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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.

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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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