The Mendacities of Mr Key # 18: “No question – NZ is better off!”
1. Credit where it’s due!
TV3’s The Nation on 2 July was probably the most incisive investigative journalism this blogger has seen for a long time. The only “fault” is that The Nation is ‘buried’ at the ghetto time-slot of early Saturday (and repeated early Sunday morning). Mediaworks is wasting a tremendous opportunity to use their current affairs journalistic team as a critical lynch-pin of their broadcasting line-up.
(Especially after the fiasco surrounding the cancellation of Campbell Live. But let’s not go there and rain on The Nation’s well-deserved parade.
In this episode;
- Patrick Gower interviewed John Key and elicited some eyebrow-raising responses from him
- An investigation by Phil Vine and Heather du Plessis-Allan into the Saudi sheep deal yielded disturbing revelations
2. Evidently, we’re “better off”?
Following on from Bill English’s tragi-comical assertion in Parliament on 29 June that “there is no evidence that inequality in New Zealand is increasing“, our esteemed Dear Leader repeated the mantra three days later in response to a question from Gower;
Patrick Gower: “Good morning, Prime Minister, and thank you very much for joining us. Now, I want to take you back to your first big speech as leader of the National Party – that speech about McGehan Close. You talked in that speech about streets in our country where helplessness has become ingrained and said we have to do better. Now, on McGehan Close, when you went there, people were living in homes. Now we are looking at people living in cars. Is that really better? Is that better?”
John Key: “I think there’s no question New Zealand’s better…”
As reported in a previous story (see: Foot in mouth award – Bill English, for his recent “Flat Earth” comment in Parliament) practically every metric used presents an unflattering picture of New Zealand in the early 21st century.
From the Children’s Commissioner;
Child poverty is now significantly worse than the 1980s. In 1985 the percentage of children in families experiencing income poverty was 15%, compared to 29% now
Put another way;
“305,000 New Zealand children now live in poverty – 45,000 more than a year ago”.
Statistics NZ’s reported;
“Between 1988 and 2014, income inequality between households with high incomes and those with low incomes widened“
And the OECD was also damning, stating;
“rising inequality is estimated to have knocked more than 10 percentage points off [economic] growth in Mexico and New Zealand.”
Perhaps the most credible indictment of Key’s misguided view that “there’s no question New Zealand’s better” is from Key himself, from 2011;
He said he had visited a number of budgeting services and food banks “and I think it’s fair to say they’ve seen an increase in people accessing their services. So that situation is there.”
The difficulty with Key’s statement that “there’s no question New Zealand’s better” is that no one believes it.
3. Unemployment is down?
When Gower pressed Key that things had not improved much since Key’s visit to Aroha Ireland in McGehan Close in 2007, Dear Leader responded;
“The unemployment rate in New Zealand is now falling pretty dramatically.”
Well of course “unemployment in New Zealand is now falling“. Unemployment has “dropped” from 5.7% to 5.2%.
But not because National’s policies have created twelve thousand new jobs.
But because Statistics NZ had conveniently revised its method of calculating the number of unemployed men and women by arbitrarily excluding those who were jobseeking using the internet;
Looking at job advertisements on the internet is correctly classified as not actively seeking work. This change brings the classification in line with international standards and will make international comparability possible… Fewer people will be classified as actively seeking work, therefore the counts of people unemployed will be more accurate.
The utter cheek of Statistics NZ to claim that “therefore the counts of people unemployed will be more accurate” by excluding on-line job-hunting is matched only by Dear Leader Key who wasted no time in taking credit for “unemployment rate in New Zealand is now falling pretty dramatically“.
We are being lied to – and it is officially sanctioned.
4. Cosying up to Winston?
Gower then touched upon Key’s attitude toward NZ First leader Winston Peters, and asked;
Patrick Gower: “But what about deputy prime minister? Do you rule out Winston Peters being deputy prime minister in one of your governments?”
At this point, my mind immediately Quantum-Leaped back to 2008 and 2011 when Key categorically, absolutely, 100%, resolutely, ruled out any possibility of having Winston Peters in his government;
“Mr Peters will be unacceptable as a Minister in a government led by me unless he can provide a credible explanation [on the Owen Glenn donations scandal].” – John Key, 27 August 2008
“I don’t see a place for a Winston Peters-led New Zealand First in a government that I lead. Historically, he has always been sacked by prime ministers. It’s a very different style to mine and it’s rearward-looking. I’m about tomorrow. I’m not about yesterday. If Winston Peters holds the balance of power it will be a Phil Goff-led Labour government. ” – John Key, 2 February 2011
Seems fairly straight forward; Key was holding up his own “No” card, a-la Winston;
Except, in the next breath, Key over-ruled himself and his previous pronouncements;
John Key: “Well, I’m not going to rule those sorts of things out.”
Perhaps Key mis-heard Patrick Gower’s question. Perhaps Key had mistakenly thought that Gower had asked him; “But what about deputy prime minister? Do you rule out Moonbeam being deputy prime minister in one of your governments?”
So, being the fair-minded journo that Gower is, he repeated the question;
Patrick Gower: “Yeah, but do you rule out Winston Peters as John Key’s deputy prime minister?”
John Key: “No, because in the end, in 2017, we’re going to have an election, and when we have that election, what we’ll have to do is I’ll ultimately put together a government. I can’t determine that. The people of New Zealand determine that. What I have a responsibility to do is to put together a government — if I’m in the position to lead the largest party and to lead those negotiations — then to try and make that work. But I’m not going to say who’s a minister and who’s not or what role they have and what they don’t.”
So there you have it. John Key – a Man of his Word. And principled. And flexible. Flexible with his Principles.
Or else, the John Key of 2008 and 2011 is not the same man who calls himself “John Key” in 2016? An imposter?
The only reason that people like John Key can get away with back-peddling; mis-information; and bendy-truths is that the voting-public are more cynical than ever. (Hence the rise of anti-establishment figure, Donald Trump; the in-your-face “Brexit” vote, and the success of Independent candidates in the Australian elections.) Voters expect politicians to be dishonest, manipulative, and abandon all principles in pursuit of power.
In this respect, Key has not disappointed.
5. Matthew Hooton
Well known right-wing commentator, Matthew Hooton, has been scathing in his condemnation of Murray McCully’s “Saudi Sheep Deal”, and has conducted his own investigations into the scandal. His findings have been published on the National Business Review’s website.
Whilst Matthew and I hold wildly differing political views, and whilst his involvement in ‘Dirty Politics’ is questionable, his insightful analysis and commentary on McCully’s dealings with Hmood Al-Khalaf has to be respected.
Matthew was a valuable contributor in analysing the “Saudi Sheep Deal” on The Nation, proving a credible counter-foil to Michelle Boag’s slavish and occasionally near-hysterical defense of Murray McCully’s dubious actions.
The panelists lamented the fact that the Auditor-General’s report into the Saudi Sheep Deal was “not imminent”. I do not share those feelings.
Next year will be Election Year, and the closer the report’s release is to Election Day, the better it will be for the Opposition. If the Auditor-General’s findings are as scathing as many believe it will be, McCully will be sacked from his Ministerial position. The inglorious demise of his career will add to public perception that National plays “loose” with laws if there is a “buck” to be made.
The release of the Auditor-General’s report next year would be a strategic coup for Labour, Greens, and NZ First.
7. Final Word
Final word from that outstanding episode of The Nation has to go to Victoria University political scientist, Dr Jon Johansson;
“ People are utterly fed up with their Establishment, their elites, never accepting accountability for anything.”
Nailed it, Doc.
TV3: The Nation
Parliament Today: Questions & Answers – June 29
NZ Children: Child Poverty Monitor – Technical Report
Radio NZ: A third of NZ children live in poverty
Statistics NZ: Income inequality
NZ Herald: Key admits underclass still growing
NZ Herald: A day out with friends in high places
Scoop media: Peters unacceptable in a National-led Government
NZ Herald: PM rules out any NZ First deal
Fairfax media: John Key’s Cat Moonbeam
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 7 July 2016.
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