cries of “boooo!”, that law suits were being under-taken by powerful corporations with vast sums of money, against democratically elected governments.

She asked those in the crowd to put their hands up if that made people nervous. A sea of hands shot up into the air.

Ms Free pointed out,

“It’s no coincidence that the power of the corporations has also coincided with the increasing inequality of wealth worldwide. I do not think this is a coincidence.

1% of the world’s population now controls 50% of it’s wealth. 85 individuals are wealthier than 3.5 billion people at the bottom end.

We’re talking about the modern day pharoahs, and their slaves.

We want trade, but not at any cost!

Our free trade agreement with China did include some clauses, and also included protection for our environment, our public health, and our Treaty of Waitangi.”

Ms Free wanted a clear message sent to the government, saying,

“Why should we settle for any less with the TPPA?”

Some more light mockery by clever citizens;

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It seems that our Dear Leader is developing something of a reputation for amnesia? Or selective recall?

Ms Grey told the crowd that 600 lobby groups, representing corporations, had looked at the draft TPPA – but the public have not been allowed the same right.

Ms Grey then introduced the next speaker, CTU National Secretary Sam Huggard;

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Sam started by referring to the investor state dispute settlement mechanism as one of the nastiest aspects of the proposed agreement;

“It’s a provision which allows… companies and unaccountable offshore tribunals to sue our governments if they have the audacity to make changes which improve the wellbeing or the economic security or improve equality in our country. Why would our government or any government around the world want to sign up to an agreement which allows foreign companies to sue us if we have the audacity to improve our water quality or bring in other other environmental protections? Or if we wanted to improve our health policy settings to improve health and wellbeing? Or improve the economic security of people?”

Sam said that such investor mechanisms were creeping into trade agreements all around the world.

Sam told the crowd that French multi-national corporation, Veola, which managed Auckland’s rail transport network, was currently in the process of suing the Egyptian government. He said that Veola was suing the Egyptian government for increasing the minimum wage, and Veola was complaining that such a move would strip their ability to make profits.

He referred to tobacco giant, Phillip Morris, that was suing the Australian and Uruguan governments for introducing plain packaging for tobacco.

Sam said he wanted nothing to do with an agreement he considered “nasty and dodgy”,

I don’t want it signed in my name,” he told Wellingtonians, and those listening agreed noisily with his sentiments.

Young people, expressing their views;

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And other citizens, expressing their reservations, concerns, and outright opposition to an agreement which is being negotiated in secret, and which very, very few understand the consequences for our country, society, and economy;

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Sandra then welcomed Dr Gaye Keating to the microphone;

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Dr Keating announced to the crowd that she was part of a new group that had recently been created,  ‘Doctors for Healthy Trade‘. She said that the group  was a response by doctors around the world, including the President of the World Medical Association, calling for more openness in trade agreements, such as the TPPA, before they were ratified. She said that there was concern amongst the medical profession that international trade agreements were fraught with major health risks, based on past, recent examples.

Dr Keating stated that there were fears, based on leaked draft versions of the TPPA, that plans were afoot to make medicines more expensive, to increase the profits of pharmaceutical companies. She said that this would be a problem not just for wealthy countries like New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and the US, but others such as Vietnam, who could not afford medical drugs “pushed up for extra American companies profits”.

Dr Keating raised the issue of safe workplace practices and condemned the TPPA for potentially undermining health and safety laws in New Zealand;

“New Zealand knows about the problems of mines which are not managed for the safety of their workers. It kills people. We also know about things like tobacco, which also, if it’s not managed properly, kills people.

From the leaked documents, it is really clear that the TPPA freezes a country’s ability to protect people. It puts in place in place options to protect profits. It does not put in place protections for people’s health.”

Dr Keating added that climate change was also a major health threat, saying;

“We need to be able to put in place protections, for safety in terms of greenhouse gases and safety for reacting to catastrophic climate change.”

She concluded by saying,

“So both for New Zealand and for the Pacific states whose islands are going to be drowned, and for the countries in places which are being mined, we need to take a responsible stance to protect health in New Zealand but also in other countries, we should not allow other countries to be bribed or bullied into laws that are bad for their health.”

After a brief discussion on the merits of marching to Parliament with impending bad weather approaching, the decision was made by the public to proceed with the march.

Well over a thousand people marched through Wellington, toward Parliament’s grounds. I saw no hecklers or anyone on the footpaths showing any antipathy toward the protestors. I did, however, witness people nodding and clapping;

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 TPPA - trans pacific partnership agreement - protest march - wellington - sovereignty - 7 march 2015

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This citizen posed a very good question to our esteemed Prime Minister;

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New Zealanders, for the most part, are not stupid. With all the secrecy surrounding the TPPA, they smell a dead rat – not unlike the stench from  old, decaying road-kill at the height of our recent hot summer.

In this shot, you can see how far back the  march filled Lambton Quay, as protesting citizens neared the Cenotaph;

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Meanwhile, Police presence during the march was minimal, except for traffic control. This lone constable appeared to be doing a good job, bringing traffic to a stop as  marchers walked safely through the intersection;

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TPPA - trans pacific partnership agreement - protest march - wellington - sovereignty - 7 march 2015

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Yet again, someone in Parliament (the Speaker’s Office? Parliamentary Services?) had decided to keep the Main Gates closed and padlocked, forcing hundreds of citizens to squeeze through an open, narrow, side gate;

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TPPA - trans pacific partnership agreement - protest march - wellington - sovereignty - 7 march 2015

 

Because, judging by the crowd-barriers erected in front of Parliament’s steps, I think we can safely assume that someone was expecting the protest;

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TPPA - trans pacific partnership agreement - protest march - wellington - sovereignty - 7 march 2015

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It took a bit longer, but the marchers – which had swelled in number since departing from Midland Park –  assembled in front of Parliament;

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Though determined, it was a good-natured crowd and their was no hint of anything anti-social or potentially violent, arising. The revolution would not be held today.

This woman came forward from the crowd and volunteered to use sign-language to communicate with anyone who might be deaf, translating speakers’ speech into Sign;

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Sandra introduced the first speaker to address the crowd, Todd Rippon, vice-President of Equity New Zealand (formerly Actor’s Equity);

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 TPPA - trans pacific partnership agreement - protest march - wellington - sovereignty - 7 march 2015

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Todd made an impassioned forceful statement which left listeners in no doubt where he stood on the TPPA;

“Performer’s lives are directly affected by trade agreements. In 1994, the National government signed a World Trade Organisation agreement which effectively made it illegal to have New Zealand content quota on our televisions.

So that basically meant that we gave free reign to broadcaster services internationally, to access to our televisions and screens. So the Labour government years later, led by Helen Clark, tried to support the production of film and television in New Zealand. She found she couldn’t. That government could not do a thing.

It was hamstrung by that stupid agreement. Because it was internationally illegal!”

The crowd reacted with anger, expressing their opposition to what they were hearing from Todd.

Cries of “Shame!” echoed around Parliament’s grounds.

“Now this TPPA, this agreement is like that World Trade Organisation [agreement] on steroids. Only this time it’s not going to affect performers, it’s going affect our education, it’s going to affect our healthcare, it’s going to affect agriculture… it will just go on and on and on!”

Todd was clear in what he wanted;

“I want our kids to be to able to decide their own futures. These trade agreements get locked in for decades. But our kids deserve better. I want our kids to  be able to see New Zealand content on their televisions and when they go see films. I think it’s apalling that we allow foreign corporations to decide what we see on our screens! We deserve better than that!”

Todd did not need a microphone and speakers when he forcefully thundered;

“I challenge our government to respect our culture! I challenge them to protect our culture! Signing the TPPA is nothing short of insanity! We must not sign it, Kia kaha!”

The crowd loved it and erupted with exuberant applause and cheering.

Amongst the crowd, another citizen held aloft a placard, with a very simple question  for our esteemed Prime Minister;

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TPPA - trans pacific partnership agreement - protest march - wellington - sovereignty - 7 march 2015

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Sandra next introduced Jean Kahui, from Taranaki Whanau ki Te Upoko o Te Ika, and researcher on the process of fracking;

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Jean told the crowd she has been researching the fracking of Aotearoa for the past. She said that her findings into fracking were alarming, and she could not stand by and allow government and Big Oil to pollute our children’s future. She warned that if the TPPA proceeded then so would fracking, warning that “our future will be dismal”.

“The French decided to ban fracking in 2011 and Big Oil did mount a challenge. But the highest court in France upheld the ban, cancelled the permits, and sent the frackers packing. Without a TPPA, we can do that too.”

There was enthusiastic applause when Jean said that.

Jean said that that the State of New York banned fracking on the strength of over 400 scientific studies. The over-riding concern was that the effects of fracking was not yet fully known.

Last week, she said, Tasmania renewed their ban on fracking for another five years. The Tasmanians were concerned at protecting their premium, safe, locally grown produce from potential contamination.

Jean said,

“The list of communities banning this extreme mining technique continue to grow while back here in ‘clean, green New Zealand’, our motto is clearly, “drill baby drill, and frack the hell out of every well”!”

Jean said that with the TPPA, a frack-free New Zealand is achievable.

Jean cut her speech short as  dark clouds loomed over-head, and drops of rain began to be felt.

Sandra introduced singer, Matt Pike, who belted out a stunning rendition of the ‘Twisted Sister‘ song “We’re not going to take it anymore” (with a few words altered to make it relevant to the day of protest);

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Like the 1960s song, “We shall overcome“,  it seems that “We’re not going to take it anymore” has become the protest anthem of the 21st century. The crowd joined in with gusto.

A protester taking a photo of me, photographing her. (I presented her with one of my business cards, giving her my details – some measure of reassurance that I was not SIS, GCSB, or some other National Party stooge.)

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Following Matt, Sandra introduced speakers from several political parties. She revealed that National had refused to send a representative to speak on behalf of their party. They “lacked the guts”, she said.

United Future had sent their “apologies” – to which the crowd reacted with derision.

As rain began to fall more heavily, Sandra announced that each speaker would be given a one minute maximum time limit to speak. It was now a  “race” to beat the on-coming “weather bomb” that had been predicted for the city.

First up, Ariana Paretutanganui-Tamati from the Mana Party and long-time opponant of the TPPA addressed the people;

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TPPA - trans pacific partnership agreement - protest march - wellington - sovereignty - 7 march 2015

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Ariana also spoke with deep passion, expressing her deeply-held beliefs, that we needed elected representatives who looked after our rights and looked after our  country, and our future. She said,

“We will keep fighting because we are a movement of the people, for the people. Whether we have representation in Parliament or not!”

Ariana described the TPPA;

“This is a kind of agreement that you cannot give an inch, they will take a mile! Let’s keep this pressure on!”

She encouraged people to join the TPPA Action group, referring to the group’s Facebook page as a contact point.

Ariana spoke briefly, but the crowd loved her passion.

Following Ariana, was NZ First’s Fletcher Tabutean, looking very “corporate” in his suit;

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Fletcher said the those who promoted the TPPA were compromising the sovereignty, people, and businesses of this country. He further explained;

“I have submitted on behalf of NZ First a Private Members Bill which will fight foreign corporate control.”

The crowd cheered wildly as he railed against Big Corporates, demanding that they not be permitted the right to sue the New Zealand government, nor take away our sovereignty.

“They shouldn’t even begin to think about it! They don’t belong here.”

Fletcher finished by poking fun at the government;

“John Key’s not listening to you, he’s not listening to you today. But I’ll tell you what… maybe his focus groups will hear you. Maybe his focus groups will go back to his office up there and say, ‘You might have something to worry about, John. There were a lot of people here today’.”

Many of the signs, like this one, were imaginative – very much showing the creativity of New Zealanders;

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The next speaker was James Shaw, from the Green Party. Like Ariana, he received a rapturous welcome from the crowd as well;

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TPPA - trans pacific partnership agreement - protest march - wellington - sovereignty - 7 march 2015

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James launched straight into a rousing attack on the TPPA;

“It’s because of you that we can defeat the TPPA. We can defeat the TPPA, we have done it on things like this before, and we can do it again. When we’ve got the strength of numbers, and you’re demonstrating that despite the weather. All over the country there are thousands of people marching against the TPPA today.”

“This is a Bill of Rights, not for you, not for our country, but for multi-national corporations. It goes against everything that is the sovereignty of this country. It goes against our environment, it means we can’t look after our healthcare, we can’t pass our own laws. We are ceding our sovereignty to foreign corporations.”

James stated that the Green Party would be supporting Fletcher’s bill through Parliament;

“We’re going to be doing everything we can and today we’re calling on the government to release the text. We’ve been calling on them to release the text for the last couple of years, to release the cost-benefit analysis. Because if it is so good, why is it so secret!”

He re-iterated that point,

“If it is such a good deal, why won’t they tell us what a good deal it is. The only thing that we know about this, is all of the risk.”

As the rain  began to pour more heavily, the last political party representative was Grant Robertson, from the Labour Party;

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Grant first paid tribute to the Unions who had organised the protest, giving a “big shout-out” for their efforts.

Without any further mucking around, Grant got straight into giving the Prime Minister ‘a serve’;

“I’ve got two messages, the first of those is to John Key. He’s had a lot to say in the last couple of weeks about people’s courage. Well, my message to John Key is get some guts and be upfront with New Zealand about the TPPA.

This is not a normal trade agreement. This is an agreement that goes behind the border to issues about what rights we have in that building [pointing to Parliament behind him] to make laws. John Key needs to understand that and come to New Zealand with the text and with the government’s negotiating position.

Otherwise he’s not acting in our name and he must be stopped from doing that.”

Grant continued;

“The second message I’ve got is this, if this agreement can’t guarantee our right to make laws in our interest; if this agreement can’t guarantee that PHARMAC continues to get cheap medicines for New Zealand; if this agreement can’t guarantee that people who have good ideas here can start businesses and don’t get shut down by the intellectual property law; if this agreement can’t do that, then my message to you from the Labour Party is, ‘No Deal’!”

And lastly, from Karen and her two courageous young daughters, Tracey and Katie. By now, the heavens could no longer hold back, and the weather bomb ‘exploded’ over the city, drenching people as the girls struggled to address the crowd;

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TPPA - trans pacific partnership agreement - protest march - wellington - sovereignty - 7 march 2015

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“Kia ora tatou, my name’s Tracey and I am 12 years old. Today I am here like you because I worry about what will happen to my and my friend’s future if the  TPPA is signed.”

Tracey said she understood that the trade deal was a bad idea for her and her future. She referred to the negotiations being held behind closed doors and doubted if they would be signed in our interests.

“I thought the whole idea of communities was to help one another and to work as a part of a team,”  Tracey said in her soft voice, hesitantly.

The crowd cheered and clapped.

“After all,” she continued, “isn’t this what we learn at school?”

Tracey was followed by her sister, Katie;

“Kia ora tatou, my name is Katie. I am 11 years old and like my sister I am very concerned about the TPPA. I have on many occassions handed out flyers and have chalked for people to google TPPA.”

There was loud cheering when Katie said that. She continued, hesitantly;

“Many people have seemed interested in what I have to say while handing out out leaflets. But there were also some people that had no interest or were quite appalled that I would do this. But why wouldn’t you if you knew that this was going to be signed in secrecy by our government?”

Both girls may be young in age, but they certainly knew the issues involved, and were probably more informed than the average New Zealander.

Finally…

Who is Anonymous?

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 TPPA - trans pacific partnership agreement - protest march - wellington - sovereignty - 7 march 2015

 

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None of us. All of us.

We are the people, Mr Key. Expect us.

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Contact

Facebook: TPPA Action Group

It’s our Future

Previous related blogposts

Nationwide Day of Protest Captures Public Attention on TPPA

Copyright (c) Notice

All images stamped ‘fmacskasy.wordpress.com’ are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

» Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
» Where purpose of use is commercial, a donation to Child Poverty Action Group is requested.
» At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals or groups.
» Acknowledgement of source is requested.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 9 March 2015.

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= fs =

Northland by-election – a damning poll and a damnable lie?

12 March 2015 5 comments

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voting-graphic-electoral-by-election-northland-2015

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A recent TV3 poll and associated story yielded two interesting observations. Firstly, that Winston Peters has a better chance of winning the Northland by-election than Labour.

Secondly, that the National candidate, Mark Osborne, is quite likely a liar.

The Poll

Despite TV3’s Patrick Gower thoroughly unprofessional interview with Winston Peters on The Nation, on 28 February, where he condescendingly referred to the NZ First leader’s candidacy in the Northland by-election as “a stunt” with “very little chance of winning here” – a TV3-Reid Research poll has put Peters firmly in the lead.

Peters’ lead is a commanding five percentage points over his nearest rival, National’s Mark Osborne;

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tv3 poll- northland by-election - 5 march 2015

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The poll results are a stunning up-set for National and creates serious doubt whether the Key government can survive a full three-year term.

The poll also revealed that Northland voters are far from “relaxed” about the police investigation  surrounding former Northland MP, Mike Sabin, which evidently began in August last year;

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tv3 poll- should voters have been told sabin was under police invstigation - by-election poll - 5 march 2015

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Even a clear majority of National voters agreed with the question whether “voters should have been told Mike Sabin was under investigation”;

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The TV3 poll is evidently backed up by a  “secret poll” recently referenced by the National Business Review.

From a majority of 9,300 in the 2014 election, National is now set for a crushing, humiliating defeat. Worse still, it will take their numbers in the House from 60 to 59 with reliance on ACT, Peter Dunne, and the Maori Party to pass legislation and survive confidence votes.

Any further by-elections between now and 2017, and even support from ACT and Peter Dunne may not be sufficient to save this government. For the first time since the first MMP government was formed in 1996, New Zealand could see an early election, and the subsequent demise of John Key’s political career.

On 35%, Peters has a fairly good chance of taking Northland. But with 19% Undecideds – the outcome is by no means “done and dusted”.

This is still a First Past the Post election, and Osborne could still win the electorate with one single vote, even with a majority voting against him.

Labour Leader Andrew Little should re-visit his comments on Radio NZ’s Morning Report on 3 March, where he stated that the Labour candidate, Willow-Jean Prime “was in with a chance“.

Little also said that he did not know “where Peters stands in terms of peoples’ affections for him” in the electorate.

I suggest that the TV3 poll is a fairly clear indication.

Little added, “I’m just not convinced that the level of support is there for Winston that some people claim“.

Perhaps the poll may begin to convince Little that  “the level of support is there for Winston“.

Guyon Espiner pointedly  asked Little “are you  open to being convinced if a poll were to come out“?

Little replied that it thought it was “unlikely“.

It is no longer unlikely, and indeed, it is likely that Labour’s Ms Prime will come a distant third in what has quickly become a two-horse race.

The question for Labour, now, is what is more important?

  1. Contesting a by-election on a point of principle even at the cost of  potentially helping National retain the seat?
  2. Swallowing pride; adopting a truckload of pragmatism;  giving Peters a free run; and perhaps hastening the demise of this increasingly self-serving government?

Former Labour president, Mike William said on 4 March, on Radio NZ’s Nine to Noon programme, that he would have counselled against Labour contesting the by-election. Williams cited cost and Peters working alongside Labour to assist Kelvin Davis to win the Te Tai Tokerau electorate last year.

If Peters wins Northland, it would be a win/win for the Opposition;

  1. The government’s majority would fall by one,
  2. The government would become more vulnerable to future by-elections,
  3. Peters would have to vote with the Opposition on every important issue that mattered. Peters simply could not afford to vote with National and risk being seen as another coalition partner alongside Dune, ACT, and the Maori Party.

The question that Andrew Little should ask himself every day and night from now on is; do I really want to risk splitting the opposition vote in Northland and thereby help John Key preserve his government?

Because in the final analysis, that is what it boils down to.

The Lie?

In the TV3 video with Gower’s voice-over, note Osborne’s response (at 2:16) to an off-video question regarding the curious circumstances surrounding Mike Sabin’s sudden resignation from Parliament on 30 January;

“Ah, I’m not aware of the situation or the circumstances behind it.”

Then note Peters’ response (at 2:20) to Osborne’s comment;

“They all knew. And at the top. Including my opponent, who was a Treasurer of the organisation.”

If Peters is correct and Osborne was (is?) the Treasurer of the Northland Branch of the National Party – then it is inconceivable that he was unaware of Sabin’s situation and the police investigation.

Enquiries made to the National Party, by phoning the Electorate Office, and on Twitter,  on the morning of 6 March have not resulted in any responses to questions on this issue.

Electorate committee executives are almost always the first to find out what is happening on their own patch.  For Osborne to deny any knowledge of Sabin’s situation is simply not credible.

Osborne was either kept out of the loop by other electorate executives; never attended committee meetings; and never spoke to other committee members – or he is lying.

Which is more likely?

Not exactly an auspicious start to his nascent political career?

Perhaps he is following in his Dear Leader’s footsteps.

 

 

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References

TV3 The Nation: Transcript – NZ First leader Winston Peters

TV3 News:  Peters on track to win Northland seat

TVNZ News: Police asked questions about Mike Sabin six months ago

NBR: UPDATED: The fix isn’t in – Labour to contest Northland

Wikipedia: 2014 General Election results

Radio NZ: Labour won’t rule out deal in Northland byelection (audio)

Radio NZ: Labour urged to make way for Peters in Northland

National Party: Northland electorate

National Party: Twitter

Other blogs

Bowalley Road: Sorry Winston – Why Labour Needs To Stand In Northland

Polity: Herald on Northland

Polity: Game on

Public Address: The Northland by-election; or The so-called Tizard Effect

The Daily Blog: Why National might lose Northland and why Labour can’t win

The Daily Blog: Poll shows Winston winning Northland

The Dim Post: Northland

The Standard: On Northland

The Standard: Northland Polls; Horrorshow for National

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Northland by-election - the public going to sleep

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 7 March 2015.

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= fs =

Letter to the editor – A right to know?

12 March 2015 3 comments

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: Wed, Mar 11, 2015
subject: Letter to the editor

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The Editor
Dominion Post
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So let me see if I’ve got this straight…

When the so-called “agri-terrorist” threatened Fonterra with lacing baby formula powder with 1080, our trading partners were informed very smartly.

Meanwhile, New Zealand mums and dads were kept in the dark for nearly four months, with our esteemed Prime Minister, saying;

“I want to reassure parents that every step possible has been taken to respond to the threat, to ensure the ongoing safety of our food products.”

 

No, not every step. Parents were not informed at the beginning so they could take elementary precautions such as checking that containers had not been tampered with.

Far from being “open and transparent” as Key likes to describe his administration, this is one of the most secretive governments we have ever endured.

This time, though, he has gone too far.  Keeping something as potentially deadly as poison-laced baby powder a secret for four months was irresponsible.

We have lambasted closed societies such as the former Soviet Union for not disclosing critical problems as early as possible. We should expect no less from our own supposedly democratically elected government.

 

Parents have a right to know. Not just our trading partners.

-Frank Macskasy

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[address and phone number supplied]


 

References

NZ Herald:  From parents to politicians, outrage at threat to baby formula

 

 

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= fs =

Letter to the editor – Getting the government we deserve

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Northern Advocate <editor@northernadvocate.co.nz>
date: Wed, Mar 11, 2015
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
Northern Advocate

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On Radio NZ’s Morning Report, on 10 March, our esteemed Prime Minister openly admitted that his government was engaged in naked bribing of the Northland electorate. He vainly attempted to justify  the policy announcements-cum-bribes with this noble-sounding explanation;

“We’re in an election and in election campaigns you announce your policies what you’re going to do. There’s no point in us, you know, waiting two months and saying to the people of Northland ‘Oh by the way, this is what we’re intending to do’. I mean they’re entitled to know upfront, before they vote, what our intentions are and we intend to make a number of policy announcements.”

It’s a shame that Key does not hold the same view that Northlanders are “entitled to know upfront, before they vote” why the former National MP, Mike Sabin, was forced to suddenly step down as Northland’s MP.

Are Northland voters not “entitled to know upfront, before they vote” what prompted Sabin’s resignation?

And why did the National Party keep the circumstances a secret prior to the general election last year?

Whatever potential scandal surrounds Mr Sabin, with National Party connivance to keep it secret; it seems that Northlanders are now being offered ‘lollies’ to keep them happy.

If the new National candidate is elected to Parliament, then never before has the old adage – that we deserve the government we get – been ever truer.

-Frank Macskasy

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[address & phone number supplied]

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Reference

Radio NZ: Government pulling out all the stops for Northland (audio)

 

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Northland by-election - the public going to sleep

 

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Mike Hosking – Minister for War Propaganda?

9 March 2015 5 comments

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Get some guts - John Key

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Media personality, Mike Hosking,  is well known for his close connections to the National Party and open support for Dear Leader John Key, as he made abundantly clear in February 2013;

“We have bright prospects for the future, so long as you keep them [National] in Government.”

Hosking later attempted damage-control by refuting any affiliation with National in an interview with Listener journalist, Diana Wichtel, later that same year. But attempts at “plausible deniability” fell flat.  His assertion;

“I didn’t actually say they should be re-elected, I don’t think.”

– seemed to jar badly with his earnest declaration that “we have bright prospects for the future, so long as you keep them [National] in Government.”

Hosking’s support for National has recently taken a further – and potentially deadly – step, with a column in the NZ Herald extolling Key’s virtues for decision to put New Zealand military personnel in Iraq. He referred to Key’s decision as “the right, honourable and only thing to do”.

Interestingly, Hosking also expressed  these insights before arriving at “the right, honourable and only thing to do”;

We have been there before and with little success.

The troops we’re going to train have been trained before with little success.

The troops we’re training are corrupt, as are their leaders.

History shows that intervention in this part of the world has never gone well.

[…]

If John Key has made a mistake, it’s in trying to argue that we’re not going to war. We are, we indisputably are.

The more he downplays it, the more trouble he’s got if it goes pear-shaped.

The more he tries to define the terms of engagement, the more trouble he has explaining how little, if any of it, went to plan.

Because it won’t, and it won’t because it’s war.

History shows us that former US Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, was fully expecting to be hailed a hero and a liberator when he rolled into Baghdad.

Recent history shows Chuck Hagel, one of Rumsfeld’s successors, got the shock of his life at just how sophisticated, ruthless and well-financed the current enemy are.

They defined the conflict, they told us how it was all going to unfold, and look what happened. Look what’s still happening.

But through it all, despite it all, we must play our part. It is the right, honourable and only thing to do.

So… Hosking admits that “we have been there before and with little success… the troops we’re going to train have been trained before with little success…  history shows that intervention in this part of the world has never gone well” – and still he wants New Zealand to become involved?

A very clever man once said;

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

That man was Albert Einstein.

So… Hosking wants to repeat past exercises that yielded “little success” and where “history shows that intervention in this part of the world has never gone well” – and expects different results?

Perhaps Einstein had Mike Hosking in remind when he framed that now-famous statement.

Hosking might pause to ask himself if his unquestioned devotion for Dear Leader and the National Party has unhinged his sense of perspective?

Hosking might pause to consider that the current state of Iraq and the growth of ISIS/Islamic State is a direct consequence of American interference in Middle Eastern politics and invasion of Iraq in March 2003?

And Hosking might reflect on the justification used by President G.W. Bush at the time – the threat of   so-called “weapons of mass destruction”, which Saddam Hussein supposedly had in his possession. Weapons which, it turned out, never existed.

The war was based on a lie.

Having created this unholy mess, Hosking now supports involvement by our armed forces – supposedly in a “training capacity” – to become embroiled in a hell-on-Earth created by Washington’s hawks and neo-conservatives?

Have I left anything out?

Oh yes, one further point. US casualties (dead only, not including injured, maimed, psychologically damaged/brain injured, etc) in Iraq numbered 4,491. Coalition dead numbered an additional 318 by 2009.

How many New Zealand deaths will it take before Hosking no longer believes that our involvement is the  “right, honourable and only thing to do”?

And when we finally withdraw, after two years (or whatever length of involvement actually eventuates – John Key’s word on this matter cannot be taken at face value), and Iraq is still a mess riven by sectarian violence, what will we have achieved?

Because no one will possibly be able to suggest, with a straight face, that 140 New Zealand army personnel will be able to make one jot of difference where the combined might of the United States, Britain, and other coalition nations failed.

Remember Einstein’s statement:  Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Unfortunately, the insanity of repeating the United States’ actions, and most likely achieving the same results, will most likely also achieve another similar outcome: casualties.

Let us hope that when the first coffins are off-loaded from an RNZAF aircraft, that John Key is on hand to witness their return and attend their funeral. Let us hope he is not off somewhere, watching Max play baseball again.

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Key defends 'hard call' to miss service

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If you’re going to send men and women of to their deaths, you should at least be prepared to see them buried.

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Meanwhile, one Facebook user has suggested that Mike Hosking do the “right, honourable thing” by  joining John Key’s  military deployment in Iraq as a war correspondent;

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mike hosking - iraq war correspondent

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C’mon, Mike, what about it? Get some guts, man, and join the right side!

Probably not. Iraq is an extremely dangerous place to be.

He could be killed.

 

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References

NZ Herald: Media – Hosking plugs car and Key

The Listener: The artistry of Mike Hosking

NZ Herald: Mike Hosking – PM’s call brave and honourable

Wikipedia: Timeline of the 2003 invasion of Iraq

Wikipedia: Casualties of the Iraq War

Wikipedia: Casualties of the Iraq War – Traumatic Brain Injuries

Wikipedia: Casualties of the Iraq War – Coalition military casualties

Fairfax Media: Key defends ‘hard call’ to miss service

Facebook: Mike Hosking- War Correspondant

Previous related blogposts

Mike Hosking as TVNZ’s moderator for political debates?! WTF?!

That was Then, This is Now #26 – John Key will let slip the dogs of war

The Mendacities of Mr Key #8: A roof over your head, and boots on the ground

The Mendacities of Mr Key #10: “Only two years!!”

The Mendacities of Mr Key #11: Sorry, Prime Minister, what ‘mandate’ were you referring to?!

Other blogs (previous, on Hosking)

Against the Current: Mike Hosking claims he isn’t biased. Yeah, right

Against the Current: Mike Hosking says Bash A Beneficiary Day!

Against the Current:  Mike Hosking asks – What is David Cunliffe hiding

Liberation: Top tweets about Mike Hosking and the leaders’ debates


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 The price of being in John Key's club - Iraq - coffins - dead - military - army casualties

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 5 March 2015.

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A marketing campaign that didn’t focus very well

6 March 2015 1 comment

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Driving around Wellington, this poster is prominent on bus-stops around the city…

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Focus-2015-Movie-Poster

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My first thought was; “Will Smith must’ve been paid a truckload of cash to front an advertising campaign for up-market sun-glasses“.

It was only when I stopped at traffic lights and noticed the lettering at the bottom of the poster that I realised it was actually advertising a movie, not sun-glasses.

I’d say this was one advertising campaign that wasn’t well focused on the product? Those young things in Marketing seem to have stuffed up on this one.

Regardless, when it comes to ‘sunnies’, Smith looked better here, as one of the Men In Black;

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will_smith

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Now that is C.O.O.L.

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The Mendacities of Mr Key #11: Sorry, Prime Minister, what ‘mandate’ were you referring to?!

6 March 2015 2 comments

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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It seems that Dear Leader is still making it up as he goes along. On “The Nation” this weekend (28 February), he told the people of New Zealand;

“Look, I’ve made it quite clear, for instance, to the Australian Prime Minister that we’re out in two years. That’s our mandate that we’ve got. That’s what we intend to follow through.”

Which immediately raised these questions in my mind…

 

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: Sat, Feb 28, 2015
subject: Letter to the editor

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The Editor
Dominion Post

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Did I hear John Key correctly, on TV3’s “The Nation”, on 28 February, when he confirmed that NZ military personnel will leave Iraq after two years;

“Look, I’ve made it quite clear, for instance, to the Australian Prime Minister that we’re out in two years. That’s our mandate that we’ve got.”

What “mandate” is Key referring to?

It can’t be a resolution from the UN Security Council – no such resolution has been enacted to my knowledge.

It can’t be a Parliamentary vote – Key will not allow MPs to debate and vote on such a critical issue.

And it certainly can’t be an election mandate – last year Key categorically ruled out any NZ involvement in Iraq aside from humanitarian aid. (See “Stuff” story, “No New Zealand forces to Iraq, says Key”, 18 June 2014) That is what New Zealanders voted for: no military involvement in Iraq.

So neither the UN Security Council, New Zealand Parliament, nor the voters in last year’s election have given Key any “mandate” whatsoever.

If he has some other mandate from some other authority, I for one, would be curious to see it.

Otherwise, NZ forces in Iraq? No, not in my name, Mr Key!

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-Frank Macskasy

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[Address and phone number supplied.]

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References

TV1:  The Nation – Transcript – Prime Minister John Key

Previous Related Blogposts

That was Then, This is Now #26 – John Key will let slip the dogs of war

The Mendacities of Mr Key #10: “Only two years!!”

 


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The price of being in John Key's club - Iraq - coffins - dead - military - army casualties

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 March 2015.

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The Mendacities of Mr Key #10: “Only two years!!”

4 March 2015 2 comments

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In his recent statement to Parliament, Dear Leader Key made this commitment to the people of New Zealand when announcing that troops would be sent to Iraq;

“The deployment will be reviewed after nine months and will be for a maximum two-year period.”

The question that should be in everyone’s mind is; why should we believe a politician who has repeatedly told lies; gone back on his word; or mis-represented previous situations?

It was only last year, before the September election, that he poo-pooed any suggestion of sending anything but humanitarian aid to Iraq;

But Key said he did not believe it likely New Zealand special forces would be deployed or requested.

“I don’t think that’s likely,” he said.

“We’re just so far away from probably ever having to make that call.

“But in the end in so much as with any global issue, as things play out New Zealand would always look to the [United Nations] Security Council for its view and its sanction of anything that may happen.

“So you can never say never in a world where the Security Council decides that Iraq needs support of some sort – engineers or whatever it might be. That could always be considered but I think that’s very unlikely.”

Asked if that meant he could rule out New Zealand special forces soldiers being deployed to Iraq, even in an advisory capacity, Key responded; “I would say yes’.

He said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was working on a proposal for aid and “I don’t think our involvement in Iraq [will be] any greater than that.”

Eight months later – Key is standing in Parliament explaining why NZ troops are being sent to Iraq. Not humanitarian aid, as he promised in June last year.

This is the same man who;

So why should New Zealanders believe any utterances from John Key about limiting New Zealand military involvement in Iraq – when less than a year  ago he had categorically stated there would be no such involvement in the first place?

Predictions:

1. If National wins the 2017 election, expect NZ Army personnel to remain in Iraq longer than two years.

2. Expect the SAS (or other NZ military forces) to be increasingly involved in military operations in Iraq – known as “mission creep”.

3. Expect casualties.

John Key will break his committment to bring home NZ troops after two years.

We have no reason to trust him.

 

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References

NZ Herald: ‘Sending our forces to Iraq is not an easy decision’ – John Key’s full speech

Fairfax Media: No New Zealand forces to Iraq, says Key

NZ Herald: Govt backtracks on limo statements

Fairfax Media: PM signed papers relating to BMWs

National Party: John Key, Speech: Environment Policy Launch

Science Media Centre: NZ forgoes Kyoto for new climate plan – experts respond

Fairfax Media: Key ‘no GST rise’ video emerges

Parliament: Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading and Other Matters) Amendment Bill 2012

NZ Herald: ETS changes ‘unlikely’ despite pleas

Interest.co.nz: Key stands behind comment that S&P more likely to downgrade Labour govt than National

NZ Herald: S&P contradicts Key downgrade claim

Radio NZ: PM rules out more asset sales

Fairfax Media: Key claims confusion over texts with Slater

Previous related blogposts

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment y/e 2012 – environment

The Mendacities of Mr Key #8: A roof over your head, and boots on the ground

The Mendacities of Mr Key #9: The Sky’s the limit with taxpayer subsidies!

That was Then, This is Now #26 – John Key will let slip the dogs of war


This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 February 2015.

 

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That was Then, This is Now #26 – John Key will let slip the dogs of war

2 March 2015 5 comments

Capitalism and the price of chocolate

1 March 2015 2 comments

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From a previous blogpost published on 4 July 2013, in The Daily Blog

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The Price of Cocoa (2013)

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Three cans of cocoa tell an interesting story.

Can A is the oldest, with an expiry date of April 2011. The can measures 110mm (H) x 75mm (D). It contained 200g net dry cocoa powder.

We purchased Can B sometime  in 2011 (?). The expiry date was March 2012, so it’s the second oldest can.

Interestingly, it also contained 200g net dry cocoa powder. However,   whilst the contents remained the same as Can A – the dimensions of the can inexplicably increased; 130mm (H) x 75mm (D). Same diameter as Can A – but 20mm taller. Contents remain the same net weight.

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KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

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A month ago we purchased Can C (expiry date, March 2015). The dimensions of this can is the same as Can B: 130mm (H) x 75mm (D). But this time, the contents decreased from 200 to 190g net dry cocoa powder. Ten grams less.

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KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

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So the up-shot? The can-sizes have gotten bigger – whilst the contents has reduced by 5%.

On 9 June, I emailed Nestle to find out what was going on,

Kia ora,

It has recently come to my attention that two cans of Nestle Baking Cocoa measure 110mm X 75mm, whilst the other measures 130mm x 75mm.

Both contain 200g net  cocoa powder.

The smaller can measuring 110 x 75 has a “best before” date April 2011.

The larger can, 130×75 has a “best before” date March 2012.

It appears that you have increased the SIZE of the can, whilst the contents remain the same.

Is there a reason why the size of the cans  was increased, by 20mm in height?

And can you confirm that the price stayed the same; increased; or reduced; when the change was made from a 110mm height to 130mm height?

(The email was sent prior to purchasing Can C.)

Perhaps not surprisingly, I received no reply from Nestle. [Blogger’s note: I never received any reply from Nestle.]

Unfortunately, I never retained the receipts for Cans A and B, otherwise I could compare prices. But what’s the bet that the retail price probably increased?

And thus it came to pass…

“As short a time ago as February, the Ministry of Plenty had issued a promise (a “categorical pledge” were the official words) that there would be no reduction of the chocolate ration during 1984. Actually, as Winston was aware, the chocolate ration was to be reduced from thirty grams to twenty at the end of the present week. All that was needed was to substitute for the original promise a warning that it would probably be necessary to reduce the ration at some time in April.” – George Orwell,  ‘1984’

Doubleplusgood!

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The Price of Chocolate (2015)

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A recent story in the media caught my attention;

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Cadbury blocks get the chop

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The unattributed Fairfax article further stated,

Amanda Banfield, managing director of Australasia for Mondelez International, the parent company that owns Cadbury, said she expected a backlash.

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She pointed to rising packaging costs and a lift in the price of raw materials.

The main ingredients are cocoa, sugar and milk.

So let’s have a look at the prices of raw ingredients.

Sugar.

This commodity dropped in price from NZ$0.22  per pound, in July 2014, to NZ$0.20 per pound, by January of this year, according to IndexMundi.com;

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price of sugar - 7 months

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Over the last year, the price of sugar increased, peaking in July last year, before falling back;

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price of sugar - 12 months

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But taken over a five year period, look at how the price of sugar has dropped dramatically;

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price of sugar - 5 years

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So the rationale for Cadbury’s decision to de facto increase their prices cannot be blamed on sugar, which is cheaper now than it was, five years ago.

Let’s have a look at cocoa (beans) – and a similar story unfolds;

Six months – a 3.95% increase;

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price of cocoa beans - 6 months

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Twelve months – a 12.26% increase;

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price of cocoa beans - 12 months

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However – over 5 years – a 21.06% drop in price;

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price of cocoa beans - 5 years

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It would be interesting to note if when the price of cocoa beans collapsed to NZ$2,601.96 per metric ton, in March 2013, did the price of a Cadbury’s bar of chocolate increase in size? Or fall in price?

As for the price of packaging, this would be based on a local commodity (paper and ink) and if  New Zealand’s low inflation is anything to go by (an average of 2.7% pa since 2000), would not be much of a factor in pricing. With the exception of four Quarters around late 2010 to mid-2011, inflation has remained at or below 2%, a fallout from the 2008 Global Financial Crisis and ongoing recessionary/low-growth influences;

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trading economics - inflation 2010 - 2014 nz

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So with commodity prices for sugar and cocoa beans lower now than five years ago, and with low inflation, what other cause  could there be for the de facto price price of Cadbury’s chocolate bars?

Perhaps the answer lies with Kraft’s acquisition of Cadburys  for  £11.5 billion (US$18.9 billion) in 2010. Kraft financed the take-over deal by  borrowing a massive  £7 billion (US$11.5 billion) to finance the deal.

However, the New Zealand branch of Cadbury’s did not return a profit to it’s parent company (Mondelez International) until three years later, when it paid a dividend of NZ$40 million to its parent company, Mondelez.

According to  statements, Cadbury NZ’s profit  tripled to $11.6 million, from $3.5 million a year earlier, even as costs fell by  2.3%.

So despite falling costs, and increased profits, Cadbury NZ was struggling to make dividend payments to it’s parent company, and meanwhile Kraft was committed to servicing a £7 billion (US$11.5 billion) loan which had financed the acquisition in 2010.

The reduction in Cadbury’s chocolate bars can therefore be attributed to Kraft’s indebtedness rather than the official company line of increased costs. Unless Cadbury is lying in it’s financial statements, their costs have actually fallen, not increased.

As with many corporate takeovers, the benefits do not necessarily accrue to the public. The number one beneficiary is almost always shareholders, and consumers come a poor second (or third, or fourth…).

In this case, reducing the size of Cadbury chocolate bars by 20% is equivalent to a price increase, and Kraft’s shareholders will reap the rewards of increased profits.

Not exactly a sweet deal for New Zealand consumers.

Postscript

On 15 February, I contacted Statistics NZ, to enquire how SNZ views reduction in product sizes, whilst retail prices remain the same, in it’s calculation of the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Dave Lum, from Statistics NZ replied;

The CPI measures price change in a “fixed” basket of goods and services, which means that we aim to measure price change based on quality being constant. In an instance where the quality (in your example, the weight/size) of an item changes, we show a price adjustment to account for the fact that the quality of the item has changed.

 As an example, if the size of a can of beans goes from 300g to 330g for the same price, this is shown as a price decrease for that item in the CPI. Likewise, if the can of beans went from 300g to 250g for the same price, it would be represented as a price increase.

So according to Mr Lum, Cadbury’s “switcheroo” with product sizes, will not materially distort CPI price measures.

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References

Fairfax media:  Cadbury blocks get the chop

IndexMundi.com: Sugar Futures End of Day Settlement Price (6 months)

IndexMundi.com: Sugar Futures End of Day Settlement Price (12 months)

IndexMundi.com: Sugar Futures End of Day Settlement Price (5 years)

IndexMundi.com: Cocoa beans Monthly Price – New Zealand Dollar per Metric Ton (6 months)

IndexMundi.com: Cocoa beans Monthly Price – New Zealand Dollar per Metric Ton (12 months)

IndexMundi.com: Cocoa beans Monthly Price – New Zealand Dollar per Metric Ton (5 years)

Reserve Bank: Inflation 1990-2014

Trading Economics: Inflation 2010 – 2015

NBR: Kraft Foods (NZ) pays $40m dividend to parent Mondelez

Wikipedia: Acquisition by Kraft Foods

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 24 February 2015.

 

 

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