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Archive for July, 2015

Letter to the editor – More useless reassurances from our Dear Leader

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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: Wed, Jul 29, 2015
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
NZ Herald

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Admissions by our esteemed Prime Minister that the TPPA will impact on Pharmac’s ability to source cheap, generic medicines from overseas, are deeply troubling.

On 25 July, Trade Minister, Tim Groser, said;

“…yes, I can guarantee that we’ve made it absolutely clear that we are not going to dismantle the fundamental of Pharmac. The provisions that guarantee affordable medicines – we don’t want to change the system of health we’ve got in our country so that people can get medicines only if they can afford it. We’ve got a very good system, and we’re not going to let any trade agreement interfere with that.”

Three days later, Key conceded;

“That means the Government will have to pay for the original drug rather than the generic for a little bit longer. But for consumers that won’t make any difference because, you know, on subsidised drugs you pay $5 for your prescription so the Government may incur slightly more costs there.”

It is not the government that ” will have to pay for the original drug rather than the generic for a little bit longer”. That honour falls on the taxpayer.

Those extra costs may be reimbursed by the government – at the expense of other health services which will see their budgets slashed. National has a track record of shifting money around in the Health Budget.

Will National increase prescription charges again, as they did in 2013? Increasing prescription charges from $3 to $5 hit poor families the hardest.

The secretive nature of negotiations have proven that there was good reason to be suspicious of the TPPA.

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-Frank Macskasy

 

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[Address and phone numbr supplied]


 

References

Radio NZ:  TPP – Key admits medicine costs will rise

TV3: The Nation – Transcript – Trade Minister Tim Groser

Previous related blogposts

Children’s Health: not a high priority for Health Minister Tony Ryall

 


 

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Letter to the editor – More reassurances from our esteemed Dear Leader?

29 July 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: Listener <letters@listener.co.nz>
date: Wed, Jul 29, 2015
subject: Letter to the editor

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The Editor
The Listener

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Recent admission by our esteemed Prime Minister that the TPPA will likely see an increase in pharmaceutical costs for Pharmac is both disturbing but unsurprising. The secretive nature of the TPPA negotiations hinted at a “sting in the tail” that would impact on our healthcare.

On 25 July, Foreign Trade Minister, Tim Groser, promised hand on heart in an interview on ‘The Nation’;

“…yes, I can guarantee that we’ve made it absolutely clear that we are not going to dismantle the fundamental of Pharmac. The provisions that guarantee affordable medicines – we don’t want to change the system of health we’ve got in our country so that people can get medicines only if they can afford it. We’ve got a very good system, and we’re not going to let any trade agreement interfere with that.”

But only three days later, Key conceded;

“That means the Government will have to pay for the original drug rather than the generic for a little bit longer. But for consumers that won’t make any difference because, you know, on subsidised drugs you pay $5 for your prescription so the Government may incur slightly more costs there.”

Key’s assurances are questionable.

It should be pointed out that it is not Government that “will have to pay for the original drug rather than the generic for a little bit longer” – it is the taxpayer.

That extra cost for medicines will have to come from the Health Budget and one has to ask what will be cut back? Hip operations for the elderly? Grommets for children? Eye cataract surgery for the blind? National has a track record for shifting money from one area of healthcare to another, to appear as if funding has been “increased” for the lucky recipient.

Or will National simply increase prescription charges to cover increased pharmaceutical costs for Pharmac? National has already increased prescription charges from $3 to $5 in 2013 – a move that impacted on the sickest, poorest, and most vulnerable in this country.

Not for one moment do I accept Key’s assurances on this issue. He has gone back on his word before, and I expect him to do it again.

-Frank Macskasy

 

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[address and phone number supplied]


 

References

Radio NZ:  TPP – Key admits medicine costs will rise

TV3: The Nation – Transcript – Trade Minister Tim Groser

Previous related blogposts

Children’s Health: not a high priority for Health Minister Tony Ryall


 

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toby morris - tppa - cartoon

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Letter to the editor – If Serco was the answer, what was the question?

28 July 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: Sun, Jul 26, 2015
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
Dominion Post

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Our esteemed prime minister, John Key, recently made statements minimising Serco’s mis-management of Mt Eden Prison.

On 26 July, on TV1’s Q+A, Key said,

“And so the point will be, I think what it will show is on reported instances , that SERCO ‘s about consistant with the others [prisons]… as far as sexual assaults and violent assaults, I think you’ll see Mt Eden’s pretty similar to the other prisons.”


And in the NZ Herald, on 23 July, Key was reported;

Mr Key defended National’s prison privatisation policy, saying that violence was not limited to private jails.


If, as Mr Key maintains, there is no appreciable difference between privately managed or State-run prisons – then what is the point of contracting Serco to run Mt Eden and Wiri Prisons?

Why are we taxpayers paying out hundreds of millions of dollars of our money to a private company, when, as John Key tells us, “Mt Eden’s pretty similar to the other prisons”?

What is the point in  paying this company to do a job no better or worse than our own Corrections Dept?

In fact, there seems to be no point.

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-Frank Macskasy

 

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[address and phone number supplied]

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National fiddles – while Cancer Kills

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say-no-to-cancer

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Fun Fact 1: New Zealand has one of the highest bowel cancer rates in the world. Bowel cancer is the second highest cause of cancer death in New Zealand. More than 2800 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year and more than 1200 die from the disease. By 2016 the number of new cases of bowel cancer diagnosed each year is projected to increase by 15% for men and 19% for women to 3302 (for all ages). Ministry of Health

Fun Fact 2: Bowel cancer is more common as you get older, particularly from the age of 50. Bowel cancer affects more men than women. IBID

Fun Fact 3: People who are diagnosed with bowel cancer, and receive treatment when it is at an early stage, have a 90% chance of long term survival. If there is a delay in diagnosis and treatment, and the cancer is more advanced, it is harder to cure. Bowel screening can detect cancer early, when it can be more successfully treated.  IBID

It is a sobering statistic that we try to ignore and put out of our minds; more than 2,800 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year and more than 1,200 die from the disease. If that were a death toll from a communicable disease, the media would be carrying front page newspaper stories  and lead bulletins on 6PM news. The government would impose a State of Emergency, and strict travel conditions imposed on everyone.

But we don’t.

Bowel cancer is hidden away. Victims are not acknowledged.   People go about their every day lives. Media focuses on sensationalism or trivia (with few exceptions).  Government does nothing. The death toll continues to rise.

And it is wholly preventable.

In October 2011, the Ministry of Health began a four-year-long bowel screening pilot in the Waitemata District Health Board area. The screening was offered to  everyone aged between  50 to 74, living within  the Waitemata DHB zone, and who was eligible for publicly funded healthcare. Those lucky to be eligible were sent an invitation letter, a consent form along with detailed instructions, and the necessary free bowel-screening test kit.

By July 2013,  data from the screening pilot detected cancers  in seventyfive people within the first fifteen months of the pilot. Around 60% had been picked up at an early stage when they could be more successfully treated.

Between  1 January 2012 to 31 December 2013,  six thousand people had a colonoscopy or a CT colonography through the Bowel Screening Pilot.  By 1 April 2015, two hundred and fiftyfive people had been identified with a cancer.

Those are 255 people who might not have approached their medical clinic for a test screening kit, or followed up with a colonoscopy. Those are 255 people whose cancer was detected early, and who had necessary treatment.

The pilot screening have also picked up non-cancerous polyps (adenomas) and those  participants will still be at an  increased risk of developing more adenomas or bowel cancer. These participants will require on-going regular bowel checks  in the future.

The initial four year pilot project, initially costing $24 million, was extended to the end of 2017, with a further $12.4 million invested in the programme. But only in the Waitemata District Health Board area. Those living outside the WDHB are not eligible to participate.

That result is from just one DHB “catchement” area. There are twenty DHBs  throughout the country. If similar results were obtained from the nineteen other DHBs, that could mean approximately 5,100 people detected with cancer.

The government’s response can best be described as slow – at worst, reluctant to invest in a nationwide programme. On 6 July, Health Minister Jonathan Coleman announced a graduated roll-out of a nationwide screening programme.

First, Minister Coleman began with the usual meaningless platitudes;

Delivering better cancer services is a top priority for the Government. Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in New Zealand.”

Minister Coleman then explained in a little more detail;

I expect to take a business case to Cabinet by the end of the year which will consider a potential staged roll out of a national bowel screening programme from early 2017.”

However, note the caveats;

I expect to take a business case to Cabinet by the end of the year which will consider a potential staged roll out….”

To inform the next steps towards a possible roll out of a national bowel screening programme, the Ministry of Health will be consulting with the health sector and other agencies on how the service could be provided across the DHBs.”

So not only will any nationwide extension of the life-saving screening programme not begin until “early” 2017 – which happens to be an election year (no connection of course)  – but at this stage it is still only  a   “possible” or “potential staged roll out”. At this point, Coleman will be only be taking “a business case to Cabinet by the end of the year”.

Unsurprisingly, health advocates and professionals are not impressed

Bowel Cancer NZ’s, Dr Sarah Derrett, did not hold back when she condemned National’s lethargic response to the sucessful screeing programme;

Currently this Government is more interested in holding a referendum for a flag as a legacy to our Prime Minister at a cost of $26.5 million than it is at saving lives… it was scandalous there had been no action on a national programme, given 1200 people a year die from bowel cancer in New Zealand.

Bowel Cancer NZ’s chairwoman, Mary Bradley, was also scathing;

We are really pleased that this is happening and that they are talking about a staged roll-out, but we would like to see potential moved to definite roll-out in 2017.

We would like to see a staged roll out now or a start next year would be fantastic. We’ve always known it [screening] is proven, so why wasn’t it done sooner. It could have happened a couple of years ago. This is great, but it’s taken a long time to get here. In the meantime, people are dying.

There is no feasible reason why Coleman is delaying a national extension of this screening programme that has already saved 255 people.  Delaying the roll out condemns hundreds of New Zealanders to a horrible illness and unnecessary death.

Coleman claims that that the delay is caused by a shortage of skilled staff;

The largest constraint to a national bowel screening programme is having the workforce to do the colonoscopies. There are a number of initiatives underway to address this.

[…]

Initiatives to strengthen the endoscopy workforce include increasing the number of gastroenterology trainees. The sector is also considering increasing the use of CT colonography where appropriate.

Yet, the pilot programme has been in operation since October 2011 – giving this government a lead time of five years to begin training required staff. Where was the planning for staffing a nationwide screening programme that was being considered after the  Waitemata DHB pilot?

Did no one at the Ministry of Health or the Health Minister’s office pause to think; “Ok, what happens after the pilot?!

The only possible explanation for this tardiness is purely financial. As Bill English attempts to balance the books and deliver a budget surplus, cuts to health services become more invasive;

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Health fund loses $18 million

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National’s reluctance to spend on much-needed, critical services is no secret. Successive National governments have cut services, whilst giving away billions in tax cuts.

But it is also not averse to spending taxpayers’ money on projects it deems “necessary”;

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NZ government shells out $11m on New York apartment for UN representative

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Flag referendum to cost $26M

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Government accused of wasting $11.5 million on wealthy Saudi farmer

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Govt pays $30 million to Tiwai Pt

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Those four examples alone come to $78.5 million that could have been invested in rolling out a nationwide bowel screening programme plus pay for training of required specialist staff. Instead, the money has been spent on a luxury apartment; bribing a Saudi businessman; John Key’s vanity-project to change the flag; and acceding to a multi-national corporation’s demands for a cash subsidy.

This is worse than wasting tax-payer’s hard-earned money.

New Zealanders are dying whilst National fiddles and wastes time.

It is not the first time this has happened;

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Public hospital ills blamed on fund - Otago Daily Times - 20 august 1999

‘Public hospital ills blamed on fund’ – “Otago Daily Times” – 20 August 1999

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'Four forced off waiting list die',

‘Four forced off waiting list die’, “The Press”, 15 March 1999

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On 21 July, I wrote to Minister Coleman on the issue;

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Kia ora Dr Coleman,

I understand that you plan to “take a business case to Cabinet by the end of the year which will consider a potential staged roll out of a national bowel screening programme from early 2017”.

Considering that a Ministry of Health  pilot programme carried out by the Waitemata District Health Board since October 2011 has saved the lives of approximately two hundred and fiftyfive people who had been identified with a cancer, it seems unbelievable that New Zealanders will have to wait at least another year and a half before a screening programme is rolled out nationally.

You stated on 6 July this year that;

“The largest constraint to a national bowel screening programme is having the workforce to do the colonoscopies. There are a number of initiatives underway to address this.” (https://www.national.org.nz/news/news/media-releases/detail/2015/07/06/Consultation-on-next-steps-for-bowel-screening-programme)

Surely the training of skilled staff should have been started in 2011, when the pilot programme at Waitemata was initiated?

Waiting until the beginning of 2017 means that thousands of people around the country may be stricken by bowel cancer.

How many will contract the illness during the time it takes to extend the screening programme?

The Ministry of Health states;

More than 2800 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year and more than 1200 die from the disease. By 2016 the number of new cases of bowel cancer diagnosed each year is projected to increase by 15% for men and 19% for women to 3302 (for all ages) (http://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/cancer-programme/bowel-cancer-programme/about-bowel-cancer)

I urge you to re-visit this problem and to begin an immediate, strategic  roll-out throughout the country, so that screening can begin to take place.

It is simply unacceptable that 1,200 New Zealanders will perish this year; next year; and the year after, when an effective screening programme is available to save their lives.

If this government can spend $78.5 million on a Saudi farm; a Manhattan apartment; an aluminium smelter; and a flag referendum – then spending at least half that amount to save lives should not be beyond us.

2017 may be an election year – but we should not have to wait until then. Not when thousands of lives are at risk.

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One of Minister Coleman’s staff replied the following day;

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The Minister has asked Ministry of Health officials to advise him on the matters you have raised.  Please be aware that due to the large volume of correspondence we receive, a personal reply to your email may take some weeks.

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Time, evidently, is not of the essence here.

What is truly shameful is not that a National government Minister is prevaricating on this critical medical problem – but that the Minister in question is a qualified medical clinician.

He, more than any other politician, should know better.

Somewhere in this country, another person has just developed bowel cancer. And doesn’t know it.

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References

Ministry of Health: About bowel cancer

Ministry of Health: Bowel screening pilot

Comprehensive Care: Bowel Screening programme successes

Radio NZ:  Govt told to act now on bowel screening programme

Ministry of Health: Bowel Screening Pilot results – January 2012 to September 2014 – How many colonoscopies have been performed?

Ministry of Health: Bowel Screening Pilot results – Round 2 – January to December 2014 – Footnotes

Ministry of Health: DHB Location boundaries (map)

National Party: Consultation on next steps for bowel screening programme

Radio NZ: Govt told to act now on bowel screening programme

Radio NZ: Health fund loses $18 million

Fairfax media: NZ government shells out $11m on New York apartment for UN representative

TV3 News: Flag referendum to cost $26M

TVNZ News: Government accused of wasting $11.5 million on wealthy Saudi farmer

Fairfax media: Govt pays $30 million to Tiwai Pt

National Party: Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman

Previous related blogposts

Unhealthy Health Cuts

Priorities?

Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key

Health Minister circumvents law to fulfill 2008 election bribe?

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment – Compassion

Children’s Health: not a high priority for Health Minister Tony Ryall

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 22 July 2015.

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Letter to the editor – John Key’s broken promises, a habit?

26 July 2015 4 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: Thu, Jul 23, 2015
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
Sunday Star Times

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If recent recent comments by Finance Minister, Bill English, are any indication, National appears to be engaging in a “softening up the public” exercise for further asset sales. On 23 July, English announced at a Commerce Commission conference;

“Why do you want us to keep owning broadcast media – it was worth a billion, it’s worth $300 million today, and soon it will be worth nothing. Same with post offices – was worth a billion, worth $300 million today, soon be worth nothing.” (Radio NZ, “No plans to sell SOE ‘relics’ – English”)

Yet, only seven months before last year’s September General Election, our esteemed Prime Minister promised no further asset sales after Genesis Energy was partially privatised;

“The truth is there aren’t a lot of other assets that would fit in the category where they would be either appealing to take to the market or of a size that would warrant a further programme, or they sit in the category that they are very large like Transpower but are monopoly assets so aren’t suited.” (NZ Herald, “PM: no more SOEs to sell after Genesis”

One can only assume that collapsing dairy prices will impact on tax revenue to a greater magnitude than the government has been advised and English is desperate to look at any alternative income revenue.

The sale of State houses was an unmitigated disaster. It seems that other State assets may be on the block soon.

So much for John Key keeping his word.

This is becoming a habit.

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-Frank Macskasy

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[address & phone number supplied]

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References

NZ Herald: PM – no more SOEs to sell after Genesis

Radio NZ: No plans to sell SOE ‘relics’ – English

 

 


 

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On private prisons…

25 July 2015 1 comment

From John Oliver in the United States, this piece on privatised prisons seems apropos…

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Letter to the editor – John Key’s legacy?

25 July 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: NZ Herald <letters@herald.co.nz>
date: Fri, Jul 24, 2015
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
NZ Herald

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Past Prime Ministers have created legacies that have marked their contribution to this country.

Michael Joseph Savage set up the welfare system and State housing, to alleviate the very worst poverty New Zealand was facing during the Great Depression. Savage would not tolerate the ravages of poverty in a country of plenty like New Zealand.

Norman Kirk’s tenure as Prime Minister was tragically cut short due to illness, but during his brief service to this country, he was instrumental in making our opposition to French atomic bomb testing in the South Pacific known to the world. We became a world leader in opposing atomic weapons, gradually moving humanity from the insanity of a thermonuclear war.

David Lange built on Norman Kirk’s legacy, and announced to the world that New Zealand would become Nuclear Free. Under his watch, gay equality took a giant step forward, removing homosexuality as a criminal offence – something we now take for granted in the 21st century.

What will John Key’s legacy be to this country? Addressing pressing problems surrounding child poverty? Leading the world once again in environmental issues such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions?

No, it appears that our esteemed Prime Minister’s legacy is predicated on changing our flag.

Not exactly what one might call a pressing problem of our generation.

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-Frank Macskasy

 

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[address & phone number supplied]

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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Letter to the editor – softening us up for another broken promise?

23 July 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: Thu, Jul 23, 2015
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
Dominion Post

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Recent comments by Finance Minister, Bill English, appear to be an exercise for “softening up” the public to further asset sales. On 23 July, English announced at a Commerce Commission conference;

“Why do you want us to keep owning broadcast media – it was worth a billion, it’s worth $300 million today, and soon it will be worth nothing. Same with post offices – was worth a billion, worth $300 million today, soon be worth nothing.” (Radio NZ, “No plans to sell SOE ‘relics’ – English”)

Is this a prelude to another broken promise from National?

Seven months before the 2014 General Election, our esteemed Prime Minister promised no further asset sales after Genesis Energy was partially privatised;

“The truth is there aren’t a lot of other assets that would fit in the category where they would be either appealing to take to the market or of a size that would warrant a further programme, or they sit in the category that they are very large like Transpower but are monopoly assets so aren’t suited.” (NZ Herald, “PM: no more SOEs to sell after Genesis”

National is facing a greatly reduced tax revenue as collapsing Dairy prices impact on our economy.

If National wants to sell more assets, they should call an early election and seek a mandate. Otherwise they are breaking yet another election promise.

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-Frank Macskasy

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[address and phone number supplied]

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References

NZ Herald: PM – no more SOEs to sell after Genesis

Radio NZ: No plans to sell SOE ‘relics’ – English


 

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John Key - carpet sale - Dannevirke

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National’s moving goalposts on climate change targets

23 July 2015 4 comments

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global carbon dioxide rises - NASA

This graph, based on the comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ice cores and more recent direct measurements, provides evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased since the Industrial Revolution. (Credit: Vostok ice core data/J.R. Petit et al.; NOAA Mauna Loa CO2 record.)

global temperature rises - NASA

Temperature data from four international science institutions. All show rapid warming in the past few decades and that the last decade has been the warmest on record.

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Top image: NASA

Bottom image: NASA

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1. The Promise

What John Key said to the National Blue-Green Forum, on 6 September 2008, one month before the up-coming election that year;

What global Leaders know, and what the National Party knows, is that environmentalism and a commitment to economic growth must go hand in hand.  We should be wary of anyone who claims that one can or should come without the other.  And we should always measure a Government’s environmental rhetoric against its environmental record.

In the years ahead it will be increasingly important that New Zealand marries its economic and environmental policies.  Global climate change awareness, resource shortages, and increasing intolerance of environmental degradation will give environmental policy renewed relevance on the world stage…

… And, in seeking the balance between environmental and economic goals, National will never forget that New Zealand’s outstanding physical environment is a key part of what makes our country special. Kiwis proudly value our forests, mountains, rivers, lakes, and oceans.  They are part of our history and they must continue to define our future.

Significantly, Key added;

National will also ensure New Zealand works on the world stage to support international efforts to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.  We are committed to honouring our Kyoto Protocol obligations and we will work to achieve further global alliances that build on the goals agreed to at Kyoto.

Pre-election, Key had unequivocally committed National to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions and  honouring New  Zealand’s Kyoto Protocol obligations.

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climate change - global warming - new zealand - greenhouse emissions (1)

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2. Agriculture and the Emissions Trading Scheme – Timeline of a Broken Promise

On  May 2008,  John Key stated,

National supports the principle of the ETS and is following the select committee process closely. National has had reservations about the timing of new taxes on motorists and households when there has been no personal tax relief for so long.”

On 8 April 2010, Key confirmed that the ETS would be preserved unchanged,

I’d say it’s unlikely it would be amended.”

By 6 June 2010, the then-Climate Minister,  Nick Smith announced that whether or not agriculture comes into the emissions trading scheme  in 2015  would depend on technological advances and what other countries do.

And on  9 November 2011,  Nick Smith announced,

… It is not in New Zealand’s interests to include agricultural emissions in the ETS yet. The lack of any practical and real technologies to reduce agricultural emissions means it would only impose a cost or tax on our most important export industry. It would also have New Zealand too far ahead of our trading partners on climate change mitigation measures. National will review the position in 2014 and only include agriculture if new technologies are available and more progress is made internationally on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

By 3 July 2012, Key began to publicly vacillate,

John Key says the Government will wait for other countries to follow suit before introducing agriculture into the Emissions Trading Scheme…

And on 20 August 2012, National introduced the “Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading and Other Matters) Amendment Bill 2012″, which would remove agricultural emmissions indefinitely, and;

“…remove a specified entry date for surrender obligations on biological emissions from agriculture”.

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Farmers' ETS exemption progresses

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It took them four years to do it, but with some cunning public manipulation (and outright lies) –  National achieved it’s real agenda,

  1. Watering down the ETS until it was toothless,
  2. Keeping agriculture (the worst emitter of greenhouse gases in NZ) out of the ETS
  3. Abandoning the Kyoto protocol

It was National’s worst broken promise (one of many), and it successfully slipped under the public and media radar.

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climate change - global warming - new zealand - greenhouse emissions (4)

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3.  Gagging the Watchmen

Part of National’s strategy to cope with embarrassing  data on unpalatable problems – is to eliminate the data. This is Standard Operating Procedure for this government, and has been used to prevent data collected on Child Poverty and foreign investors buying up farms and houses.

By eliminating (or not collecting) data, it becomes difficult for the media and public to assess problems and determine how effective the government is in dealing with them.

The public, media, Opposition parties, and other critics become reliant on hear-say, anecdotal evidence, and evidence obtained through back-door methods. The recent release of a list of non-resident/citizen Chinese investors in our already over-heated property-market is perhaps the best example of this pressing problem.

National also employed the same tactic  by no longer requiring five-yearly State of the Environment Reports from the Ministry of the Environment;

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State of the Environment report stopped

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National’s minister explained;

Environment Minister Amy Adams said the ministry is continually tracing environmental performance using 22 core indicators and the change is to ensure new information is released as it comes to hand.

Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright was not impressed, and said as much;

Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright said that is not good enough, because the data is not compiled, analysed, or compared.

Ms Wright is correct. This was National’s clumsy move to silence critics and hide evidence of our on-going environmental degradation. (See Addendum1 below)

Because really, if Minister Adams wanted “to ensure new information is released as it comes to hand” – there is absolutely no sound reason why that could not be done and still have five yearly State of the Environment Reports produced.

The only possible reason for State of the Environment Reports being scrapped by National is that they were fearful of the information that would become public.

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climate change - global warming - new zealand - greenhouse emissions (5)

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4. National abandons Kyoto Protocols

At the same time that National was quietly abandoning it’s pre-election committment to include agriculture in the Emissions Trading Scheme, our esteemed dear Leader, John Key, was announcing that New Zealand would not commit to the second state of the Kyoto protocols;

Prime Minister John Key has defended the Government’s decision not to sign on for the second stage of the Kyoto Protocol, saying the country is playing its part in combating climate change.

The climate change treaty’s first commitment period expires at the end of the year and New Zealand expects to slightly exceed its target.

The treaty aims to curb international greenhouse gas emissions through binding national commitments but some countries have questioned its effectiveness.

New Zealand would be joining other countries in going following the “convention track”, Mr Key said on TVNZ’s Breakfast show today.

“Next year New Zealand will name a binding commitment to climate change – it will actually have a physical rate that we’re going to hit – but instead of being what’s called a second commitment period that is likely to run from 2012 to 2020, we’ll be able to set our own rules around that,” Mr Key said.

As Fairfax’s Vernon Small reported at the time;

The Government has opted not to sign up to the second Kyoto Protocol commitment period from 2013 and will instead take its pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the parallel “United Nation Convention Framework”.

Protocol targets are legally binding, and the convention ones are not.

[…]

That would mean from next year New Zealand would be aligning its climate change efforts with developed and developing countries responsible for 85 per cent of global emissions.

 “This includes the United States, Japan, China, India, Canada, Brazil, Russia and many other major economies,” Groser said.

In other words, our government has put us into a ‘club’ with the world’s major polluters.

Key wants to  “set our own rules around” climate change. It is fairly apparent what those rules are; doing as little as possible.

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climate change - global warming - new zealand - greenhouse emissions (5)

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5. Shifting Goalposts

Even less known by the msm (mainstream media)  and public is how National has moved targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions since 1991. For the the past 24 years, successive National governments have quietly and with little scrutiny,  changed targets for reducing emissions.

  • First Target

In September 1993, the Bolger-led National Government signed up to  the  UNFCCC  (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) .  Four months after the UNFCCC came into effect, in July 1994, National announced a number of very specific climate change committments, as the State of New Zealand’s Environment 1997 report outlined;

◊ a target of reducing net emissions to 1990 volumes by the year 2000,

◊ a target of slowing growth of gross emissions by 20%,

◊ increased carbon storage in plantation forests

◊ energy sector reforms

◊ an energy efficiency strategy and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA),

◊ renewable energy sources

◊ use of the Resource Management Act; and,

◊ voluntary agreements with industry.

(Source for precise bullet-points – Wikipedia)

Even the initial target –  reducing net emissions to 1990 volumes by the year 2000 – was the bare minimum, being set at net levels, rather than gross.

National stipulated that if emissions were not stabilised at 1990 levels, by 2000, a (low-level) carbon charge would be introduced in December 1997.

  • Second Target

By July 1996, plans were under way to water down those targets set only three years earlier. Then Environment Minister, Simon Upton “committed” his government to;

…take precautionary actions to help stabilise atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases in order to reduce risk from global climate change, and to meet New Zealand’s commitments under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, including:

•  To return net emissions of carbon dioxide to no more than their 1990 levels by the year 2000 (but aim for a reduction in net carbon dioxide emissions to 20 percent below their 1990 levels by the year 2000 if this is cost-effective and will not harm our trade) and to maintain them at this level thereafter; and

•  To reduce net emissions of other greenhouse gases, particularly methane, by the year 2000 where possible and maintain them at those levels thereafter.

Cost effective“, “not harm our trade“, and “where possible” – the weasel words of a government determined not to be bound by any committment.

One could imagine the reaction if those terms were included in marriage vows or other social or legal contract.

  • Third Target

Two years later,  on 22 May 1998,  National ratified  the Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC. This time, National “committed” New Zealand to a target of limiting greenhouse gas emissions for the 2008-2012 period to five times the 1990 volume.

Worse still, New Zealand could either reduce emissions or  obtain carbon credits from the international market or from domestic carbon sinks, to meet those “targets”.

The relevant Kyoto Protocol stated;

New Zealand’s emissions management task

•  New Zealand’s initial assigned amount (translating into a corresponding holding of “emission units”) for the commitment period is 365 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. This is equal to five times the 73 million tonnes that New Zealand emitted in 1990, times 100%, which is New Zealand’s target under Annex B of the Protocol.

•  New Zealand is projected to gain, during the commitment period, additional assigned amount (“removal units”) of 110 million tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent due to the growth of trees planted on land that has been converted (or reverted) to forest since 1990.

Like a desert mirage, New Zealand’s targets were continually receding under National.

  • Fourth Target

December 2014 – National’s Climate Change Minister Tim Groser, announced New Zealand’s latest emissions reduction target of 5% below 1990 levels by 2020.  This pushed the target date from 2008-2012 to 2020.

  • Fifth Target

July 2015 – National’s Climate Change Minister Tim Groser announced new emissions target, a 30% reduction on 2005 levels, by 2030.

Not only is the target date pushed further out, from 2020, top 2030 – but the baseline is now 2005 instead of 1990.

Five different targets in twentytwo years – each one more watered down; pushing target dates further and further into the distant future.  Which begs two questions;

  1. What will be the next emissions reduction level and  target date? When does it begin to sound patently ridiculous? 2050? 2099? Next century?
  2. How has no one noticed that National has been surreptitiously shifting the goal-posts?

Massey University climate change expert, Professor Ralph Sims, was not impressed with National’s subterfuge;

Prof Sims said 2005 was the year of New Zealand’s highest emissions and the 2030 target gives New Zealand “10 extra years to produce very little extra reduction.”

By Prof Sims’s calculations, based on gross greenhouse emissions set under the Kyoto Protocol, New Zealand needed to cut emissions by 63,384 kilotonnes under its previous target and by 59,150 KT under the new one.

In essence, he said New Zealand is now doing less than its fair share.

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climate change - global warming - new zealand - greenhouse emissions (6)

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6. The Problem Worsens

Meanwhile, our emissions have continued to worsen, whilst National fiddles;

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NZ's greenhouse gas emissions soar
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New Zealand’s net emissions of greenhouse gases climbed 42 per cent between 1990 and 2013.

Gross emissions, which exclude carbon flows relating to forestry and land use change, rose 21 per cent between 1990 (year zero for carbon accounting purposes) and 2013, to be the fifth highest per capita among 40 developed countries.

Two decades of goal setting; and goal-post moving; and the results have been disappointing, if not predictable.

This has been National’s legacy.

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Addendum1

University’s Environmental Performance Index has highlighted  New Zealand’s falld on international EPI rankings.

In 2008, New Zealand ranked seventh out of 149 nations.

In 2012, our ranking had  dropped seven placings to number fourteen.

Last year, we fell a further two spots, to number sixteen.

As John Key stated seven years ago;

“And we should always measure a Government’s environmental rhetoric against its environmental record”.

On every indicator and policy, New Zealand is doing poorly in the field of conservation. We are going backwards.

Addendum2

“I think we never wanted to be a world leader in climate change.” John Key, 12 November 2012

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References

National Party: John Key Speech – Environment Policy Launch

Fairfax media: ‘Carbon neutral’ policy added to scrap heap

NZ Herald:  ETS changes ‘unlikely’ despite pleas

NBR:  ETS may exclude agriculture – Climate Change Minister

Interest.co.nz: See: National would phase in ETS obligations for transport, electricity, industrial sectors; Will review Agriculture in 2014, will only put it in if technology to help is there

Radio NZ: Govt puts off including agriculture in ETS

National Party: Government announces ETS amendments

Radio NZ:  Farmers’ ETS exemption progresses

NZ Herald: Measuring poverty line not a priority – Bennett

Otago Daily Times: Foreign buyers still in market

TV3 News: Govt – Foreign buyers not part of housing problem

Radio NZ: State of the Environment report stopped

NZ Herald: Key defends decision not to stick with Kyoto Protocol

Dominion Post: Government shuns second Kyoto committment

Wikipedia: Fourth National Government of New Zealand

Ministry for the environment:  State of New Zealand’s Environment 1997 (ch5)

Beehive.govt.nz: Environment 2010 Strategy

Otago Daily Times: Groser – NZ’s emission impossible

NZ Herald: NZ commits to post-2020 emissions reduction target

NBR: New 2030 greenhouse gas emissions target far weaker than 2020 goal – climate change expert

NZ Herald: NZ’s greenhouse gas emissions soar

Yale University:  2008 Environmental Performance Index

Yale University:  2012 Environmental Performance Index

Yale University:  2014 Environmental Performance Index

Other Blogs

Green Party: Govt’s emissions reduction target 100% pure spin

Hot Topic: Climate Action Tracker analysis: NZ emissions targets inadequate, not doing our fair share

Hot Topic: Renwick on NZ’s 11% cut: follow us down the path to catastrophe

No Right Turn: Are fossil fuels really an industry we want to promote?

Open Parachute: Talk of “mini ice age” bunkum

The Daily Blog: Using freezing temperatures to claim global warming is a hoax

The Standard:  Emissions targets an admission that we don’t care

The Standard:  It’s just too expensive to act on climate change

The Standard:  Voices of the people on emissions targets and climate change

Additional

NASA Goddard Insititute for Space Studies: Global Climate Modeling

Skeptical Science:  Global Warming in a Nutshell

Previous related blogposts

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

John Key – more pledges, more broken promises?

As predicted: National abandons climate-change responsibilities

National ditches environmental policies

ETS – National continues to fart around

Dear Leader – fibbing again?!

National – what else can possibly go wrong?!

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climate change - global warming - new zealand - greenhouse emissions (03)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 18 July 2015.

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Another ‘Claytons’ Solution to our Housing Problem? When will NZers ever learn?

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1949 state house in Taita

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Like a rolling juggernaut, our housing crisis has rolled over National, crushing it’s Dear Leader’s protestations that  no problem exists in our country;

“No, I don’t think you can call it a crisis. What you can say though is that Auckland house prices have been rising, and rising too quickly actually.” – John Key, 13 April 2015

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John Key no housing crisis in Auckland

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Phil Twyford’s appearance on TV3’s ‘The Nation‘ on 11 July has finally put the problem of foreign ownership of property into a context that even the most dumbed-down, Reality-TV-watching New Zealander could understand.

It is mind-numbingly simple: with the most liberal foreign ownership laws in the world, foreign investors are pouring billions into our housing (and agricultural sector), hoping to make tax-free gains. In the process, prices are pushed up, out of reach of young, first-home buyers.

As I  wrote on 11 July;

Our parents and grandparents never had to compete with buyers from Berlin, Beijing, or Boston. So it baffles me why we have saddled our children with this colossal hurdle. The only reasons that come to mind is greed and a misguided ideolological view of an unfettered right to sell to whomever.

Some are now proposing a “solution” to this mounting problem. BNZ chief economist Tony Alexander suggests;

“We should as soon as possible adopt Australia’s rules restricting foreign buying of anything other than new housing unless resident for 12 months.”

This is a “Clayton’s Solution” and merely shifts the problem from existing properties to new properties being built. It beggars belief how any seemingly well-educated, intelligent person can proffer this as a “solution”.

How is it a “solution” when, for example, 1,800 new homes are permitted to be snapped up by overseas investors, and in the process side-lining first-home buyers;

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Up to 1800 new homes for Auckland

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This is not a “solution”. This is more of the same stupidity that has allowed our country to find itself in this mess in the first place.

Allowing foreign investors to buy new homes instead of existing homes simply transfers pressure on to new developments. It will also inevitably put pressure on existing, older homes being bought up by developers; demolished; and replaced by new houses or apartments. Consequence: Restriction avoided.

There is only one, clear, guaranteed way to stop our housing stock from becoming more and more the privilege of offshore investors:

1. Ban all sales of land to non-NZ residents or citizens. No exceptions.

Other policies that should also be enacted immediatly;

2. Implement an immediate stock-take of land-ownership, both agricultural and residential properties, so we know precisely how far the problem extends.

3. Implement a Capital Gains Tax on all properties (including the family home if sold within, say, five years).

4. Implement a law that foreign land owners are allowed to on-sell only to New Zealand permanent residents or citizens.

Half-measures such as National’s requirement for foreign investors to acquire an IRD number and bank account, or Tony Alexander’s naive suggestion will not do. The problem will continue to grow.

This is not ‘xenophobia’ or any other label bandied about by misguided individuals from the Left or Right. This is a matter of economic common sense.

I have no problem with citizens from Berlin, Boston, or Beijing wanting to buy New Zealand farms, houses, businesses, etc.

Just take up Permanent Residency or Citizenship first.

Sorted.

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References

Radio NZ: Key denies Auckland housing crisis

TV3: The Nation – Interview – Labour’s housing spokesman Phil Twyford

NZ Herald:  Auckland’s property crisis – Foreigners should build, not buy – economist

Radio NZ: Up to 1800 new homes for Auckland


 

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bromheadhouse

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 14 July 2015.

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One man’s “terrorist”, is another man’s freedom fighter…

… an old cliche, but nevertheless true;

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Willem Arondeus

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Willem Arondeus was a Dutch resistance fighter who gave his life trying to protect his Jewish countrymen from the Nazis.

Born in Amsterdam in 1895, Willem was one of six children. From a young age, he was a talented artist and his parents encouraged his creativity, until he came out as homosexual at age 17.

In a time when nearly all gay people were in the closet, Willem’s parents could not accept his choice to live openly. Their rejection led Willem to run away from home.

On his own, Willem took odd jobs and eventually became a successful visual artist and writer. He was commissioned to paint a mural for Rotterdam’s town hall, in a style that combined modern abstract painting with a traditional Dutch motif. Willem was a well-respected author who published a popular biography of Dutch painter and political activist Matthijs Maris.

In 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands. Willem immediately joined the resistance movement, and urged his fellow artists to fight against the Nazi occupation. WIllem published illegal anti-Nazi pamphlets calling for mass resistance against the Germans.

Willem was especially committed to saving Amsterdam’s Jewish community. Bringing in others to the cause, Willem arranged for Dutch Jews to be hidden in people’s homes. He used his artistic skills to create false identity papers.

In 1943, Willem hatched a brazen plan. Dressed as a German Army captain, and with 15 men behind him, Willem boldly marched into the Public Record Office, where lists identifying people as Jews were kept. Willem drugged the guards and planted a firebomb. The resulting blaze destroyed tens of thousands of documents, and delayed or prevented many Jews from being identified by the Nazis.

Unfortunately, Willem was captured by the Germans and sentenced to death. Willem’s last words before being executed in July, 1943 were, “Let it be known that homosexuals are not cowards.”

In 1986 Yad Vashem recognized Arondeus as Righteous Among the Nations.

Because of his sexual orientation, Willem’s story was omitted from Dutch history books. Only in the last 20 years has his courage become widely known.

[Reprinted from Accidental Talmudist]

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One wonders if the current National government would have added Mr Arondeus to their list of known terrorists, and ACT condemned him for destroying private property?

 

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The Flag Referendum – A strategy for Calm Resistance

20 July 2015 9 comments

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eight_col_eNZign-NZ-Flag-Richard-Aslett

Richard Aslett’s “eNZign”

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When John Key referred to a referendum as “… a complete and utter waste of money because it’s just about sending a message”, he was not referring to his much-beloved pet-project, the $29 million flag referendum.

He was, in fact, deriding the $9 million asset sale referendum held two years ago, and which resulted in a decisive 67.2% of 1.3 million New Zealanders voting against the government’s asset sales programme. Key was bluntly dismissive of  the asset sales referendum;

“Overall what it basically shows, it was pretty much a political stunt.”

Charming.

Key’s $29 million dollar white-elephant project receives his personal blessing and whole-hearted endorsement;

“In the end you have to say, what price do you put on democracy where people can genuinely have their say on a matter that is actually important? … This is a cost essentially of one of the values that New Zealanders would want to test.

Yes, it’s a one-off cost, but my view would be that if the flag doesn’t change as a result of this referendum process, then it won’t be changing for a good 50 to 100 years, so this is a cost we have to bear.”

– whereas a preceding referenda on a critical economic/political policy was dismissed as irrelevent in the Prime Minister’s grand scheme of things.

Nothing better illustrates the deep contempt which John Key holds the public and democracy than his inconsistent attitudes on these two referenda.

If New Zealanders want to send our esteemed Dear Leader a definitive message, they might recall the decisive message they sent to  the National-NZ First Coalition government in 1997, where  92% rejected Winston Peters’ superannuation scheme.

I offer the following strategy for those voters who are opposed to this referendum;

1.

The referendum will be carried out in two parts. The first part will be a referendum held in November-December this year to determine which alternative people might prefer;

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flag referendum stage one

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This is the ballot paper to spoil by writing over it your opposition to this referendum. In a written piece entitled “Winston Flags Referendum For Protest“, fellow blogger Curwen Rolinson suggests writing “I support the current flag” on your ballot paper. Or you can create your own appropriate message.

2.

The second part of the referendum will be held in March next year. This will be the run-off between our  current ‘Stars’n’Jack‘, and an alternative selected from Step 1.

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flag referendum stage two

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This step must not be spoiled. A clear message can still be sent to our esteemed Dear Leader by voting for the status quo, to keep the current flag.

If the alternative is defeated, and the incumbent flag is maintained as the preferred choice, John Key will have been shown to have engaged in a vanity project, and wasting $29 million dollars of taxpayers money in the process.

By this simple strategy, we, the people,  can show the same scorn to Key’s  pet-project as he did to the asset sales referendum in 2013.

Addendum1

Alternative Option 2: If Richard Aslett’s “eNZign” design (see top of page) is selected as the alternative for the March 2016 referendum (highly, highly unlikely) – vote for it. What better “legacy” for Key’s prime ministership than something that looks like the product of an LSD-induced trip?

So not only will $29 million have been wasted, but a “trippy” flag will have been chosen that takes New Zealand back to the psychedelic 1960s.

What better way to give Key the one-fingered salute?

Addendum2

Meanwhile, John Oliver shared his brilliant insights into the flag debate;

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John oliver new zealand flag referendum

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References

Otago Daily Times: Asset sales referendum ‘waste of money’

Fairfax media: Asset sales programme to continue – Key

NZ Herald: John Key defends cost of flag referendums

NZ Govt: Flag Consideration Panel – The flag consideration process

Youtube: John Oliver – New Zealand’s New Flag

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The Pencilsword Flagpole blues

Acknowledgement: Toby Morris, ‘The Wireless

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

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The slow dismantling of a populist prime minister

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john Key smile and wave

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It’s been a source of frustration and a mystery akin to flying saucers, Loch Ness Monster, Yeti, Bermuda Triangle, etc. I refer, of course, to the unfeasibly high popularity of our esteemed Dear Leader, John Key.

Every time a scandal strikes this government (and there have been so many, I’ve lost count); every time it implements unpopular policies such as asset sales or expanding the powers of the GCSB; every time it fails to balance the budget despite numerous promises; every time it breaks election promises such as not raising GST, not interfering with Kiwisaver, bringing agriculture into the ETS, raising wages comparable to Australia; and as  housing  becomes an ulcerated sore in our cities – Key’s popularity apparently remains undented.

Recently, over a period of months, he was even found to have been assaulting a female staff member at an Auckland cafe;

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EXCLUSIVE The Prime Minister and the Waitress - ponytail pulling - Amanda Bailey - John Key

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– and he survived that humiliating experience, his political career apparently intact. His apolitical “blokeyness” seems to have pulled his backside out of the fire, yet again.

But is his popularity as consistently high as we think it is?

Actually – no.

Since 2009, when Key’s “Preferred Prime Minister” (PPM) rating stood at 55.8% on 3News-Reid Research polling, it has been trending down ever since;

Oct/Nov 08: 36.4%

(Source)

Feb 2009: 52.1%

April 2009: 51.1%

Aug 2009: 51.6%

Oct 2009: 55.8%

Feb 2010: 49.4%

April 2010: 49.0%

June 2010: 49.6%

Jul/Aug 2010: 48.7%

Sept/Oct 2010: 50.6%

Nov/Dec 2010: 54.1%

Feb 2011: 49.1%

April 2011: 52.4%

May 2011: 48.2%

Jun/Jul 2011: 50.5%

Aug 2011: 53.3%

Sept 2011: 54.5%

Oct 2011: 52.7%

1-8 Nov 2011: 50.0%

9-16 Nov 2011: 49.4%

16-23 Nov 2011: 48.9%

Feb 2012: 45.8%

April 2012: 44.2%

May/Jun 2012: 40.5%

July: 43.2%

(Source)

Feb 2013: 41.0%

April 2013: 38.0%

May 2013: 41.0%

Jul 2013: 42.0%

Nov 2013: 40.9%

Jan 2014: 38.9%

Mar 2014: 42.6%

May 2014: 43.1%

Jun 2014: 46.7%

Jul 2014: 43.8%

5-3 Aug 2014: 44.1%

19-25 Aug 2014: 41.4%

26 Aug-1 Sept 2014: 45.1%

2-8 Sept 2014: 45.3%

9-15 Sept 2014: 44.1%

Jan 2015: 44.0%

May 2015: 39.4%

(Source)

From the insane heights of 2009 (55.8%), Key has lost 16.4 percentage points in the PPM contest by May of this year.

Key’s leadership is safe. The only contenders are careerist politicians – most of whom would make National unelectable as a government;

  • Steven Joyce – far to arrogant. Looks down at people. Has a tendency to rant at political opponants who he finds threatening. Also not averse to threatening people who piss him off, in a sober, Aaron Gilmore kind of way.
  • Judith Collins – accident prone. Too many skeletons in her closet. Links to far right-wing bloggers; Oravida; and mis-use of her ministerial powers show her to be untrustworthy. Probably the dodgiest of all National MPs.
  • Nick Smith – tends to be sacked from ministerial portfolios more often than Winston Peters. Fast becoming identified with New Zealand’s critical housing problem. Has a fall-back career as a bus tour-driver.
  • Anne Tolley – Would be hopelessly out of her depth. Is beginning to stuff up her Social Welfare portfolio, and recent appearance on ‘Q+A‘ was cringeworthy.
  • Gerry Brownlee – the second-best of the bunch, but also tends to exhibit arrogance and a dismissive attitude to laws. Rules evidently don’t apply to him, as they do to us mere peasants.
  • Hekia Parata – (Joke entrant. Zero probabability.)
  • Paula Bennett – She’s the one. Zombified conservative voters love her for “dealing to the lazy benes”. Has a casual, “relaxed” air about her similar to Key’s. The only one who could possibly take over from Key and not consign National to the Opposition benches for the next ten years.

Except that Key’s leadership is fairly safe for the foreseeable future. Key has de-politicised politics and lulled the peasantry into a hypnotic state that would make Andrew Newton jealous.

But make no mistake, Key’s teflon has been gradually stripped away with scandal after scandal, and Andrew Little’s “Cut the Crap” remark in Parliament on 26 November last year showed that Key can be called out on his bullshit.

If an Opposition Leader can continue to highlight to the public that Key is in fact bullshitting them – it’s game over. Key will be forced to do Real Politics – and that is not his  forté.

One thing that the above polling shows with considerable clarity is that Key’s “dream run” has concluded.

Addendum1

A Wikipedia page of various polls also presents PPM data, but the TV3-Reid Research polls reach back to 2008, giving a more overall picture of the rise-and-dip of Key’s leadership.

Addendum2

A TV1-Colmar Brunton Poll on 19 July reports that John Key’s popularity as PPM has dropped 4 percentage points since May, to 40%.

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References

The Daily Blog: The Prime Minister and the Waitress

3News: Opinion Poll – April 13-20 2010

3News: Opinion Poll – 210 October 2012

Reid Research: TV3 Poll Results

NZ Herald: Minister to students – ‘keep your heads down’

Radio NZ: Collins defends giving details to blogger

TVNZ Q+A: Revolutionary changes in store for social services

Radio NZ: ‘Cut the crap’ and say sorry, Little tells PM

Wikipedia: Opinion polling for the New Zealand general election, 2014

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John Key radio live teflon coated

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

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Treasury on Rail. Let’s play a little game, shall we?

18 July 2015 3 comments

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NZ Treasury muppets

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Treasury’s latest ‘brain fart’ was this amazing story, which I repost, verbatim, from a Radio NZ report;

Close down rail, advised the Treasury

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Updated at 6:08 pm on 9 July 2015
Brent Edwards, Political Editor – brent.edwards@radionz.co.nz

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The Labour Party has accused the Treasury of being “nuts” for suggesting the country’s rail network should be closed because it costs too much.

In Budget documents released today the Treasury estimated the net social cost of supporting KiwiRail at between $55 million and $170 million a year.

In the paper the Treasury recommended the Government just fund KiwiRail for one more year while undertaking a comprehensive study to look at closing the rail company.

It said the study should be done publicly so that people were informed of the costs of running the rail network compared with any benefits it provided.

The Government rejected the idea.

Labour’s transport spokesperson Phil Twyford criticised the Treasury for even raising the suggestion.

“This proposal by Treasury for the Government to consider actually shutting down the rail network is just nuts and it shows that Treasury doesn’t really understand transport economics and they certainly don’t get rail.

“You know rail should be for decades and decades to come, it should be alongside the road system, the backbone of New Zealand’s transport system … To shut down, even to contemplate shutting down this valuable part of our nation’s infrastructure is barmy,” Mr Twyford said.

While government ministers rejected the idea initially they only intended providing money for KiwiRail for this financial year.

But a later paper reveals it agreed to a two-year funding commitment after the company expressed worries about its long-term planning if it had only one year of funding confirmed.

In its analysis the Treasury said rail had high fixed costs and it faced a challenge trying to reduce them.

It said the options for the business were to make relatively small changes to the existing network or significantly downsize it, including closing it altogether.

Another option was to shut down most of its operations but keep freight business for Auckland to Hamilton to Tauranga only as that part of the network carried most freight and covered most of its costs.

It warned KiwiRail posed considerable risk to the Government and was unlikely to ever be profitable.

“Treasury believes there is a net economic cost of continuing to fund rail at the levels required. The net social cost is estimated at between $55 million and $170 million per annum based on a national cost benefit analysis.

“Whilst some of the assumptions underlying analysis of this nature are subjective and some require further work to validate, Treasury believes that it will not change the conclusion that there is a net social cost of continuing to fund rail.”

It recommended a public study of the implications of shutting KiwiRail down so the Government could make the most informed choice possible.

Phil Twyford said he agreed there should be an in-depth study on the value of rail to the economy.

Mr Twyford said the fallacy in the Treasury thinking was that the rail system, including the rail tracks, should be run as a profit making business. Nowhere in the world did that happen.

He said the rail tracks were simply like the country’s roads and nobody expected the roads to make a profit.

A spokesman for Finance Minister Bill English said the Government had set aside $400 million for KiwiRail over the next two years.

“But before undertaking an investment of this size, it is appropriate that officials look at all options – including options for line closures.

“As we said in May, the Government is committed to a national rail network, but ongoing subsidies of around $200 million per year are unsustainable. The funding provided at the Budget gives the KiwiRail board a two-year window to identify savings and reduce the level of ongoing Crown funding required,” he said.

The craziness of this suggestion can best be illustrated if we make a few changes to the story, and re-post it;

Close down roads, advised the Treasury

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Updated at 6:08 pm on 9 July 2015
Brent Edwards, Political Editor – brent.edwards@radionz.co.nz

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The Labour Party has accused the Treasury of being “nuts” for suggesting the country’s roading network should be closed because it costs too much.

In Budget documents released today the Treasury estimated the net social cost of supporting National Land Transport roading at $3.891 billion a year.

In the paper the Treasury recommended the Government just fund roading for one more year while undertaking a comprehensive study to look at closing the National Land Transport Programme.

It said the study should be done publicly so that people were informed of the costs of running the roading network compared with any benefits it provided.

The Government rejected the idea.

Labour’s transport spokesperson Phil Twyford criticised the Treasury for even raising the suggestion.

“This proposal by Treasury for the Government to consider actually shutting down the road network is just nuts and it shows that Treasury doesn’t really understand transport economics and they certainly don’t get roads.

“You know roads should be for decades and decades to come, it should be alongside the rail system, the backbone of New Zealand’s transport system … To shut down, even to contemplate shutting down this valuable part of our nation’s infrastructure is barmy,” Mr Twyford said.

While government ministers rejected the idea initially they only intended providing money for  for this financial year.

But a later paper reveals it agreed to a two-year funding commitment after the company expressed worries about its long-term planning if it had only one year of funding confirmed.

In its analysis the Treasury said roading had high fixed costs and it faced a challenge trying to reduce them.

It said the options for the business were to make relatively small changes to the existing network or significantly downsize it, including closing it altogether.

Another option was to shut down most of its operations but keep freight business for Auckland to Hamilton to Tauranga only as that part of the highway network carried most freight and covered most of its costs.

It warned National Land Transport posed considerable risk to the Government and was unlikely to ever be profitable.

“Treasury believes there is a net economic cost of continuing to fund road at the levels required. The net social cost is estimated at $3.891 billion a year per annum based on a national cost benefit analysis.

“Whilst some of the assumptions underlying analysis of this nature are subjective and some require further work to validate, Treasury believes that it will not change the conclusion that there is a net social cost of continuing to fund roads.”

It recommended a public study of the implications of shutting National Land Transport down so the Government could make the most informed choice possible.

Phil Twyford said he agreed there should be an in-depth study on the value of roading to the economy.

Mr Twyford said the fallacy in the Treasury thinking was that the roading system, including the highways, should be run as a profit making business. Nowhere in the world did that happen.

He said the highways were simply like the country’s railways and nobody expected Kiwirail to make a profit.

A spokesman for Finance Minister Bill English said the Government had set aside $7.782 billion for roading over the next two years.

“But before undertaking an investment of this size, it is appropriate that officials look at all options – including options for highway closures.

“As we said in May, the Government is committed to a national road network, but ongoing subsidies of around $3.891 billion per year are unsustainable. The funding provided at the Budget gives the National Land Transport board a two-year window to identify savings and reduce the level of ongoing Crown funding required,” he said.

Barmy?

You bet.

The young folk at Treasury need to get out more often and engage in illicit drug use; binge drinking; and  random sex. It would be no more pointless than some of the gormless ideas they come up with.

In case anyone thinks that Treasury’s idea is remotely “clever”, consider the number of passenger trips by rail each year;

Auckland: 13 million

Wellington: 11.9 million

Total: 24.9 million

That is nearly 25 million extra car-trips on the road in both cities.

It does not take a bright young thing employed by Treasury to quickly realise the impact that would have on our city roads. In brief; Auckland and Wellington would grind to a halt. Our economy would collapse within a week.

We should be looking at ways to maximise use of rail, not canning it. Anything that takes cars and trucks of our roads is a major benefit to our economy and environment.

Perhaps I was wrong and there is illicit drug taking amongst some Treasury boffins. Someone has been at the marijuana cookie-jar. What other explanation can there be for this bizarre idea?

Addendum1

Road

The largest element of the Vote is the funding for roading ($3,891 million or 91% of the total Vote). This is primarily the funding for the National Land Transport Programme which is funded from road tax revenue collected by the Crown ($3,014 million or 71% of the Vote).

Vote Transport, Budget 2015

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References

Radio NZ: Close down rail, advised the Treasury

NZ Treasury: Vote Transport Overview

NZ Herald: Auckland rail passenger numbers top 13 million

Dominion Post: Record Wellington train use set to stave off fare increases

Previous related blogposts

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

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roads of national significance.

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

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Why Labour should NEVER play the “race card”…

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… because National doesn’t like the competition;

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Don Brash tells Why I played the race card - orewa speech - national party

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It’s a bit rich for National’s Housing Minister, Nick Smith, to be crying crocodile tears on the subject;

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Labour accused of playing 'race card' over house price bubble claims

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– when, in the last seven years the Nats have;

  • sold off hundreds of State houses – and want to flog of 2,000 more
  • allowed a critical  housing shortage to make Cantabrians’ lives a misery
  • done practically nothing to alleviate a growing housing crisis in Auckland
  • refused to implement a comprehensive Capital Gain Tax, the lack of which is distorting the investment market
  • refused to set up a foreign buyers’ register
  • generally sat on their hands and done the bare minimum to build more housing

On this problem, National is way out of synch with public opinion. (ACT supporters’ public opinion counts for near zero.)

In fact, our esteemed Dear Leader even refuses to acknowledge  that a critical housing crisis exists in Auckland;

“No, I don’t think you can call it a crisis. What you can say though is that Auckland house prices have been rising, and rising too quickly actually.” – John Key, 13 April 2015

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John Key no housing crisis in Auckland

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My position on this problem (I refuse to call it an “issue”) is clear and simple: land and housing should not be sold to non-New Zealand residents or citizens. If you want to buy a house or farm, become a citizen and move to New Zealand.

This applies to whether you are from Boston, Beijing, or Berlin.

Those free-marketeers who maintain that a property-owner has an unfettered “right” to sell to the highest bidder, irrespective of nationality, are wrong. “Rights” are never absolute. The citizens of a country determine, through concensus, what property rights we confer upon ourselves.

Many other nations do not allow foreign investors to buy houses. China is one of them.

If, as I believe, the majority of New Zealanders are opposed to offshore investors buying up our houses, then that must be reflected in our legislation.

This is (hopefully) not about xenophobia. This is about the next generation of  young New Zealanders having the same opportunities to buy their own home, as their parents and grandparents did.

This is about not allowing an older generation of home-owners flogging their houses off to the highest bidders from Beijing, Boston, or Berlin, at the expense of a younger generation who cannot hope to compete with millionaire investors from overseas.

Our parents and grandparents never had to compete with buyers from Berlin, Beijing, or Boston. So it baffles me why we have saddled our children with this colossal hurdle. The only reasons that come to mind is greed and a misguided ideolological view of an unfettered right to sell to whomever.

Otherwise, if we keep going down this foolhardy road then, as sure as evolution made little green apples, we risk literally becoming tenants in our own country.

If that is our end goal, we are on the right track.

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References

NZ Herald:  Don Brash tells: Why I played the race card

Radio NZ: Labour accused of playing ‘race card’ over house price bubble claims

Radio NZ: Key denies Auckland housing crisis

Other blogs

Bowalley Road: Chinese Whispers

Dim Post: What we talk about when we talk about Chinese people

Dim Post: The racist style in New Zealand politics

No Right Turn: Sounds like racism

Public Address: House-buying patterns in Auckland

Public Address: My last name sounds Chinese

The Pundit: What’s in a name… and a number?

The Standard: International investment in Auckland housing

The Standard: Twyford Responds

The Standard: China Crisis

Previous related blogposts

Kiwis, Cows, and Canadian singers

That was Then, this is Now #10

Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How (Part # Rua)

Three Questions to Key, Williamson, Coleman, et al

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301012NZHREtoon

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

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Letter to the editor – Contempt for Referenda? Now it’s our turn.

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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: Tue, Jul 14, 2015
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
Dominion Post

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John Key wants the public to take seriously his $29 million flag referendum.

1.3 million New Zealanders voted in the $9 million asset sales referendum in 2013. I intend to show the same “respect” to his referendum, as the contempt he showered on the asset sales referendum, and which he scornfully dismissed as a waste of money and “a political stunt”.

It’s our turn.

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-Frank Macskasy

[address and phone number supplied]

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Related blogposts

 

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WINZ, waste, and wonky numbers – *up-date*

16 July 2015 7 comments

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hungry and homeless wellington new zealand

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Radio NZ’s reporter, Ruth Hill, posted this story on Friday 10 July. Note Ms Hill’s comment;

“However, 4916 just dropped out of the system because they did not do the paperwork.”

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Thousands losing benefits due to paperwork - radio nz - winz - msd

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Even as National  boasted about a drop in beneficiary numbers;

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Benefit numbers reach a six-year low  - fairfax media - winz - msd

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– unemployment continued to rise;

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Unemployment rises to 5.7 percent - radio nz - winz - msd - unemployment

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This discrepancy can be explained – in part – with RNZ reporter, Ruth Hill, revealing;

“Thousands of people are having their benefits cut off because they are not filling in the complicated paperwork required…

[…]

… 4916 just dropped out of the system because they did not do the paperwork.”

This was a ticking time-bomb predicted by beneficiary advocates in 2013, when National implemented many of it’s punitive welfare “reforms”;

The changes sparked protests in front of three Auckland Work and Income offices by Auckland Action Against Poverty protesters yesterday who said the moves were about “cutting costs by pushing vulnerable people off the books” rather than getting them into decent jobs.

So how bad is the problem with WINZ forms?

On  8 February 2013,   I blogged on precisely this problem (WINZ, waste, and wonky numbers);

Paula Bennett has directed WINZ to make life more difficult for the unemployed, when registering with WINZ. As if losing one’s job wasn’t stressful enough, Bennet has forced the implementation of some draconian rules and requirements for beneficiaries. (The implication being that it’s the fault of  the unemployed for being unemployed?!)

One of the bureacratic bundles of red tape are the number of forms issued to WINZ applicants.

For those readers who have never had the “delight” of dealing with WINZ – these are the forms that are required to be filled out. Note: every single applicant is given these forms (in a little plastic carry-bag).

And if you have to reapply to WINZ for a benefit (if, say, you’ve lost your job again) you are required to fill out these forms all over again.

This is where taxpayer’s money is really going to waste in welfare.

All up, seventythree  pages of information and forms to  read, understand,  fill out, to collect information;

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73-pages-of-winz-forms-1

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(Blogger’s Note: for a comprehensive view of each WINZ form, please go to  blogpost: Bill English: When numbers don’t fit, or just jump around)

This system becomes even more laughable when one considers that if an an applicant has been a WINZ “client” (ie, beneficiary) before, they remain on MSD’s computer files. Much of the information sought is already  on-file.

The cost of this must be horrendous, and it is ironic that at a time when National is cutting “back room” support staff to save money, that they are permitting taxpayer funding for this ‘Monty Pythonesque ‘ exercise in out-of-control form-filling.

No wonder that this was reported in Fairfax media,

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett this morning said latest figures showed 328,043 people were now on benefits, with 57,058 of those on an unemployment benefit.

Reforms passed by Parliament require people on an unemployment benefit to reapply for it after one year. Bennett said this change had led to 5000 people cancelling their benefit.

More than 1400 of those said they had found work, more than 2600 didn’t complete a reapplication and more than 1000 were no longer eligible. ”

How many people with minimal education or poor command of the English language could hope to fill out so many forms of such complexity?

National has a peculiar – but effective – way of dealing with unpleasant statistics.

It either does not engage in collecting data (eg; foreign house buyers, poverty levels, etc), or, it implements policies that will artificially impact on statistics without actually resolving under-lying problems. Whichever is the cheapest, easiest option. And whichever draws the least worst  headlines.

If pushing New Zealanders off welfare – by making the system unnecessarily  complex and frustrating  – has the end result of an apparent drop in welfare numbers, then that is ‘Mission Accomplished’ for this government.

Pushing people into poverty; homelessness; the degradation of street living and begging; are not matters that greatly concerned successive Social Welfare ministers, whether Paula Bennett, nor her successor, Anne “Look-At-Me-Standing-On-A-Crushed-Car” Tolley, as she told Radio NZ;

There is no reason for Work and Income to continue monitoring people who have chosen not to re-apply for a benefit.

If people require welfare support, it is their responsibility to get in touch and provide Work and Income with information that allows them to assess a beneficiary’s need. Once that is complete, Work and Income can provide the assistance people are eligible for.”

This is the same minister who told  TVNZ’s Q+A, political reporter, Corin Dann, on 21 June;

DANN:

“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:

“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 the family whose child died of cold/damp related illness.

Make no mistake, the end purpose of seventythree forms, and having to re-apply every twelve months, is to cause frustration and dissuade people from re-applying for welfare benefits.

Ministers then trumpet “success” at a drop in welfare numbers.

The next time you see beggars on the streets with signs saying “no money, please give what you can” – they are most likely telling the truth. They are this government’s dirty little secret.

Addendum1

There is no official measure of poverty in New Zealand. The actual work to address poverty is perhaps what is most important.

Children move in and out of poverty on a daily basis.” – Paula Bennett, 16 August 2012

Addendum2

One of the more bizarre and ridiculous policies by the Ministry of Social Development is annual re-application forms sent to beneficiaries with permanent disabilities such as spina bifida.

For those who are not aware, spina bifida is a permanent, life-long condition. There is no cure.

MSD seems to believe that a miraculous recovery is possible, judging by the forms it sends every twelve months to people with spina bifida.

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jesus christ an the official from MSD

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References

Radio NZ: Thousands losing benefits due to paperwork

Fairfax media: Benefit numbers reach a six-year low

Radio NZ: Unemployment rises to 5.7 percent

Fairfax media: Number on benefits drops, reaction mixed

Fairfax media: 5000 beneficiaries quit dole rather than reapply

Fairfax media: Foreign house owner register downplayed

NZ Herald: Measuring poverty line not a priority – Bennett

TVNZ Q+A:  Interview with Anne Tolley

NZ Spina Bifida Org

Previous related blogposts

The law as a plaything

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

Bill English: When numbers don’t fit, or just jump around

WINZ, waste, and wonky numbers

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6a00d83451d75d69e20163022de8ed970d-450wi.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 12 July 2015.

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The Donghua Liu Affair: One Year On

15 July 2015 8 comments

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composite header - donghua Liu Affair - v2

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1. The Stage is Set

Just over one year ago, the NZ Herald published a series of stories relating to a then-eleven year old letter written by then-Labour leader, David Cunliffe; alleged “big donations” made to the Labour Party by migrant businssman, Donghua Liu; and other assorted (and somewhat dubious) allegations of “impropriety”.

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NZ Herald - Businessman gifts $150k to Labour Party - Donghua Liu - David Cunliffe - letter for immigration nz

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NZ Herald - Businessman gifts $150k to Labour Party - Donghua Liu - john armstrong - david cunliffe resignation

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NZ Herald - Businessman gifts $150k to Labour Party - Donghua Liu - David Cunliffe - $100,000 bottle wine

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A time-line of events is outlined here: The Donghua Liu Affair:  Damn lies, dirty tricks, and a docile media

Judging by the activities of the office of the Minister for Immigration; TV3 journalist, Brook Sabin; NZ Herald personnel Shayne Curry, Tim Murphy,  Jared Savage,  and John Armstrong;  blogger Cameron Slater, and assorted right-wingers, it is also evident that there was a high degree of collusion between these parties.

One day before the Herald launched it’s “exclusive” that David Cunliffe had written an eleven year old letter on behalf of Donghua Liu, right-wing blogger “Barnsley Bill” (Russell Beaumont) posted this cryptic comment on blog, ‘The Dim Post‘;

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barnsley bill - russell beaumont - donghua liu - nz herald - the dim post

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Hours before Jared Savage’s story (David Cunliffe wrote letter supporting Liu’s residency bid) went live on-line at 2.29PM, Twitter chatter between the Herald’s Editor, Shayne Currie, and sundry right-wing characters were gleefully anticipating the release;

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shayne-curry-twitter-nz-herald-donghua-liu-david-cunliffe-immigration-nz1

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Some Tweets have been deleted by their authors – but the screenshot above is a permanent record of  the conversation. (Acknowledgement to  co-writer, ‘Hercules’, for uncovering this part of the story.)

But the ‘clincher’ was this post, on far-right blog, ‘Whaleoil‘, published at 12.57PM – an hour and a half before the Herald published Savage’s story at 2.29PM;

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donghua liu - nz herald - whaleoil - cameron slater - jared savage - david cunliffe

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See full story revealed here: The Donghua Liu Affair: The Players Revealed

Even the Prime Minister could not resist chipping in with his own “nudge, nudge, wink, wink” reference to being privy to more information, as he stated the following morning (19 June) after Savage’s story went live. As Savage reported;

Speaking from the East Lawn at the United Nations this morning, Mr Key said he had heard rumours that Mr Liu had given more that $15,000.

“I’ve heard the rumours and we’ll see what actually comes out but I’d be very, very amazed if the amount is $15,000,” he told New Zealand reporters.

Key’s reference to “$15,000” related to allegations made by the Herald that Liu paid that amount for a book autographed by then-Labour leader, Helen Clark. On 16 June, Savage wrote;

But the Herald can reveal Liu, 53, also paid $15,000 at a Labour Party auction in 2007 for a book signed by Helen Clark, the Prime Minister at the time, according to a party source.

On 22 June, Herald journalist, Bevan Hurley, reported on the now-mythical $100,000 bottle of wine;

Millionaire businessman Donghua Liu spent more than $150,000 on the previous Labour government, including $100,000 on a bottle of wine signed by former prime minister Helen Clark at a party fundraiser.

The embarrassing revelations are contained in a signed statement from Liu, which the Herald on Sunday has obtained.

The Herald’s sole informant was migrant businessman, Donghua Liu. (More on this point later.)

2. Retractions

But only three days later, as Labour hit back demanding evidence of Liu’s claims and pressure mounted on the Herald to “put up or shut up”, a new, revised, statement appeared;

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NZ Herald - Donghua Liu's new statement on Labour donations - Donghua Liu - David Cunliffe - $100,000 bottle wine

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Savage wrote;

Liu, to whom Labour gave permanent residency against official advice, says his earlier signed statement on the wine auction was “capable of two meanings” and after repeated inquiries from the Herald he says he wants to clarify what he spent the $100,000 on.

[…]

He said the figure was the total payments to Labour and its politicians which included the wine auctions, a $2000 donation to the Hawkes Bay Rowing Club, the Yangtze River trip and anonymous donations to MPs.

“I have no reason to inflate this number. It’s as best as I can remember,” said Liu.

The Herald’s back-tracking continued when this editorial appeared on 27 June 2014;

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NZ Herald - Editorial - Cries of bias will not stop reporting - Donghua Liu - David Cunliffe - $100,000 bottle wine

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The editorial bluster continued until the un-named author came to the salient point;

“At the weekend, the Herald on Sunday reported from a signed statement by Liu in which he appeared to claim he spent $100,000 on wine at a Labour fundraiser and $50,000-$60,000 hosting former Labour MP Rick Barker in China. The paper verified the document was from Liu and put its claims to Mr Cunliffe and the Labour Party.

On Wednesday, Liu provided the Herald with another statement, after being pressed for more detail, in which he corrected his previous implication that $100,000 was paid for a bottle of wine and limited his total spend on Labour and its MPs when it was in power to “close to $100,000”.

The Herald immediately published his clarification, with prominence on our website, where it remains, and amended the Herald on Sunday story online. The Sunday paper will publish a clarification this weekend.

Liu’s mis-statement, however, has been grasped as proof of Herald complicity in a plot against Labour. The claim is risible, across the range of political coverage but also explicitly over the Herald’s investigation of National and Labour and their damaging cosiness with Donghua Liu.

We regret having reported inflated and conflated dollar figures.”

On-line public commentary following the editorial was scathing and in no mood to be mollified by this Clayton’s apology (if that is what it was intended to be). No wonder it was eventually closed down.

3. Press Council Complaint & Consequence

On 5 July 2014, I laid a complaint with the Press Council regarding the nature and content of the Herald stories.  The  complaint referred to several Herald articles omitting to mention Cunliffe’s letter being eleven years old; that no evidence had been presented to support Liu’s claim he had paid $15,000 for a book , nor $100,000 for a bottle of wine; that the Herald had not released the full text of Liu’s signed statement, and other examples of misreporting and lack of evidence.

(Full text of complaint here.)

On 21 August 2014,  the Press Council deliberations yielded it’s decision.

Despite the complaint against the Herald being dismissed by the Press Council (hardly a surprise), it is noteworthy that the Council did issue one admonishment against the paper;

We accept in part the criticism from both Mrs Lyons and Mr Macskasy regarding the reliance on information from Mr Liu only, including his signed statement. It can correctly be distinguished from the Cunliffe letter released under the Official Information Act. We do not consider there is any obligation on a newspaper to publish it in full. While they were entitled to rely on such a statement as part of the factual basis when reporting the paper failed to adhere to a basic tenet of journalism…the need to have confirmation from a second source.

(Full text of Decision here.)

In fact, the entire series of stories emanated from just one man: Donghua Liu. Not only was the businessman’s story uncorroborated, but the Herald was reluctantly forced to concede that several of Liu’s “facts” were simply incorrect.

There is also the strange involvement of Cameron Slater, Russell Beaumont, and other sundry assorted right-wing characters, who were party to the Herald’s story.

On top of which was the even stranger fact that the Herald’s OIA request (made by Jared Savage on 16 June 2014) into Donghua Liu’s immigration was processed within 48 hours – a feat unheard of when it comes to Official Information requests.

(Full text of Immigration NZ letter here. Full story here.)

4. The Herald’s Promises of  more “evidence” and “details” to come

Part of the Herald’s defence was that the Donghua Liu investigation was on-going and more revelations were to follow. The following comments by the Herald’s then-editor-in-chief promised the following;

Tim Murphy, email to Frank Macskasy, 27 June 2014

“We are continuing to investigate the payments from Donghua Liu and the circumstances of his various migration approvals.”

Tim Murphy, email to Frank Macskasy,  4 July 2014

“We fully expect further details to come will show the  Herald’s earlier reporting to have, as we have known throughout, been accurate and soundly based.”

Murphy made similar commitments to the NZ press Council as part of their defence against complaints in the handling of Dongthua Liu’s allegations;

Tim Murphy, email, 7 July 2014 & NZ Herald statement to NZ Press Council, 15 July 2014;

“We stand by our report that a book was purchased and expect further ‘evidence’ of this to be made public shortly.”

Tim Murphy, ibid

“You seem to have accepted without question MP Rick Barker’s claim he attended only a staff party in China.  We do not accept this and expect further details of the hospitality for him and others in China to be revealed in due course.”

To date, no further evidence, nor details, have been forth-coming.

I wrote to Shayne Currie, the Herald’s recently-appointed editor, asking;

It is now one year on from the Donghua Liu Affair, which ranged from 18 June 2014, to 27 June 2014, when  several allegations were made regarding David Cunliffe, Rick Barker, and the NZ Labour Party.

At least one of those allegations (a so-called “$100,000 bottle of wine”) was retracted by your paper. Another allegation, of a so-called “$15,000 book signed by Helen Clark”, was never proven.
Two complaints to the NZ Press Council were, for the most part, not upheld, though your paper was roundly criticised for sole reliance on only one source (Donghua Liu), and not confirmed from a second source. The Press Council stated in it’s findings that this was a failure of a basic tenet of journalism.
On several occassions, the then-editor of the Herald, Tim Murphy,  stated that the investigation into this story was on-going and expected further details and evidence to emerge.
I refer you to statements made by Murphy;
[See statements above by Tim Murphy]
As it has now been exactly one year since the Donghua Liu Affair, are you able to advise me as to what further “details” and “evidence” the Herald’s “continuing investigations” have uncovered?
I will be seeking comment from other ‘players’ in this story, and felt it fair that I seek your comments as well, to present some degree of balance.
I will be happy to present any comment you wish to make, verbatim.

As this story is published, Currie has not replied to my emailed questions.

5. A response from Labour’s Mike Williams

Former Labour Party President, Mike Williams, was more forthcoming when I questioned him on the Donghua Liu Affair. On 8 July, Williams told me;

“I was incensed by this. Because if the Labour Party had picked up $150,000 I would’ve known about it.”

This was all founded on bullshit. There were no donations from Donghua Liu. Not a cent.”

Williams was scathing of the manner of the Herald’s reporting of Donghua Liu’s claims;

“This story was just total bullshit, it was front page bullshit. They kind of withdrew from it, but it did damage the Labour Party at a time when it didn’t need much damage.

There’s gotta be a withdrawal or apology, I would have thought.”

6A. Conclusion

In a previous chapter of the Donghua Liu Affair (The OIA Gambit), ‘Hercules’ and I wrote;

What appears to be an orchestrated  Beehive plot to dig dirt for throwing at Labour leader, David Cunliffe, ahead of a crucial parliamentary debate is revealed in a paper trail linking Immigration Minister, Michael Woodhouse, and the Parliamentary Press Gallery offices of the New Zealand Herald and TV3.

Hatched in National’s anticipation of a hammering in a debate on Wednesday 18 June (note the date) prompted by the resignation of ACT leader, John Banks, the plot was pivotal on having Cunliffe first deny helping Auckland businessman Donghua Liu with his residency application – before producing an eleven-year-old letter from Immigration’s files as proof that the Opposition leader was either a liar or had suffered serious brain fade.

On its own, the letter was innocuous…

…What is certain is that the real reason for the urgent 48-hour response to the OIA requests was to ensure that the Cunliffe letter was in the public domain by midday on Wednesday 18 June.

The same day that the government was facing a torrid questioning by the Opposition after the conviction and resignation of ACT MP, John Banks. A government that desperately needed a credible diversion. Relying on another beneficiary-bashing story from Paula Bennett was simply not tenable.

This was the a Dirty Trick of the highest order, involving an eleven year old letter; complicit media looking for another  easy sensational news story; Ministers with connections to right wing bloggers; and journalists who run with the pack instead of asking questions that might yield real answers.

As they say in law enforcement circles; Motive. Means. Opportunity.

The government had all three.

This was the real story behind the Donghua Liu Affair.

However, there is more to it than that.

The motivation of the National government to smear and destroy David Cunliffe’s credibility is fairly obvious. With National facing an election later that year (2014), a resurgent Labour Party led by a new leader was the last thing they needed.

But there were two other players in this Affair…

6B. Donghua Liu

As I wrote in a previous chapter on this Affair (The impending final act and curtain-fall in this smear-campaign), the Herald came into possession of the first of two statements by Donghua Liu (neither of which have ever been released publicly, despite ongoing demands for transparency);

The date on Liu’s “signed statement” – 3 May – was only two days after Maurice Williamson’s enforced resignation after being found out attempting to influence a police investigation into Liu’s assault on two women.

The close timing of Williamson’s resignation and the date on Liu’s “signed statement” was a critical mistake on the part of those responsible for this smear campaign. It ties the two events together. I believe Key’s senior media strategist, Jason Ede, and right-wing blogger, Cameron Slater were probably involved.

The motive for the smear campaign was an act of utu, in retaliation for Labour prosecuting revelations against Maurice Williamson.

Interestingly, the Herald political reporter who wrote the Donghua Liu stories made a passing reference to Maurice Williamson as well, in an email to me dated 17 July, last year;

It all started with queries about his citizenship while the Nats were in power, against advice, specifically after Maurice Williamson writing an email in support in 2010…it eventually led to Mr Williamson’s resignation as a Minister for intervening in a police matter and the discovery that Liu was also lobbying Immigration Minister Woodhouse to change policy. –  Jared Savage, email, Thu, Jul 17, 2014 at 11:27 PM

From several media reports, it seemed clear that the relationship between Donghua Liu and Maurice Williamson was more than just a formal MP-Constituent relationship. They appeared to be good friends;

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Liu, who has close ties with the minister, was arrested in December last year following a domestic violence incident…  He had previously lobbied his colleagues to grant Liu citizenship against official advice. Liu’s citizenship was approved in 2010 by then Internal Affairs Minister Nathan Guy. He later made a $22,000 donation to the National Party. TV3, 1 May 2014

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National MP Maurice Williamson lobbied a ministerial colleague to give New Zealand citizenship “as fast as possible” to a wealthy businessman – then conducted the ceremony himself the day after citizenship was granted against the recommendation of officials.The urgent VIP ceremony, believed to have taken place in Mr Williamson’s electoral office, is another close link between the former Minister and millionaire property developer Donghua Liu, who has donated $22,000 to the National Party previously. – NZ Herald, 1 May 2014

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He [Maurice Williamson] later revealed that Liu owned a bach next to his family’s house at Pauanui, and the MP had used the property and performed minor repair work on the house when Liu was in China.“I’m a fan of being a handyman and the house was good to be able to use while we were doing it,” he told Campbell Live.Mr Williamson recommended the neighbouring holiday home to Liu when it went on the market.  He also said he had eaten dinner with Liu as part of a group five or six times. – Otago Daily Times, 2 May 2014

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When Williamson resigned his ministerial portfolio on 1 May 2014,  Donghua Liu no doubt noticed his friend’s misfortune, and conveniently  supplied his statement to the NZ Herald three days later.

Donghua Liu could not have been too happy at the downfall of his ‘mate’, and was eager to exact revenge against the Labour leader, David Cunliffe.

One of the few remaining questions is; who put him (Liu) up to it? Who could have prompted a migrant businessman, with poor command of the english language, to make a formal statement, and ensure it made it’s way to the Herald’s offices?

It had to be someone well-connected with the National government; who had experience with ‘dirty tricks’; links with media; and who has/had a working relationship with right-wing blogger, Cameron Slater (who, don’t forget, published Jared Savage’s Donghua Liu story on Whaleoil one and a half hours before it appeared on the Herald’s own website!).

I think we all know who fits that ‘job description‘.

6C. NZ Herald

If, as evidence indicates, the Donghua Liu story was a cunningly concocted smear-campaign run by the National Party to discredit David Cunliffe, they needed someone – a willing ‘patsy’ –  to make the allegations of “hidden donations”. That man was Donghua Liu, loyal friend of disgraced Minister, Maurice Williamson.

They also needed a compliant media outlet who could be ‘tipped’ off about Cunliffe’s 2003 letter on behalf of Donghua Liu. That media outlet would be the NZ Herald. More specifically, Jared Savage, who has admitted to regular contact with right-wing blogger, Cameron Slater.

How did Herald Reporter, Jared Savage, know to lodge an OIA request on 16 June 2014 with Immigration Minister Woodhouse’s office, seeking, “Any correspondence, including emails, letters or queries, from any Members of Parliament in regards to Donghua Liu’s immigration status prior to 2005″.

Why was Savage’s OIA request granted within 48 hours – a feat unheard off when it come to this government responding to OIA requests by journalists, bloggers, members of the public, etc. (See:  The OIA Gambit)?

Was the Herald knowingly complicit in a smear campaign against David Cunliffe?

This blogger thinks not.

In which case, what was the Herald’s involvement?

Simply put, National’s “black ops” team  manufactured a story against Cunliffe using a twelve year old letter, and a bogus statement (note; it was not a signed, witnessed affidavit, which has greater legal standing than simply a signed statement) by a friend of Maurice Williamson – Donghua Liu.

Through Jared Savage, the Herald was offered an “exclusive”,  despite having no corroborating evidence nor a second source to back up Liu’s claims – a fact pointed out by the Press Council as a critical mistake. Remember that the NZ Press Council, in it’s decision (see:  The Press Council’s decision) on complaints laid against the Herald, stated;

While they were entitled to rely on such a statement [from Liu] as part of the factual basis when reporting the paper failed to adhere to a basic tenet of journalism…the need to have confirmation from a second source.

There could be no “second source”. Because it was all a concocted lie.

Whether or not the Herald’s editor at the time (Tim Murphy), Shayne Currie, or Jared Savage suspected that the Donghua Liu story was a pack of lies is moot.

What is indisputable is that the Herald was handed – on a plate – an exclusive story that ultimately aided in the destruction of David Cunliffe’s political career.

For the NZ Herald, that was the “pay off”; an exclusive story. They were not going to turn away from such a sensational story – especially when a competitor such as TV3 could run with it.

Shayne Currie and Tim Murphy may have been aware that Liu’s claims were bogus, but they were willing to sacrifice their journalistic integrity to throw caution to the wintry winds of Wellington’s politics and run with it anyway.

The fact that the Herald’s current editor, Shayne Currie, has not made any form of reply to my email indicates that the Donghua Liu Affair  is a story that they would rather quietly ‘went away’.

It is a unusual when a media outlet will not defend it’s own and one has to ask the obvious question – why?

Because the Donghua Liu Affair, as reported by the Herald in June and July last year, was a fabrication from beginning to end.

Otherwise, where is the new ‘evidence’ and ‘details’ promised by then-editor, Tim Murphy? Like Liu’s claims, Murphy’s promises were empty.

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Addendum1

Tim Murphy was given an opportunity to answer questions relating to the Donghua Liu Affair. A near-identical email to the one sent to Shayne Currie has not been responded to.

Addendum2

On 16 June this year – nearly the exact anniversary of the Herald publishing it’s first Donghua Liu story on 18 June 2014 – all domestic violence charges were dropped against Mr Liu.

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References

NZ Herald: David Cunliffe wrote letter supporting Liu’s residency bid

NZ Herald: John Armstrong: Cunliffe’s resignation may be in order

NZ Herald: Businessman gifts $150k to Labour Party

The Dim Post: June Polls – Barnsley Bill

Twitter: Shayne Currie @ShayneCurrieNZH

Whaleoil: BREAKING – David Cunliffe’s career, such as it was, is over [ UPDATED ]

NZ Herald: Key on Liu-Labour Link – More to come

NZ Herald: Under-fire donor gave to Labour too

NZ Herald: Donghua Liu’s new statement on Labour donations

TV3: Maurice Williamson resigns as minister

NZ Herald: Maurice Williamson conducted citizenship ceremony himself

Otago Daily Times: Williamson used Liu’s holiday home

NZ Herald: Editorial – Ministers and immigration shouldn’t mix

Fairfax media: Jason Ede still has Beehive access

NZ Herald: Jason Ede resigns from the National Party after Dirty Politics scandal

NZ Herald: Collins resigns – Jared Savage and Fran O’Sullivan respond

NZ Herald: Domestic violence charges against millionaire businessman dropped

Previous related blogposts

The Donghua Liu Affair:  Damn lies, dirty tricks, and a docile media

The Donghua Liu Affair threatens to unravel – PM and NZ Herald caught up in a dirty trick campaign?

The Donghua Liu Affair: the impending final act and curtain-fall in this smear-campaign

The Donghua Liu Affair: The first step to a complaint to the Press Council

The Donghua Liu Affair: responses from NZ Herald and Prime Minister’s Office – Is the PM’s office fudging?

The Donghua Liu Affair: Evidence of Collusion between the NZ Herald and Immigration NZ?

The Donghua Liu Affair: the Press Council’s decision

The Donghua Liu Affair: The OIA Gambit

The Donghua Liu Affair:  The Players Revealed

The Donghua Liu Affair: One Year On

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Dirt Unit.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 10 July 2015.

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Letter to the editor – a Tale of Two Referenda

14 July 2015 1 comment

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Listener <letters@listener.co.nz>
date: Sun, Jul 12, 2015
subject: Letter to the editor

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The Editor
The Listener

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I find it ironic that John Key has invested so much of his time, effort, and tax-payer’s money in the up-coming flag referendum.

On 29 October last year, Key defended the $29 million price tag of the referendum;

“In the end you have to say, what price do you put on democracy where people can genuinely have their say on a matter that is actually important? … This is a cost essentially of one of the values that New Zealanders would want to test.

Yes, it’s a one-off cost, but my view would be that if the flag doesn’t change as a result of this referendum process, then it won’t be changing for a good 50 to 100 years, so this is a cost we have to bear.” (NZ Herald, ‘John Key defends cost of flag referendums’)

This is is stark contrast to Key’s dismissive attitude toward the $9 million asset-sales referendum, held in September 2013, which he labelled frivolous;

“It’s a complete and utter waste of money because it’s just about sending a message.” (Otago Daily Times, ‘Asset sales referendum ‘waste of money’)

On 14 December 2014, he was even more blunt about the asset-sales referendum;

“Overall what it basically shows, it was pretty much a political stunt.” (Fairfax media, ‘Asset sales programme to continue: Key’)

Key has staked his political reputation on a referendum which seemingly few New Zealanders want, nor care about. Spending $29 million on the flag referendum will be three times what was spent deciding the future of publicly owned, multi-billion-dollar assets.

Key showed a casual, dismissive arrogance to the asset sales referendum – but now expects the public to take his own pet project seriously?!

No, Prime Minister, that is not how it works.

We will take your silly little flag referendum more seriously when you start to show respect to other public concerns.

Until then, your referendum is little more than an ego-driven joke, and I suspect most New Zealanders will be dismissive toward it.

“Political stunt”, indeed.

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-Frank Macskasy

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[address and phone number supplied]

 

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References

NZ Herald: John Key defends cost of flag referendums

Otago Daily Times: Asset sales referendum ‘waste of money’

Fairfax media: Asset sales programme to continue – Key


 

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From a story last year, predicting rocky-times for our “Rock Star” economy…

From an article from the US-based Forbes.Com, published April last year…

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forbes.com-logo-vector

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12 Reasons Why New Zealand’s Economic Bubble Will End In Disaster

– Jesse Colombo, 17 April 2014

New Zealand’s economy has been hailed as one of world’s top safe-haven economies in recent years after it emerged from Global Financial Crisis relatively unscathed. Unfortunately, my research has found that many of today’s so-called safe-havens (such as Singapore) are experiencing economic bubbles that are strikingly similar to those that led to the financial crisis in the first place.

Though I will be writing a lengthy report about New Zealand’s economic bubble in the near future, I wanted to use this column to outline key points that are helpful for those who are looking for a concise explanation of this bubble.

Here are the reasons why I believe that New Zealand’s economy is heading for a crisis:

1) Interest rates have been at all-time lows for almost a half-decade

Ultra-low interest rate environments are notorious for fueling credit and housing bubbles, which is how the U.S. housing and credit bubble inflated last decade. New Zealand’s interest rates have been at record lows for nearly five years, which is more than enough time for economic bubbles and related imbalances to form.

Here is the chart of New Zealand’s benchmark interest rate:

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nz interest rates

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Source: TradingEconomics.com

New Zealand’s three-month interbank rate, base lending rate, and 10 year government bond yield are also at or near all-time lows. Like many countries that are experiencing bubbles in recent years, New Zealand’s low interest rates are a byproduct of global “hot money” flows from the United States and Japan, which have both had zero interest rates and quantitative easing programs to boost their economies after the Global Financial Crisis.

Low interest rates in the U.S. and Japan encouraged capital to flow into higher yielding investments in countries such as New Zealand, which led to reduced bond yields and an 85 percent increase in the value of the New Zealand dollar against the U.S. dollar since 2009. To combat the export-harming currency appreciation and bolster the economy during the financial crisis, New Zealand’s central bank reduced its short-term interest rates to all-time lows.

2) Property prices have doubled since 2004

Following the pattern of many nations outside of the hard-hit U.S., peripheral Europe, and Japan, New Zealand’s housing prices have doubled in the past decade, forming a property bubble:

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house price change -  media house price - nz

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Source: Global Property Guide

3) New Zealand has the world’s third most overvalued property market

The doubling of New Zealand’s housing prices in the past decade far surpassed household income and rent growth, making the country’s property market the third most overvalued in the world. New Zealand’s home price-to-rent ratio is 77 percent above its historic average and its home price-to-income ratio is 26 percent above its historic average.

4) New Zealand’s mortgage bubble grew by 165% since 2002

New Zealand’s housing bubble is driven by a mortgage bubble that grew from approximately NZD $70 billion in 2002 to NZD $186 billion in 2013 – a 165 percent increase in a little over a decade. New Zealand’s mortgage debt bubble grew at a faster rate than its economy during this time, causing the country’s total outstanding mortgage debt-to-GDP ratio to rise from approximately 57 percent to 85 percent.

5) Nearly half of mortgages have floating interest rates

New Zealand’s ultra-low interest rate environment has encouraged the country’s home buyers to make many of the same mistakes that the American home buyers did during last decade’s bubble. One of the gravest of these mistakes is using adjustable or floating rate mortgages, which will reset at higher interest rates when the low interest rate environment ultimately ends.

Almost half of New Zealand’s outstanding mortgages currently have floating interest rates, which is up significantly in the past decade:

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composition of outstanding mortgages nz

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Chart source: MacroBusiness

6) Mortgages account for 60% of banks’ loan portfolios

As if the fact that almost half of New Zealand’s mortgages have floating rates isn’t scary enough, mortgages now account for 60 percent of the country’s banks’ loan portfolios, which means that the financial sector is heavily exposed to the eventual popping of the housing bubble.

7) Finance, not agriculture, is New Zealand’s largest industry

Though New Zealand is commonly thought to be an agriculture-based economy, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Agriculture accounts for only 5.1 percent of New Zealand’s GDP, while the finance, insurance and business services sector is the country’s largest sector, contributing 28.8 percent to the GDP. Furthermore, banks account for 80 percent of the total assets of New Zealand’s financial system. Not only is New Zealand’s banking system dangerously exposed to the country’s property and credit bubble, but so is the entire economy.

8) New Zealand’s banks are exposed to Australia’s bubble

New Zealand’s banking system is dominated by four banks that are Australian-owned subsidiaries, which means that New Zealand’s banking system is exposed to the inevitable popping of Australia’s credit and property bubble. Australia’s household debt-to-income ratio recently rose to 177 percent from approximately 110 percent in the year 2000, while housing prices increased 150 percent in nominal terms and 85 percent in real terms. Australia’s housing market is now the world’s fifth most overvalued housing market.

9) Australian and Chinese buyers are inflating the property bubble

An influx of foreign home buyers in recent years has contributed to the inflation of New Zealand’s housing bubble. Australians and Chinese – who both hail from countries that are experiencing bubbles – account for 42 percent of these foreign buyers, which means that the false prosperity booms in Australia and China are spilling over into New Zealand’s housing market.

Here are a few statistics about China economic bubble:

  • China’s total domestic credit more than doubled to $23 trillion from $9 trillion in 2008, which is equivalent to adding the entire U.S. commercial banking sector.
  • Borrowing has risen as a share of China’s national income to more than 200 percent, from 135 percent in 2008.
  • China’s credit growth rate is now faster than Japan’s before its 1990 bust and America’s before 2008, with half of that growth in the shadow-banking sector.

(Note: Both New Zealand and Australia are also exposed to the coming popping of China’s economic bubble because their economies rely heavily on exports to China.)

10) New Zealand has a household debt problem

New Zealand has the fourth worst household debt-to-GDP ratio among advanced economies, surpassing even the United States:

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household debt to GDP in avanced countries 2012

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Source: Reserve Bank of New Zealand

New Zealand’s household debt-to-disposable income ratio soared from 100 percent in the early-2000s to just under 150 percent in recent years thanks in large part to the country’s mortgage bubble. New Zealand’s ultra-low interest rates have prevented its large household debt from becoming an even greater problem, but this situation can change dramatically when interest rates eventually rise again.

11) Government overseas debt has nearly tripled since 2008

New Zealand’s government took advantage of the plunging yields on its bonds (which is courtesy of the global QE and ZIRP-driven bond bubble) after the Global Financial Crisis to nearly triple its overseas borrowing:

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new zealand government overseas debt 1993 to 2012

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Source: Wikipedia; RBNZ

The global bond bubble has provided New Zealand’s government with a low-cost borrowing opportunity that is unlikely to be replicated anytime soon, especially now that the U.S. Federal Reserve is slated to completely taper or end its QE3 bond buying program this year.

12) The New Zealand dollar is overvalued

Hot money inflows (a byproduct of QE and zero interest rate policies) into New Zealand after the financial crisis helped the New Zealand dollar to strengthen by 85 percent against the U.S. dollar:

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new zealand united states dollar

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Source: XE.com

After its strong appreciation against both the U.S. and Australian dollars over the past decade, the New Zealand dollar is now overvalued by as much as 20 percent according to some estimates. New Zealand’s Finance Minister Bill English stated in February that the overvalued dollar is “a concern” because it risks harming the country’s exporters. If the New Zealand dollar’s overvaluation was to abruptly correct and even overshoot to the downside (a possible result of the Fed’s taper), New Zealand’s central bank may be forced to hike its key interest rate to prevent further declines.

How New Zealand’s Economic Bubble Will Pop

New Zealand’s economic bubble will likely pop as a result of rising interest rates across the yield curve, which would put pressure on the country’s property and credit bubbles. New Zealand’s key interest rate is expected to continue rising after its March hike due to rising domestic inflationary pressures, while longer-term bond yields are likely to rise as a side-effect of the Fed’s taper and eventual Fed Funds rate increase. The popping of Australia and China’s bubbles are two other external factors that have a high probability of contributing to the popping of New Zealand’s bubble.

Here is what to expect when New Zealand’s economic bubble truly pops:

  • The property bubble will pop
  • Banks will experience losses on their mortgage portfolios
  • The country’s credit boom will turn into a bust
  • Over-leveraged consumers will default on their debts
  • Stock and bond prices will fall; the New Zealand dollar may weaken
  • Economic growth will go into reverse
  • Unemployment will rise

I will be publishing a full comprehensive report about New Zealand’s economic bubble in the near future, so please follow the directions below to receive my updates.

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Mr Colombo seems to have a better insight into our economy than our own ex-Investment Banker and current  Prime Minister, and current Finance Minister.

Perhaps Mr Colombo might like a new job?

 

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An open letter to Pebbles Hooper…

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Pebbles Hooper resigns from Herald roles

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Ok, you’ve done the right thing… for now.

In a part of my mind, I *shock, horror* have a small degree of wistful sympathy for you, Ms Hooper. (No, not for what you’ve said – that was repugnant beyond belief.)

My sympathy is based on the premise of youthful stupidity.

I’ve had my own “youthful indiscretion” which caught up with me a few years ago.

I didn’t do hard drugs (the occassional toke was about the extent of my venturing into the realm of illicit substances).

I binge-drank until a final event around Christmas 1985 made me do some very fast growing up. (No, not drunk driving – that is one taboo I’ve had the common sense never to attempt.)

I could do stuff with my little Mini 1100 that was later featured in the cult movie, ‘Goodbye Pork Pie’. (Hey, I was in my early twenties – and young people are indestructible to Kryptonian-level, as we believed ourselves to be.)

I was a cad with women. (Though I loved and lost a few in the process.)

It wasn’t until my late twenties, with the anchoring of a good woman who came into my life, that I began to settle down, mature, and realise that just ‘cos I could do or say a thing, didn’t necessary mean it was automatically a Good Idea.

My politics changed with me as I matured into my thirties. My views softened. The world was not so much black and white,, as 99% shades of grey, with a sprinkling of other rainbow colours…

I associated with other people. More mature people. A wider cross-section of humanity.

In short, it took a while, but I grew up. (Most of the time.)

Ms Hooper, your life is ahead of you and whilst you have made a horrendous mistake that will be long remembered, you can (and hopefully will) learn from this experience.

Lesson 1: How would I feel if I were in that person’s position. Think deeply about that. It’s called empathy.

Lesson 2: Just because you can say a Thing, doesn’t mean you should. Yes, free speech exists – but others can use that same right to free speech to express their thoughts and feelings. And the feedback you get may not be pleasant. Free speech cuts both ways.

Lesson 3: Your coffee may be black or white, but the human condition is not. Ms Hooper, you may not understand this now. But you will by the time you are  50 or 60. One hopes.

Lesson 4: Shit happens. (No, I don’t like that cliche either.) In other words, people make mistakes. Only gods, cyborgs, supermen, and superwomen do not. I suspect you are none of these, so you yourself may make the odd mistake now and then. Just like you did yesterday, on Twitter. Think twice; thrice; more times, before passing judgement. Remember, that judgementalism cuts both ways, Ms Hooper.

Lesson 5: More like advice. You should surround herself with other, more diverse people. Those with the same mind-set as yours may not be good for your personal growth.

Just as when I was a pratty, right-wing, know-it-all, teenager, who could easily have been a member of ACT On Campus – I associated with a young chap who made me question my assumptions; Mark Davies, the son of trade unionist, Sonja Davies.

Mark was a communist (Soviet-aligned); staunch trade unionist; and anti-American, and we had the most heated, passionate arguments. Boy, he made me think. (I was grief-stricken when Sonja told me, many years later, that Mark had been killed in an industrial workplace accident.)

This will pass, Ms Hooper. But it depends what you do with this ‘stumble’ in your life, that makes it worthwhile as a learning experience.

I hope you make the most of it.

 

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Poor people – let them eat cake; grow veges; not breed; and other parroted right wing cliches… (part rua)

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260,000 kiwi kids live in poverty

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When the so-called “reforms” of Roger Douglas – lovingly referred to as  “rogernomics” – swept the country; privatising publicly owned assets; cutting state services; introducing user-pays; down-sizing the state sector; closing post offices in small towns and large cities; and witnessing the wide-spread creation of Food Banks for the first time since The Great Depression, we were told that the restructuring of our economy would pay off with a higher standard of living.

Instead, we ended up with this;

It is not only the government’s figures that reveal alarming levels of poverty. On top of the surge in demand for Income  Support grants is an explosion in food bank usage. Food banks have been described as the most visible face  of poverty in New Zealand. They are the only banks we now own. Only a few food banks existed before National’s election in 1990 on the hollow promise of a ‘Decent Society’. The first food bank in Auckland appeared in 1980, although researcher Adrian Whale noted in a 1993 thesis that throughout the 1980s, food banks were ‘predominantly small scale appendages to welfare services offered by city missions and other voluntary organisations’. But in the early 1990s, food banks established a ‘significant presence among the range of welfare providers in the community’. At least 70 percent of food requests to the Salvation Army  in 1992 were to support families with children. Figures from Presbyterian Support Services show that the number of food banks in the Auckland metropolitan area grew from 16 in 1980 to 130 in 1994.” – Mike Moore, “Children of the Poor”, 1996

Ten years ago, the Child Poverty Action Group reported;

Nationally, the number of foodbanks exploded following the 1991 benefit cuts, and the passage of the Employment Contracts Act (ECA). For those in already low-paid and casual jobs, the ECA resulted in even lower wages (McLaughlin, 1998), a situation exacerbated by the high unemployment of the early 1990s (11% in 1991). The benefit cuts left many with debts, and little money to buy food (Downtown Community Ministry, 1999). In 1992 the introduction of market rents for state houses dealt another blow to state tenants on low incomes. By 1994 it was estimated that there were about 365 foodbanks nationally, one-fifth of which had been set up in the previous year (Downtown Community Ministry, 1999).” – “Hard to swallow – Foodbank Usage in NZ”, Child Poverty Action Group, 2005

In December, last year, the Waikato Times published a story on the growing need for foodbanks in their community. One particular comment stood out;

Humphry has worked with the Christian Combined foodbank for “so many years I can’t remember when I started”, but remembers when it opened in 1998.

“I can’t remember who the prime minister was at the time, but someone [from the prime minister’s office] came and opened the foodbank [in Hamilton] and I remember he said, ‘This will only be a short-term thing, people will only need the foodbank for a few months’.”

If the free market “reforms” of the 1980s and 1990s were such a success, one has to ask the obvious question; why do food banks still exist?

Mike Moore was correct when he pointed out nearly twenty years ago; “Food banks have been described as the most visible face  of poverty in New Zealand.

New Zealand’s poverty – like our domestic violence and child abuse – is best done privately, behind closed doors, and out of sight. The middle classes get queasy at the sight of poverty.

Little wonder that when Bryan Bruce’s sobering documentary, Inside NZ: Child Poverty was broadcast in November 2011, it raised a howl of furious indignation (mostly from the Right) that the election had been “politicised”.

Bryan Bruce reminded us just how far we had come, in the last few decades;

I’m a baby boomer. I went to primary school in the late 50’s when they gave us free milk, free health care and a free education. In those days, Kiwi’s were able to boast that New Zealand was a great place to bring up kids. So when I learned that we’d dropped to number 28 on the list of 30 OECD countries for child well being, with just Mexico and Turkey behind us, I decided to find out what’s gone wrong and what we have to do to fix it.”

Someone in history (the actual utterer remains uncertain) once said of the poor who could not afford to buy bread;

“Let them eat cake.”

Today, in 21st Century New Zealand, it is more like;

“Let them drink coke.”

It certainly is cheaper, as my trip to a local supermarket on 29 June demonstrated;

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Pak n Save (1)

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One of the most common moralistic exhortations by the Right is that the poor should be able to feed themselves and their families. They just need to “budget more prudently”.

Well, at 95 cents per 1.5L bottle of soft-drink, the poor have a much cheaper alternative than the more pricey (and healthier) option of milk.

It’s just a shame it will probably kill them through obesity-related diseases.

Is this what Roger Douglas really intended for his country, back in 1984?

There are six policy reforms which, if carried out, would go a long way to reversing the ingrained poverty caused by forty years of a failed free-market experiment;

1. Reverse the 1991 benefit cuts. This would allow the poorest families in New Zealand to at the very least buy milk instead of teeth-rotting soft-drinks, and turn the heaters on in winter.

2. Take GST of basic foods – fruit, vegetables, bread, milk, meat, fish, et al.

3. Raise the minimum wage to the Living Wage ($19.25/hr). The increase in take-home pay would be a boon to low-income families, as well as benefitting businesses throughout the country, as expenditure increased. As business turn-over increased; they would hire more people; leading to less paid in welfare, and more paid to the State in PAYE tax (helping Bill English finally balance those pesky fiscal books).

4. Implement Hone Harawira’s ‘Food in Schools’ Bill immediatly. Well-fed children learn better; succeed better; and contribute to society much better.  If our Scandinavian cuzzies can do it, so can we.

5. Build more State houses, and stop flogging them off to every Tom, Dick, and Harriet who comes knocking on Bill English’s door.

6. Free healthcare for all children 13 and under.

Can we do it?

Of course we can. If we can implement radical policies that changed New Zealand from a Fortress Economy (ex Muldoon) to one of the planet’s most open economies (ex Douglas) – then we can implement social policies that will make us a better, fairer, safer country.

Because it’s the right thing to do.

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References

Amazon: Children of the poor – How poverty could destroy New Zealand’s future

Child Poverty Action Group: Hard to swallow: Foodbank use in New Zealand

Waikato Times: Big demand puts pressure on foodbank

TV3: Inside Child Poverty – A Special Report

Additional

J R McKenzie Trust:  Child Poverty Monitor

NZ Council of Christian Social Services: Facts about poverty in New Zealand

Previous related blogposts

Can we afford to have “a chat on food in schools”?

National dragged kicking and screaming to the breakfast table

Are we being milked? asks Minister

High milk prices? Well, now we know why

Poor people – let them eat cake; grow veges; not breed; and other parroted right wing cliches

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 30 June 2015.

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Hire a teenager, while they know everything

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'Don't just give me worksheets' - pupil suspended over scathing speech about her teachers

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Anela Pritchard’s education couldn’t be as bad as she thinks. After all, she managed to put together an essay that attracted a reaction from her school and nation-wide media coverage.

All in all, she must’ve picked up something from her decade long experience in the education system.

Or does she think her knowledge was absorbed, in utero, when her mother was reading school text-books?

The real problem here is that the school should not have reacted in the way it did. Instead, it could have been a valuable tool to further the girl’s education.

Firstly, her comments should have been used to spark debate and discussion of the role of teachers in our society. This could have really engaged kids in a major way.

Secondly, the difference between an engaged Citizen and a dumbed-down Consumer could have been touched upon. Filling out tax forms is not nearly as important as knowing why taxation is paid and how taxation pays for services New Zealanders take so much for granted.

And lastly, Anela’s education should have been broadened by having her run a few classes and experiencing first hand what it’s like to stand in front of thirty-plus teenagers who all share in common the belief that they know everything.

The old maxim, “Hire a teenager, while they know everything”, was born for good reason;

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google - hire a teenager while they know everything

 

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I recall some of my views when I was 15, and I shudder at some of the comments I put into the public arena through my first letters-to-the-editor. Those horrendously naive polemics shall remain forever buried in the dusty vaults of Fairfax, I hope.

As for the media – I’m not surprised they seized on this as a “story”. It fits their dumbed-down, superficial news perfectly.

As for Anela – she’s a bright kid (from what I saw on TV1 last night) and she will go far.

But she has a massive amount of life-experience to get under her belt first before she gains wisdom to match her intellect. Hopefully she doesn’t become a rabid anti-teacher ACT supporter.

Isn’t that what being a teen is about; the journey from naive childhood to wiser (hopefully) adult?

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References

TVNZ:  ‘Don’t just give me worksheets’ – pupil suspended over scathing speech about her teachers

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Categories: Social Issues Tags: ,

Letter to the editor – a new angle in the flag debate

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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: Wed, Jul 1, 2015
subject: Letter to the editor

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The Editor
NZ Herald

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Considering that, with the rise of globalisation and trans-national corporates able to sue sovereign governments in secret Investor-State Dispute tribunals – as in the TPPA – I’m surprised Key wants a flag at all.

 

If we are one global marketplace and borders no longer exist, then for proponants of the free market, flags are redundant. Nationhood has been consigned to history. Only the Consumer and Shareholder matter, in this Brave New Commercial World.

 

So really, why not spend that $26 million on something that really matters? Maybe a huge statue of John Key, standing astride the entrance to Auckland harbour, beckoning welcome to visiting freighters bearing consumer goods. The government could even build apartments within the frame, thereby addressing the city’s housing crisis.

 

Crazy idea? No more crazy than an expensive referendum that very few people really want.

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-Frank Macskasy

 

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[Address and phone number supplied]

 

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Poor people – let them eat cake; grow veges; not breed; and other parroted right wing cliches…

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child poverty graph 1982-2012

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One of the most constant cliches spouted by the naive; the well-meaning; and down-right simple-minded Right, is that the poor should be able to supplement their income by growing their own food.

This tenants in this house, located  in one of Wellington’s inner suburbs, grew their own vegetables and raised chickens. The planter-boxes were well-tended, and were well-filled with a variety of vegetables.

One day, a couple of months ago, I noticed that the furniture in the house was gone and the sound of the chooks was no longer evident.

This is what the once well-tended vege-garden looks like now;

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poverty - untended vegetable garden

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Weeds have become the dominant plants in the garden;

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empty house and gardens (2)

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Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well- warmed, and well-fed.”

So said Herman Melville, author of ‘Moby Dick‘.

Lecturing the poor to grow their own food becomes a fatuous  exercise when the poor generally do not own their own homes, and are subject to eviction at whatever whim  takes the landlord. The tenants move on; the food is left behind; and goes to seed and rots.

When confronted with the problem (I refuse to call it an “issue”) of poverty, the response from the well-meaning or politically deluded for the poor to produce their own food is little more than buck-passing. It is a barely-concealed attempt to salve their consciences by pointing the finger back at the poorest in our society, and blame them for their lot.

After all, if the poor are poor by their own lack of determination, then the rest of us don’t have to consider the problem at all. It’s their fault, not ours.

After all, why shouldn’t they be able to grow their own food?

They just need to buck their ideas up. And buy a house.

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Additional

J R McKenzie Trust:  Child Poverty Monitor

NZ Council of Christian Social Services: Facts about poverty in New Zealand

 

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give the rich tax cuts.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 26 June 2015.

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