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Archive for November, 2017

St. Steven and the Holy Grail of Fiscal Responsibility

30 November 2017 3 comments

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National’s Steven Joyce is up to his old tricks, pontificating and lecturing the new Coalition government on “fiscal correctness”

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Which called for this timely reminder to the former Minister of Finance…

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: NZ Herald <letters@herald.co.nz>
date: 22 November 2017
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
NZ Herald

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Former Finance Minister, Steven Joyce, rails against the Coalition government’s plans to introduce a regional fuel tax for Auckland, claiming;

“Because if they controlled their costs properly they’d be able to have the sort of money, the $150 million a year that a regional fuel tax would generate, they’d have that in surplus if they just ran the council properly.

… ‘hey get your costs under control’.” (Radio NZ: “Auckland Council could avoid fuel tax – National Party”)

This is the same minister whose previous government racked up $70 billion in debt during their nine years term – exacerbated by two unaffordable tax cuts in 2009 and 2010, and increasing debt by $2 billion each year. (Scoop media:  “Govt’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting”) In effect, National borrowed money – up to $450 million per week in 2009 – from offshore to put into the pockets of mostly top income earners.

Which made a mockery of John Key’s claim in August 2008 that National’s planned tax-cuts would be “hermetically sealed” from the rest of National massive borrowing plans. (NZ Herald: “Nats to borrow for other spending – but not tax cuts”)

Let’s hope the Auckland Council doesn’t follow National’s appalling record of “controlling their costs properly”. It would bankrupt the city.

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-Frank Macskasy

[address and phone number supplied]

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Each time the Nats open their mouths to carp about the Coalition’s reforms, it is a delight to remind them of their own pitiful track record over the last nine years. And for Steven Joyce, I offer his very own:

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Postscript

It appears that Mr Joyce has taken offence at something I’ve said. The poor fragile flower has blocked me from his Twitter account;

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It is highly reassuring to know that  I have been noticed by those in high office. And amusing to realise just how incredibly thin-skinned they are.

My work continues.

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References

Radio NZ:  Auckland Council could avoid fuel tax – National Party

Scoop media:  Govt’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting

ODT:  Government now borrowing $450 million a week – claim

NZ Herald:  Nats to borrow for other spending – but not tax cuts

Twitter:  @stevenljoyce

Other blogs

Werewolf: The Myth of Steven Joyce

Previous related blogposts

Joyce, TPPA, and wine exports

Key & Joyce – competing with Paula Bennett for Hypocrites of the Year?

Steven Joyce – Hypocrite of the Week

Letter to the Editor – Steven Joyce, Hypocrite of the Year

Steven Joyce rails against low mortgage interest rates; claims higher interest rates “beneficial”

Dollars and sense – Joyce’s hypocrisy

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 November 2017.

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Judith Collins owes an explanation to voters

25 November 2017 6 comments

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National’s narrative continues

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The National Party is continuing with it’s strategy to question and undermine the legitimacy of the  Labour-Green-NZFirst coalition government.

On 24 October,on Radio NZ’s Morning Report,  Bill English questioned whether or not Labour had a mandate to govern;

“ The voters at large probably expected that if you got 44 and a half percent of the vote, you were some part of the government or the big part of it.

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How to hold to account a government that’s been put together in an unusual way.

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Just remember this is a prime minister who’s the first one in a hundred years who lost the popular vote and lost it by quite a bit.

… It didn’t win the vote.

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when an election is lost, a larger party captured the direction New Zealand wanted to go in.

On further questioning, English was forced to concede that Labour had a mandate;

I accept that, absolutely… It’s a legitimate result…

Well, I’ve been saying all year that the… all the other parties put together can beat you on the day. And that’s what happened on Thursday. So that’s MMP. That’s how it works.

On the 10th of November, Judith Collins took up the narrative, questioning whether or not Peters had been conducting coalition negotiations in good faith;

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Collins complained that because Winston Peters had filed legal action against several National MPs and their staff, that this constituted “bad faith” bargaining;

At the time, we were very much convinced on our side there were genuine negotiations going on. But I’ve got to say, it’s not looking like it was quite so genuine anymore.

She further demanded an explanation from the NZ First leader;

“ I think Winston Peters should really explain himself to the public because there were a lot of voters who were disappointed in his decision.  I think New Zealanders are owed an explanation. Was he being genuine, or was it just a play?”

Now this is richly ironic on several levels.

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Bargaining in good faith

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Firstly, I am reminded of National’s legislative changes to workplace collective bargaining in 2014. As MoBIE reported at the time, “good faith bargaining” was watered down to the extent that “the duty of good faith does not require collective agreement to be concluded“;

Before the law change, parties bargaining for a collective agreement were required to conclude that agreement unless there was genuine reason not to. The change means that a collective agreement does not have to be concluded, however parties must still deal with each other in good faith.

The Employment Relations Amendment Act 2014 came into effect on 6 March 2015 and passed provisions in the Bill that “providing that the duty of good faith does not require parties to reach a collective agreement“.

So providing that employers could show they “acted in good faith“, there was no onus on them to conclude bargaining to achieve a collective agreement.

Sound familiar?

It should. It’s what Judith “Crusher” Collins has complained about;

At the time, we were very much convinced on our side there were genuine negotiations going on. But I’ve got to say, it’s not looking like it was quite so genuine anymore.

The richest irony of all; National complaining that bargaining to establish a “collective agreement” for a National-NZFirst Coalition was not conducted in good faith.

“Good faith bargaining” and the “National Party” – not words we usually associate together in the same sentence.

My heart bleeds.

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New Zealanders owed an explanation?!

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Collins was engaging in some loud, toy-tossing whining when she demanded “I think Winston Peters should really explain himself to the public because there were a lot of voters who were disappointed in his decision.  I think New Zealanders are owed an explanation”.

While we’re about who is owed explanations by whom, let’s re-cap on some matters that arose  in the last nine years of National’s governance – and remain outstanding ;

2009 – Paula Bennett releases personal details relating to two solo-mothers, after they challenged the Minister’s decision to cease the Training Incentive Allowance (which Bennett herself used to gain a free tertiary education);

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Not only did  Bennett not apologise  for misusing personal information for political point-scoring – she hinted she would do it again;

 …it would depend on the circumstances.

Paula Bennett: New Zealanders are owed an explanation.

2013 & 2014 – Judith Collins was revealed to have close connections with Oravida, which her husband was also a director of. Collins;

  • opened Oravida’s new Auckland headquarters in October 2013
  • whilst on a tax-payer funded trip to China, Collins had a private  dinner-function  with Oravida bosses and an un-named senior Chinese border official
  • on the same tax-payer funded trip to China,  Collins “stopped by”  Oravida’s Shanghai offices “on the way to the airport” – despite Oravida’s offices being   thirty kilometres in the opposite direction
  • prior to Collins’ dinner at Oravida’s Shanghai offices, Oravida  sought assistance from the NZ Government on Chinese border control problems
  • received donations totalling $86,000 for the National Party coffers
  • received thousands of dollars of donations from other Oravida-linked sources

The perception of a severe conflict of interest where Collins may have mis-used her Ministerial position to further Oravida’s interests remain unanswered.

Judith Collins: New Zealanders are owed an explanation.

2014 – Judith Collins (again) was uncovered sharing information – including personal information, leaks, and gossip – with far-right blogger, Cameron Slater.

In his book ‘Dirty Politics‘, investigative journalist Nicky Hager Mediaworks outlined how Collins had;

  • … discussed details of the Bronwyn Pullar ACC case with Mr Slater and she may have been behind the leak;
  • … fed Mr Slater a constant stream of gossip, for example, anecdotes about Labour MP Trevor Mallard making a fool of himself;
  • … may have been involved in a prisoner transfer requested by Mr Slater, while she was Corrections Minister;
  • … emailed Mr Slater the name of a ministerial services staff member who he went on to attack on his blog.

Collins was also accused of running a vendetta against then Serious Fraud Office Director, Adam Feeley, and working with Slater to destroy the SFO boss’s career.

In 15 August 2014, then-Dear Leader Key refused categorically to  sack or even investigate Collins for alleged mis-use of ministerial power;

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most corrupt politicioan in NZ's history - judith collins

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Two weeks later, she was gone-burger. Collins had “resigned”;

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(Unsurprisingly, Collins was later “cleared” of allegations that “she was working with Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater to get rid of former Serious Fraud Office  boss Adam Feeley”.  Evidently, despite several fifteen minute telephone calls between Slater and Collins, Justice Lester Chisholm insisted that the “Whaleoil” blogger had ” over-embellished” when he sent emails saying Collins was “gunning for Feeley”. Yeah, right.)

Yet, questions still persist surrounding Collins’ dealings with Cameron Slater and people she allegedly tried to destroy.

Judith Collins: New Zealanders are owed an explanation.

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Conclusion

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It is unquestionably the role of the Parliamentary Opposition to question the government and hold it to account. Along with the media (as flawed as it sometimes is), a strong Opposition is a necessary function of a healthy democracy.

But having someone like Judith Collins, who has so many unanswered questions hanging over her, demanding accountability undermines the effectiveness of the Opposition.

Collins’ time has come and gone. She should resign from Parliament altogether and let her place be taken by someone untainted by dubious associations; questionable conflicts of interest; and allegations of mis-use of ministerial power.

Other MPs have resigned for less.

 

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References

Radio NZ:  Bill English faces first caucus since defeat (alt.link)(audio)

Mediaworks:  Winston Peters ‘not genuine’ in coalition talks – Judith Collins

Mediaworks:  Winston Peters takes legal action against National Party over leak ‘plot’

MoBIE:  Law changes to collective bargaining

MoBIE:  Amendments to the Employment Relations Act 2000 (March 2015)

NZ Herald: Bennett gets tough with outspoken solo mums

Dominion Post: Minister defends releasing private details

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

Mediaworks: Timeline – Judith Collins and Oravida

Mediaworks: Key won’t investigate Collins claims

Interest.co.nz:  Judith Collins resigns after revelation of Slater email saying she was “gunning for Feeley”; Collins denies campaigning to oust SFO Director; Key says Collins had to go

Mediaworks:  Judith Collins cleared of colluding with Whale Oil blogger Slater

Fairfax media: How did Key mislead Parliament?

Other Blogs

The Paepae:  The Judith Collins Chisholm inquiry – Who was actually on trial?

The Standard:  Collective bargaining? Yeah right

Previous related blogposts

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

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

Hon. Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy

“Dirty Politics” and The Teflon Man

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign… (Iwa)

“Fool me once”…

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 20 November 2017.

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“Fool me once”…

17 November 2017 5 comments

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Fool me once, shame on you.

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Fool me twice, shame on me!

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That was then, this is now (1)

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So what was National’s problem with the number of committee members on Select Committees? “Shadow leader of the House“, Simon Bridges, accused the new Labour-Green-NZ First coalition government of “ trying to limit scrutiny of its actions by attempting to cut the number of Opposition MPs on select committees because it is short on numbers itself ”.

Bridges claimed;

One of the most important ways to do that is through the select committee process. But rather than fronting up to that scrutiny, Labour is now saying it wants to allow fewer elected representatives to carry out that vital function – that’s undemocratic.

While the number of positions on select committees has traditionally matched the number of MPs in Parliament, Labour wants to restrict the number because it doesn’t have enough members of its own.”

It’s true. The new Coalition government was going to reduce Select Committee numbers from 120 to 96.

But Bridges was not being truthful with the public when he blamed Labour for wanting to  “restrict the number because it doesn’t have enough members of its own”.

In fact, that decision was made by the Standing Orders Committee in July of this year, when National was in government.  National’s David Carter was Speaker of the House and Chairperson of the SOC.

The National government SOC report stated;

“We do not favour specifying the number of seats in the Standing Orders. The Business Committee should retain the ability to determine the size of each committee. We propose instead that the Business Committee adopt a target of 96 seats across the 12 subject select committees. We considered models based on 108 committee seats, which would have little impact given the decrease in the number of committees, and 84 committee seats, which would leave too many members without permanent committee seats—a matter considered below. A total of 96 seats will result in most committees having seven, eight, or nine members.”

Bridges belatedly admitted that the reduction in Select Committee numbers was a decision made by National when it had been in government. But he complained that National had made the decision because they were trying to be ‘nice’ to Labour and other opposition parties;

We were a Government [in July] … trying to accommodate the Opposition who wanted that. But now the Opposition doesn’t want it. Because back then, it is such a disadvantage to us.”

“Disadvantage”?

David Carter’s July 2017 report was clear in its intent;

“We believe there would be some merit in decreasing the overall number of select committee seats while retaining the proportionality requirement. Committees are generally larger than is necessary for them to be effective, and some members have too many committee commitments. With a decrease in the number of subject committees from 13 to 12, committees would become even larger if the overall membership remained around 120.

A decrease in committee seats would provide more flexibility for parties to manage committee attendance and absences. This flexibility would also allow members to attend committee meetings according to their interests, expertise, and availability. Government backbench members would not be expected to be on more than two committees each, allowing them to be more focused in their committee work. There could also be greater scope to arrange extended sittings at the same time as committee meetings, as fewer members would be required to attend those meetings.”

No mention made of “trying to accommodate the Opposition”. Carter’s report was more concerned with  National backbench MPs  being over-worked. “Making nice” with Labour is not mentioned.

National’s modus operandi of dishonesty appears not to have changed as they begin their long twilight Decade of Opposition.

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Hypocrisy, National-style

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National’s Simon Bridges also said on 6 November;

The role of the Opposition is to hold the Government to account, to scrutinise its actions and to advocate for the views of the people they are elected to represent. One of the most important ways to do that is through the select committee process. ”

Curiously, the role of Select Committees to “hold the Government to account, to scrutinise its actions and to advocate for the views of the people they are elected to represent” did not seem to tax Mr Bridges’ noble views when National forced through the so-called ‘Hobbit Law’ in 2010.

The “Hobbit law” – aka the Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Act 2010 – was enacted under Urgency from First Reading to Royal Asset in under 48 hours!

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Such unheard of rapidity to pass legislation – even under Urgency – was the political equivalent of a starship travelling at near-light velocity. Needless to say there was no Select Committee over-sight.  There was no scrutiny. And MPs did not get an opportunity to “advocate for the views of the people they are elected to represent“.

According to right-wing National apparatchik and blogger, David Farrar, and then Opposition Labour MP, Grant Robertson, the National government used Urgency to pass seventeen laws during it’s first two yours in office. There was no public consultation permitted. No public submissions sought.

National’s (mis-)use of Urgency during it’s nine years in office  shows Bridges to be hypocritical when he preaches;

 The Government must let parliamentary structures fully reflect the decisions of voters and allow its ideas to be tested – that’s in the interests of all New Zealanders.”

But when Simon Bridges was Minister for Labour in 2014, his view on passing health and safety legislation was in stark contrast. As I reported three years ago;

Helen Kelly accused Minister of Labour, Simon Bridges of slowing progress of the passing of the Health and Safety Bill, and actively interfering and restricting the terms of a Worksafe NZ review of safety practices in the forestry industry. She said,

We know the minister has restricted right down what they’re allowed to look at. They’re not looking at fatigue. They’re not looking at weather. They’re not looking at hours of work. Simon Bridges has said, ‘no, wait for the review’.

Bridges response on Radio NZ’s Morning Report, on 28 April [2014], did nothing to allay fears that he was  taking the side of forestry operators and doing everything within his power to stymie reform of the industry, and resist implementation of a stricter safety regime.

When Morning Report’s Susie Ferguson pressed Bridges on  when the Health and Safety Reform Bill would be passed into law, his response was derisory and dismissive,

We can’t simply, ah,  because Helen Kelly sez so, do something in two days.

...  But I don’t think it’s a position where we can simply snap our fingers and change  systemic, ah, ah, deep  problems overnight. Indeed it would be entirely wrong for us to do that.

Hypocrisy on so many levels… where does one even start with the National Party?!

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Treachery, National-style

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In holding to ransom the election of Trevor Mallard as Speaker of the House, National bluffed it’s way to increase the number of their MPs that can be appointed to Select Committees. This was despite a clear understanding between the new Coalition government and National that Trevor Mallard would be elected unopposed as Speaker, and National’s Anne Tolley as Deputy Speaker.

By demanding a vote be taken, National reneged on their agreement.

The threat from the Opposition Benches was a  dire  warning to the new Coalition government that National was prepared to play dirty.

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Chris Hipkins and Grant Robertson negotiate with duplicitous and disloyal  National Opposition MPs

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The  Coalition has been taught a clear lesson. As Leader of the House, Chris Hipkins said after the fiasco;

Lesson learnt, they won’t catch us out on that ever again in the future.

Adding;

Perhaps when dealing with the Opposition, I’ll be a little more careful to make sure I get a specific undertaking from them in future.

Indeed, Chris. Be very careful.  The lesson of National’s willingness to engage in dirty tricks; double dealing; and other obstructionist tactics should not be lost on any Labour, Green, or NZ First MPs.

National MPs lack honour.

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National’s desperation to remain relevant

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For National, the stakes are high and they will do everything within their power – perhaps pushing as close to the edge of legality as humanly possible – to achieve the destruction of this Coalition government, and spark an early election.

Make no mistake. National realises two crucial things are in play;

#1: Polling Decay in Opposition

The longer the Nats remain in Opposition, the  faster their public support will erode. Post 2008, Labour’s polling continued to plummet, whereas National’s ascendancy continued to build on it electoral success;

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The longer National stays in Opposition, the further it’s public support will fall. It is hard to imagine that it’s election night result of 44.4%  will be maintained to the next election in 2020.

In short, the Nats risk growing irrelevancy the longer they stay out of government.

#2: Dismantling the Neo-liberal Paradigm

Chris Trotter wrote on 26 October;

“ We face an economic system without the slightest idea how to solve the problems created by its discredited policies and practices. Nevertheless, the Neoliberal Establishment remains very strong, and just as soon as it settles upon an effective strategy of resistance, the fightback will begin.

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The Labour-NZ First-Green Government will be presented by these hard-line rightists as an illegitimate and dangerously anti-capitalist regime. Its anti-business and anti-farming policies, they will argue, are not only incompatible with genuine Kiwi democracy, but also constitute a direct attack on the sanctity of private property. As such, it will not be enough to merely oppose this far-left government; it will be necessary to fight it head-on.

Brexit. Donald Trump. Justin  Trudeau. Jeremy Corbyn. Emmanuel Macron. Whether on the Left or Right, or Mad Populist; whether in office or not; there is a mood for change sweeping the globe. The promises of neo-liberalism; the “free” market; and globalism have failed to materialise for the many – whilst amassing vast wealth for the few.

“Trickle down” has become a sick joke that offers opportunities for cartoonists…

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… but not much else for the unemployed; the low-paid; and the precariat. It’s hard to be a cheer-leader for globalisation when your job has been “exported” to Shanghai; outsourced to Manila; or replaced by a robot.

It is against that back-drop of growing public resentment against the neo-liberal orthodoxy that National understands it is living on ‘borrowed time’. The longer they remain in Opposition, the more time the Coalition government has to un-pick the strands of neo-liberalism and reinstate the role of the State in commerce, workplace relations, housing, education, health, and elsewhere.

The more that neo-liberalism is unravelled, the harder it will be for National in the long-term to re-build. Especially if a resurgent State succeeds in housing the homeless; fully funding public healthcare and cutting back waiting lists; and all the other cuts to social services that National sneaked through gradually, without being noticed except by a few.

Expect desperation to be the motivator for everything National does in the next three years.

They know the clock is ticking.

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That was then, this is now (2)

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On 24 October,  Bill English was interviewed on Radio NZ’s Morning Report by Susie Ferguson. He was asked about his earlier comments  about the current coalition being a “minority government”;

English began by voicing that the incoming coalition government had not won the “popular vote”. First he complained that his Party should have been the government simply because of it’s size;

“ The voters at large probably expected that if you got 44 and a half percent of the vote, you were some part of the government or the big part of it.

Then he suggested that the formation of the coalition was somehow “unusual”;

“…How to hold to account a government that’s been put together in an unusual way.

English did not fully explain why the coalition formation was “unusual”.

Then he hinted that the Coalition government might not be legitimate;

Just remember this is a prime minister who’s the first one in a hundred years who lost the popular vote and lost it by quite a bit.”

… It didn’t win the vote.

English’s comments might make sense under a First Past the Post system – but under MMP his arithmetic doesn’t add up.  Added together, Labour, NZ First, and the Greens won more votes than National and ACT. More people voted for change than the status quo.

Which prompted Ms Ferguson to remind English that the new Coalition government is made up of three parties, so how was that different to the National-led government that he (English) led?

English’s response again reflected First Past the Post thinking, by referring to National as the larger party and thereby somehow entitled to rule;

“…when an election is lost, a larger party captured the direction New Zealand wanted to go in.

Ms Ferguson had to remind Mr English that 44% is not a majority. The arithmetic simply did not support the National leader’s expectations of a “right to govern” based on size. Perhaps because he understood the nature of Radio NZ listeners, he was forced to admit;

I accept that, absolutely… It’s a legitimate result…

Well, I’ve been saying all year that the… all the other parties put together can beat you on the day. And that’s what happened on Thursday. So that’s MMP. That’s how it works.

But despite claiming to understand how MMP works, he couldn’t result a further dig at the Coalition;

Put it this way, if the Labour Party got 44% of the vote, I think anyone would argue they’d be in a stronger position to start a government than they are today.

But Ms Ferguson was having none of English trying to have a bob-each-way and put to him a simple question; did the National Party have a moral mandate to be the leading party of government?

To which English could only reply:

We accept, like everybody else should, that’s its a legitimate result of MMP. No contest about that. That’s how the rules work, we all knew that.

Nine days later, and English was back on the warpath, threatening to de-stabilise the Coalition government under the pretext of Opposition;

We are the dominant select committee party and we’re not the government, and that is going to make a difference to how everything runs.

It’s not our job to make this place run for an incoming government that’s a minority.

Remember this, we are the opposition with a minority government, it’s a term the media don’t use but you’ll get to understand that it is a minority government with a majority opposition and the Greens as the support party, and that’s how we’re going to run it.

The constant reference to “minority government” and National being the “dominant party” carries on the narrative being run by English’s party strategists; that this new coalition is a “minority” (it’s not); that National was denied it’s rightful position as government (it wasn’t); and that the election results were somehow “stolen” (not true).

With 65% of NZ First supporters showing a strong preference to coalesce with Labour, Winston Peters’ decision was sound and democratic. Any other decision – such as allying with the Nats and ACT – would have had destructive consequences for NZ First.

Which, of course, would have suited National perfectly. The Nats have already  destroyed two political parties (United Future and Maori Party) and neutered a third (ACT). Another notch on their belt would not have concerned them greatly.

Indeed, look on National as the Planet Jupiter – drawing in debris such as asteroids and comets with it’s massive gravitational field; effectively “scouring” the solar system of small objects.

National draws in smaller parties with it’s massive political-gravitational pull, and consumes them.

No wonder the Green Party exercised caution and ensured their trajectory carried them safely away from National’s crushing embrace. A “Teal Coalition” would have torn apart the Greens as effectively as Jupiter smashed  Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 in 1994.

But if English and his cronies in Her Majesty’s ‘Loyal’ Opposition believe that “it’s not our job to make this place run for an incoming government that’s a minority” – then they had best tread carefully.

The voting public are not all gullible fools and they do take notice.

As does the media.

On 9 November and 10 November, Fairfax media ran two consecutive editorials on the incoming coalition government and National’s role as Parliament’s newest Opposition.

On 9 November, an editorial writer cautioned National;

Oppositions whose sole aim is to sabotage the government, however, risk alienating the voters. In the United States, the Republican Party repeatedly tried to shut down the government altogether by denying it the money it needs to function.

The long-term risk is that this strategy will be tried by the other side when the roles are switched. The result could be the kind of paralysis of government too often seen in the United States. Oppositions don’t gain in the long term by making the country ungovernable.

In New Zealand, there is also a strong tradition of giving a new government a “fair go”. Voters traditionally allow some leeway, and even grant it a kind of temporary political honeymoon…

And on 10 November, similar warnings were issued;

The opposition has already signalled that it intends to make life more difficult than usual for the Government, but it must be very careful not to alienate the public as it does so. ”

The greatest irony may soon become apparent: it is not the new Labour-Green-NZ First coalition that will be scrutinised during this Parliamentary term.

It may be the National Opposition that is held to account.

 

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Postscript
As National’s webpages tend to disappear from their website, along with their statements, they have been saved for future reference.

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References

Parliament: Simon Bridges

NZ Herald:  National’s list of laws passed under urgency

National Party:  Government trying to limit scrutiny

Parliament: Review of Standing Orders – Report of the Standing Orders Committee – Rt Hon David Carter, Chairperson – July 2017 (p19)

NZ Herald:  National clashes with Labour – ‘erosion of democratic rights’

Legislation: Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Act 2010 – Legislative history

Radio NZ:  Unions seek prosecution over deaths

Radio NZ: Minister of Labour responds to criticism (audio)

Parliament: Health and Safety Reform Bill

TVNZ:  Anne Tolley still gets nod as Deputy Speaker despite Nats ruthlessly attacking Labour

NZ Herald:  Labour and National face off in Parliament opening over Speaker vote

Wikipedia:  Opinion polling for the New Zealand general election, 2011

Electoral Commission:  2017 General Election – Official Result

Time:  The Richest People in the World

Radio NZ:  Bill English faces first caucus since defeat (alt.link)(audio)

Electoral Commission: New Zealand 2017 General Election – Official Results

TVNZ:  Bill English warns of stubborn opposition to new government – ‘It’s not our job to make this place run’

NBR: Majority of NZ First supporters want party to ally with Labour – Colmar Brunton

Fairfax media:  Talk of a teal deal is speculation, nothing more, says James Shaw

America Space:  Remembering Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9’s Impact on Jupiter, 23 Years Ago This Week

Fairfax media:  Editorial – National wins a battle but winning the war is different

Fairfax media:  Editorial – the prime minister’s positive way forward

Other Blogs

Bowalley Road:  Strategies Of Right-Wing Resistance – It CAN Happen Here.

Bowalley Road:  Settling The Stardust – The Grim Logic Behind National’s Opposition Tactics

The Daily Blog:  How dare National claim an ‘erosion of democracy’

Previous related blogposts

National, on Law and Order

Muppets, Hobbits, and Scab ‘Unions’

John Key’s track record on raising wages – 1. The “Hobbit Law”

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 12 November 2017.

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Land banking – capitalism’s weeping sore

10 November 2017 Leave a comment

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Halloween came early for parasitic land bankers. On 30 October, new Housing Minister, Phil Twyford,  issued a bold statement that has barely been reported or commented on: land bankers are firmly in the laser-sights of the new Labour-Green-NZF coalition government.

At the same time  that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced an impending ban on the  sale of existing homes to foreign investor/speculators – Minister Twyford  issued a clear warning to land bankers that the recently elected Coalition Government would be prepared to seize their land under the Public Works Act;

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“You don’t want to have one land banker holding out a massive new development that’s going to deliver thousands of new homes.”

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Minister Twyford was unequivocal;

“We’ve got a Housing Minister now that accepts there is a housing crisis. You don’t want to have one land banker holding out a massive new development that’s going to deliver thousands of new homes.

…You might want to have it in your back pocket, but you’d use it very, very sparingly.”

He said that the new government recognised the reality of the housing crisis and was  “going to throw everything at it“.

The National Business Review highlighted land banking in 2013, when Leith Van Onselen offered his “less regulation is best” ideological response to over-coming the  problem (I refuse to sugar-coat it by calling it an “issue”). His mantra consisted of freeing up more land; the removal of regulatory constraints on the supply of land, along with more permissive planning policies;

“…land banking – an especially baneful form of rent seeking at the current time – is more prevalent in situations where land supply is constrained and planning approval processes are slow and uncertain. Land banking is also only profitable where the value of land is rising faster than the cost of capital. And in the absence of physical barriers to land supply, land price increases above the level of inflation are driven primarily by policies and regulations that artificially restrict the supply of land.

It stands to reason, then, that the removal of regulatory constraints on the supply of land, along with more permissive planning policies and infrastructure provision, would increase competition amongst both developers and land owners, thereby driving down the cost of land/housing. The existence of high levels of competition would, in turn, make land banking particularly risky, as another nearby owner would always have the opportunity to move to the market ahead of the land banking firm.”

Whilst Van Onselen recognised the “baneful” nature of land banking, his proposed more-market “solution” is not without dire consequences.  In the “absence of physical barriers to land supply” by “the removal of regulatory constraints on the supply of land“, urban sprawl into valuable food-producing rural land creates new problems through unintended consequences. Interviewed on TVNZ’s Q+A on 29 October, Horticulture New Zealand CEO, Mike Chapman warned;

Horticulture New Zealand is calling on the new Government to protect locally-grown food as urban sprawl threatens valuable growing land. Its CEO, Mike Chapman, says the impact is already “quite extreme”.

“If we don’t, we’ll be increasing our imports – fresh, nutritious locally grown food will not be available, and at the moment, we don’t have country of origin labeling, so the consumers won’t know where they’re buying their food from. It could be from anywhere in the world,” says Mr Chapman.

Reliance on the “marketplace” to solve our housing problem can be a dubious proposition.

This is especially the case when commercial firms actively exploit a problem  for greater profits. This property-brochure from Guardian First National Real Estate  in Johnsonville, Wellington, illustrates that (some) companies are not above exploiting a problem for purely personal gain;

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Guardian First National real estate johnsonville wellington

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Note the reference to “Do up, develop or landbank?”

Perhaps one of the worst cases of land banking and profiteering was reported in 2013 by the NZ Herald;

A land banking business with a big piece of residentially zoned real estate on Auckland’s outskirts has made more than $6 million a year for almost two decades – doing nothing.

QV records shows Yi Huang Trading Company owns 39 Flat Bush School Rd, which it bought in 1995 for $890,000.

Now, this 29ha block is listed on the market for $112.6 million, promoted as “the land of opportunity, vacant but close to Barry Curtis Park”.

[…]

The sale has left developers fuming. They say land bankers are ruining the city and that the sale will be tax-free because the company has held the land for so long.

Conversely – and with some justification – land banking is also a necessary tool by those developers who actually intend to build on them.  As one project is completed, and another begins, the developer must ensure a constant supply of readily available land “in the pipeline”.

As Van Onselen reported in 2011, quoting from work by Professor Alan Evans, Director of the Centre for Spatial and Real Estate Economics at the University of Reading (United Kingdom);

…as well as causing delay and increasing uncertainty, the process of seeking planning permission lends itself to strategic thinking and behaviour… the lack of certainty created by [such] a system is that it encourages the possession by large developers such as volume house builders of land banks… which can be developed at some future time. A developer such as a volume house builder will seek to ensure continuity in the supply of sites for development so as to ensure that management, equipment and labour can be used efficiently… without being laid off or idle. Commentary on the financial pages of newspapers would suggest that a land bank of at least 3 years supply seems to be regarded as necessary for the financial health of a house builder… not having a site available for development at the right time can mean that a exorbitant price will have to be paid to buy one, in order to keep the firm in business…

Speaking on The Nation on 4 November, Housing Minister Twyford appears to be fully cognisant of this particular problem and showed little reticence to proactively intervene in the “market”;

“Because of capacity problems in the industry, particularly workforce issues, it is going to take us a little while to ramp up. And our modelling has always been based on the idea that in the first three years, we’ll probably deliver about 16,000 homes, and in the third year, we’ll start to hit the average of 10,000 a year. There are three main ways that we’re going to deliver KiwiBuild. So, the first is that we’re going to say and are already saying to the private sector, to developers and builders, if you’re doing a development and you think that some of the properties in that development – might be a set of townhouses, for example, somewhere – would meet the KiwiBuild affordability criteria and design specs, then come to us. We’ll look at them, and we could buy them off the plan, speeding up your development, taking some of the risk out of it, and ensuring that we get a supply of high-quality affordable homes for first home buyers.

[…]

One of the problems at the moment, actually, is that many of the apartment projects that are underway are having real problems with financing. So by the government willing to underwrite or buy units off the plan, that actually takes away some of the risk and uncertainty and will speed up those developments.”

This is precisely the kind of market-intervention which many progressives have been demanding.  Minister Twyford even spelled it out;

“So we’re going to intervene in the market to fix that market failure by building large numbers of affordable homes. That’s the job of government, to do that.”

The alternative? To do nothing as National allowed the free hand of the market to run it’s course, and unsurprisingly our housing crisis worsened. Journalist and commentator, Tim Watkin, painted an increasingly bleak picture of urban life in New Zealand in the early 21st Century;

“… what social service agencies are now reporting is a growing – yes, growing – group of Kiwis living in their cars or renting garages. Social workers in South Auckland to a person say they can’t remember it being this bad. Rents have risen 25 percent in five years and emergency houses are full.

If you can’t afford the rent, there’s nowhere to go. Except your car, or perhaps someone’s garage.

And this isn’t just extended families bunking down in a garage while they wait for a house, as we’ve seen for years. This is a new rental property market; people paying strangers to live for months, even years, in a garage. You won’t see it on TradeMe, but we’re talking about $300 or more a week. One family had been living in a garage for two years and are paying $380/week.

Wesley-Smith was taken to Bruce Pulman Park in Takanini by Manuaku East MP Jenny Salesa, where families and individuals can be found most nights near the public toilets, sleeping in their cars. Salesa says one car-dwelling family a week turns up at her office seeking help; half aren’t engaged with the Ministry of social Development.”

Watkins was merciless in his criticism of the capitalist exploitation of the housing crisis for selfish ends. Firstly with “mum and dad property investors”;

So it’s time for mum and dad property investors to ask themselves a few hard questions. If the cost of your borrowing is forcing people to pay rents they can’t afford, maybe you shouldn’t be in the landlord business. Even if you are only one stone in the mountain, have you borrowed too much to morally justify your investment?

But he reserved his most trenchant ire for parasitic land-bankers;

But even more in the gun are the property developers, especially those who are land banking in this market. It’s time to call out those land bankers and say enough.

Financially, it’s a no-brainer for them. Especially if they’re lucky enough to own land in a Special Housing Area with all the privileges of accelerated consents and greater intensification attached. You’re quids in, the government has put a premium on your land and land values are skyrocketing. So why go to the risk and hassle of actually building?

The answer: Because your land banking is making kids sick. It’s driving families into their cars. It’s increasingly immoral to fiddle while Auckland burns.

Auckland desperately needs houses and if you’re a developer sitting on land, then you’re putting your own finances ahead of the need of families to have a roof over their heads.

Watkins pointed out then Housing Minister Nick Smith’s response to land-banking;

Housing Minister Nick Smith denies that land banking is a problem in his Special Housing Areas.

Watkins was on the button; Nick Smith is in full Denial Mode when it comes to land-banking.

On 3 June last year, I lodged a OIA request with Nick Smith, asking;

1. Does the government keep a record of how much land is “landbanked” in New Zealand?

2. If the answer to Question 1 is “yes”, how much land has been landbanked in Auckland, Wellington, Hamilton, Christchurch, and Dunedin?

3. Please provide any Ministerial, Ministry, or Cabinet papers that relate to the issue of landbanking.

After nearly two months and reminders sent to Smith’s office, the Minister finally responded on 20 July. His response to my three questions consisted of  one paragraph;

“The problem with your request is that ‘land banking’ is a loosely used phrase a bit like ‘speculation’ that has no agreed definition. A person or company  may own a section of land and not build on it for some time for all sorts of reasons and there is no definition  of how long this is for it to be deemed land banking. We do keep track of the progress made on developments in Special Housing Areas and I refer you to the publicly available reports  that set out the progress on development of these areas (http://www.mbie.govt.nz/info-services/housing-property/housing-affordability).”

Remarkably, Smith added at the end;

“I can confirm that no information can be found within the scope of your request.”

Smith either has a badly-flawed, John Key-like memory – or he was being economical with the truth. Two years earlier, on 30 November 2014, Housing Minister Nick Smith had referred specifically to land banking, expressing his frustrations at the practice;

“The Government and the Council are determined to release sufficient land supply and we’re not going to allow land price inflation of the sort we’ve seen over the last decade.

I want the land owning development community to realise that the Government is serious with Council about freeing up land supply, and they cannot bank on ongoing high land price appreciation that has encouraged land banking over the last decade.”

As with the previous National government refusing to define and measure poverty, by claiming that “‘land banking’ is a loosely used phrase a bit like ‘speculation’ that has no agreed definition” Smith was clearly hoping/praying that public/media attention on this issue would fade away.

It was a forlorn hope/prayer. Pressure was mounting on Smith.

Indeed, three weeks prior to  writing to me insisting there was “no agreed definition” on land banking and “no information can be found within the scope of your request” –  he was threatening land bankers with seizure;

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Despite insisting he had “no information” or  “definition” of the problem, Smith was considering seizing property from land bankers – something he recognised as running counter to National’s pro-capitalist kaupapa;

“If you look at many of the other governments in other parts of the world that have used those powers, they have worked effectively.

Yes, we are the National Party, but we have responded in a very pragmatic way to the challenges in Christchurch. And that has involved overcoming some of those pure views about property rights.

 We are pragmatic, and pragmatic answers are needed to the housing challenge that New Zealand has.”

Even Wellington’s Dominion Post – not a socialist ‘rag’ by any means – was vocal in it’s criticism of land banking and National’s inability to act. Their editorial on 28 March this year was scathing;

Smith himself once said it was “offensive” that an investor in Auckland could buy land in 1995 for $890,000 and put it on sale in 2016 for $112 million. “The biggest problem is Auckland is the issue of landbanking,” Smith said.

Smith’s approach to the problem was to rely on the special housing areas in Auckland, which allow for faster consents for large housing developments. Developers can face a “use it or lose it” clause which penalises them if they don’t lodge consent applications. His critics, however, argue that this rule doesn’t guarantee house completions.

And that is the problem with land-banking, it seems. It is merely a symptom of a deeper malaise, and fixing it might require radical changes. It remains to be seen what one city council can do by way of encouraging or scaring developers into building more affordable houses.

Some such as economist Arthur Grimes have suggested that the Government should use the Public Works Act to buy land for housing. This is a reasonable suggestion, draconian though it might seem. The housing crisis is so serious that radical measures of this sort have to be considered.

The National-led Government, however, with its deep allegiance to property rights and its natural sympathy for the business class, would never accept such a proposal.

Nick Smith’s  heresy to the most basic capitalist tenet – the supremacy of property rights – did not go unnoticed by Anthony Robins. Blogging on The Standard on 4 July last year, he astutely pointed out;

“I don’t often agree with the Nats, but I think there are (rare) circumstances where land bankers could be paid off, moved on, and the land put to use. But – the extinguishing of private property rights? Seizure of land? Just imagine if Labour had proposed it. There would have been an instant orgy of political and media outrage. Because it’s National though, there will be barely a whisper.

Robins’ comment had a prescient quality to it. A Labour Minister – Phil Twiford – has now threatened to do precisely what Nick Smith threatened (but never had the guts to actually follow through on).

By brandishing the Public Works Act as a ‘stick’, Twyford has put land bankers on notice. Either develop the land or have it seized by the State to house the homeless.

In a civilised society, for land bankers to sit on empty, buildable land whilst families are packed in over-crowded houses; in garages, or survive in vans and cars – is an affront to any notion of fairness and decency.

It would be like someone hoarding food in times of famine, to get a better price later.

And if Minister Twyford invokes the Public Works Act to seize land, the National Party should think twice before screaming in outrage. It would be sheer hypocrisy on their part.

For one thing,  former Housing Minister Nick Smith threatened precisely the same thing.

Secondly, the housing crisis is a legacy of the previous National government.  It’s their mess we’re cleaning up.

Use it or lose it, land bankers. The party is over.

Minister Twyford – let’s do this.

 

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Postscript: Speaking of “legacies”

Meanwhile, National persists in it’s exercise in futility, maintaining their fantasy-charade of the “great gains made over the past 9 years“;

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National’s denial is partly to blame why our horrendous housing crisis spiralled out of control.

During it’s nine years in office, National continued to point-blank deny  the social problems it faced. This continuing denial will ensure they remain in opposition for the coming decade.

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References

Mediaworks:  Government prepared to seize land for housing projects

Radio NZ:  Foreign home buyers to be banned – PM

NBR: Auckland – the land bankers paradise

TVNZ: Q+A – Horticulture New Zealand CEO, Mike Chapman

NZ Herald:  Land bought in 1995 for $890,000 – owner will sell for $112m

Macrobusiness:  Why developers land bank

Scoop media:  The Nation – Lisa Owen interviews Phil Twyford

Interest.co.nz:  Bernard Hickey argues the Government and Auckland Council should ramp up their attempts to change the expectations of land bankers about constantly rising prices

NZ Herald:  Bennett slammed over child poverty claim

NZ Herald:  Government look at hardline measure to seize property for development

Dominion Post:  Editorial – Landbanking is a big part of the housing crisis

Twitter: National – “great gains made over the past 9 years

Additional

NZ Herald: Key admits underclass still growing

NewstalkZB: Demand for food banks, emergency housing much higher than before recession

Morgan Foundation:  How Minister Smith Could Deal with Land Banking

Morgan Foundation:  Would it be Crazy to Reduce House Prices by 40%?

Other Blogs

The Pundit: How Special Housing Areas are failing & the immorality of land bankers

The Standard:  National to seize privately owned land

The Standard: So there was a housing crisis after all

The Daily Blog: On calling out the excesses of capitalism

Previous related blogposts

Can we do it? Bloody oath we can!

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

National’s blatant lies on Housing NZ dividends – The truth uncovered!

National continues to panic on housing crisis as election day looms

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 5 November 2017.

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Dollars and sense – Joyce’s hypocrisy

7 November 2017 5 comments

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You’d think that after the humiliation of being dumped from government, that National’s ex-Ministers would keep a relatively low profile in the next few months.

You’d think that National’s former ministers and backbenchers would be familiarising themselves with their newly-appointed roles as impotent  Opposition MPs.

You’d think that National’s members of parliament would be nursing massive, Jupiter-sized hang-overs after drowning their collective sorrows at being turfed out of office by the ungrateful peasantry.

Not so.

Former Economic “Development” Minister in the Former National Government, Steven Joyce, has been busying himself  critiquing the recently-elected, newly-sworn-in, Labour-Green-NZF coalition.

Even before the dust settled on the recent election; the subsequent swearing-in ceremony at the Governor-General’s residence on 26 October, and only three days since the new government ministers have barely moved into their new offices, Joyce has been making mischief like a spoiled brat.

On 30 October, Joyce demanded;

“Mr Robertson has done two long-form interviews over this weekend and yet New Zealanders are still none the wiser about the cost of the coalition’s programme and the impact on their back pockets.”

He added,

“They also have a right to know whether the new Government’s spending plans in actual dollars will match the cast-iron commitments Labour repeatedly made before the election.”

Now bear in mind that this is the same National (ex-)government that, in 2008, campaigned on tax-cuts despite the Global Financial crisis already impacting on New Zealand’s economy that year.

On 6 October 2008, Key was only too happy to dangle the tax-cuts carrot in front of a gullible electorate, to win power;

John Key has defended his party’s planned program of tax cuts, after Treasury numbers released today showed the economic outlook has deteriorated badly since the May budget. The numbers have seen Treasury reducing its revenue forecasts and increasing its predictions of costs such as benefits. Cash deficits – the bottom line after all infrastructure funding and payments to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund are made – is predicted to blow out from around $3 billion a year to around $6 billion a year.

The rest is history. National won the 2008 election. Tax-cuts were enacted in April 2009 and October 2010.

All that despite a massive budget blow-out deficit of $15.4 billion by March 2009;

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The tax cuts were (and still are!) costing us around $2 billion per year, according to figures obtained by the Green Party from the Parliamentary Library.

New information prepared for the Green Party by the Parliamentary Library show that the estimated lost tax revenues from National’s 2010 tax cut package are between $1.6-$2.2 billion. The lost revenue calculation includes company and personal income tax revenues offset by increases in GST.

“The National Government said that their signature 2010 income tax cut package would be ‘fiscally neutral’ — paid for increased revenues from raising GST. That hasn’t happened. The net cost for tax cuts has been about $2 billion,” Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman said today.

“Borrowing $2 billion in 18 months to fund upper-income tax cuts is fiscally irresponsible.

“National’s poor economic decisions have led to record levels of government debt and borrowing.

“They have also broken a promise to the electorate when they said their tax cut package was going to be fiscally neutral.”

Whilst it can be justifiably argued that New Zealand’s debt increased because of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis and two Christchurch earthquakes – both of which were out of National’s control – the loss of revenue through two unaffordable tax cuts in ’09 and ’10 were of it’s own making.

Against this backdrop of gross fiscal irresponsibility, Steven Joyce has  pontificated that “New Zealanders are still none the wiser about the cost of the coalition’s programme and the impact on their back pockets“.

It could also be argued that “most New Zealanders are still none the wiser about the cost of National’s tax-cuts and the impact on their social services“.

Steven Joyce lecturing the incoming coalition government on fiscal integrity and transparency would be like Robert Mugabe advising the U.N. on human rights.

Or like Steven Joyce telling the “truth” about a non-existent $11.7 billion “hole”.

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Postscript – A letter to the Editor

from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: 31 October 2017
subject:Letter to the editor

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The editor
Dominion Post

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Opposition MP, Steven Joyce, has been busying himself attacking the recently elected Labour-Green-NZ First Coalition government.

Despite barely moving into their new offices on 27 October, three days later Joyce was complaining;

“…New Zealanders are still none the wiser about the cost of the coalition’s programme and the impact on their back pockets. They also have a right to know whether the new Government’s spending plans in actual dollars will match the cast-iron commitments Labour repeatedly made before the election.”

Mr Joyce should settle down and take a deep breath. The coalition government has only been sworn in since 26 October.

The new government’s policies will be better costed than National’s unaffordable tax-cuts of 2009 and 2010. Those tax-cuts cost this country $2 billion p.a. according to the Parliamentary Library.

John Key happily over-looked NZ’s growing budget deficit, as reported on 6 October 2008;

John Key has defended his party’s planned program of tax cuts, after Treasury numbers released today showed the economic outlook has deteriorated badly since the May budget. The numbers have seen Treasury reducing its revenue forecasts and increasing its predictions of costs such as benefits. Cash deficits … is predicted to blow out from around $3 billion a year to around $6 billion a year.

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-Frank Macskasy

 

 

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References

Fairfax media: Jacinda Ardern’s new government sworn in

Radio NZ:  550 staff move office at Parliament this weekend

NZCity:  Ardern won’t budget on coalition costs

Mediaworks:  Spending plans ‘totally affordable’ – Jacinda Ardern

NZ Herald:  Recession confirmed – GDP falls

NZ Herald: Key – $30b deficit won’t stop Nats tax cuts?

Interest.co.nz:  Budget deficit worse than forecast – debt blows out by NZ$15.4 bln

Infonews:  Government’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting

Fairfax media:  Which side of the fiscal hole debate are experts standing on?

Additional

Frankly Speaking: Time-line

NZ Herald:  National and Labour’s nine years in charge – what the data shows

NZ Treasury: Debt

Previous related blogposts

“Less Debt and Lower Interest Rates” – Really?

Solid Energy and LandCorp – debt and doom, courtesy of a “fiscally responsible” National Govt

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

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

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 November 2017.

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National’s $11.7 billion hole is right where they left it

3 November 2017 1 comment

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Remember Steven Joyce’s claim there was a “$11.7 billion hole” in Labour pre-election budget?

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The claim of an $11.7 “fiscal hole” became a dominating irritant throughout the election campaign, even though in large part it failed simply because no one else (except Bill English) agreed that it existed.  TV3’s “Newshub” even created this now-famous, handy, infograph to illustrate the fact that Joyce and English were effectively on  their own;

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The claim has been largely forgotten, except when the Left need a handy reminder of right-wing duplicity to throw at National/ACT trolls – just to wipe any smirk of entitlement  from their silver-spoon-fed faces.

Except, on Thursday, 23 November, there was a curious – and disturbing – juxtaposition of media stories in Fairfax’s Dominion Post;

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Joyce seems curiously very sure of himself on the existence of the “hole”;

“Unfortunately, sadly, I think it looks like over time I will be proven correct. I genuinely don’t take any joy out of that because actually all that says is that the new Government is going to spend more than it said to meet its promises, and that’s because it didn’t allow enough money for other things

[…]

Sadly I think we’ll get to the ($)11(b) over time.”

Where might this “hole” come from, if it exists?

One possible answer lay on the front page of the same edition on the Dompost;

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The report, by Fairfax journalist Rachel Thomas, revealed a massive shortfall in spending on medicines alone;

Cancer patients say they are sick of paying for their own survival after an independent report revealed a $682 million “hole” in government funding for lifesaving medicines.

[…]

The $682m figure in Wednesday’s report from the New Zealand Institution for Economic Research (NZIER) is the amount it says would be needed to restore the community pharmaceuticals budget to 2007 levels.

In real terms, Budget spending for prescription medicines, vaccines, haemophilia treatments, nicotine replacement, and cancer medicines – sometimes administered in hospitals – dropped from 6.2 per cent in 2007 to 3.6 per cent in 2018, according to the report.

Now granted that Medicines New Zealand is a “drug lobby group” – but the NZIER which analysed the problem also revealed their methodology;

The NZIER report was commissioned by Medicines New Zealand, a drug lobby group, and collated from Pharmac annual reports and Official Information Act requests.

When former Health Minister, Jonathan Coleman, was asked to explain the massive $682 million hole in the medicines budget, his reply was;

Since 2007, almost 900,000 Kiwis had received 426 new and widened-access medicines. “It’s important to note that … Medicines NZ [has] a direct interest in increased Pharmac spending.”

Notice that Coleman – whose working relationship with DHBs has been frought over the last three years – deflected from the issue itself. His reference “to note that … Medicines NZ [has] a direct interest in increased Pharmac spending” fails to address the relevant fact that, according to NZIER, spending on medicines has fallen under the previous National government.

He deliberately evaded the question.

Which is hardly surprising given that English’s miraculous budget surpluses appear to have been made at the expense of  under-funding for services such as healthcare – including  mental health – throughout the country.

This poses some serious questions for the new Coalition government…

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: 26 November 2017
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
Dominion Post

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Let us recall that on 5 September, National’s then-Finance Minister and “Fix-It Man”, Steven Joyce, made a startling claim that Labour’s alternative budget concealed a $11.7 billion “hole”.

Joyce’s claim was scrutinised by economists, commentators, and even a right-wing think-tank and lobby group – and declared to be unsusubstantiated by any known facts. Only Joyce, supported by his leader Bill English, maintained the existence of a purported “hole”.

On 23 November, Fairfax reported findings by the NZIER that PHARMAC’s medicines budget was underfunded by a whopping $682 million. (“$682m ‘hole’ in medicine budget”). When asked to respond, former National Health Minister Coleman criticised those that commissioned the report – Medicines NZ, a pharmaceutical lobby group – but in no way disputed the figures.

In essence, PHARMAC’s funding budget suffered a savage cut from 6.2% in 2007 to 3.6% in 2018 – the equivalent of $682 million in vital medicines.

No wonder Joyce was so confident that a fiscal “hole” existed where none could see one.

Joyce knew precisely that the $11.7 billion “hole” was of National’s own making; a legacy “gifted” to the incoming Coalition government, and a ticking fiscal time bomb waiting to detonate as incoming Finance Minister, Grant Robertson, uncovered further hidden funding shocks.

What other “legacy gifts” has Joyce left us?

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-Frank Macskasy

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[address and phone number supplied]

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References

National Party:  Labour must explain where the money is

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

Fairfax media:  Steven Joyce sticks to $11.7 billion hole in Government budget

Fairfax media:  Cancer patients renew call for more funded medicines, as report reveals $682m ‘hole’

Radio NZ:  ‘Extraordinary’ conflict between DHBs and health officials

Other Blogs

The Standard:  Health disasters – useless Coleman in all kinds of shit

Previous related blogposts

Weekend Revelations #1 – Dr Jonathan Coleman

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

Dollars and sense – Joyce’s hypocrisy

St. Steven and the Holy Grail of Fiscal Responsibility

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 28 November 2017.

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Tracey Martin – The Children’s Champion

1 November 2017 1 comment

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From a blogpost I wrote on 31 December 2013;

Tracey Martin – one of Parliament’s best kept “secrets”. One to watch out for as her career in politics is on the rise. Recently elevated to Deputy Leader of NZ First, she has the potential to increase her Party’s public approval

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NZ First’s Tracey Martin, Minister for Children

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Nearly four years later, and my prediction has become reality. On 25 October, incoming Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, announced that NZ First’s talented Tracey Martin would be appointed to the new Labour-NZF-Green cabinet as a full-ranking Minister;

Tracey Martin (NZ First): Minister for Children; Internal Affairs; Seniors; Associate Minister of Education

… Ms Ardern said New Zealand First’s Tracey Martin would be a strong advocate for children in her ministerial position, which also oversees Oranga Tamariki, the Ministry for Vulnerable Children.

I fully endorse Ms Martin’s appointment to this position. In this blogger’s own experience, Ms Martin should prove to be a dedicated champion to lift children out of the poverty-trap created after thirtythree years of the failed neo-liberal experiment.

In April 2012, Jazmine Heka took a petition to then Opposition MP and NZ First spokesperson for Children, Tracey Martin. The petitions called for;

  1. To provide free healthy school lunches to all children attending schools
  2. To provide free healthcare for all children including prescription costs
  3. To introduce warrant of fitness’s for all rental homes

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Jazmine Heka, anti-Poverty campaigner, meets with Tracey Martin, Member of Parliament.

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There was wide-ranging discussion between Jazmine and Ms Martin with the MP treating her guest with respect. She listened to Jazmine for a full hour, discussing dental treatment in schools; food in schools; a warrant of fitness for all rental housing, and poverty in general.

As I reported at the time;

Ms Martin recalled when, in her youth, every school had a dental nurse and clinic-room on school-grounds, and children’s teeth were properly looked after,

Our policy is that all children must have access to free dental healthcare for the period of their schooling.”

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In depth discussion surrounding the nature of school meals drew constructive discussion from Jazmine and Tracey.

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This blogger also reported Ms Martin’s willingness to draw from other political parties;

Ms Martin agreed and referred to a “brilliant speech” by Russell Norman (Green Co-Leader), where he revealed that government had lost $2  billion of of last year’s tax-take. She said, “three years of that and we wouldn’t have to sell any state assets“.

Had those tax cuts [2009 and 2010]  not happened, we could afford free healthcare for all children.

Ms Martin referred to the Mana Party’s financial transactions tax, which she said  Annette Sykes called “the Hone Heke” tax, and which “was worth looking at, and worth taking really seriously“. It was understood that such a FTT would have to be internationally implemented, as it might otherwise risk causing a capital-flight.

The strength of the Labour-NZF-Greens coalition are the core values which each constituent party has to offer. All three have constructive, forward-looking policies and dedicated, intelligent people willing to deliver them for a better future for our country.

If the willingness of a member of parliament to sit and listen to a sixteen year old is any indication, then our new Minister for Children has been an encouraging,  positive first step for our new government.

Somewhat presciently, I wrote five years ago;

The discussion moved to a related issue, and Ms Heka asked about NZ First’s policy regarding having a high-ranking minister – or even the Prime Minister – as the Minister for Children. The premise being that if the Prime Minister was also the Minister for Children, then it would give extra impetus to policies as they might impact on his portfolio; the nations young people.

Ms Martin agreed saying,

“Well, to keep that in the view, I would have thought. To make sure that it’s part of every conversation; how will this, downstream, affect children.“

If the Prime Minister was Minister for children, it was suggested, then as with US President, Harry Truman,  “The Buck Stops Here” on child poverty issues.

Jacinda Ardern has appointed herself Minister for Child Poverty Reduction. Hopefully, Ms Ardern and Ms Martin will create a powerful partnership with which to combat and eradicate the scourge of child poverty in this country.

Postscript: Meanwhile, back in Rabid Rightwing Ratbag Land…

Right-wing idiocy and mis-information has reached new depths in West Australia with the publication of a scurrilous piece of fake news/opinion, by conservative  so-called journalist and former The West Australian editor, Paul Murray.

In an error-laden, ratbag opinion piece on 25 October, Murray  suggested that homelessness and child poverty did not exist in New Zealand. He dismissed poverty and homelessness;

Well, I’d describe it as hyperbole. If they haven’t got enough to survive they would be dying.

[…]

An inquiry by the New Zealand Herald found Labour was using a very broad definition of homelessness by international standards and judged that claim “mostly fiction”.

While Labour used a university study showing 41,000 people were “severely housing deprived” — meaning sleeping rough, living in cars or garages, or in emergency or temporary shelters — official government figures for those “without habitable accommodation” was about 4000.

Which would be  inexplicable, considering  that  Bill English promised to cut child poverty by 100,000 during the election campaign last month;

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If poverty and homelessness was a “fiction” as Murray asserted, then the Leader of the National Party promised on 5 September, in front of hundreds of thousands of viewers, to raise 100,000 non-existent children out of poverty. And the mainstream media bought it.

Quite a ‘trick’.

He also derided Winston Peters’ decision for his choice in coalition partner;

These themes were echoed by Peters when justifying his decision to bypass the Nationals who won 44.45 per cent of the vote and to install Labour which polled just 36.89 and only 43.16 when combined with the supportive Greens.

Murray omitted to mention that a Labour-Green-NZ First bloc represented 50.4% of the popular vote. Obviously basic arithmetic is not his strong point because 50.4% beats 44.45% every time.

But his outright misrepresentation of facts reached it’s nadir when he shamelessly claimed;

The NZ Nationals got debt down to 38 per cent of GDP compared to Australia’s 47 per cent. Watch that figure skyrocket.

Either Murray is woefully ignorant of recent New Zealand history – or he is wilfully lying. Anyone with even a basic knowledge of facts should  know that by 2008  Labour had paid down net debt to 5.4%;

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National did not pay down debt. They grew it massively, fuelled by two unaffordable tax cuts (2009 and 2010) and shameless corporate welfare.

Never let facts get in the way of a right-wingers flight of fantasy.

This is the sort of rubbish that Labour, NZ First, and the Greens will have to deal with in the coming years.

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References

Radio NZ:  New government ministers revealed

The West Australian:  Opinion – Why the New Zealand poll experiment matters to Australia

Mediaworks:  English says new poverty reduction target was planned

Trading Economics:  New Zealand Government Net Debt to GDP

Other blogs

The Standard:  After nine long years National discovers there is child poverty in New Zealand

Previous related blogposts

2013 – The Year that Was

Ms Heka Goes To Wellington.

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 October 2017.

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