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Observations on the 2017 Election campaign… (Waru)

30 September 2017 Leave a comment

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The people have spoke;  votes cast; and now the post-election negotiations begin in earnest…

… once Special Votes are counted and announced on 7 October.

The Electoral ‘Wild Card’ – Special Votes

Three years ago, there were 330,985 Special Votes cast, accounting for 13.5%  of total votes. That reduced National’s seats in Parliament by one, and gifted the Green Party a fourteenth MP. The balance of power in Parliament went through a seismic shift with that one transfer of a single seat.

This year the number of Special Votes has risen dramatically to (approximately) 384,072 (or 15% of total votes).

Special Votes have traditionally supported left-leaning Parties and Labour and the Greens may pick up one or two extra seats, at the expense of National.

This may result in former Iranian refugee, lawyer, and feminist activist,  Golriz Ghahraman becoming the Green’s eighth MP. Two extra MPs will send Mojo Mathers back to Parliament.

National will lose one, maybe two seats, reducing it’s MPs from currently 58 to 57 or 56.

Two extra seats for the Labour-Green bloc will strengthen their hand in negotiations with Winston Peters. A Labour-Green-NZF coalition would rise from 61 seats to 62 or 63 out of a 120 seat Parliament. (With the demise of the Maori Party, there is no over-hang.)

No wonder Peters, Labour, and the Greens can afford to  bide their time. Two weeks will give the three parties a clearer picture as to what voters have delivered.

The Maori Party – a ‘bob each way’

During the election campaign, on 28 August, the Maori Party’s co-leader, Marama Fox, startled the country by making noises that her party could work with Labour as a coalition partner;

“I know our people lean left and they’d love to see us in a coalition arrangement with Jacinda, Metiria not anymore, but somebody from the Greens and Marama Fox and Te Ururoa Flavell. We could change the world – I think that would be amazing.”

She continued asserting that the Maori Party could work in coalition with Labour. In effect Ms Fox was re-branding the Maori Party as an opposition party working to change the government.

But on TVNZ’s Q+A, on 24 September, Corin Dann asked Te Ururoa Flavell if  Bill English deserved a fourth term. Flavell replied;

“Yes, I do. I do, because I work with him. I do believe, come what may that he is an honourable person. That he does have people’s interests at heart […] But  I do believe that he is the right person under the circumstances. He has all that background and that knowledge  and I believe that, that he can take  the country forward.”

Ms Fox may have been earnest in her desire to move her party to the left. But Flavell’s comments suggest otherwise.

We will never know.

The Doom of the Maori Party

The demise of the Maori Party should not surprise anyone. They have suffered the doom of any small political party that has made two grievous mistakes.

Mistake #1: Moving too close to their major coalition partner  and being over-shadowed and subsumed by the  Blue Colossus that was the National-ACT Government.

Mistake #2: Ignoring past ‘messages’ sent to them by voters who consistently showed their displeasure at the Maori Party’s choice of coalition partner. Since the 2008 general election, the Maori Party’s presence in Parliament has steadily dwindled;

2008: 5 seats

2011: 3 seats

2014: 2 seats

2017: nil seats – gone by lunchtime

In blaming voters for their defeat, Marama Fox and Te Ururoa Flavell and other Maori Party leadership ignored the gradual decline of voter support until they had nothing left.

Hone Harawira proved himself correct when he criticised the Maori Party’s coalition with National;

“The downside of being in government with National is having to put up with all the anti-worker, anti-beneficiary and anti-environment (and therefore anti-Maori) legislation that comes as a natural consequence of having a right-wing government.

The Maori Party is a coalition partner of that government and our co-leaders are ministers in that government, so unless we take a very strong position against some of the government’s legislative agenda we will be seen as supporting that agenda.

It does not reflect the hopes and dreams of either the Maori people or the Maori Party, and was opposed by most Maori during the select committee hearings. If we support this bill, we’re effectively saying that our coalition with National is more important than our commitment to Maori.”

Even Patrick Gower warned the Maori Party four years ago that it was sliding toward an inevitable doom if it maintained it’s cosy relationship with the Tories;

” It needs the nuclear option.

It needs to kick National in the guts and walk away.

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It’s time for Flavell to change the narrative.

He needs to start distancing the Maori Party from National. He needs to start extricating it from the cosy relationship.

He needs to position the Maori party differently – much differently. “Positioning” isn’t enough any more – he needs to make a break.

And so it came to pass.

Which is unfortunate, as I believe that the Maori Party’s voice in Parliament added to the public discourse. One hopes that a resurgent Maori-Mana Party will return in 2020. Maori need representation in the House, independent of any mainstream, pakeha-dominated party.

Gareth Morgan – green with envy?

Gareth Morgan’s call for the Green Party to work with National is either political naivete – or a cunning plan to undermine and eventually destroy the Green Party and siphon off their voter-base.

Either way, not a look look for Mr “Common Sense”.

The fate of the Maori Party (and other small parties whose orbits took them too close to their stellar coalition partners) is a clear warning that a blind person could see.

Mr Morgan should to stick to his “knitting” such as promoting the Universal Basic Income and building his own party for 2020.

ACT – time to pull the plug

It’s time for National to pull the plug on ACT. The Epsom life-support unit served it’s purpose when ACT could be guaranteed to poll over 1.2% – but it’s electoral support has been waning since 2008;

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Election Year Party
Votes
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Votes
2008 85,496 3.65%
2011 23,889 1.07%
2014 16,689 0.69%
2017 10,959 .05%

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With no hope of ACT’s sole MP, David Seymour, pulling in a second MP on his “coat-tails”, National might as well cut him loose and regain Epsom for themselves.

Or not.

Who can really care anymore for a “Party” polling at half of one percent?

Certainly not Bill English;

“We want to get on with the job of forming a government, but we will work with New Zealand First at a pace they’re willing to go.”

He said it was pretty clear cut that a two-party coalition would be more stable, and voters had given National a task of forming a government with New Zealand First.

“Our position in going into those negotiations is that almost one in two New Zealanders supported National.

“The voters have given us the task of forming a government with New Zealand First and that’s what we’ll proceed to do.”

ACT would complicate a governing arrangement, and he would not expect the party to be included in that government.

“The shortest path to stable government is a two-party coalition between National and New Zealand First.”

By the way, David Seymour…

On TVNZ’s Q+A, ACT leader and sole-MP, David Seymour, blamed First Past the post for his party’s crushing defeat on Election day;

“Every minor party got hammered, we kind of went back to a first-past-the-post environment.”

Typical of right-wingers; demanding personal responsibility from the rest of us – but never showing any themselves. If ACT cannot win electoral support under MMP, then it will never achieve success under any system (except maybe at gunpoint).

Perhaps Mr Seymour should just accept that 99.95% of voters simply do not like ACT’s free-market, dog-eat-dog,  and corporate-welfarism for it’s taxpayer-funded Charter Schools.

When Gareth Morgan’s TOP gained four times more votes (48,018 – 2.2%) than ACT  (10,959 – 0.05%), what does that say about the fate of neo-liberalism in this country?

Yes Winston, we have…

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The question is, what will he do about it?

Does Winston Peters really want his party to end up like the Maori Party, ACT, and Peter Dunne – all casualties of their political closeness to National?

Lisa Owen made this observation on TV3’s The Nation, on 24 September, when she pointed out to Steven Joyce;

“Given the situation you find yourself in with the previous people you’ve worked with dwindling…”

As others have pointed out, a vote for NZ First was indeed a vote for change. Otherwise, those leaning toward National would have cut out the Black & White Middle Man and voted for the Blue Team.

Going with National is More of the Same.

Choose wisely, Mr Peters, choose wisely.

The Fate of The Maori Seats

With the demise of the Maori Party and the assimilation of all seven Maori Seats into a mainstream, predominantly white-person’s political party, it is more apparent than ever that we need to retain those Maori Seats to ensure on-going, guaranteed Parliamentary representation for Tangata Whenua.

If National bows to Peters’ demand for a referendum on the seats, it will be a sad day for democracy in this country when the Majority get to choose on entrenched safeguards for a Minority.

Why do (some) pakeha feel so threatened by seven seats when they  have 113 seats for themselves, under their potential full control? It can’t be any notion of “reverse-racism”. Those who demand the abolition of Maori seats rarely concern themselves with such matters.

National’s Dirty Politics Strategy

In a Hollywood movie, a budding politician rises up from nowhere and successfully takes on the political Establishment Elites. After a struggle, the hero/heroine prevails, showing that truth, courage, and integrity will always defeat the Dark Forces of the political Elite. Cue happy ending; cue stirring theme music; roll credits; bank the ticket-takings.

In real life, Steven Joyce and his party strategists (with the assistance of Crosby Textor?) spun two lies, regarding Labour’s mythical “$11.7 billion fiscal hole” and that Labour would “raise taxes”. None of which were remotely true. Joyce was aided and abetted by Bill English who unashamedly repeated those two lies at every opportunity, whether on-air debates or interviews on Radio NZ, Q+A, The Nation, etc. At no point did either man resile from their wilful calumny.

If 998,813 voters who ticked “National” on their Party Vote ballot weren’t aware that the two claims were barefaced lies – or, knew it was a lie and simply didn’t care – Joyce’s  strategy for mis-information worked.

Even Patrick Gower – no friend of the Left – knew that Joyce’s claims were deliberate lies, and was appalled at what he was witnessing;

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The Dirty Tricks strategy was previously used against Winston Peters when an unknown agent leaked his superannuation over-payment to the media.

At the next election, Labour and the Greens must be better placed to strategically address “fake news” from the National Party. Labour and Green strategists must  be conscious that the Nats will stoop to lies if their pre-election polling shows them at-risk of losing. A rapid-response task-force should be ready and well-resourced to counteract such lies; to do it immediately,  and with energy.

Patrick Gower put it this way on The Nation on 24 September, when he interviewed Labour’s Phil Twyford;

“…And one of the issues was the attack from National on tax and their lies, in effect. Now, why didn’t you call them out earlier?

[…] But do you look back now and go, ‘We were relentlessly positive, but we let their relentless negativity come in too much.’ Do you look back now as you wake up and go, ‘Oh, we should have called them out earlier.’?

[…] But where was her junkyard dog? Where was someone— If she was relentlessly positive— And, actually, I’m going to call you out here — were you personally too late? Do you take some responsibility for not taking on Steven Joyce and letting him get away with what he did?”

This style of dirty tricks cannot be allowed to become New Zealand’s “new norm”.

That was Then, This is Now

In 2008 and 2011, then-Dear Leader John Key was emphatic that under no circumstances would he entertain any coalition deal with Winston Peters;

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Three years later;

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The Nats are nothing if not “flexible”. As are their “principles”.

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References

Electoral Commission: 2017 General Election Timetable

Electoral Commission: New Zealand 2014 General Election Official Results

Fairfax media:   National loses majority, Greens pick up one

Electoral Commission: Preliminary results for the 2017 General Election

Green Party:  Golriz Ghahraman

Mediaworks:  Labour, Greens and Māori Party ‘could change the world’ – Marama Fox

TVNZ: Q+A –  Maori Party – Te Ururoa Flavell

Wikipedia: Maori Party

Fairfax media:  Māori have ‘gone back like a beaten wife to the abuser’, defiant Marama Fox says

Fairfax media:  Te Ururoa Flavell won’t be part of a Māori Party revival

NZ Herald:  Maori Party investigates complaint against Harawira

Mediaworks: Opinion: Maori Party must kick National in guts

Fairfax media:  Party ‘for a fairer New Zealand’ falls flat, as Gareth Morgan’s TOP falls far short of 5 per cent

Electoral Commission: New Zealand 2011 General Election Official Results

Electoral Commission: New Zealand 2008 General Election Official Results

Radio NZ:  Two-party coalition more stable – English

TVNZ: Q+A –  ‘Every minor party got hammered’ – ACT Party leader David Seymour justifies dismal party vote

Scoop media: TV3’s The Nation –  Lisa Owen interviews Steven Joyce

Fairfax media:  The Māori Party is out: Labour wins all Māori electorates

Mediaworks:  Patrick Gower – National guilty of biggest campaign lie

Mediaworks:  Patrick Gower – National playing ‘post-truth politics’

Fairfax media:  Winston Peters, scandal and a recipe for revenge

Scoop media: TV’s The Nation – Patrick Gower interviews Phil Twyford

Fairfax media:  Bill English – I’m ready to talk to Winston

Other Blogs

The Standard:  National have poisoned the Peters well

The Standard:  National’s political hit job on Winston Peters

The Standard:  Where to now for the Greens?

The Standard:  Consider the people of New Zealand First

The Standard:  National rules itself out of coalitions with cynical BillShit

Previous related blogposts

John Key: Man of Many Principles (2012)

How biased is the media? A Patrick Gower case study (2014)

No More. The Left Falls. (2014)

Election ’17 Countdown: The Promise of Nirvana to come

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (tahi)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rua)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (toru)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (wha)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rima)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (ono)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (whitu)

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(Acknowledgment: Toby Morris, The Wireless)

 

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 September 2014.

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Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (whitu)

27 September 2017 1 comment

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The final day of campaign is upon us. Tomorrow is the “official” Election Day and nine years of National government is about to either end – or win a rare fourth term.

Polling does not look good for an outright win for the Labour-Green bloc.

National’s dirty politics of lies has apparently entered the subconsciousness of mainstream New Zealand. Despite being rubbished by every economist, commentator, media, and Uncle Tom Cobbly, Bill English continued to repeat Joyce’s lie about Labour’s “$11.7 billion fiscal hole”;

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Or National’s lie about tax “increases” under a Labour-led government;

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English seems to be “relaxed” about borrowing from our former Prime Minister’s handbook to bend the truth – or just outright lie when it suits his selfish needs.

National’s willful lying on this issue is classic Crosby-Textor manipulation; throw mud and some of it will stick in the minds of poorly informed voters. Or voters who know it’s a lie – but want to feel validated voting for a party that promotes the lifestyle of the  Cosy, Comfy Middle-class.

An artificially bloated home valuation can be a powerful inducement for some voters to go with the status quo that maintains the illusion of wealth. Especially when those same Cosy, Comfy Middle-class have no contact in their lives with child poverty, homelessness, over-stretched mental health services, people suffering on lengthening hospital waiting lists…

This has been borne out with comments I’ve heard during my door-knocking and market-stalls campaigning for the Green Party. A few from the Cosy, Comfy Middle-class seemed eager to voice derogatory opinions about Metiria Turei, but when questioned what experiences they’ve had  trying to survive on welfare, the response has been either to deflect to “get a job” or a complete lack of understanding.

Orwell knew precisely what he was telling us when he insisted that “Ignorance is Strength”.;

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Being willfully ignorant means not doubting; not questioning; and enjoying support from fellow Cosy, Comfy Middle-class to maintain the illusion.

That is the problem with the property-owning Cosy, Comfy Middle-class. Until a “market correction” strips away their over-inflated valuations, they are happy to live the mirage of “wealth”.

Which leads to why we will likely see a fourth National term after Saturday.

First, some recent history.  Radio NZ’s 2014 Poll of Polls; predicted the following outcome for the 20 September 2014 election;

National: 46.4%

Labour: 25.7%

Greens: 12.5%

[Combined Labour/Green: 38.2%]

NZ First: 7.6%

The 2014 General Election final results were as follows;

National: 47.04%

Labour: 25.13%

Greens: 10.70%

[Combined Labour/Green: 35.83%]

NZ First: 8.66%

The Radio NZ poll-of-polls was fairly close, with only the Greens suffering a major drop in actual votes.

Post 2014 election, National’s votes translated to 60 seats and was able to gain Supply & Confidence from “rats and mice” minor parties; ACT, Maori Party, and Peter Dunne.

The most recent Radio NZ Poll of Polls has the following results;

National: 45.1% (up from 41.9%)

Labour: 37.2% (down from 41.6%)

Greens: 7.2% (up from 5.5%)

[Combined Labour/Green: 44.4%]

NZ First: 6.6% (no real change from 6.8%)

This time the National and red/green bloc are almost identical.

The smaller parties will be unable to be the deciding factor. That role will go to NZ First, with the following permutations;

National (45.1%) + NZ First (6.6%) = National-NZF (51.7%)

Labour (37.2%) + Greens (7.2%) + NZ First (6.6%) = Labour-Greens-NZF (51%)

In May this year, Peters confirmed his belief that  “constitutional convention” required his party to approach the largest party, post-election, for coalition talks;

Corin Dann: Let’s go back to 2005, in Rotorua, where you gave a pretty famous speech about your– You were being harried by media – probably like myself, because I was there – about who you were going to go with in 2005. And you stood up and said, ‘According to constitutional convention, the party which gains the most seats is the party which must first try and form a government. We will support this constitutional convention in the first instance.’ Can you give New Zealanders an assurance that that’s your position today and come September 24th?

Winston Peters:  All it means is what I said. ‘In the first instance’, that’s what you’d expect to happen, not just in this country but in every country. However, it’s only the first instance. It’s not a binding rule that says ‘In this first instance, this is clearly going to fail, therefore we should look elsewhere. That’s all it means.

That would be National.

In July this year, Peters’ issued one of his many “bottom lines”; a binding referendum on abolishing the Maori seats;

“My strategy is to tell everybody out there that you won’t be talking to NZ First unless you want a referendum on both those issues at the mid-term mark of this election.”

Both Labour and the Greens have resolutely ruled out any such referendum. Only one other major party has ever had a policy of doing away with those seats.

That would be National.

It is common knowledge that there is considerable animosity between the Green Party and NZ First.  Peters is unlikely to sit in a three way coalition involving the Greens (or a four-way, involving the Maori Party). His preference would most likely be as one of two in a dual-party coalition.

That would be National.

Will Winston Peters join in formal coalition with National? If so, he would be repeating a mistake he made twentyone years ago;

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For which he had to eventually apologise;

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Winston Peters

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To coalesce or not to coalesce, that is the question…

Of course, Peters could simply offer Supply & Confidence to “the largest party”.

That would be National.

But what would be in it for him and NZ First? What gains could he achieve if he’s not “at the table”?

In deciding whether to join in Coalition or simply offer Supply & Confidence to a fourth term National government, Peters would do well to remember that with the Nats at 45.1%, 54.9% of voters want change. That’s a clear majority.

So the question Peters should be asking is , “which party is leading the 54.9% wanting change?”

That would be Labour.

Choose wisely, Mr Peters. Choose wisely.

 

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References

TVNZ:  TVNZ Debate – Bill maintains Labour has $11b budget black hole in face of stern grilling from Jacinda

Mediaworks:  Patrick Gower – National playing ‘post-truth politics’

Radio NZ: Poll of Polls – 19 September 2014

Electoral Commission: New Zealand 2014 General Election Official Results

Radio NZ: Poll of Polls – 21 September 2017

Scoop media:  Q+A – Winston Peters interviewed by Corin Dann

Fairfax media:  Winston Peters delivers bottom-line binding referendum on abolishing Maori seats

Radio NZ:  Labour rules out Māori seat referendum

NZ City:  Greens promise to protect Maori seats

NZ Herald:  National to dump Maori seats in 2014

Additional

NZ Herald:  Homeless people sleep under National billboard outside the Auckland City Mission

Wikipedia:  New Zealand 2014 general election

Mediaworks:  Patrick Gower – National guilty of biggest campaign lie

Mediaworks:  Patrick Gower – National playing ‘post-truth politics’

Previous related blogposts

Election ’17 Countdown: The Promise of Nirvana to come

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (tahi)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rua)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (toru)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (wha)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rima)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (ono)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 22 September 2017.

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Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (ono)

20 September 2017 11 comments

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You show me yours, I’ll show you mine…

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Perhaps the most ill-considered public statement from NZ First leader, Winston Peters, was his recent (11 September) demand that Labour disclose it’s full tax plan as a pre-condition for coalition;

“You are not asking the questions. You can’t possibly mean to go into an election saying, ‘My tax policy will be decided by a committee, and I am very sincere about that’. One needs to know what we are talking about … that should be fatal to a party’s chances. And we need to know.”

The jaw-dropping, gob-smacking, forehead-slapping gall of Winston Peters! For him to demand clarity and full disclosure from others – when he himself has made a fetish of not disclosing to voters who he will coalesce with, post-election  – takes the Hypocrisy-of-the-Year Award from National and plants it firmly on his own Italian suited jacket-lapel.

On top of which, none of Peters multi-billion dollar policies have yet to be costed.

So here’s the deal, Winston. You want to see Labour’s tax plans? We want to see your coalition intentions.

We’ll show you ours if you show us yours.  After all, “One needs to know what we are talking about“.

As Jacinda said, “Let’s do this“.

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Richard Prebble should keep vewy, vewy quiet

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On the matter of Labour referring taxation reform to a Working Group post-election, former-ACT Party leader Richard Prebble was scathing in his condemnation that Jacinda Ardern would not disclose her intentions toward implementation of a possible Capital Gains Tax.

In his regular NZ Herald propaganda slot, he wrote on 7 September;

“…Jacinda thinks the answer to every problem is a new tax. Asking for a mandate for capital gains taxes without giving any details is outrageous. All new taxes start small and then grow. GST was never going to be more than 10 per cent.

Who believes it is fair that the Dotcom mansion will be an exempt “family home” but a family’s holiday caravan plot will be taxed? The details are important…”

A week later, he followed up with;

“In a “captain’s call” Jacinda changed the tax policy to say that a Labour victory was a mandate for Labour to introduce any new tax and at any rate that a nameless committee of “tax experts” recommended, just the family home is off limits.

Any tax? What about land tax? Yes. Tax on the family bach and boat? Yes. Water? Petrol? Nothing is off the table. Will the capital gains tax be 33 per cent? Maybe. The petrol tax 10 cents a litre? Probably. Water tax. Guess a figure. “Trust us” says Jacinda.

No party has ever asked for so much power.

This, from the man who was a former Minister in the Lange Government which – in 1986 – introduced various neo-liberal “reforms” that the Labour Government had never campaigned on; had not included in their manifesto; and introduced the regressive  Goods and Services Tax in 1986. The Goods and Services Tax was never disclosed to the public in 1984.

Prebble and his cronies deceived  the New Zealand public in the 1984 election campaign. They withheld their true agenda. They lied to us.

For Prebble to now rear up on his hind legs, braying in indignation, pointing a  stained finger at Jacinda Ardern, is hypocrisy beyond words.

As former producer of TV’s The Nation, Tim Watkin, wrote on Prebble’s sanctimonious clap-trap;

“To read and hear a member of the fourth Labour government like Richard Prebble howling about transparency is like an Australian cricketer railing against under-arm bowling. Labour’s manifesto in 1984 was as artful a collection of vagaries as has ever been put to the public and after winning a second term in 1987, Prebble and his fellow Rogernomes embarked on a series of reforms – arguably the most radical tax reform ever considered by a New Zealand government, including a flat tax – without campaigning on them.”

Richard Prebble should think carefully before raising his voice on this issue – lest his own track record is held up for New Zealanders to scrutinise.

Does he really want that particular scab picked?

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Latest Colmar Brunton Poll…

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The latest TV1/Colmar Brunton Poll (14 September) has Labour and the Greens climbing – a direct antithesis to the TV3/Reid Research Poll which had Labour and the Greens sliding (12 September).

12 September:  Reid Research-TV3

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14 September: Colmar Brunton-TV1

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Which raises two questions;

  1. Are polling polling companies operating in the same country?  Or Parallel Universes?
  2. Is it about time that all public polling was banned once early voting begins?

The chasm in poll-results for National, Labour, and the Greens confirms critics of polls who dismiss results as wildly unpredictable. “Bugger the pollsters“, said Jim Bolger in 1993 – and with considerable justification.

Though Winston Peters and his supporters may be nervous at the fact that both polls have NZ First at 6% – perilously close to the 5% threshold. Any lower and Peters’ Northland electorate becomes a crucial deciding factor whether NZ First returns to Parliament.

Several commentators – notably from the Right – have been making mischief with the poll results, suggesting that a vote for the Green Party would be a wasted vote. Without the parachute of an electorate base, if the Greens fall below 5% in the Party Vote, their  votes are discounted and Parliamentary seats re-allocated to Labour and National.

John Armstrong and Matthew Hooton are two such commentators making this fallacious point. Fallacious because even at Reid Research’s disastrous 4.9%, the polling ignores the Expat Factor. Expats – predominantly overseas young voters –  are not polled, but still cast their Special Votes, and often for the Green Party.

In 2014, the Green vote went from 210,764 on election night to 257,359 once Special Votes were counted and factored in. The extra 47,000 votes was sufficient to send a fourteenth Green Party List candidate to Parliament;

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It seems contradictory that there is a total black-out of polls on Election Day itself – when voting stations are open. But polling is allowed to proceed two weeks out from Election Day when voting stations are also open.

It may be time for this country to consider banning all polling whilst voting stations are open. If poll results are so open to wild fluctuations, and certain commentators make mischief from questionable data, then the possible risk of undue influence on voters cannot be discounted.

Once voting begins, polling should cease.

The only poll that should count after voting begins is Election Day.

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Losing the plot, Winston-style

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On Radio NZ’s Morning Report (14 September), NZ First Leader, Winston Peters lost the plot. His haranguing of Guyon Espiner did him no credit.

More incredible  was Peters’ assertion that he has not made any “bottom lines” this election;

“I have never gone out talking about bottom lines.”

Peters’ blatant Trumpian-style  lie flew in the face of  his bottom-lines during this election campaign.

On a referendum on the Maori seats;

“My strategy is to tell everybody out there that you won’t be talking to NZ First unless you want a referendum on both those issues at the mid-term mark of this election.”

On re-entering Pike River mine;

“I’m making no bones about it, we’ll give these people a fair-go, and yes this is a bottom line, and it shouldn’t have to be.”

On a rail link to Northport;

“I can say for the people of Northland and Whangarei, this is going to happen. We’ve got the corridor; it’s been designated. The only thing it lacks is the commitment from central government and we are going to give this promise, as I did in the Northland by-election – we are 69 days away from winning Whangarei as well – and that’s one of the first things we’re going to be doing straight after the election.”

Peters has issued  several other bottom lines, including changing the Reserve Bank Act, banning foreign purchase of land, setting up a foreign ownership register, reducing net migration to 10,000 per year, and not raising the age of eligibility for New Zealand Superannuation (from 65).

Peters also attacked Espiner for personally supporting the neo-liberal “revolution” in the 1980s. As  Espiner pointed out, when Roger Douglas tore New Zealand’s social fabric apart, he was 13 years old at the time.

Plot lost.

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Labour’s tax & spend – what ails the Nats?

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National has launched a full-scale attack on Labour’s taxation policies and plans to set up a Tax Working Group to investigate the possibility of a Capital Gains Tax.

The Crosby-Textor line is childishly simple: the Right have identified a ‘chink’ in Jacinda Ardern’s teflon armour – kindly on loan from previous Dear Leader;

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But there’s more to it than simply attacking Labour through a perceived weakness in their taxation policy.

Labour is attempting to shift New Zealand away from a low-taxation/minimalist government, and return the country to the fully-funded social services we all once enjoyed.

Remember free prescriptions? Yes indeed. Prior to 1986, prescribed medicine was free.

National’s growing concern is not that Labour will introduce new (or higher) taxes.

Their worry is that New Zealanders will like what their taxes can buy; free tertiary education. Lower medical costs. Cheaper housing. New, re-vitalised social services such as nurses in schools.

Up until now, the Cult of Individualism had it’s allure. But it also has it’s nastier down-side.

If New Zealanders get a taste for a Scandinavian-style of taxation and social services, that would be the death-knell for neo-liberalism. When Jacinda Ardern recently agreed with Jim Bolger that neo-liberalism had failed – the Right noticed.

And when she said this;

“New Zealand has been served well by interventionist governments. That actually it’s about making sure that your market serves your people – it’s a poor master but a good servant.

Any expectation that we just simply allow that the market to dictate our outcomes for people is where I would want to make sure that we were more interventionist.”

For me the neoliberal agenda is what does it mean for people? What did it mean for people’s outcomes around employment, around poverty, around their ability to get a house? And on that front I stand by all our commitments to say that none of that should exist in a wealthy society. And there are mechanisms we can use that are beyond just our economic instruments and acts, to turn that around.”

– the Right became alarmed.

This election is not simply between the National-led block vs the Labour-led bloc – this is the battle for the future of our country; the soul of our people.

This moment is New Zealand’s cross-road.

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WINZ and Metiria Turei – A story of Two Withheld Entitlements

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Recent revelations that WINZ has withheld $200 million of lawful entitlements to some of the poorest, most desperate individuals and families in this neo-liberal Utopia (note sarc), has shocked some;

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$200 million withheld from welfare recipients who could have used that cash to pay for doctor’s visits. Shoes for children. Even lunch meals – which so many National/ACT supporters continually berate the poor for not providing for their kids – as Donna Miles reported on 13 September;

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Did the country rise up in a clamour of righteous anger? Was there a vocal outcry on social media? Were the Letters-to-the-editor columns filled were disgust and demands for a fair go for beneficiaries?

Like hell there was. If New Zealanders noticed, they showed little interest.

Yet, even the Minister for Social Welfare, Anne Tolley, had to concede that WINZ had fallen woefully short in helping those who need it most in our country;

“I agree at times it’s too bureaucratic and we’re doing our very best.”

$200 million in lawful entitlements withheld – and there is barely a whimper.

Contrast that with former Green Party co-leader, Metiria Turei, who did some “withholding” of her own;

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A young solo-mum withholds information from social welfare in the mid-1990s, after then-Finance Minister Ruth Richard has cut welfare payments – and every conservative moralist; middle-class National/ACT supporter; media elite; and right-wing fruitcake, has a collective hysterical spasm of judgementalism that would put a Christian Fundamentalist to shame.

Perhaps if social welfare had not been cut in 1991…

Perhaps if WINZ had not withheld $200 million in rightful welfare entitlements…

Perhaps then Metiria Turei would not have had to withhold information, merely to survive…

Perhaps if half this country were not so drenched in…

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Perhaps then, our sheep and pigs might finally learn to fly.

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References

NZ Herald:  Winston Peters to Labour – Front up on your tax plans

Fairfax media:  Gareth Morgan positions himself as alternative to Winston Peters

NZ Herald:  Richard Prebble – The Jacinda tidal wave can be stopped

NZ Herald:  Richard Prebble – The Jacinda tidal wave has gone out

Radio NZ:  Time to come clean on coalition compromises

TVNZ:  Colmar Brunton poll – Labour maintains four point lead over National, could govern with Greens

Mediaworks:  National could govern alone in latest Newshub poll

Colin James: Of polls, statistics and a Labour deficit

NZ Herald:  John Armstrong – This election is a two-party dogfight now

NZ Herald:  Remaining Green Party voters ‘mainly hippies and drug addicts’ – Matthew Hooton

Parliament:   The 2014 New Zealand General Election – Final Results and Voting Statistics

Radio NZ: Morning Report –  The Leader Interview – Winston Peters

Fairfax media:  Winston Peters delivers bottom-line binding referendum on abolishing Maori seats

Fairfax media:  Winston Peters says Pike River re-entry is bottom line to election deals

NBR: TV3 – The Nation – Peters promises rail to Northport

Newsroom:  What a National-NZ First Govt might actually do

Fairfax media:  Jacinda Ardern says neoliberalism has failed

Radio NZ:  WINZ staff accused of withholding entitlements

Fairfax media:  Turei rallies Palmerston North troops in fight against poverty

Other blogposts

Donna Miles: Child Poverty – Facebook Post Shows The Nats Don’t Care

Previous related blogposts

Election ’17 Countdown: The Promise of Nirvana to come

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (tahi)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rua)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (toru)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (wha)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rima)

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jacinda will tax you (b)

 

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 15 September 2017.

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Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rima)

16 September 2017 Leave a comment

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Ask David: When is a Bribe not a Bribe?

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National has added to it’s list of expensive election year bribes. Not content with offering $10.5  billion on new roads (which is additional to an  estimated $12 billion  to be spent on seven roads in National’s “Roads of National Significance” plan) – the Nats have promised  to increase their  HomeStart grant by $10,000. First home buyers would get $20,000 to buy an existing house or $30,000 for a newly constructed property.

The election year bribe has been condemned by both Left and Right. Political commentator, Chris Trotter pointed out the bleedin’ obvious;

You’ve had nine years to come up with a policy like this and you leave it until the last 13 days in an election campaign to make such an announcement.

This is a further sign of National Party desperation.

If a government wants to do something, the money is there. If National says they’ll find the money, I’m sure they will, but the question is why has it taken so long?

I think that’s a perfectly fair question, the timing is what is most remarkable.

But as Newsroom reported when National began to offer home-ownership subsidies in an over-heated housing marlet;

Treasury warned the Government in 2013 that increasing first home buyer subsidies would undermine the Reserve Bank’s efforts to slow down the housing market, force an early Official Cash Rate hike and push up house prices.

According to Newsroom, in  2014 Treasury  pointed out what should have been obvious to the Nats – a party that should be well-versed in supply and demand rules;

[Welcome Home Loan and KiwiSaver withdrawal schemes]  may undermine the power and credibility of the Reserve Bank’s proposed use of restrictions on high Loan to Value Ratio mortgages, depending on up-take.

Experience with homeowner grants in Australia suggests that such programmes tend to push prices up in a supply constrained environment by supporting greater demand, rather than improving affordability.

The Kiwi Saver Home Deposit Scheme increases the cash available to homebuyers for deposits. Increasing eligibility may encourage buyers to take on more debt/seek more expensive houses. This could exacerbate house price pressures.”

Nothing better highlights National’s failure to constrain housing prices, pushed up by rampant speculation and unplanned migration , than having to throw tax-payer’s money at the problem. (Obviously not content with putting a sheep farm in the middle of the Saudi desert, costing taxpayers at least $11.5 million.)

National’s favourite holographic coalition partner, ACT’s David Seymour,  also put the boot into National’s election year gift calling it out for what it is – a policy failure and a baked election bribe;

It’s an admission of National’s failure to fix the fundamentals of our housing crisis. Instead of getting homes built, they’re trying to soothe home buyers’ pain with a bribe.

Only a few months of flat price growth has scared National into propping up investors’ capital gains with taxpayer money. ”

However, David Seymour is not above throwing tax-dollars around as election year bribes when it suits his own electoral re-election agenda;

The ACT Party says it would bring in bulk funding for teacher salaries, offering schools $93,000 per teacher but only if they abandon collective agreements.

At its campaign launch this afternoon, ACT leader David Seymour said he wanted to give schools the power to decide what individual teachers earn.

The party would do this by introducing bulk funding, where schools could opt out of the centralised payroll system and collective agreements.

Seymour was blunt in his desire to see teacher’s unions undermined and destroyed;

ACT’s policy will address these pressures. And because it comes with the proviso that schools leave the union contract […] It’s frankly a disgrace that teacher unions would reject a billion dollars in new funding in order to protect the status quo that denies kids the education they deserve.

Seymour couldn’t explain where the money for the outright bribe for teachers to abandon their voluntary union participation would come from. He simply dipped his fingers into government coffers;

Party leader David Seymour said that the Government surplus of $3.7bn meant the party could promise to pay principals $975 million, to pay good teachers an extra $20,000 each, without cutting services or raising taxes.

It is not just National that is showing increasing signs of desperation. When a right-wing political party that supposedly espouses individual freedom of choice offers  tax-payer funded bribes for people to quit an organisation they have voluntarily opted to join – then we begin to understand that the entire neo-liberal paradigm is under threat.

Will David Seymour offer our hard-earned tax money to other people to quit organisations he doesn’t agree with?

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Challenge to David Seymour on the RMA

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Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox; Green Party leader James Shaw; ACT Party leader David Seymour; and United Future’s new leader, Damian Light participated in TVNZ’s Multi Party Debate on 8 September.

Only NZ First’s Winston Peter’s – in a hissy-fit of unbridled ego – refused to take part. Peters’ reasoning could be called weak at best’

“…I was astonished, on a general inquiry late Tuesday, to be told by them that neither Labour nor National had ever accepted the invitation.

Though why Peters believed that the two major parties – National or Labour – would participate in a Minor Parties Debate is unclear.

Anyway, despite Peters’ toy-tossing tantrum, “minor” parties they may be, but their presence in Parliament will often determine the government, and influence policy.

During the debate, the Resource Management Act was made the scapegoat by ACT leader, David Seymour, for the failing of the neo-liberal system to satisfy market demand for housing.

The moderator asked Seymour if his electorate of Epsom would accept higher-density housing developments  if the RMA’s urban protections were removed.  Seymour replied;

Oh, they’ve already accepted it [higher density housing]... People have already accepted it.

Green Party Leader, James Shaw, then issued a startling challenge to David Seymour;

We could make Epsom a RMA free zone and see what happens.

Seymour ducked the challenge, changing the subject.

For good reason.

There would be blue-blood in the streets of affluent, leafy, upper middle-class Epsom if high-rise developments suddenly filled the skyline.

An example of what Epsomites might expect if ACT got it’s way and the RMA was abolished or significantly weakened to allow unfettered urban development can be found in the Wellington suburb of Mt Victoria.

Amongst the single, two-story, and occassional three-story homes is a massive high-rise block of apartments called  Melksham Tower. The building was constructed around 1975, prior to the passing of the Resource Management Act in 1991 (ironically by the then Bolger-led National Government).

Melksham Tower around 1975 with locals protesting;

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Melksham Tower, currently. Note the height of the ten story building and surrounding house(s);

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Victoria University’s Salient magazine reported local public opposition to the development;

A newly completed block of high-rise flats in Mt. Victoria has become the focal point in a struggle between private developers and local residents.

The local residents, led by the Mt. Victoria Progressive Association, are angry about the construction of Williams Development Holdings’ new 10-storey Melksham Towers building, which was originally given a council permit on the basis that it would be a block of flats.

[…]

Residents have mounted a vigorous campaign against the tower block itself, but the main attack has been focused on the roots of the problem—the inability of a community to have any say in the development of their area. The campaign started from general meetings of the Progressive Association and a small group of people went from door-to-door in the area discussing Mt. Victoria’s development and the significance of Melksham Towers.

The response was such that a demonstration of 70 residents gathered outside the tower block recently to show their disapproval of what has been described as ‘a human filing cabinet’. They also discussed what steps could be taken to prevent the construction of any similar structures.

[…]

The struggle between the interest of private developers and local communities will continue as long as people are told that area planning is perogative of those experts ‘who know best’. But, even if the Mt. Victoria residents have been too late to stop the construction of the Melksham Towers monstrosity, they have been successful in building a much closer community which is more aware of the injustices that surround it and the forces that control it. As one resident said: ‘The protest has only just begun.’

If David Seymour takes up James Shaw’s challenge, the good people of Epsom could “share the pleasure” of Mt Victoria’s citizens of  learning the hard way what unfettered development has in store for them.

Would Seymour accept that challenge?

For Epsomites, ‘The protest will have only just begun’.

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English’s Committment on child poverty – real or “aspirational”?

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On 4 September, during  TV3’s Leader’s Debate, National Party Leader and soon to be ex-Prime Minister, Bill English, sprung a surprise on the people of New Zealand. English committed his administration to committed to raising 100,000 children out of poverty in the next three year Parliamentary term;

There’s two things you need to do, one is lift incomes the other is get inside the very toxic mix of social issues which we know are family violence, criminal offending and long-term welfare dependency. We’ve got the best tools in the world now to support rising incomes with cracking the social problems.

All we have to do is party-tick National and give him that fourth term in Parliament. Simple as, bro!

Which raises some interesting and obvious questions;

  1. Why didn’t National do this earlier in their nine years in office? Why have they put it off until now, when National is floundering in the polls?
  2. What has changed since October last year when then-Dear Leader, John Key, refused to measure and address child poverty because it was “a complicated area and there are many particular measures you can use”?
  3. How are they defining who those “100,000 children in poverty” really are? Will they be using dodgy stats such as Statistics NZ uses for unemployment? Thus far, National has steadfastly refused to measure child poverty in this country.
  4. Paula Bennett  refused to accepted a recent UNICEF report on child poverty in New Zealand, disputing it’s figures. How will we know which figures are acceptable to National if it disputes the UN?

But worse still – how seriously can we take Bill English’s “committment” when National Ministers have excused their failings to meet their own goals by labelling them as “aspirational” only;

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When Minister Tolley was challenged on TV3’s The Nation why welfare numbers were still high, she replied;

It’s a very aspirational target.

“Aspirational” – National’s way of setting ambitious goals (especially at election time), and then shrugging when things don’t eventuate.

I wonder if National’s campaign for re-election is also… “aspirational”?

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ACT considers Eugenic Final Solution for the Poor?

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According to ACT’s Beth Houlbrooke, the poor should not be allowed to breed;

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The sub-text of Houlbrook’s assertion is clear and simple; poverty is the fault of the poor. Obviously they are incapable of enjoying the benefits of the neo-liberal, free-market system and have chosen to remain – poor. So after thirty-plus years of the “Revolution”, the peasants cannot recognise the paradise put before them by the likes of Roger Douglas, Ruth Richardson, et al.

In which case, if ACT believes so deeply that “parents who cannot afford to have children should not be having them” – then it should be prepared to make that Party policy and legislate accordingly.

I therefore call upon ACT Leader, David Seymour, to publicly announce that his party will be putting forward legislation to ban low-income families from having children. He can advise the public how much people must earn before the State will issue a permit to breed.

Of course, that still leaves the thorny problem of what to do with children of parents who lose their job(s); become bankrupt; lose their business, and must rely on welfare.

One response to ACT’s announcement offered a possible ‘solution’;

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I look forward to how ACT will sell this policy to the public.

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References

Fairfax media:  National announce $10.5 billion roading plan

Radio NZ:  National pledge to add $10k to HomeStart

Fairfax media:  National to double Home Start Grant for existing houses

Newsroom:  Election 2017 Live – National doubles first home grant

NZ Herald:  Editorial – Saudi sheep deal leaves bitter taste

Scoop media:  National pumps up house prices with HomeStart bribe

Radio NZ:  ACT promises bulk funding if schools drop union contracts

Scoop media:  Broken union model creating third-world staff shortages

Fairfax media:  ACT says it will give schools $20k more per teacher, if they abandon union contracts

ACT Party: Principles

Mediaworks:  Winston Peters pulls out of minor parties debate

TVNZ:  ‘We could make Epsom a RMA free zone and see what happens’ – Greens leader lands jab on ACT’s David Seymour

Wikipedia:  Resource Management Act 1991

Victoria University:  Salient – Volume 38, Number 14. June 20, 1975 – Photo of Melksham Tower, Mount Victoria

Victoria University:  Salient – Volume 38, Number 14. June 20, 1975 –  Mt Vic On The Move

Mediaworks:  Newshub Leaders Debate – Bill English commits to poverty target

Fairfax media:  National drops to 39 in new bombshell poll, Labour remains ahead

Fairfax media:  Government won’t commit to a poverty target because it’s too ‘difficult’ – John Key

NZ Herald:  Bennett slammed over child poverty claim

Mediaworks:  Paula Bennett disputes UNICEF poverty report

NZ Herald: Anne Tolley – Government’s benefits target ‘very aspirational’

Scoop media:  On The Nation – Lisa Owen interviews Bill English, Anne Tolley and Hekia Parata

Twitter: ACT Party – Poor shouldn’t have kids

Twitter: Wendy Smith responds to ACT

Additional

Newsroom:  National doubling first home buyer subsidies in face of Treasury opposition and Australian experience

Other Blogs

The Standard:  Nat/ACT don’t think poor people should have kids

Previous related blogposts

Election ’17 Countdown: The Promise of Nirvana to come

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (tahi)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rua)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (toru)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (wha)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 11 September 2017.

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Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (wha)

11 September 2017 2 comments

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Who paid for the Budget surplus?

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The 2017 Pre-Election Fiscal Update (PREFU) revealed that the Nats had achieved a respectable $3.7 billion surplus – contrasting sharply  with the $1.6 billion forecasted surplus in the May 2017 Budget.

How did National achieve such a remarkable feat, despite reduced revenue from tax cuts in 2009 and 2010 and the re-build after the Christchurch and Kaikoura earthquakes?.

One doesn’t have to search far to find one possible answer where cuts were made to achieve their much-vaunted surplus;

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The answer has been revealed in an editorial in the New Zealand Medical Journal last year;

New Zealand’s health budget has been declining for almost a decade and could signal health reforms akin to the sweeping changes of the 1990s, new research claims.

Six prominent industry health leaders and researchers contributed to the editorial in the latest edition of the New Zealand Medical Journal, after several months analysing Government documents and data.

Their analysis showed Government spending in health had steadily tracked downward since 2009, despite constant reassurances from health ministers that spending was increasing year-on-year.

The $16.1 billion 2016 Health Budget, announced on Thursday, was $170 million more than last year, including $124m for Pharmac, $96m for elective surgery and $39m for a new bowel screening programme.

However, the researchers’ analysis of Budget data from 2009-10 found the country’s health budget had fallen short of what was needed each year to cover new services, increasing costs and the Ministry of Health’s cost-weighted index, which accounted for population growth and ageing.

The accumulated “very conservative” shortfall over the five years to 2014-15 was estimated at $800 million, but could be double that, Canterbury Charity Hospital founder and editorial co-author Phil Bagshaw said.

Writing for Fairfax,  Ashleigh Stewart  pointed out;

Vote Health’s operational expenditure decreased from 6.32 per cent to 5.95 per cent as a proportion of GDP in the same five years.

Government expenditure was set to continue falling overall, with New Zealand ranked 26th out of OECD countries for spending as a proportion of GDP in 2013.

This meant further cuts for health spending, which was estimated to drop by about 4 per cent a year.

“The continued under-resourcing of our health services . . . is not owing to unaffordability; it is a policy decision to reduce government expenditure overall and introduce tax cuts,” the editorial said.

Anyone who  harbours illusions that tax cuts are beneficial should think twice. Especially if  they have to face  waiting months or years on hospital waiting lists for critical surgery, or turned away because the system is stretched to breaking point;

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Then again, those like Bill English – who stands to gain the most from tax cuts – are also the most likely to be able to afford private health insurance.

National’s tax cuts should come clearly labelled;

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Because they really are.

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Steven Joyce – Pot. Kettle. Hypocrite.

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In the Dominion Post on 5 September, Steven Joyce was ‘doubling down’ and digging his hole deeper, as he steadfastly maintained National’s spin (aka, lie) that Labour’s Budget had a “$11.7 billion hole” in it;

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Joyce’s claims have since been rubbished by various economists – including, surprisingly, the right-wing think-tank, the NZ Initiative (formerly Business Roundtable);

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Acknowledgement for above graphic: Newshub

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More damning still was another remark Joyce made about Labour’s fictitious $11.7 billion “hole”;

“That level of spending and increased debt can only lead to one thing – higher interest rates for Kiwi mortgage holders.”

Which is risable as National has borrowed  eight times Joyce’s figure of $11.7 billion;

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That’s right;

“Government annual operating expenditure in these forecasts increases from $77 billion to $90 billion over the next four years, which is sufficient for significant ongoing improvement in the provision of public services,” Mr Joyce says.

And interestingly, during National’s massive borrowing-spree, interest rates have remained low. Joyce’s contention that borrowing leads to higher interest rates for mortgage holders doesn’t seem to have happened (yet) – and National has borrowed like there’s no tomorrow.

By making up outright lies about Labour’s budgetary plans, Joyce has not only revealed himself as as deceptive  – but drawn unwanted attention to National’s own irresponsible borrowing over the last nine years.

Well done, Steven;

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Peter Dunne. Ohariu. Coat-tailing.

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If it hasn’t been said already, the seat of Ohariu has become irrelevant.  Whether Brett Hudson or Greg O’Connor wins is now academic. Once again, it is the Party Vote that counts.

When Dunne was standing, the coat-tailing provision made him a valuable asset to National. If Dunne breached the 1.2% threshold as well as winning Ohariu, he would’ve dragged in another MP off the United Future party list.

It is the same reason National offered patronage to David “H” Seymour to gift him Epsom: the possibility of an extra ACT MP via MMP’s coat-tailing rule.

This is why Judith Collins doubled-down and stubbornly refused to implement the Electoral Commission’s recommendations in 2013  to eliminate the coat-tailing provision.

The Green Party was thus correct to stand a candidate in Ohariu. Whilst the Greens are not seeking to win the electorate, they are chasing Party Votes – and Ohariu is another opportunity to remind voters that the Greens are vital for this country’s environmental well-being.

Simply put; to be healthy we need our Greens.

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National’s fiscal hole?

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Bill English’s announcement on 4 September on TV3’s Leader’s Debate that his party would raise 100,000 children out of poverty in the next three years appears to have been policy made-on-the-hoof.

Because it’s not a matter of simply raising incomes for poor families. As English pointed out in the Debate, it is far more complex, requiring support from an array of social services;

“There’s two things you need to do, one is lift incomes the other is get inside the very toxic mix of social issues which we know are family violence, criminal offending and long-term welfare dependency. We’ve got the best tools in the world now to support rising incomes with cracking the social problems.”

This comes on top of National’s other pledges to improve access for social services;

National have pledged 600,000 low-income New Zealanders will have access to $18 GP visits. 

National will also expand the community services card to an additional 350,000 people, with low incomes and high housing costs.

Alongside free GP visits for under 13s and the Very Low Cost Access (VLCA) scheme for GP visits, which were already in place, National’s new policy would mean more than half of New Zealanders would be eligible for either free or cheap doctors visits. 

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman also chucked in a few more lollies from Labour’s lolly-jar;

“As well as getting access to cheap GP visits, 350,000 more New Zealanders with lower incomes and high housing costs, will receive cheap prescriptions, free emergency dental care and free glasses for children through their new community services cards.”

Plus National’s $10.5  billion “Roads of National Significance”.  (Called that, because those Roads are Significant for National to be re-elected.)

The obvious question is: has Steven Joyce checked if  it’s all been costed?

Are there any lurking micro-Black Holes in National’s Budget?

Wouldn’t it be ironic if…?

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References

Radio NZ:  Govt’s books show one-off $2bn boost

NBR:  Budget 2017 – Government forecast surpluses narrow on family package, capital spending

NZ Herald:  Report shows 170,000 people who need surgery are not on waiting list

Radio NZ:  Patients suffering because of surgery waits – surgeon

NZ Herald:  700 surgeries postponed as Auckland hospitals struggle to cope

Fairfax media:  Southern patients may be dying while waiting for surgery – Labour

Radio NZ:  Prostate cancer patients face wildly varying wait times

Radio NZ:  Southern DHB in a ‘slow motion train crash’

Scoop media:  280,000 New Zealanders waiting for surgery, wait times up

Fairfax media:  Thousands left off surgery waiting lists suffering indefinitely – study

Fairfax media:  Who is missing out on surgery? Government releases first figures of ‘phantom waiting list’

Fairfax media:  Researchers claim NZ health budget declining, publicly-funded surgery on way out

Fairfax media:  Busy Hamilton clinics turn away ambulances

Newsroom:  Election 2017 Live – Leaders clash in fiery debate

Dominion Post:  National accuses Labour of $11.7b spending plan error, Labour says National got it wrong

Mediaworks:  Economist consensus – there’s no $11.7b hole in Labour’s budget

National Party:  Pre-Election Fiscal Update 2017 (alt. link)

Fairfax media:   Government’s MMP review response slammed

Mediaworks:  Newshub Leaders Debate – Bill English commits to poverty target

Fairfax media:  National pledges $18 doctors visits for an extra 600,000 New Zealanders

Fairfax media:  National announce $10.5 billion roading plan

Previous related blogposts

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (tahi)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rua)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (toru)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 6 September 2017.

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Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (toru)

9 September 2017 Leave a comment

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Parliament’s Grassy knoll: who tried to character-assassinate Winston?

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The leaking  of Winston Peter’s superannuation over-payment is well known. Also known is that Ministers Paula Bennett and Anne Tolley were briefed by Ministry of Social Development and State Services Commission, respectively, on Peters’ private details regarding the over-payment before it was leaked to the media and made public knowledge.

Also briefed – though it is unclear why, as he was not a warranted Minister of the Crown – was political appointee, Chief of Staff, Wayne Eagleson.

Evidently the only person in the entire country not briefed was the Prime Minister, Bill “Double Dipper from Dipton” English.

Bennett, Tolley, and Judith Collins have all denied any involvement in the leak.

Paula Bennett was adamant;

“I don’t actually go around the back scuffling around doing leaks. I actually, if I’ve got something to say, I say it directly and up front and kind of bluntly. “

Which is true, in a Bizarro World kind of way. In 2009, when Bennett mis-used her Ministerial powers to reveal personal details of two solo mothers on the DPB, it was done in a very public manner.

However, Bennett never apologised publicly for the breaking of the two women’s privacy. And she stubbornly insisted she would do it again;

Asked if she would do the same thing again, Bennett said “it would depend on the circumstances”.

Perhaps Judith Collins, who disclosed a State servant’s name and personal information to a right-wing blogger, was involved in the leaking of Peters’ situation?

Prime Minister John Key has conceded it was “unwise” for Judith Collins to give Cameron Slater a public servant’s name, job title and phone number which was then used in an attack post on his Whale Oil blog.

However, John Key says no disciplinary action will be taken against the Justice Minister because the action pre-dated the final warning he gave Ms Collins over the Oravida scandal.

Mr Key says he still stands by the Justice Minister.

“I think the passing of private information, in terms of phone numbers, I think that’s unwise. It’s unwise of a Minister. Look in the end it’s one of those things,” Mr Key says.

Collins also refuse to accept she had done anything wrong – despite being forced to resign in 2014;

“I absolutely and strongly deny this and any suggestion of inappropriate behaviour. I am restrained in clearing my name while I am still a Minister inside Cabinet and I believe the right thing to do is to resign as a Minister so I am able to clear my name.

I have asked the Prime Minister for an Inquiry into these serious allegations so that my name can be cleared. I will, of course, cooperate with any Inquiry.”

Only Minister Tolley has not been accused of a direct privacy violation of any individual(s) – at the moment. However, MSD is know to leak like a sieve and it was MSD that briefed the Minister regarding Winston Peters.

One thing is for certain; some Ministers are not averse when it comes to leaking personal details of individuals who run foul of this government.

They have ‘form’.

Postscript

Recent revelations that blogger and activist, Martyn Bradbury, has had his private bank details scrutinised by Police shows how little National and its state agencies respect the privacy of individuals.

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Especially those who dare criticise the current regime.

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A face-palm moment for ACT candidate, Anneka Carlson

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Meet Anneka Carlson, ACT’s New Plymouth candidate and number seven on their Party List;

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Carlson is seventh on the list and would enter parliament if ACT gained 5 per cent of the party vote.

The 28-year-old never dreamt of being a politician but standing for ACT in her home town “just feels right.”

“It was meant to happen.”

Parliament needed people with life skills and her life experiences would help stand her in good stead if she is elected, she said.

The former West Auckland police officer owned her own business in New Plymouth, is a North Taranaki SPCA board member, and ran fitness programmes for cancer support groups.

She is also completing a business studies degree extra-murally at Massey University. 

“I’m fairly young, and I’m surprised to be high on the list because I’m a bit of political newbie, but I’ve already seen lot of things from working in the police.

All well and good – engaging young New Zealanders to enter politics should be encouraged. It should never be  the sole “happy hunting grounds” for Baby Boomers seeking to feather their own nests, at the expense of younger generations.

Unfortunately, there are times when youth counts against a candidate.  Such as when Ms Carlson lamented ACT’s lack of public support;

“It makes me wonder why people don’t know more about ACT in New Plymouth.”

It should be no surprise to anyone that Ms Carlson wonders why ACT is not supported more at the ballot box. It’s not because “people don’t know more about ACT“.

Quite the contrary – most New Zealanders middle-aged and over – are very clear about ACT and what it stands for. After all, we lived through ACT-style so-called “reforms” in the late 1980s and into the 1990s.

That is why ACT is not well supported except by a tiny minority of unreconstructed wealthy, privileged extremists. (Aka, the One Percent.)  At 28, Ms Carlson would be oblivious to all this.

But at least Ms Carlson understands how privileged she is as a middle-class pakeha from an economically well-supported background. As she herself admitted;

“I’ve come from a fairly privileged upbringing…”

At least Ms Carlson has a measure of self-awareness. Given time and experience she may understand how that privileged upbringing gives her a head start in life that is denied many others.

She may even experience that critical Road-To-Damascus revelation that ACT’s market-driven ideology has made matters much, much worse since 1984.

I suggest the next cuppa tea she has is not with David Seymour, but Jim Bolger.

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Another poll indicates coming change in government

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A recent Horizon Poll released on 1 September reconfirms the rise of Jacinda Ardern’s popularity with voters;

Jacinda Ardern has a 6% lead over Bill English as preferred Prime Minister among definite voters.

Among the 860 adult respondents who are both registered to vote and 100% likely to vote, Ardern leads English by 43% to 37%.

Among all of the 960 respondents to the August 11-15 Horizon Research poll Ardern leads 45% to 32%.

Winston Peters is preferred Prime Minister by 15% of all respondents and 14% of definite voters.

James Shaw, the Green Party leader, is preferred by 2%, and David Seymour of ACT and Te Ururoa Flavell of the Maori Party each by 1%.

Coincidentally, English’s current popularity at 37% is similar to Key’s Preferred Prime Minister ratings before he stepped down as Dear Leader Prime Minister.  By May last year, Key’s PPM rating had  fallen to 36.7% – continuing a steady downward trend.

Which means Ms Ardern is now more popular than John Key was, prior to his resignation.

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Another step back from globalisation

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Queensland’s Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, has announced a major step back from neo-liberalism’s prime enabler, globalism, by announcing that the State government would prioritise local businesses for contracts. The aim is to create more local jobs.

Ms Palaszczuk was unapologetic in renouncing globalisation;

“ Our new procurement strategy is unashamedly a ‘Buy Queensland’ one.  No longer will we be constrained by free trade agreements that have seen jobs go off-shore or interstate.

Wherever possible, one regional and one Queensland supplier will be invited to quote or tender for every procurement opportunity offered. Preference must be given to local subbies and manufacturers on significant infrastructure projects of $100 million or more.

This money comes from Queensland taxpayers, it is only right we spent it in a way that benefits Queensland businesses and workers as much as possible.”

According to the SBS report, Queensland spent  A$14 billion per annum  on supplies, services, plus A$4 billion  building and maintaining State infrastructure.

Ms Palaszczuk made a valid case for buying-local when she pointed out “this money comes from Queensland taxpayers, it is only right we spent it in a way that benefits Queensland businesses and workers“.

The prime role of a government in a Western-style democracy has always been (or should be!) to protect and enhance it’s citizens. Creating an environment where local jobs flourish  is part and parcel of that dictum.

Governments are not “in business” to create  jobs in other countries at the expense of their own workers.

ExportNZ’s Executive Director, Catherine Beard, was predictably hostile;

The ‘Buy Queensland’ promotion should be about encouraging Aussies to buy their local product, just like ‘Buy NZ Made’ encourages New Zealanders to buy Kiwi-made. It’s OK to encourage your people to buy local, but it’s not OK to mandate State Government weightings that amount to protectionism.

The protectionism in Queensland’s policy is completely contrary to Closer Economic Relations between New Zealand and Australia.

In plain english, Ms Beard is fine with “it’s OK to encourage your people to buy local,” but “it’s not OK to mandate State Government weightings that amount to protectionism” because it harmed the interests of her members.

Tough. It’s about time globalisation began to be rolled back instead of continually exporting jobs and entire businesses to off-shore jurisdictions where labour is cheaper and easily exploitable because of lax (or unenforced) labour laws.

We need fair trade, not so-called “free” trade. “Free” trade is not free when we, the tax-payers, have to foot the bill to pay for welfare, because workers became unemployed after their jobs were exported to China, Vietnam, Pakistan, Fiji, etc, or cheaper (and often shoddier) goods imported to unfairly compete with locally-made products.

Queensland’s Premier understands this. She wants jobs created for her own workers – not in some other country. Especially when those workers in other nations won’t be paying tax in Queensland.

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References

Radio NZ:  Timeline – Winston Peters’ superannuation overpayments saga

NZ Herald:  Beehive knew of Winston Peters’ super payments weeks ago

Mediaworks:  Paula Bennett says she doesn’t go ‘scuffling around doing leaks’

Fairfax media:  Bennett won’t rule out releasing beneficiary details

Mediaworks:  Collins ‘unwise’ to pass information to Slater

NZ Herald:  Statement from Judith Collins

Fairfax media:  Government backs down over collecting individuals’ data until security confirmed

Fairfax media:  Former promotional ‘hype girl’ keen to get more dancing to ACT’s tune

Fairfax media:  Tick party vote for ACT to bring quality candidates into parliament, leader says

Fairfax media:  The 9th floor – Jim Bolger says neoliberalism has failed NZ and it’s time to give unions the power back

Fairfax media:  Hamilton social service providers dispute PM’s ‘almost’ no homeless claim

Horizon Poll:  Ardern preferred Prime Minister with 6% lead

Mediaworks:  Newshub poll – Key’s popularity plummets to lowest level

SBS: Qld govt to prioritise local businesses

Scoop media:  Trade Ministers need firm hand over Queensland

Other Blogs

Martyn Bradbury:  My case against a secret NZ Police investigation that breached my privacy and my civil rights

Previous related blogposts

The slow dismantling of a Prime Minister – downward slide continues

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (tahi)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rua)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 4 September 2017.

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Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rua)

8 September 2017 Leave a comment

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National’s Running Ad – Unintended Messaging?

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Nearly everyone has seen National’s “running ad” – a variation on last election’s rowing-boat advertisement – but without the plagiarised and illegal use of an artist’s music.

The full advert can be seen here, on Youtube.

The messaging is fairly uncomplicated and straight-forward; the blue (actually, more like teal) team is a metaphor for National running together as a team, whilst other “joggers” – representing Labour, Greens, and NZ First – are limping along. It’s about as subtle as burning a cross on a Black American’s front lawn.

But, take another, closer look as the Teal Team does it’s cross-country running…

First, the obligatory Clean and Green and 100% Pure message;

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With not a hint of  cows defaecating in the background creating polluted, unswimmable waterways;

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Yup. New Zealand as we imagine it in our fantasies.

It becomes pretty clear though, that National is strong on presenting an image – an Aryan image;

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With the brown folk somewhere in the background, and very bloody happy with their lot in life;

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The jog takes them along a deserted country highway. By now the “jog” is beginning to look very much like inmates from one of  National’s boot-camps, enduring a  forced run;

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Back to wide-open scenery – as the runners jog across a dammed river or lake;

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Is this really National’s vision of an unspoiled, 100% “Pure” countryside – with a dam across it?

But here is where it really starts to get creepy with an unintended subliminal message beamed out to every household in the country. The Teal Team approach runners from a mixed Red (Labour), Black (NZ First) and Green (ditto) team. The other Team are clearly struggling;

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The Teal Team run past;

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As they do, the Mixed Team begin to  stumble;

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The Mixed Team stumble and collapse, falling to the ground;

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And down they go;

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The Teal Team seem apparently (?) oblivious to the situation and continue to run on;

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So the “message” from this advert is that National will readily ignore other people in obvious distress and carry on their merry way?

The subliminal theme presented by the Teal Team is one of callous indifference.

This may not have been National’s intended message. But it sure ties in with child poverty, homelessness, income inequality, and other dire social problems ignored by National. Not  until the media spotlight is focused sharply on the plight of families living in garages, cars, or tents, does National react.

The focus groups presented with this advert clearly didn’t understand the subconscious meaning  within these images when they gave it their ‘thumbs up’. Or maybe they did – but just didn’t care.

Postscript

As at 1 September, the National Party runners ad scored 570 ‘Dislikes’ as opposed to 173 ‘Likes’.

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On Youtube at least,  the Nats have already lost the election.

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The Real Green ‘Jogger’ who tried

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The doom of Metiria Turei  was well and truly sealed when the Establishment Media (aka, Media Elite) and assorted right-wing bloggers and commentators ripped her reputation to shreds like a pack of blood-crazed pit-bulls in a feeding-frenzy.

Some of the public understood her situation.

Many did not. The conservative public passed judgement on Ms Turei because, well, passing judgement on someone elses’ perceived moral ‘lapses’  makes the Judger feel so much better about him/herself.

Ms Turei’s sacrifice appears to have struck a chord with a significant number of  people;

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The Dominion Post, however, barely reported the story in a meaningful way;

Former Greens co-leader Metiria Turei has received the most nominations for the 2018 New Zealander of the Year Awards so far.

Support for Turei increased after her resignation following her admission she’d lied to Work and Income to receive higher benefit payments in the 1990s, the awards organisation said.

The nominee with the second highest number of nominations is the Australian deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce – although his eligibility to win won’t be assessed until nominations have closed.

Joyce was recently revealed to be a New Zealand citizen because his father was born here. The revelation came during a spate of Australian senators having to step down after checking laws preventing them holding dual citizenship while in office. Since then, Joyce has renounced is New Zealand citizenship. Stuff has contacted Joyce’s office for comment.

The Dompost focused more on Australian deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, than on Ms Turei’s public support.

The NZ Herald  barely mentioned the fact  that Ms Turei was leading nominations with it’s story;

Despite Turei’s fall from grace after she publicly admitted she lied to Winz about her living circumstances in the 1990s she has received the most nominations.

In an act of casual minimisation, both papers made sure their stories did not reflect any degree of public support for the former Green Party co-leader.

One thing seems  clear – there is an under-current of support for Metiria Turei.

Postscript

Anyone wanting to add their voice to nominate Ms Turei can do so on the New Zealander of the Year website.

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Fran O’Sullivan… takes a jump to the Left

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Following on from several political parties expressing varying degrees of a gradual move back to state-funded tertiary education, Fran O’Sullivan – the doyen of the Right and nominally an “impartial” journalist writing for the NZ Herald appeared on TVNZ’s Q+A on 27 August as one of it’s regular panellists.

She had this to say about sales of land and property to off-shore investor/speculators; land-banking in Auckland, and current policies that drove house-prices, gifting a tax-free gain for speculators;

@ 1.09

“… when he [Phil Twyford] talked about property speculators, what and how […] what exactly are you going to do there? Are you going to bring in place capital gains taxes? Because I say that because right now, including our government officials, we’re being marketed internationally as a hot place for property investment. No capital gains tax. No stamp duty.

In China and elsewhere, the people coming out of the US buying the big stations, that sort of thing. This is a global property play we’re in and we’re being marketed as a very good place for that. We need to have a much more holistic view I think than what we got today.”

@ 6.07

“Well I was actually quite stunned that people are talking in the range of $500,000 to $600,000. For first home owners I think that’s quite ridiculous. I think it needs to come down further.

I think there needs to be very large state intervention on the land bankers. Just to free up is not enough, I think they’ve got to take a haircut […] what happened to people after the war, farms were sold at fixed prices so people could come back in. We have a national crisis and I think, you know, speculating, and land.”

A pro-National, ostensibly pro-free market commentator loudly voicing support for seizure of privately held land?  Make no mistake, this is heresy against the supreme core neo-liberal tenet of the supremacy of individual land-owning “rights”.

What Ms O’Sullivan was advocating is a giant leap to the Left.

In effect, private land ownership has not only failed to deliver affordable homes to young New Zealanders – but is actually an impediment. Our aspirations for families to own their own homes has been confounded by unfettered capitalistic greed.

Ms O’Sullivan appears to have experienced a Road-To-Damascus conversion that neo-liberalism is not the answer. Like any inflexible, dogmatic ideology, it is part of the problem.

She joins former National PM, Jim Bolger in his own personal discovery that the neo-liberal so-called “reforms” he over-saw in the 1990s are a failure;

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Nick Smith’s Mixed Message of The Month

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On 18 August, our putative “Environment’ Minister, Nick Smith, voiced his concerns that New Zealand-based company, Rocket Labs, may be impacting environmentally on our ocean floor. The concerns were that debris from rocket launches from Mahia Peninsula in Hawke’s Bay could be harming the ocean floor;

“The preliminary work indicates the environmental effects are small, but after 100 launches we may want to have a fresh look as to what is the future regulatory regime beyond that.

By the time we have had 100 lots of debris hit the ocean, fall to the seabed, we will have a better idea [of the environmental impact].

Right now we are not able to get advice on exactly how much of the jettisoned material will actually make it to sea level, or whether it will burn up prior to hitting the ocean.

When we have that information we will be able to refine the regulatory regime.”

Meanwhile, National  has permitted granting of a consent to Trans-Tasman Resources  to mine 50 million tonnes of iron ore sand off the coast of south Taranaki each year, every year, for the next 35 years.

The process would involve mining;

“…50 million tonnes of sand from the seabed off the coast of Patea in South Taranaki, extract the iron ore from it using a giant magnet, and then put 44 million tonnes back”

The damage to ocean life in the surrounding sea and ocean floor cannot even be imagined. The zone of mining would most likely become a dead-zone – uninhabitable.

Unbelievably, consent was given by the so-called Environmental Protection Agency, despite receiving 13,417 submissions demanding that Trans-Tasman Resources’  application to be declined – and only 147 submissions in support.

Meanwhile the Ministry for the Environment has determined that any impact by Rocket Labs on the seafloor would be minimal;

“Overall, our view is that the risks to the environment and existing interests from jettisoned material falling into the EEZ are low and that the development of a space vehicle launch industry will have significant economic benefits for New Zealand, at a national and regional level.”

One has to wonder where Nick Smith’s priorities lie?

At the bottom of the ocean floor, by the looks of things.

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References

Youtube:  Keep NZ Moving Forward – Party Vote National

NZ Herald:  Cows in water supply shock town

Dominion Post:  Metiria Turei has most nominations for 2018 New Zealander of the Year

NZ Herald:  Metiria Turei and Barnaby Joyce lead nominations for NZer of the Year

New Zealander of the Year:  Nominate

TVNZ’s Q+A:  Housing Debate – Panel – 27 August 2017

Fairfax media:  The 9th floor – Jim Bolger says neoliberalism has failed NZ and it’s time to give unions the power back

Radio NZ: Rocket Lab faces government environmental checks

Mediaworks:  Trans-Tasman Resources gets consent to mine iron ore sand off south Taranaki

Manawatu Standard:  Call for moratorium on all seabed mining amid ‘secretive’ application

NZ Herald:  NZ rocket launches raise concerns about toxic environmental fallout

 

Previous related blogposts

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (tahi)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 3 September 2017.

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