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Archive for June, 2015

Letter to the Editor – Just how witless is our PM?!?!

30 June 2015 5 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: Mon, Jun 29, 2015
subject: Letter to the Editor

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The Editor

Dominion Post

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When National recently announced that it will consider selling State houses to overseas buyers – I had to check the calendar, just to ensure it wasn’t April 1.

This has to be the most bizarre and ill-considered policy announcement, in the annals of New Zealand’s political history.

When interviewed by Guyon Espiner on Radio NZ’s “Morning Report”,  on 29 June, Key admitted;

“I don’t know a huge amount about them…but they’re a charity, I think,  in Queensland.”

And,

“I don’t know a tremendous amount about them…”

Just what our most poor and vulnerable families need – a Prime Minister who seems to be utterly clueless about who will be buying taxpayer-built State houses.

The most curious thing is that Key’s government plans to sell houses that are – allegedly – “in the wrong place and wrong size” for Housing NZ’s requirements.

In which case, why would a  charitable organisation, from another country, with little knowledge of our local community needs – be buying up such properties? How would they know what we needed?

Very little of this makes any sense. One can only assume that this is yet another money-raising venture from Bill English, who desperately needs a budget surplus next year.

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-Frank Macskasy

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[Address and phone number supplied]

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References

Radio NZ: Morning Report – Foreign buyers eyeing up state house sell-off


 

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“I don’t know the details of that particular family” – Social Development Minister Anne Tolley

29 June 2015 7 comments

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anne tolley - corin dann - tvnz - q+a - poverty - ministry of development

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On TVNZ’s Q+A, on 21 June,  political reporter Corin Dann interviewed Social Development Minister, Anne Tolley. To describe the interview as pathetic would be generous.

To describe it as illustrative of how National views the poorest people of this country with barely-concealed disdain would be an understatement.

Tolley was former Minister of Corrections and Police, from 2011 to 2014.  Her crowning “achievement” was showing off  the destruction and compacting of a seized motor vehicle;

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anne-tolley

Then Police Minister, Anne Tolley, triumphantly standing atop a crushed ‘boy racer’ car (with camera-carting media in attendance) – June 2012. (More)

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Her other “achievement” was over-seeing the awarding of a twentyfive year long contract to multi-national company, Serco, to manage the newly opened 960-bed Wiri Prison. That contract will sting tax-payers to the tune of $900 million – almost a billion  tax-dollars over quarter of a century.

Tolley’s latest ministerial ‘gig’  is to hold the portfolio of Minister for Social Development.

Last year, two year old old Emma-Lita Bourne died last year from a brain haemorrhage. Emma-Lita had been suffering from a pneumonia-like illness in the final days of her short, misery-filled, life, leading up to her death.

In a coronial  inquest, Coroner Brandt Shortland concluded;

“I am of the view the condition of the house at the time being cold and damp during the winter months was a contributing factor to her health status.”

Corin Dann pointedly asked Tolley about Emma-Lita’s  death;

@ 6.35 –

“Some would argue with the recent case, for example, with Emma-Lita Bourne who died in the state house, [a] damp house, why not just give those families more money to pay their power bill, rather than give the organisations money to come in and work and all the rest of it?”

Tolley responded;

@ 6.54 –

“And, and, when you look at something like Whanua Ora, they are doing some of that. See, see, what we’ve got with the focus on individual programmes and agencies working in silos, families don’t work like that. They’re very complex issues so if I don’t know the details of that particular family…”

Tolley admitted not knowing the details of that particular family!

Let’s re-cap;

  •  This was a family living in circumstances within her ministerial ambit.
  •  A child died from illness which the coroner has stated was, at the least, exacerbated, by her living conditions.

Any normal, rational  individual in a position of responsibility in such a situation would have called for a full report on the incident, as well as a copy of the coroner’s findings.

Yet, according to her own statement, Tolley has evidently not done so.

She does not  “know the details of that particular family”.

Dann suggested to the Minister “in charge” of Social Development that a solution would be to  provide heating for cold, damp State houses;

“One solution though, one solution at least is that the child, if there are children in that family, they get a guarantee of a warm house.”

Tolley’s response was dismissive, followed by bureacratic gobbledegook double-speak;

“Well, not necessarily. Not necessarily. Um, and, and, you can have a warm house that is completely enclosed, that is high moisture content, and you can have related illnesses to that as well.

So what I’m saying is, one part of that, you can solve one part of that. But actually all the other problems are going to continue. And what we’re trying to do is get, um, much more joined up work from the State agencies, but our focus [is] on actually changing the outcomes for those families.”

So, there you have it.

Heating cold, damp houses is “not necessarily” a solution.

But “joining up State agencies” will somehow provide the warmth to keep children out of hospitals.

This is ‘Pythonesque’ humour at it’s darkest and comes at the expense of sick and dying children.

No wonder Tolley made this eye-brow-raising comment a few minutes into the interview;

@3.40 –

“I liken it to National Standards.”

National Standards – another of National’s misguided, moronic, and messy experiments.

Perhaps the most jaw-dropping comment from  Tolley also came at the very beginning of the interview, when she complained;

@ 0.40

“One of the main difficulties that we have is that we don’t know what works. We haven’t got good evidence. We haven’t got good data.”

There is good reason why we do not have “good evidence” and “good data” –  because former Social Development Minister, Paula Bennett did not want it;

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Measuring poverty line not a priority - Bennett

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Because having hard data on poverty means government having a measurable, defined problem dumped into its lap. And three years ago, Bennett was having none of that.

As Labour MP, Jacinda Ardern, said at the time;

“The message is clear. Either Paula Bennett doesn’t want to admit to the scale of the problem, or she is afraid of exposing her government’s lack of progress in fixing it.”

Bennett’s excuses ranged from this;

“One week they can be in poverty, then their parent can get a job or increase their income and they are no longer in poverty … This is the real world, and actually children move in and out of poverty at times on a weekly basis.”

… to parroting neo-liberal clap-trap like this on TVNZ’s Q+A, in November 2013;

“At the end of the day, what is going to make the biggest difference for child poverty, in my opinion and this government’s opinion, and it is tackling the tough stuff. That is long-term welfare dependence. It’s actually more jobs, yeah, so that’s business growth. It feels like to me that Labour’s more interested in welfare growth and not business growth, and as a consequence, are we ever going to agree on that? Probably not.”

… and finally, this garbled ‘gem’ for why she refused to measure child poverty, in the same interview;

“So why do an official measure that then by very definition still has, quite frankly, you know, it’s, sort of, wherever you put the measure, you’re always going to have people in poverty, because you’re taking a median income, taking housing prices off it, so there’s always going to be people- “

Hopefully Minister Tolley will read this and understand why the department she inherited from her predecessor (Paula Bennett) has no “good evidence” or “good data”.

As for solving the life-threatening problem of cold, damp houses that are killing our children – Tolley’s plans to ‘re-jig’ government departments  and NGOs will not heat one single house.

Not. One. House.

But it will result in more children becoming ill, and dying.

This is happening on your watch, Minister Tolley.

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Emma-Lita Bourne – 2012-2014

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

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References

TVNZ Q+A:  Revolutionary changes in store for social services (14:11)

Green Party: $900 million for empty beds

NZ Herald:  Ana Apatu – Disempowered living in poverty

NZ Herald: Measuring poverty line not a priority – Bennett

NZ Herald: Bennett slammed over child poverty claim

TVNZ: Q+A – Paula Bennett interview

Additional

Bryan Bruce – Inside Child Poverty (2011)

Previous related blogposts

The law as a plaything

Random Thoughts on Random Things #3

John Key’s government – death by two cuts

The cupboard is bare, says Dear Leader

Government Minister sees history repeat – responsible for death

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Blogger threatened with lawsuit over questions of conflict-of-interest regarding Mediaworks

25 June 2015 4 comments

The following story elicited a thinly veiled defamation threat by a senior Mediaworks boardmember.

Just when you thought Mediaworks couldn’t possibly dumb-down their television service any further;

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Come Dine with Me to replace Campbell Live

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When I first heard this, my initial reaction was someone on Facebook, with a wry sense of humour, was playing ‘silly buggers’ at Mediaworks’ expense.

Then I was pointed to the media report on Fairfax’s website.

Honestly – how does one react to a decision like this? Deep sobbing tears and face-palming – or maniacal laughter that might do The Joker proud?!

If this is Mediaworks’ idea of a joke – exacted against Campbell Live supporters as revenge for daring to question executive decisions – then someone has a rather cruel, demented sense of humour.

If this is what passes for sound business decision-making in Mediaworks’ boardrooms these days – then their next round of bankruptcy will not be far away. I’m picking three months.

Whoever was responsible for this awful programming decision would be wise to never, ever admit  their part in this insanity. Their career would be in tatters if word got out. To quote a Mediaworks press release describing ‘Come Dine With Me‘;

“Week one features Monika, a Slovakian child carer, who’s all about silly with a side of spice; Tony, an eccentric real estate agent with some cutting critiques and a few ‘endearing quirks’; Hinemoa, a part-time tattooist and full-time eyebrow enthusiast; motor-bike riding, insurance broker Kyle; and stylish yoga enthusiast Sarah.”

Perhaps an answer to this incomprehensible decision to replace a highly successful, well-respected current affair show like ‘Campbell Live‘ with another (and somewhat gormless-sounding) “reality” programme lies with Mediaworks’ board member, Julie Christie.

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julie christie - gerry brownlee - mediaworks - minister - national government - TV3

“Politicians have also had a strong affection for her over the years. Murray McCully and Gerry Brownlee have been photographed out and about at her bar in the Viaduct.” John Drinnan, 15 February 2013

Image acknowledgement: Postman Productions

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In 1991 Christie founded television production-company, Touchdown Productions.The company was responsible for “reality” (aka “unscripted television“) programmes such as ‘My House My Castle’, ‘Whose House Is It Anyway’, ‘DIY Rescue’, ‘Trading Places’, ‘Treasure Island’,Game of Two Halves’,  ‘Pioneer House’,  ‘Dragons’ Den’, and others.

Julie Christie quickly acquired a reputation for being New Zealand’s own television “Reality Queen“, as TV3 itself described her, two years ago;

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Reality TV queen quits production firm  - Julie Christie - Mediaworks - Eyeworks - Campbell Live - John Campbell

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More on Christie’s involvement with reality-TV and TV3 in a moment.

In February 2006, Touchdown was sold to Dutch media group, Eyeworks. She remained as CEO of Eyeworks NZ until 31 October 2012, when she resigned. Eight months later, in June the following year as Mediaworks was put into receivership, Julie Christie was appointed to the board of directors.

There is no telling how much earlier  Christie’s June appointment had been planned by parties involved, though this had been tipped by NZ Herald media columnist, John Drinnan four months earlier.

Julie Christie remained closely involved with the company, as confirmed by Eyeworks on their website;

Former CEO Julie Christie will no longer work for Eyeworks New Zealand but remain connected to the Eyeworks Group (15 territories, HQ Amsterdam) working in an international creative role.

There is indeed a strong, formal link between Christie and Eyeworks.

The directors of Eyeworks New Zealand Ltd are;

  • Greg Anthony HEATHCOTE (NZ)
  • Johannes Petrus Christoffel KERSTENS (Netherlands)
  • Peter LANGENBERG (United Kingdom)
  • Michael David Joseph MOLLOY (NZ)

The parent company of Eyeworks New Zealand Ltd is Eyeworks Holding New Zealand Ltd. It’s directors are the same four individuals;

  • Greg Anthony HEATHCOTE (NZ)
  • Johannes Petrus Christoffel KERSTENS (Netherlands)
  • Peter LANGENBERG (United Kingdom)
  • Michael David Joseph MOLLOY (NZ)

Christie has a separate company, JGM Investments Ltd, whose directors happen to be;

  • Julie Claire CHRISTIE
  • Greg Anthony HEATHCOTE (Director)
  • Michael David Joseph MOLLOY

And JGM Investments No2 Ltd, whose directors are also;

  • Julie Claire CHRISTIE
  • Greg Anthony HEATHCOTE
  • Michael David Joseph MOLLOY

Christie’s JGM Investments No2 Ltd company is described as;

JGM Investments No. 2 Ltd. is a public hotels and motel founded in 2010. With 11 employees, the company is larger than the average hotels and motel.

By “coincidence”, the New Zealand version of ‘Come Dine With Me‘ – which has taken ‘Campbell Live’s‘ “plum” 7pm time-slot – is produced by none other than – Eyeworks NZ.

Eyeworks was not wrong when it stated that Christie “remains connected to the Eyeworks Group”.

Not exactly conspiracy theory stuff – but a possible conflict of interest?

I contacted Eyeworks and Mediaworks and put certain questions to them;

To Eyeworks I posed these questions;

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(1) Is Eyeworks currently involved in any projects intended for TV3 that might (or is intended) to be broadcast at that time?

(2) Is Julie Christie involved in any projects intended for TV3?

(3) Was Julie Christie involved in the production of ‘Come Dine with me’?

(4) Was Julie Christie involved in any way in production of ‘Come Dine with me’?

(5) Is Julie Christie involved in any production associated with your company, either currently, or planned for the future?

(6) Julie Christie resigned from Eyeworks on 31 October 2012. Your website states that she “no longer work for Eyeworks New Zealand but remain connected to the Eyeworks Group”. Can you provide details as to what capacity she ” remains connected to the Eyeworks Group”, and is she receiving any form of remuneration for her work?

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As at time of publication, Eyeworks has not replied to my enquiries.

Through a Mediaworks staffer, I asked Board member, Julie Christie;

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According to the Eyeworks website, you “remain connected to the Eyeworks Group”. This refers to your previous role as CEO of Eyeworks NZ until your resignation from that company, effective around 31 October 2012.

Can you shed some light on what your “connection to Eyeworks Group” consists/consisted of?

Did this “connection” remain in place after your appointment to Mediaworks’ Board, in June 2013?

Does the “connection to Eyeworks Group” involve two of the Board directors of Eyeworks?

Do you receive any form of remuneration from Eyeworks?

When did Mediaworks commission ‘Come Dine With Me’?

Were you connected with commissioning ‘Come Dine With Me’ for TV3?

Who initiated the project ‘Come Dine With Me’?

Were you connected in anyway with the production of ‘Come Dine With Me’, especially in the light of Eyeworks comment that you “remain connected to the Eyeworks Group” ?

What was your role in determining the programming schedule for ‘Come Dine With Me’?

What in-put, if any, did you have in deciding that ‘Come Dine With Me’ would fill the 7pm to 7.30pm timeslot, weekdays.

When was that decision made?

Do you perceive any possible conflict-of-interest between your membership of Mediaworks’ Board, and “remaining connected to the Eyeworks Group”?

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As at time of publication, Christie has not replied to my enquiries.

To Mark Weldon, CEO of Mediaworks since August last year, I put the following;

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According to the Eyeworks website, one of your Board members, Julie Christie “remains connected to the Eyeworks Group”. This refers to her previous role as CEO of Eyeworks NZ until her resignation from that company, effective around 31 October 2012.Can you shed some light on what your understanding of her “connection to Eyeworks Group” consists/consisted of?

To your knowledge, does this “connection” remain in place subsequent to her appointment to Mediaworks’ Board, in June 2013?

To your knowledge, has Julie Christie received any form of remuneration from Eyeworks?

Are you aware that two of the Board directors of Eyeworks are also Board directors of her own company, JGM Investments Ltd and JGM Investments No2 Ltd, namely;

  • Greg Anthony HEATHCOTE
  • Michael David Joseph MOLLOY

When did Mediaworks commission ‘Come Dine With Me’?

Were you or Julie Christie connected with commissioning ‘Come Dine With Me’ for TV3?

Was Julie Christie in any way involved with the production of ‘Come Dine With Me’?

Who initiated the project ‘Come Dine With Me’? Was it Mediaworks, or did Eyeworks “pitch” the project to Mediaworks?

What was your role in determining the programming schedule for ‘Come Dine With Me’?

What in-put, if any, did you have in deciding that ‘Come Dine With Me’ would fill the 7pm to 7.30pm timeslot, weekdays.

When was that decision made?

Does Mediaworks have a Conflicts of Interests Register for Board Members?

If so, has Julie Christie registered any conflicts of interest on such a Register?

Do you perceive any possible conflict-of-interest between Julie Christie’s membership of Mediaworks’ Board; Ms Christie “remaining connected to the Eyeworks Group”; whilst Mediaworks purchases productions from Eyeworks?

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Mark Weldon did not reply, but Rod McGeoch, Chairperson of Mediaworks sent this response the following day;

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Dear Mr Macskasy
I am the Chairman of Mediaworks. I have been a lawyer for more than 40 years and a director of many companies over the last 20 years.
Mediaworks is a private company with one shareholder. Short of breaking the law it is entitled to run its affairs as it wishes.
As it happens Julie Christie has made all the appropriate disclosures. The board and the owner value very much her experience and connections. My views as expressed here ,mean I believe, that the answers to your enquires are unnecessary.
Any suggestion that her behaviour or interests have in any way interfered with her duties would in my view be likely to be defamatory of her.
Yours faithfully
Rod McGeoch

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I seem to have “touched a nerve”. When thinly-veiled threats of defamation lawsuits start flying, it suggests that someone finds the tenor of questioning to be uncomfortable.

To make it crystal clear for Mr McGeoch and his 40 year old lawyering career, I am asking questions, not making assertions. It would be a fairly simple matter to refute the questions with simple answers.

Thus far, no refutations or clarifications have been forthcoming.

However, an apparent conflict-of-interest still remains to be addressed by Mediaworks. Especially when the programme that replaced ‘Campbell Live‘ was created by a company – Eyeworks – with which Julie Christie is still associated, and whose Board members also sit on two companies with which Christie is involved with.

The perception of murkiness in all this cannot easily be overlooked.

The Director’s Guide, from the Financial Market’s Authority, refers specifically to potential conflicts of interests;

• Be aware of possible conflicts of interest

Make sure any conflicts you personally have are officially recorded. All companies should have an Interests Register and a process for managing potential conflicts

Where you have an ‘interest’ in a transaction, you need to be able to show how your company (or your parent company if your constitution allows this) benefits and gets fair value from it.

• Check if your company constitution allows related party transactions (transactions between related companies). If so, do any special
conditions apply and are they in the best interests of your company?  Related party transactions are also likely to be material to investors and should be disclosed in any disclosure documents.

• Ensure you have a good understanding about what falls within the definition of a related party.

There is no telling how Christie has benefitted from Eyeworks acquiring the contract to produce ‘Come Dine with Me‘. But what we do know – from Eyeworks’ own admission – is that Christie continues to “remain connected to the Eyeworks Group… working in an international creative role”.

Whilst Christie is no longer a Director of Eyeworks, she is still closely associated with two  Eyeworks Directors via two other companies.

We do not know how Eyeworks acquired the contract to produce ‘Come Dine with Me‘. But we do know that Christie is on Mediaworks’ Board of Directors.

We do not know what role Christie played in the production of ‘Come Dine with Me‘, except;

  • her involvement in the reality TV industry is well known
  • Eyeworks admits that she continues to “remain connected to the Eyeworks Group… working in an international creative role

The 7pm-7.30pm time slot is prime time, and a lucrative slot for advertising within programmes, as  Rod McGeoch, Chairperson of Mediaworks, stated candidly on 11 April 2015;

“We put news on, but only because it rates. And we sell advertising around news. This is what this is all about.”

For Eyeworks to produce a product and schedule it at prime time would have meant a profitable exercise for the company. That required, first of all, to get rid of ‘Campbell Live‘, thereby leaving the slot open.

As usual, it boils down to money.

Someone has made a lot of money out of this.

The final question; is Mediaworks new owners – Oaktree Finance – aware of all this? They should be.

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In a rare moment of sanity (hopefully) prevailing, this also appeared in  Fairfax stories (9 June);

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John Campbell talks to Radio New Zealand about possible role

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There is hope yet, that the corporate lunatics have not gained complete control of  Asylum Aotearoa. John Campbell and Mihingarangi Forbes is a Dream Team, second only to a full non-commercial, public-service television broadcaster being re-established in this neuron-deprived nation of ours.

This must be one of the top priorities (along with addressing child poverty, polluted waterways,  and housing problems) of any incoming Labour-Green(-NZ First?) government. Every New Zealander with a conscience and deep, abiding interest in the future of our country, must be on the back of a new progressive government to get this done.

I know I will.

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References

Fairfax media: Come Dine with Me to replace Campbell Live

TV3 “News”: Come Dine with Me launches on Monday

Mediaworks: Management

NZ on Air: Julie Christie

Wikipedia: Eyeworks Touchdown

TV3 News: Reality TV queen quits production firm

Scoop media: Sale of Touchdown Television to Eyeworks Group

NZ Herald: Julie Christie quits Eyeworks

NBR:  MediaWorks in receivership

NZ Herald: Media – MediaWorks eyes TV queen Julie Christie

NZ Herald: Anger over Campbell Live’s replacement Come Dine With Me

Business.govt.nz – Companies Office: Eyeworks New Zealand Ltd

Business.govt.nz – Companies Office: Eyeworks Holding New Zealand Ltd

Business.govt.nz – Companies Office: JGM Investments Ltd

Business Profiles: Greg Anthony Heathcote

Business.govt.nz – Companies Office: JGM Investments No2 Ltd

Find the Company: JGM Investments No. 2 Ltd.

Financial Markets Authority: A Director’s Guide

NZ Herald: New majority owner for Mediaworks

NZ Herald: John Campbell enlists lawyer as replacement rumours swirl

Fairfax media: John Campbell talks to Radio New Zealand about possible role

Additional

NZ Herald: Prime News outrates TV3 as audience numbers halve

Previous related blogposts

Campbell still Live, not gone

The Curious World of the Main Stream Media

Producer of ‘The Nation’ hits back at “interference” allegations over ‘Campbell Live’

This is news?!

Radio NZ – Mediawatch for 24 May 2015 – TV3’s Mark Jennings interviewed re Campbell Live

Friends, Kiwis, Countrymen! I come to praise John Campbell, not bury him

Other bloggers

Postman Productions: Media ‘crack whores’ & dirty deals

The Daily Blog: Dirty Politics – Coming To A TV Station Near You

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Sam Caughey - @peachysam - twitter - John Campbell - TV3 - Come Dance with me

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

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Letter to the Editor – How many more children must die, Mr Key?!

24 June 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: Sunday Star Times <letters@star-times.co.nz>
date: Tue, Jun 23, 2015
subject: Letter to the editor

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The Editor
Sunday Star Times

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Prime Minister John Key has called on tenants of State houses to report cold, damp, neglected conditions of their homes. Key says;

“We want to make sure people get assistance. I mean I accept that there’s a lot of people and the Government’s record actually of improving those houses (has) been a strong one over the course of the last four or five years.

We’ve worked hard on trying to improve them. But I accept that some people are cold and some people have, you know, less resources and on the back of that they should definitely reach out for more help.” (Radio NZ, “More state housing action needed – English”, 23 June)

Mr Key seems unaware that government claims that Housing NZ has sufficient money to fix up delapidated properties is at variance with HNZ’s 2013/14 Annual Report which stated, in part;

The responsive repairs programme, which includes work on vacant properties, is dependent on demand, which was higher than expected in 2013/14. Consequently, the budget was overspent due to higher volumes of work orders. The average cost per work order was also higher as a result of more comprehensive repairs and upgrades being carried out on vacant properties. To mitigate this overspend, we deliberately reduced the planned maintenance programme, which decreased the percentage of maintenance spend on planned activity. [p28]

Part of the problem is that the National Government has demanded tens of millions of dollars in dividends from Housing NZ. This year alone, Housing NZ will pay $90 million to the government in dividends – money that could be better spent on maintaining run-down, leaking, mouldy, cold houses. Heating vouchers for the poorest families would also help alleviate illnesses like rheumatic fever.

That should be our esteemed Prime Minister’s first priority.

How many more children must die before this government acts?

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-Frank Macskasy

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[Address & phone number supplied]


 

References

Radio NZ:  More state housing action needed – English

Parliament: Hansards – Housing, Affordable – Progress and Management of Housing New Zealand

Housing NZ: 2013/14 Annual Report

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Letter to the Editor – User Pays is not a very clever solution

19 June 2015 6 comments

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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Some of these “free market types” don’t really follow through on their “bright ideas”…

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dominion post - 18 june 2015 - alan waller - public transport

 

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Mr response;

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: Fri, Jun 19, 2015
subject: Letter to the ed

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The Editor
Dominion Post

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Alan Waller demands  “what is wrong with user pays” and complains about “regional ratepayers subsidising a train service that is bleeding money and has never made money and is continually bleeding passenger numbers”. (Letters, 18 June)

Perhaps Mr Waller would realise what is “wrong with user pays” if train fares rose to full market rates, pushing thousands of commuters back into private vehicles, further clogging our already congested roads.

The cost to our local economy would be horrendous.

The purpose of public transport is not to make money. It is to take cars of our roads, thereby lessening congestion; pollution; increased fuel imports; and adding to greenhouses gas-emissions.

The problem with “user pays”, as Mr Waller advocates, is that full costs are often hidden – a fact he might consider next time he is stuck in traffic.

As for claiming “bleeding passenger numbers”, a Fairfax story dated 11 February this year, stated,

“A record 11.9 million passenger trips were taken on Tranz Metro trains last year, a 5.2 per cent increase on the 11.3m in 2013.”  (Ref: ‘Record Wellington train use set to stave off fare increases’)

Mr Waller should check his fun-facts first.  Something he can also do next time he is stuck in traffic.

-Frank Macskasy

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[Address and phone number supplied.]

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References

Fairfax media:  Record Wellington train use set to stave off fare increases

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Housing Minister Paula Bennett continues National’s spin on rundown State Houses

Another broken promise from National…

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National Party - 2014 election - social housing policy - Housing NZ

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On 12 June, Social Housing Minister, Paula Bennet was interviewed on Radio NZ’s ‘Nine to Noon‘ programme. Kathryn Ryan asked why there were so many  thousands of State houses in desperate need on maintenance.

In the interview, Bennett claimed that money was not a problem in Housing NZ’s maintenance programme;

@ 4.29

“What I will say is that it’s not a money problem. So there is enough money there for us to get that stock up. It is a big programme of work that is constantly ongoing…

[…]

…So it’s not a matter of neglect.”

And again @ 5.41

“Which is really my point. So we’re saying it’s not actually about the money. The money is there to be spent for maintenance.”

Bennett’s statements were a parroting of  Bill English’s previous claim, made on 5 June  on Radio NZ’s ‘Morning Report‘, who also denied  money was the core problem of run-down Housing NZ properties;

“They’ve done a very large scale programme – insulated every house that it can, which is 48,000 houses over the last four or five years.

It’s got to deal with the same limitations of process as everybody else, it’s got to get consents, it’s got to find a workforce, but it’s not short of money to do the job.”

Bennett and English have both blamed lack of tradesmen and other spurious excuses for rundown houses.

But according to Housing NZ, the reason for our run-down State housing stock is very much a matter of lack of money, as I pointed out to Kathryn Ryan in an email I sent to her during her interview with Bennett;
from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Nine To Noon RNZ <ninetonoon@radionz.co.nz>
date: Fri, Jun 12, 2015
subject: Paula Bennet on Housing maintenance funding
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Kia ora Kathryn,Paula Bennett’s assertion that Housing NZ has plenty of funds for maintenance is at variance with this statement from Housing NZ’s 2013/14 Annual Report;

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The responsive repairs programme, which includes work on vacant properties, is dependent on demand, which was higher than expected in 2013/14. Consequently, the budget was overspent due to higher volumes of work orders. The average cost per work order was also higher as a result of more comprehensive repairs and upgrades being carried out on vacant properties. To mitigate this overspend, we deliberately reduced the planned maintenance programme, which decreased the percentage of maintenance spend on planned activity. [p28]

Furthermore, on page 36 of the 2013/14 Annual Report, Repairs and Maintenance is given as $220 million for the period.This is $1 billion less than the $1.2 billion quoted by Bill English to TVNZ’s Corin Dann on 24 March, this year.

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Either Bennett is ignorant, or she is spinning.

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Either way, not a good look.

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-Frank Macskasy

Ms Ryan read out my email, on air, subsequent to the interview.

Hopefully, the media will pick up on what is obviously a gross distortion from National’s spin doctors. By asserting that  there is no lack of money available, this shifts responsibility from  government to blaming others for lack of maintenance.

It also deflects attention from the fact that National has used Housing NZ as a cash cow by demanding dividends, in a futile attempt by Bill English to balance the government books and post a surplus (which he has also failed at spectacularly), as this ‘Dominion Post‘ editorial highlighted;

This year the Government expects to get $220m in tax and dividends from the corporation. It wants profits as well as social services. And it is also in thrall to its ideology of semi-privatisation.

Housing NZ was explicit in it’s 2013/14 Annual Report;

The responsive repairs programme, which includes work on vacant properties, is dependent on demand, which was higher than expected in 2013/14. Consequently, the budget was overspent due to higher volumes of work orders. The average cost per work order was also higher as a result of more comprehensive repairs and upgrades being carried out on vacant properties. To mitigate this overspend, we deliberately reduced the planned maintenance programme, which decreased the percentage of maintenance spend on planned activity. [p28]

It is up to the media to challenge Ministers when they make assertions that are patently untrue.

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References

Radio NZ: The state of state housing

Radio NZ: The state of state housing (audio) (alt. link)

Radio NZ: State housing criticism valid, says English

Government Minister sees history repeat – responsible for death

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CGw9SZjUgAA0Shw.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 13 June 2015.

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The Curious Case of Cameron Slater, the Hacker, and the unforgivable crime of stupidity

12 June 2015 2 comments

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tv3 - the nation - more dirtypolitics - whaleoil - cameron slater - ben rachinger

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Cameron Slater is not a well man.

A recent exposé by TV3’s ‘The Nation‘ revealed that Cameron Slater has allegedly been conspiring with IT consultant, Ben Rachinger, to hack left-wing blogsite, ‘The Standard‘ to steal personal information.

According to a NZ Herald report, the matter is now evidently a matter of a Police investigation;

“The complaint is being investigated by Counties Manukau CIB.

There are a number of complexities to the investigation, including the posting online of documentation which has already compromised the investigation and is making our inquires more difficult.

Police are taking a cautious approach, and working through a number of complex steps to gather the necessary information to advance the enquiry.

Any decision on charges is some way off at this stage, and will be made after a thorough assessment of all relevant information.”

Any potential charges would most likely relate to attempting to procure a crime, if the allegations are found to have merit.

This alleged txt-message from Slater to Rachinger alone, seems to be an admission that he was fully aware of the dubious, and potentially illegal, nature of his activities;

“It’s no small thing I’m doing this, I could be being set up in a sting by a media person or cops.”

His ISP may also take a dim view if he has been using his internet connection for nefarious purposes.

Aside from the sheer illegality of these allegations, three things stand out in this grubby affair;

1. If proven, it seems that Cameron Slater’s desire for revenge on those he perceives have slighted him, is a psychopathy that reveals a deeply troubled human being.

In which case, Slater requires psychiatric attention, not prison or a fine.

2.If proven, it demonstrates that Slater has little hesitation in circumventing or breaking the law. He was convicted in September 2010 of eight counts of breaching name suppression orders and one count of identifying a victim in a sex case on his  blog. He is currently being sued  by Auckland businessman, Matthew Blomfield, in a defamation case.

3.If proven, Slater’s behaviour is worse than a simple matter of law-breaking – it shows his sheer stupidity in thinking that an attempt to hack another website could be done without being discovered.

Has he learned nothing from Nicky Hager’s ‘Dirty Politics’, in that it is virtually impossible to keep secrets in a small country like ours?

With certain exceptions, stupidity is the most unforgiving crime of all. It appears that Slater has learned nothing from recent experiences. Life’s lessons seem to have little value for this tragic character.

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References

TV3: The Nation – More Dirty Politics?

NZ Herald: Right-wing blogger accused of paying off hacker

Fairfax media: Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater guilty

Previous related blogposts

That was Then, This is Now #25 – Keeping the buggers “honest”

Latest from Whaledump2 – Jordan Williams and Cameron Slater

When Karma caught up with Cameron Slater

Are Cameron Slater and Judith Collins bare-faced liars?

The Slater-Key Txt-Messages Trip-Up – Did Cameron Slater Plan this?

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Dead Whale.

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

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= fs =