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What I want for Christmas…

29 December 2017 Leave a comment

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Now is the time of the year when we send in  requests to that mysterious red-garbed being at the north pole for ‘goodies’ of one sort or another.

This is my belated wish-list of gifts. But not gifts for myself. These are gifts for the whole of New Zealand…

Housing for all

As the Coalition’s Associate Finance Minister, David Parker recently stated;

“I have a pretty simple view of this. I don’t think that it should be an international market for houses. I think local homes are to live in.

They shouldn’t be commodities that we trade internationally. I think just about everyone who’s a foreign person buying into New Zealand – they’re a very, very wealthy one-percenter if you like. And I think that’s one of the excesses of global capital when you allow those sorts of interests to influence your local housing market.”

The majority of New Zealanders would agree with him.

Even our former pony-tail-pulling Dear Leader, John Key, was moved to lament seven years ago;

“Now, that’s a challenging issue given the state of the current law and quite clearly it’s evidentially possible and has been achieved that individual farms can be sold. Looking four, five, ten years into the future I’d hate to see New Zealanders as tenants in their own country and that is a risk I think if we sell out our entire productive base, so that’s something the Government will have to consider.”

Granted that he was referring to selling farms to foreign investors, but the same holds equally true for residential property. We literally could become “tenants in our own country” if housing is allowed to be a commodity traded by investor-speculators. Especially without hindrances such as Stamp Duty or Capital Gains Tax. In effect, our housing becomes the plaything of the wealthy, with our children becoming increasingly locked out of ever owning their own home.

Even domestic investor-speculators are having a deleterious effect on home ownership. As recently as March this year (2017) the Property Investors Club revealed that “Auckland investors account for a 43% share of all sales [and] first home buyers have dropped back to a low of 19%“.

When I open up the Christmas gift labelled “Housing”, I find;

  • A capital gains tax, excluding the family home, set at the corporate tax rate of 28%. Rentals are a business; we should tax them as such.
  • An increase of State Housing of at least ten thousand units.
  • Labour’s “Kiwibuild” policy taking off  like a rocket and providing affordable homes for all first-home buyers.
  • Entrenching Housing NZ  in legislation as a public service rather than an SOE; banning dividends or any other transfers from HNZ to central government; reinvest any gst paid by HNZ back into HNZ; banning sales of existing housing; guaranteeing tenancy for all families where children and/or young adults under 21 reside in the home.

Free education for all

One of the greatest scams sold to New Zealanders is that education is a “private benefit” and therefore should be paid for (at least in part) by young people.

This was never the case for Tories such as John Key, Steven Joyce, Paula Bennett, Judith Collins, Bill English, et al. Their university tuition was mostly free, courtesy of the State.

An educated population presented solely as a “private benefit” ignores the counter-factual; an un-educated population would be severely handicapped economically, socially, technologically and marked with deprivation on every level.

As a mind-experiment, imagine if every doctor, nurse,  and dentist remained in New Zealand after graduation, and in doing so, their debt was wiped. Who would benefit? Answer:

(a) doctors, nurses, and dentists,who would have no massive debts hanging over them

(b) the public, who would  enjoy their services

(c) central government, which would receive  doctors, nurses, and dentists’ taxation.

Now imagine if those same doctors, nurses, and dentists, all emigrated. Imagine if we were left with not one doctor, nurse,  and dentist in the country. Who would benefit? Who would lose out? Answer:

(a)  Losing out: the public, which would be deprived of their services

(b)  Losing out: central government, deprived of their taxation

(c)  Losing out: the entire country, as the economy, life-expectancies, child mortality, etc, all took a giant leap backwards

(d) Doctors, nurses, and dentists, who would still have massive debts hanging over them.

It’s abundantly clear that an educated population is not primarily a private benefit. It is a collective benefit that allows an entire society and nation to progress.

We used to have (near-)free tertiary education for those who wanted it – with a student allowance thrown in.

Then we had Rogernomics; seven tax cuts; and ended up with over $15 billion in student debt. High student debt has forced many graduates to go overseas. The previous National regime even implemented a policy arresting so-called “loan defaulters” at the border;

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This is the craziness  we have arrived at: making criminals of young people for not paying for a service that John Key, Steven Joyce, Paula Bennett, Judith Collins, Bill English, et al, enjoyed for free.

And like a frog in a steadily heating pan of water, this craziness has grown incrementally until New Zealanders have have accepted this state of craziness as “the norm”.

It is not normal. It is as far removed from normal as one can get without permanent residency in the local psych unit.

I open the second Christmas gift. This one is labelled “Education”. In it, I find;

  • Fully funded Early Childhood Education; Primary Schools, and Secondary Schools. All school “donations” are dropped.
  • Increases to Vote Education funding is tagged to inflation/cost-of-living increases.
  • The mandate for  salary increases for teachers is handed to the Remuneration Authority, and is automatically double that of MP salary increases.
  • All university and polytech education is free-to-user.
  • All current student debt is wiped.
  • All criminal convictions for loan defaulters are wiped and their legal fees reimbursed.
  • All student debt amounts paid by graduates become a tax credit. Eg; a graduate having paid $30,000  in debt (including interest) will have a tax credit of the same amount. (An exception being those graduates who voted National and/or ACT. Their debt will be doubled. After all, they support user-pays. Let’s not disappoint them.)

Free breakfasts and lunches in schools

Europe does it. Sweden, Finland, Estonia, UK, Scotland,  and even India does it. They provide varying levels of free meals  for children at school.

The benefits are obvious; healthy meals are provide to all children regardless of social status or class origins. There is no stigmatisation as “coming from a poor family” when everyone is provided with the same service.

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) wrote in their 2011 report, “Hunger for Learning“;

Yet despite the ubiquity of food insecurity among students at Auckland’s decile 1 and 2 schools, children’s hunger is often portrayed as one of individual moral failure and stigmatised accordingly. (p17)

In all cases breakfasts were provided on a universal basis to all children who wanted one. Principals were very conscious of the stigma attached to targeted provision of meals, even in younger children. For schools working to build trust between themselves and the community principals felt that universal provision sent a message that children and parents would not be judged. (p24)

Anscombe (2009) notes that in the New Zealand context some schools  do not want to be seen as needing to feed children because of the stigma attached to low-decile schools. (p28)

The key argument against free provision is that it takes away parents’ responsibility to provide basics for children. Yet, as this report makes clear,  many families cannot afford to provide adequate nutrition for their children, and also, targeting risks stigmatisation, and it is clear from the interviews conducted for this report that this becomes evident in children well before they leave primary school. Stigmatisation risks missing children that need help (Sheridan, 2001). (p29)

In its estimate of the cost of food in schools in Scotland, the Scottish parliament made a number of observations pertinent to New Zealand. Among them were that a deregulated system led to poorer quality food, something the Scottish legislation sought to address; a universal system removes the stigma attached to targeted provision, improves take up and is cheaper to administer; universal provision helps build a healthy nation, and this was viewed as contributing to the economic, social and healthy wellbeing of Scotland as a whole; and nutritious school meals were recognised as lowering Scotland’s high rates of coronary heart disease, some cancers, and diabetes, and were seen as being of key importance for development and growth in childhood and adolescence (Sheridan, 2001, pp. 2-3). Other, more direct, savings included teacher time (teachers spend time teaching rather than trying to deal with disruptive behaviour) and savings associated with improved attendance. (p36)

One fact we are all fully cognisant of is that the moralising Right are only too willing and quick to jump on a soapbox and judge poor families for not feeding their children. The constantly parroted rhetoric is “can’t afford to feed them, don’t have them” – a subtle code  advocating class eugenics, and attempting to deflect from the real social problems we face.

Make school meals – like superannuation and hospitals – universally free, and that stigma vanishes because everyone’s children is treated equally.

After all, if it was good enough for former Social Welfare Minister, Paula Bennett,  to refuse to  measure poverty

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…then it should be good enough not to measure which children should or should not qualify for free breakfasts and lunches in our Primary and Secondary schools.

I open my third gift, and it contains;

  • Free healthy, nutritious breakfast and lunch for every child in New Zealand.

Orphan medicines for all who need them

In the last few years I have reported on a small number of New Zealanders who have been denied life-saving medication because PHARMAC has insifficient funding to pay for these expensive drugs. Medication for diseases such as Acid Maltase deficiency, or Pompe Disease, are not funded and sufferers either have to pay huge sums – or slowly perish.

NZORD, the New Zealand Organisation for Rare Disorders, has repeatedly called for PHARMAC to fully-funded orphan drugs for rare conditions.

In August 2013, this blogger reported;

At a seminar in Wellington, Labour’s Health spokesperson, Annette King, announced her Party’s new policy to create a new fund for purchasing so-called “orphan drugs” – medicines – for rare diseases.

Labour’s new policy marks a turning point in the critical problem of “orphan drugs” which are not funded by PHARMAC, but which are a matter of life and death for people suffering rare diseases.

Ms King announced Labour Party policy on the issue of orphan drugs and the problem of lack of funding;

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Annette King orphan drugs NZORD seminar

Health Spokesperson, Annette King, Wellington, 1 August 2013 – NZORD seminar

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“So one of the things that would need to happen soon after an election would be the establishment of on implementation working group, which could be made up of clinicians; of patients; of community representations, and others,  to put in place the details and work on the criteria for access. I do believe that in separating the funding and operation of the orphan drugs policy from PHARMAC. It will let them get on with doing what they do really well, and I think in some ways it will free them to get the best they can for the most of us who don’t need special medicines. But it will mean that for those who have rare disorders, that there will be a fund around that.”

Ms King was advocating a separately-funded body that would over-see orphan drugs for rare diseases.

However, it has become apparent that budgetary constraints and fiscal time-bombs left by the previous, incompetant National government have put Labour’s policy in doubt.

Instead, the new Coalition government is faced with unfunded budget-blow-outs such as new frigates for the NZ Navy;

The cost of upgrading two of the navy’s frigates has blown out again – this time by $148 million. The project – originally estimated to cost $374-million – will now cost $639 million.

This, on top of an eye-watering, jaw-dropping $20 billion “investment plan”  for New Zealand’s military. The Fairfax article appeared to parrot the previous government’s spin with these opening paragraphs;

The Government for the first time has confirmed New Zealand is capable of launching its own cyber attacks as a deterrent to cyber terrorism.

It’s unveiled a $20 billion investment plan in defence force capability, which will see the military establish a new cyber support capability, bolster intelligence units and digitise the army on the battlefield, giving it network enabled navigation and communications systems.

Only further down the story was it revealed that the $20 billion would be spent on new warships, aircraft, and other military paraphernalia.

Meanwhile, health budgets are stretched with PHARMAC unable to afford life-saving medicines.

The next gift to be opened;

  • “orphan drugs” funded for all who desperately need them

There are many other gifts to be opened, but one particular one caught my eye. This one had no cost to it. It was totally, utterly free-of-charge…

Kiwi fairness

Wrapped up in plain brown paper,  and put away in a dusty attic somewhere for the past thirty years, is a little box. It appears unassuming and unremarkable.

Except…

It contains the most precious gift of all; our notion of Kiwi fairness; our identity of caring for others. We had it once, in abundance. We even used to march for it in our streets, for fairness, justice, and peace in far away countries.

In South Africa;

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In South East Asia;

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Even in our own backyard;

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Wouldn’t it be refreshing if those 1,152,075 New Zealanders who voted for National in September this year, thought more of homelessness; child poverty; polluted rivers and lakes; under-funded hospitals, medicines, and mental health services; mounting student debt on our children, etc  – than for their bloated property values?

Wouldn’t it be better for us as a society if our distorted sense of hyper-Individualism – that bratty spoiled ‘child’ of  neo-liberalism and globalisation,  was pared back, and the needs of our communities put first and foremost?

The last gift I open;

  • The Kiwi identity of a fair go for all.

Without it, nothing else can be achieved. Perhaps that one is the most important of all.

A very Merry Christmas, festive season, happy new year, and family time for all,

irrespective of how you may choose to celebrate it.

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References

NBR: Foreign Buyer Ban – it’s the enforcement, stupid

NZ Herald:  PM warns against Kiwis becoming ‘tenants’

Property Investors Club:  First buyers still missing out in Auckland’s most affordable properties

Labour Party:  Our plan to start fixing the housing crisis

NZ Herald:  Student loan debt – 728,000 people owe nearly $15 billion

Fairfax media:  Kiwi lawyer comes home from UK to find $16,000 student loan grown to $85,000

NZ Herald:  Woman arrested at airport over student loan debt

NZ Herald:  Third person arrested at the border over student loan debt, as Govt ramps up crackdown on borrowers

NZ Herald:  Student loan debtor arrested at border, more warrants sought

Radio NZ: Two dozen prosecuted for defaulting on student loans

Child Poverty Action Group: Hunger for Learning

NZ Herald:  Bennett slammed over child poverty claim

National Party:  29 fiscal time-bombs waiting to blow

Radio NZ:  Navy budget blowout – ‘Our sailors aren’t safe’ – Ron Mark (audio)

Fairfax media:  Defence White Paper – Government unveils $20b defence plan for new planes, boats and cyber security

Electoral Commission:  2017 General Election – Official Result

Additional

Bay of Plenty Times:  Inside Story – The student loan effect

Previous related blogposts

Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key (12 Nov 2012)

Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key – Update & more questions (28 Nov 2012)

Health Minister circumvents law to fulfill 2008 election bribe? (18 Dec 2012)

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment – Compassion (9 Jan 2013)

“There’s always an issue of money but we can find money for the right projects” – John Key (20 Jan 2013)

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part tahi (4 March 2013)

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part rua (4 March 2013)

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part toru (4 March 2013)

Opposition parties work together on “orphan drugs” (part wha) (10 Aug 2013)

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homeless families living in a car cartoon

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 24 December 2017.

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Lorde takes a stand

27 December 2017 Leave a comment

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Media reports indicate that Lorde has taken a stand and cancelled her planned June tour of Israel;

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In taking this courageous stand, Lorde follows in the steps of her parents’ generation who stood up against apartheid in South Africa; testing atomic bombs in  the South Pacific; New Zealand’s  involvement in the Vietnam War; and demanding a nuclear-free New Zealand.

There are those who insist that “politics and entertainment shouldn’t mix“. But we’ve heard that refrain in the past, in 1981, when so many New Zealanders protested at the Springbok Tour, or demanded that our athletes withdraw from the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Back then it was “politics and sport shouldn’t mix“.

The real subtext of “politics and sport shouldn’t mix” was individuals demanding to enjoy a particular past-time, even at the detriment of others. This was the nakedly selfish side to Individualism bubbling to the surface of New Zealand – perhaps for the first time made so vividly visible for all to see. For them “politics and sport shouldn’t mix” and the corollary that “we can’t make a difference anyway” (or, “it’s none of our business“) was paramount.

Those people were proven wrong. Eventually the apartheid regime collapsed in South Africa.

Let’s recall Nelson Mandela – languishing in prison on Robben Island – remarking when he heard that the Hamilton rugby game had been cancelled after anti-tour protestors stormed the pitch;

The anti-apartheid movement in South Africa was buoyed by events in New Zealand. Nelson Mandela recalled that when he was in his prison cell on Robben Island and heard that the game in Hamilton had been cancelled, it was as ‘if the sun had come out’.

People made a difference in 1981.

2017 has become the year that women have spoken out against injustice and abuse by those in power. Lorde has become to her generation what Rosa Parkes, Jane Fonda,  Kate Shepherd, and many others were to theirs.

There are those who insist that one person  cannot make a difference, that it is a waste of time to speak out, and that it is pointless to endanger your own well-being  on behalf of others – especially strangers who you’ve never met.

But history is replete with individuals who have reached out to help strangers whom they have never met.

Here in New Zealand, NGOs and volunteers spend vast amounts of time helping those in need – complete strangers. Whether it be Kidscan or Women’s Refuge, people helping other people for no other reason than it is the right thing to do.

Lorde has shown uncommon courage, integrity, and understanding for the plight of Palestinians. She may become the leading light for her generation to follow her example and say, “No, this is not right, we will not accept this”.

I submit that not only is it not pointless to help others – especially total strangers – but it is the essence of what it is to be human.

Once again,  New Zealand has shown the way in the world.

And it takes one person to begin.

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References

Radio NZ: Lorde reportedly cancels Israel show after backlash

Fairfax media:  Kiwi pop singer Lorde cancels show in Israel after open letter from fans

Haaretz: New Zealand Singer Lorde Cancels Israel Show After BDS Pressure

Daily Mail:  Lorde cancels Tel Aviv show after backlash from fans who accused her of supporting Israeli government

NZ History:  1981 Springbok tour

Other Blogs

Redline:  Israel, Palestinian liberation, the BDS campaign and left critics

The Standard:  The United Nations gives Trump the middle finger

Previous related blogposts

Wellingtonians say ‘No!’ to Israeli aggression

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

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So “throwing money” at poverty does work, according to National?

17 December 2017 2 comments

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One of the most oft-used, parroted cliches in the right-wing lexicon…

Bill English said it;

The hard bit of that is reorganising Government – the way the Government works with our most complex families – because frankly, Government doesn’t do that good a job with people who have really serious needs.

So you shouldn’t expect waves of cash – that’s what everyone else is promising. We can tell you from years of looking at it hard, throwing money at intractable social problems won’t have an impact.”

And again he said it;

I suspect it will be a matter for public debate, because New Zealand First and Labour have a track record of throwing money at every problem and making no difference to those problems.

Paula Bennett said it;

Yeah well if throwing money was the answer to this problem then quite frankly we would see – you know the numbers are coming down significantly through those Labour years, because they put significantly more money into these organisations, but we haven’t seen fewer children being neglected.

And repeated it;

If I thought throwing an extra 30 or 40 dollars a week at beneficiaries would mean that those children were not abused and neglected, I’d be fighting with that with every inch that I’ve got. It is far more complex than that. Far more complex.”

Steven Joyce said it;

The Prime Minister set 10 challenging targets for public services in 2012. That is because we want results from spending, rather than just simply throwing money at problems.”

And again he said it;

Unfortunately, my dear friends at the TEU say we should keep throwing money at everything every time.”

Hekia Parata said it;

Unlike the Opposition, which is very keen to throw money at a problem…”

Gerry Brownlee kind of said it;

Labour’s first instinct is always to throw money at an advertising campaign, rather than fighting fire with fire.

And even National backbenchers like Melissa Lee added their ten cents worth and said it;

It is less about throwing money around on a problem and more about changing the way we work, so that the services we deliver are more effective.”

One of the most commonly parroted cliches from the rightwing of politics; “throwing money at the problem” – usually with the add-on; ” – doesn’t solve anything“.

Except, of course, when it comes to tax-cuts. Then it’s not so much “throwing money” at middle class and affluent voters – as labelling it a “reward” – as Joyce called it in May 2017;

The Budget 2017 Family Incomes Package will provide better rewards for hard work by adjusting the bottom two tax thresholds and lowering the marginal tax rates for low and middle income earners.”

Joyce’s proposed tax-cut wasn’t “throwing money” at families – it was described more like “… important that Kiwi families directly share in the benefits of New Zealand’s economic growth.

National ministers were adamant that “throwing money at problems… made no difference to those problems”. But – according to Joyce – throwing money at households through tax-cuts achieved a remarkable outcome;

The measures in this budget are expected to lift 20,000 households above the threshold for severe housing stress, and reduce the number of children living in families receiving less than half of the median income by around 50,000.

Perhaps there are two different forms of money being used; red money for the poor; blue money for the middle class? Perhaps National should have printed less of the red stuff, and more of the blue?

But what colour money was being thrown at invested in;

Obviously child poverty exists in this country. Despite former Social Welfare Minister, Paula Bennett, refusing to measure the size of the problem five years ago – by September this year, National’s (then-)new, Bill English was forced to concede that it was a serious crisis confronting our country. In the face of mounting pressure from a resurgent Labour, he finally admitted that at least 100,000 children were living in poverty;

The Package is designed to especially assist low and middle income earners, and will reduce the number of children living in families earning less than half of the median income by around 50,000. Labour showed their true colours by voting against it.

If we can get elected within two or three years we can have a crack at the next 50,000 children, getting them out of poverty.

Suddenly, it seems, National ‘discovered’ child poverty existed in this country. It’s amazing how focused a government can be at election time when opposition parties are nipping at their heels.

Perhaps we should have an election every year?

In 2015, National stole a policy page from the Left by announcing it would raise welfare benefits by $25 a week. (Actually, $23 per week after extra accomodation supplements were taken out. Can’t have “benes” wasting an extra $2 on milk, bread  or something equally silly.) Almost overnight, National went from “not throwing money at welfare” – to “throwing money at welfare”.

According to a Radio NZ report, an estimated  110,000 families, with  190,000 children, would benefit from the increase.

The result was a predictable (if slight) success: child poverty fell by 1%.

As reported by Teuila Fuatai for Newsroom;

According to the 2017 Child Poverty Monitor, released by the office of the Children’s Commissioner today, the number of children living in homes considered to be in income poverty has dropped one percent in the last year – from 295,000 (28 percent) in 2016 to 290,000 (27 percent) this year.

Other figures from the annual report, now in its fifth year, also show a dip in the number of children considered to be from New Zealand’s poorest homes – with 70,000 children (six percent) satisfying the threshold for experiencing severe material hardship, down two percent from 85,000 in 2016.

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“In 1982, the percentage of children in families experiencing income poverty was 14 percent, compared to 27 percent now”, the report said.

Paula Bennett – who only five years ago stated categorically that “if throwing money was the answer to this problem then quite frankly we would see – you know the numbers are coming down significantly” – crowed about the success of a fall in poverty;

Judge Andrew Becroft has today confirmed that since the National Government increased benefits in 2015, there has been a drop in the number of children living in low income households.

This is great news and further consolidates National’s track record as a party that shows it cares, rather than just says it cares.

We were the Government that increased benefits for the first time in 40 years. Since 2010 we reduced the number of children living in material hardship by 135,000 and since 2011 we reduced the number of children in benefit-dependent households by 61,000.”

It’s “throwing money at the problem” only until it works. Then it’s a success story, according to a right-wing minister.

As if to allay any doubt, Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft,  confirmed the obvious; that raising benefits helped those at the bottom, of the socio-economic ladder;

It’s the first time we can say that we’re sure that things aren’t getting worse; it’s the first time there’s been a small drop and it’s genuinely encouraging and cause for cautious optimism.

We’re probably seeing the first initial signs in terms of what the previous Government did, in terms of increasing benefit levels by $25 a week for families with children.”

Judge Becroft also attributed the fall in child poverty to dedicated hard work from community groups;

I think we have seen a real rise in the commitment by charities and NGOs and community groups. I think that is one of the untold stories; New Zealand, I think, understands the situation. There is much more of a humanitarian response. Communities are behind what is going on. Charities are doing good work. I think that is underestimated in all of this in terms of providing shoes, clothing, lunches, breakfast. I think the country as a whole is becoming much more involved, and I am encouraged by that.

When asked by The Nation’s Lisa Owen;

So that is charities. That is philanthropy. In terms of income poverty: barely a change. Charities can only give so much, though, can’t they?

Judge Becroft responded;

Yeah, that is true. I think the government has got the ultimate responsibility to put in a strong safety net.

Charities can apply band-aids like buying shoes for children or supplying school breakfasts. But it takes central government to lift incomes. Just as it took the previous National government to legislate to lift the wages (albeit over a five year period) of community support workers, home support, and aged-care staff.

Bennett was quick to claim credit  for  the fall in the number of children living in low income households by increasing welfare benefits.

It is time that National and other right-wing politicians abandoned their deceptive, emotionally-charged rhetoric that raising welfare benefits and other incomes is “throwing money at the problem”. Clearly it is not. Putting our taxes into unnecessary flag referenda, sheep deals for middle east businessmen, aluminium smelters, and cutting taxes for the rich – is “throwing money” away.

Constantly repeating the hoary “throwing money at the problem” cliche reminds us that the right is only too happy to use emotionally-charged rhetoric  to win public support. Even when it is a lie.

Putting money into alleviating  child poverty is not “throwing money at the problem”. The data has conclusively shown this to be a fact; additional money helps lift families out of poverty.

Ironically, by making such dishonest  utterances, they undermine their very real achievement in this area.

Shooting yourself in your own foot has never been so painful. Or stupid.

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References

Mediaworks:  No Budget ‘waves of cash’ to fix NZ’s social problems – English

Parliament: Hansards –  Oral Questions – Questions to Ministers

Scoop media:  Paula Bennett – offensive to say poverty causes child abuse

Parliament: Hansards –  Oral Questions – Questions to Ministers

Otago Daily Times:  Call for funding ‘unrealistic’ – Joyce

Parliament: Hansards –  Oral Questions – Questions to Ministers

Scoop media:  Anderton’s party should pay back $72,585

Parliament: Hansards –  General Debate

IRD:  Budget 2017

NZ Herald:  PM defends $30m payout to Rio Tinto

Fairfax media:  Flag referendum – Where does the $26 million go?

NZ Herald:  Saudi sheep deal – No evidence of legal threat from Saudi businessman

NZ Herald:  Filling the Cup – cost $500m and climbing

NZ Herald:  Bennett slammed over child poverty claim

TVNZ: Bill English says National’s families policy will lift ‘50,000 children above that poverty line’

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

Radio NZ:  Welfare increases – what $25 buys you

Newsroom:  Dip in NZ’s child poverty rate a start

National.org.nz:  Confirmation National’s changes halt child poverty

Fairfax media:  Why we shouldn’t celebrate child poverty falling for first time in years just yet

The World News:  On The Nation – Lisa Owen interviews Judge Andrew Becroft

NZ Herald:  Government announces historic pay equity deal for care workers

Additional

Office of the Children’s Commissioner:  Child Poverty Monitor 2017 – Sustainable improvements needed

Fairfax media:  Why are you so afraid of tax?

Other Blogs

Boots Theory: No shit – money alleviates poverty

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

Previous related blogposts

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

National dragged kicking and screaming to the breakfast table

Are we being milked? asks Minister

High milk prices? Well, now we know why

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

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

Once were warm hearted

An unfortunate advertising placement, child poverty, and breathing air

Budget 2013: Child poverty, food in schools, and National’s response

National on Child Poverty?!

On child poverty, to the Sunday Star Times

The Negotiated Pay Equity Settlement for Care Workers – beware the fish-hooks amidst the hyperbole

National’s Food In Schools programme reveals depth of child poverty in New Zealand

Tracey Martin – The Children’s Champion

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

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Only four years too late – TVNZ-Colmar Brunton catch up with The Daily Blog

15 December 2017 1 comment

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Four years ago, this blogger pointed out that then-existing polling methodologies – relying solely on landline respondents – was flawed. The 2013 Census had revealed a significant ‘chunk’ of the population had surrendered access to landlines, in favour of cellphone/smartphone usage.

In March 2013, this blogger pointed out that the 2013 Census contained this question;

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Part of the problem are anecdotal  stories that many low income families, students, transients, etc, no longer rely on landlines and use only cellphones. Polling companies do not call cellphones – only landlines. (A low-income family living not far from us fits this demographic group perfectly; no landline; cellphones only. The sole-parent head of the household votes Labour.)

This year’s census has an interesting question; Question 17,

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2013 survey - qu 17

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The question asks the respondent to “mark as many spaces as you need to show which of these are available here in this dwelling”.

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Out of all polling companies,  only Roy Morgan recognised changing usage of modern technology by actively calling  cellphones to reach respondants.

As if to underscore this new reality, in September 2013, even this blogger was contacted by Roy Morgan. Questions ranged from legalisation of cannabis; political party support; travelling; radio station preference; social issues; etc.

Clearly Stats NZ wanted to determine the extent to which cellphone penetration of households had supplanted landlines.

In December 2013, Statistics NZ released the data gleaned from Question 17 (see above). The results confirmed suspicions that political pollsters (aside from Roy Morgan) was not reaching a sizeable number of New Zealanders, and polling numbers were being skewed;

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Yesterday (3 December 2013), Statistics NZ released the result of that question. The impact on political polling firms and their methodologies will no doubt be considerable;

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Three-quarters of households now have Internet access

  • Internet access at home continued to rise, at 76.8 percent in 2013, compared with 60.5 percent in 2006 and 37.4 percent in 2001.
  • Cellphone access also increased, with 83.7 percent of households in 2013 having access to a cellphone at home, compared with 74.2 percent in 2006.
  • Access to a landline telephone decreased. In 2013, 85.5 percent of households had access to a landline telephone at home, down from 91.6 percent in 2006.
  • Fax access decreased. In 2013, 14.6 percent of households had access to a fax, down from 26.0 percent in 2006.
  • A small percentage of households (1.6 percent or 24,135 households) did not have access to any telecommunication systems at home. That is, they did not have a landline telephone, cellphone, Internet access, or a fax.

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As I pointed out in that same blogpost;

Note that only “85.5% of households had access to a landline telephone at home, down from 91.6% in 2006”.

This means that 14.5% of households did not have access to a landline.

Almost precisely four years later, TVNZ had caught up.  On 8 December, TVNZ’s political editor, Corin Dann wrote;

“ It was a shock 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton Poll back in July showing Labour on just 24 per cent that prompted Mr Little to make an on-camera admission to me that he had considered resigning.

[…]

For me personally as Political Editor, the Andrew Little poll story is a very important reminder of the responsibility the media has, along with our polling companies, in presenting accurate polls and ensuring the methods we use are as good as they can possibly be.

As Andrew Little well knows, polls really matter.”

Dann went on to announce;

“ So it’s with that sense of responsibility – as well as a look to the future – that 1 NEWS and Colmar Brunton have now decided it is time to change our polling methodology.

In future we will no longer just poll telephone landlines. It will be a 50/50 split of mobiles and landlines.”

In explanation, he added;

“… during the course of the past year we at 1 NEWS, along with Colmar Brunton, felt it was right to start exploring whether adding mobile phones was prudent, given the rapid changes we are seeing in communication habits.

The fact is, landlines are no longer used by as many people. The best information we have on this is Census data from 2013 which confirms only 86 percent of households had a landline compared to 92 percent in 2006.”

Only four years late.

Perhaps this story illustrates that blogs – whilst not funded or otherwise resourced as richly as mainstream media – can be far more “nimble on their feet” when it comes to picking up, analysing, and commenting on developing trends.

For the second time, a blogger has red-flagged an issue that was belatedly picked up by the msm;

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The mainstream media – or at least one clever journalist working for Mediaworks/Newshub – has finally caught up with a story broken by this blogger last year that unemployment data from Statistics NZ was no longer reliable;

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It pays to keep an eye on blogs such as The Standard, No Right Turn, The Daily Blog, et al. The old saying holds true;

You heard it hear first, folks!

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References

Stats NZ: 2013 Census QuickStats about national highlights –  Phone and Internet access

TVNZ:  Mobiles to be included in 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll for the first time in bid to reach more young voters

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Unemployment – Bad news NZ, it’s much worse than you think

Additional

The Spinoff:   The first big poll for ages is due. What would be a good result for Labour?

Mediaworks:  Patrick Gower – Newshub’s poll is vital and correct

Previous related blogposts

Mr Morgan phoned (2013)

Census, Surveys, and Cellphones (2013)

Census, Surveys, and Cellphones (Part rua) (2013)

MSM catches up on Unemployment stats rort

Roy Morgan poll confirms blogger’s prediction – National is in freefall

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 10 December 2017.

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= fs =

Mr English: Where are National’s secret coalition negotiation papers?

8 December 2017 5 comments

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Bill English has been kicking up a shit-storm, demanding that Labour release what they have been describing as a “secret coalition agreement” between Labour and NZ First.

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English complained;

“This is a government that said it would be more transparent and more open. The document is clearly there somewhere, it must be important because it’s 38 pages and it’s come out of the agreement – people deserve to see it.

It sounds like there might be quite a lot more in this other piece of paper. If it’s at the core of how the Government’s going to run, it’s in the public interest.”

English defended his insistence that the coalition notes be made public by comparing the Coalition with his own previous administration “transparency”;

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“By any international standard the last government was open and transparent, and this government, as with many other things, has expressed these high-minded intentions and then fails to follow through.”

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Which is a patently dishonest claim considering that the last nine years of National governance has been one of secrecy; obstructing OIA requests; increased state surveillance; and misleading the public.

Former Dear Leader, “Sir” John Key was brazenly open only in one respect of the OIA. He openly conceded that his administration regularly and willfully delayed releasing OIA requested information for purely political purposes;

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“Sometimes we wait the 20 days because, in the end, Government might take the view that’s in our best interest to do that.”

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To which  Chief Ombudsman, Dame Beverley Wakem, responded by reminding Key and his cronies colleagues they were were not permitted to flout the OIA legislation by deliberately delaying up to the  twenty-day deadline;

“It’s pretty clear. It couldn’t be much clearer than that… As soon as you have made a decision as to whether you’re going to respond to the request or how you’re going to respond to it, you ought to convey that.”

During it’s nine years in office, National has widened the powers of the GCSB to permit it to spy on all New Zealanders; mis-used GCSB surveillance to secure leadership of the World Trade Organisation; spied on our Pacific neighbours; and unlawfully harassed National’s critics such as Nicky Hager and Martyn Bradbury.

But when challenged on whether the GCSB was conducting mass surveillance on New Zealanders, Key simply point-blank refused to comment.

Who can forget National’s obstruction and prevarication – including contradictory statements – over the SAS-led attack on two villages in the Tirgiran Valley in 2010 which caused fifteen injuries and the tragic deaths of six innocent Afghan civilians, including a young child;

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Lest we forget: Fatima, aged 3

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Just recently, it was revealed that an OIA request by Radio NZ, for details regarding the business case for a proposed new multi-million dollar Auckland City rail-line, was met with deliberate stone-walling from then-Minister, Simon Bridge’s “office“;

Transport Minister Simon Bridges has been caught trying to block an official information request for details about a proposed new $50 million Auckland railway line.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters tabled an email trail in Parliament yesterday showing that Mr Bridges’ office repeatedly urged KiwiRail last week not to release a business case on Auckland’s proposed third main railway track.

Initially, his officials opposed the document being released, saying it was part of an unsuccessful budget bid, but were told by KiwiRail on Thursday that the law was clear it should be released.

After consulting its legal team, KiwiRail told Mr Bridge’s office it would struggle to justify not releasing it.

But on Friday Mr Bridges’ office again urged KiwiRail not to release the business plan.

This time it used a scatter-gun approach – arguing the report was only a draft, was on a misleading template and that its proposed release was making them “extremely uncomfortable”.

Writer Harriet Gale…

[…]

… said KiwiRail made it clear the business case did not need to be kept secret and that the minister’s behaviour was worrying.

Chief Ombudsman, Peter Boshier, was obviously frustrated and disturbed by National’s attempt to suppress the Kiwirail Report and their continual flouting of the OIA;

“It’s so important that we get this Act flowing better than it has been and it hasn’t necessarily flowed that well.

And that’s why I’ve used this as an opportunity to exhort the Prime Minister to help me and support me in getting the roles crystal clear.

We are coming down increasingly heavier where we see instances where the Act is not being compiled with – and in some cases, where it’s been flouted.

I think there’s an understanding that we mean business.”

Hardly the hallmarks of an “open and transparent” government when a Minister’s “office” is prepared to conspire to break the law by circumventing the Official Information Act. Also not helped when the ombudsman’s office has to write a scathing letter to the Prime Minister demanding they obey the law.

As if to underscore National’s mania for secrecy, in 2011/12, New Zealand’s ranking in media freedom by Reporters Without Borders fell from eighth place  in 2010, to  thirteenth, in the world.

The Herald’s senior reporter, Matthew Backhouse, wrote at the time;

The report did not say what was behind the fall – but it comes after a year in which newsrooms were searched by police, the New Zealand Herald was temporarily banned from the parliamentary press gallery and a proposed new law sought to give police greater powers to enter newsrooms.

Another story by Fairfax media’s Susan Edmunds, in May this year, also reported on New Zealand’s fall in World Press Freedom Index, citing Government secrecy;

The report said journalists were struggling with the Official Information Act, which gives government agencies long periods of time to respond to requests. Sometimes journalists were asked to pay for information.

“In August 2016, the government revealed a grim future for whistleblowers, announcing a bill that would criminalise leaking government information to the media and would dramatically increase the surveillance powers of the intelligence services. Journalists, bloggers, and civil society representatives would be among the potential targets of the proposed law, which could be adopted in 2017.”

Catherine Strong, from Massey University’s School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing, said;

“Our lower standing is due to the growing list of government agencies trying to hide information by thwarting the Official Information Act, and these agencies are ruining our reputation.”

What is even more grimly ironic is that having been thrown out of office, National persists in refusing to disclose information to the public.

Remember that National Party leader, Bill English, recently demanded;

“This is a government that said it would be more transparent and more open. The document is clearly there somewhere, it must be important because it’s 38 pages and it’s come out of the agreement – people deserve to see it.

It sounds like there might be quite a lot more in this other piece of paper. If it’s at the core of how the Government’s going to run, it’s in the public interest.”

Following coalition negotiations,  and Peters’s subsequent  announcement on 19 October that NZ First would coalesce with Labour and the Greens, Radio NZ’s Susie Ferguson spoke with National’s Bill English on Morning Report.

On at least two occassions, Ms Ferguson asked Bill English if he would be releasing the text of coalitions negotiations with NZ First. English first replied;

@1:57

“Well again, I’m not going to be discussing that. It was part of the negotiations and New Zealand First actually required, rightly, confidentiality about those negotiations.”

When pressed, English was adamant that there would be no public disclosure;

@2:28

“I’m honour bound to stick with the confidentiality agreement. As are the other parties.”

Note English’s reference to “the other parties“.

That would be Labour. No one else was in the room with Peters and NZ First. So when it suited English, he was more than willing to point to “the other parties” to validate his refusal to release National’s own coalition discussion papers.

A month later, on 28 November, TVNZ’s talented Jack Tame interviewed Bill English on Breakfast TV. After English repeated his demands that Labour publish all coalition documents, Tame pointed out  the apparent hypocrisy of demanding Labour make public their coalition papers whilst English refused to disclose National’s;

@1:13

TAME: “So are you prepared to release what your coalition negotiations with NZ First if the government does the same?”

ENGLISH: “Well, look, I don’t know if it’s a record of negotiations. We conducted ours under a confidentiality agreement. That was very clear right at the start.

So according to English, National operated under a “confidentiality agreement“.  He failed to explain how that differed from Labour’s confidentiality agreement with NZ First. As English insisted on 19 October, Labour was “honour bound to stick with the[ir] confidentiality agreement.”

Tame put the story on Twitter;

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Kudos to Jack Tame for being the only journalist (to my knowledge) to recognise and point out English’s double standard on this issue.

English’s refusal to come clean with the New Zealand public whilst demanding “transparency and openess” from Labour is a stark reminder of National’s toxic track record of paranoia, secrecy, and do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do arrogance. Every time English or one of his National Party parliamentary colleagues opens their mouths, we are reminded of their own hypocrisy.

They are political charlatans not to be trusted.

For the first time in our political history, it has become the role of the Government to hold the Opposition to account.

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And now…

Introducing the first (but not the last!) Paula Bennett Award for Hypocrisy. Named for the National party politician who used the Training Incentive Allowance to gain a free, tax-payer funded university education when she was a young mother on the domestic purposes benefit. Later, in 2009, as Minister for Social Welfare, one of her first actions was to  scrap that Allowance, thereby denying other solo-parents the same opportunity for advancing their lives.

The first Award goes to Bill English, for saying one thing and doing another. Congratulations, Mr English!

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Acknowledgement

My thanks to a Radio NZ producer for locating specific audio that provided much-needed information for the completion of this story. I am indebted for the significant time and effort it took to assist me on this project.

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References

TVNZ News:  ‘It’s in the public interest’ – Bill English calls for release of coalition document

Radio NZ:  New govt has ‘no follow through’ – National

NZ Herald: John Key, mass surveillance and what really happened when Edward Snowden accused him of spying

Radio NZ:  Spy agencies come under scrutiny

Fairfax media: Killed girl’s parents demand NZ Government inquiry

Radio NZ:  Transport Minister tries to block official information request

Radio NZ:  Ombudsman urges ministers to follow OIA rules

NZ Herald:  NZ slips out of top 10 for freedom in the media

Fairfax media:  Press freedoms stifled by cynical use of Official Information Act – Report

Fairfax media: Labour finally retakes power after Winston Peters gives Jacinda Ardern his support

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

Twitter: Jame Tame – 28 November

NZ Herald: Bennett rejects ‘hypocrite’ claims

Additional

NZ Herald: OIA tension raises questions over minister’s request for information

Other Blogs

The Standard:  Key and Mass Surveillance – Was this the reason for the Golriz distraction?

TDB:  Now we know Key lied about mass surveillance – let’s remind everyone what our msm said at the time

Previous related blogposts

Once upon a time there was a solo-mum

“Fool me once”

Judith Collins owes an explanation to voters

National whines about Cullen’s appointment – they should know about cronyism

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

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

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= fs =

Roy Morgan poll confirms blogger’s prediction – National is in freefall

2 December 2017 4 comments

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On 12 November, I made the following observation;

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…

[…]

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.

It’s taken faster than I thought possible, but the first post-election poll – from Roy Morgan – has the Labour-led coalition rising  whilst National’s support is falling;

In November support for the newly elected Labour/NZ First/Greens Government was 54.5% (up 6% since early October) ahead of National/Act NZ on 41% (down 5.5%) with minor parties outside Parliament attracting the remaining 4.5% of support.

  • Support for Labour/NZ First is at 44.5% (up 7% since early October), a slight increase from their election result of 44.1% while coalition partners the Greens are on 10% (down 1%).
  • Support for National is at 40.5% (down 5.5%) and down 3.95% from their election result of 44.5% while their right-wing colleagues Act NZ are stuck unchanged on 0.5%.

Hence why National’s chief party strategist, shit-stirrer, and head-kicker – Steven Joyce has been so vocal lately. His on-going carping about the new government is a desperate attempt for his party to stay relevant.

The longer the Coalition has to implement it’s reforms and fix up thirty years of neo-liberal mis-management, the harder it will be for the Nats to offer themselves as a viable alternative in 2020 or 2023. Or 2026.

Who would vote for a party whose nine years in office saw nothing of any practical value except a cycleway (that failed to deliver promised 4,000 new jobs) and bloated house-values for a minority of middle class property-owners in Auckland and Wellington?

Who would vote for a party whose former Dear Leader smiled and waved his way through eight years in office; who bullied a powerless waitress; wasted $26 million on a pointless referendum; and left a legacy of Kiwi families living in cars, garages, or crammed into mouldy, delapidated housing?

And then there’s this;

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rivers too polluted to even swim in.

Nine years of National has proven to be an expensive exercise  in futility for this country.

But more so thirty years of a dogmatic neo-liberal experiment which has failed on almost every level (unless you are the 1% or an Auckland property owner).

TV3’s ‘The Nation‘  on 25 November emphasised the grim problems we face, as the entire episode was taken up with the socio-economic problems faced by Northlanders.

That one, single, episode was award-winning journalism. It was Reality TV unlike the inane bullshit we get from “The Block“, “Home Improvement“, “Survivor Whatever/Wherever“, “The Bachelor/ette“, “My Kitchen Cooks“, etc, etc, et-bloody-cetera.

It made for grim watching and deserves to be re-broadcast at prime time.

It is against this back-drop that National’s strategists should understand one thing very clearly: people’s expectations over the last three decades have been low. The pressing social and economic problems we face have been accepted with a shrug from a sizeable chunk of the voting population.

It was presented for a generation that this was as good as it gets.

But if Labour, NZ First, and the Greens can prove that a better alternative exists – then watch National’s poll rating plummet even further. The Roy Morgan Poll gave us a hint of this;

Government Confidence increased substantially during November after New Zealand First chose to form Government with the Labour Party installing Jacinda Ardern as New Zealand’s new PM.

The Roy Morgan Government Confidence Rating jumped 15.5pts to 146.5pts in November (the highest for nearly eight years since January 2010 early in the reign of Prime Minister John Key) with 66.5% of NZ electors (up 8% from October) saying NZ is ‘heading in the right direction’ cf. 20% of NZ electors (down 7.5%) that say New Zealand is ‘heading in the wrong direction’.

The Nats are on borrowed time. Their relevancy will continue to diminish.

And it is when the Right have their backs against the wall that they will be most dangerous.

Labour, Green, and NZ First Ministers and MPs need to be on-guard at all times. Stay focused on what needs to be done.

The Roy Morgan poll shows we are on track…

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Sunday Star Times <letters@star-times.co.nz>
date: 26 November 2017
subject: Letters to the editor

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The editor
Sunday Star Times

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The latest Roy Morgan poll must be sending shivers down the backs of the National Party hierarchy.

Not because support for the newly elected Labour-led coalition was up 6% to 54.5%, with National/ACT free-falling 5.5% on 41%.

But because the same poll revealed that “66.5% of NZ electors (up 8%) said NZ is heading in the right direction”.

This is a clear message from the people that they have had enough of a market-led, minimalist-government regime that has seen growing child poverty; widening income/wealth inequality; stagnating wages; corporates rorting the tax system; worsening housing affordability; growing homelessness with entire families living in garages or cars; degraded rivers; and a grossly under-funded health system.

National was quick of the mark cutting taxes in 2009 and 2010, for which they had to borrow from overseas to fund, despite assurances that would not happen.

But not so quick to address the critical problems that really matter to New Zealanders.

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-Frank Macskasy

[name and address supplied]

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References

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

Electoral Commission:  2017 General Election – Official Result

Roy Morgan Poll:  New PM Jacinda Ardern drives surge in New Zealand Government Confidence

NZ Herald:  Cycleway jobs fall short

Mediaworks:  New Zealand housing most unaffordable in the world – The Economist

Fairfax media: Prime Minister John Key pulled waitress’ ponytail

Radio NZ:  Flag referendum ‘waste of money’

Fairfax media:  New Zealand’s poor housing is making our children sick

Fairfax media:  ‘Serious pressures’ facing rivers, Government report finds

Mediaworks: The Nation – Turning around the far north

Mediaworks: The Nation – What happened to Moerewa?

Mediaworks: The Nation – Fixing Northland

Other Blogs

The Standard:  Latest Roy Morgan Poll – Labour and Greens surge as National flounders

Previous related blogposts

The Legacy of a Dismantled Prime Minister

“Fool me once”

St. Steven and the Holy Grail of Fiscal Responsibility

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That was then…

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This is now…

 

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

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= fs =

National whines about Cullen’s appointment – they should know about cronyism

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When it comes to a repulsive cocktail of double standards, self-interest, and hypocrisy, National is the party that just keeps on giving…

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Listener <letters@listener.co.nz>
date: 25 November 2017
subject: Letters to the editor

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The editor
The Listener

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On 23 November, the Coalition government fulfilled another of it’s election pledges. Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Revenue Minister Stuart Nash announced that Michael Cullen would head the planned Taxation Working Group to look into issues surrounding a fairer taxation system.

National’s political strategist and former minister, Steven Joyce responded with a predictable jerk-of-the-knee;

“Sir Michael is many things but a politically independent voice on taxation policy he is not. Let’s face it, he was Labour’s last Finance Minister and one of the key coalition negotiators for the Labour Party.”

Joyce’s reprehensible swipe at Cullen’s appointment was hypocritical for two reasons.

Firstly, it was National that appointed Cullen  as deputy chairman of NZ Post in April 2009. By November 2010, then SOE Minister, Simon Power, had promoted Cullen to Chair of NZ Post, saying;

“I look forward to working with Dr Cullen to develop NZ Post’s strategy to accommodate declining mail volumes and a challenging financial environment.”

Secondly, when it comes to cronyism, National is hard to beat. Just some of their political appointees include Jackie Blue, Wyatt Creech, Mervyn English, Sir Wira Gardiner, Catherine Isaac,  Judy Kirk, Richard Long, Wayne Mapp, Stephen McElrea, Jim McLay, Belinda Milnes,  Ravi Musuku, Brian Neeson, Kerry Prendergast, , Katherine Rich, Jenny Shipley,   Ken Shirley, Roger Sowry,  and Penny Webster.

One of National’s worst instances of cronyism was the hugely wasteful, so-called “Rules Reduction Taskforce“, which produced it’s “loopy rules report”. Half the “Taskforce”, appointed by Paula Bennett in 2014, consisted of former National MPs such as Tau Henare, John Carter, and former party candidates Mark Thomas and Ian Tulloch. They were each paid $500 a day.

Eventually the “Taskforce” reported that many of the contentious bureaucratic regulations  did not exist in reality. They were urban myths.

Thank you Steven Joyce for reminding us how National excels at cronyism.

-Frank Macskasy

[address and phone number supplied]

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Further on the issue of the so-called Rules Reduction Taskforce”, Green Party MP, Julie-Anne Genter,  said at the time;

“We’re getting to that point where the National government is losing all perspective or sense of touch with reality – when they think it’s okay to pay their former MPs or candidates and donors to undertake what’s ostensibly some sort of taskforce work, it’s really just an exercise in PR and spin.”

That little exercise cost taxpayers a cool $750,000.

Around the same time, the Wanganui Chronicle reported that community NGOs were suffering badly, with several such as Relationships Aotearoa and the YWCA, closing entirely;

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Fellow blogger,  Curwen Rolinson, was also less than impressed at  Joyce’s naked hypocrisy, pointing out on Facebook;

But hold on just a moment. I’ve literally lost count of the number of consultative bodies and even straight-up *Inquiries* that the National Party *quite pointedly* staffed the chairing of with their own people, flunkies, and other such questionable appointments.

I mean, as an example of this – their placing of John Shewan at the head of the group convened to look into slash “dispel” the perception of New Zealand as a tax-haven, for instance, was quite directly a case of placing a fox in charge of a hen-house [Shewan’s private sector activities including quite a spate of tax-“consultancy” and linkages to a series of potentially dodgy international firms in this regard].

Or, worse, the series of appointments of [now Dame – guess why she got the gong, eh?] Paula Rebstock to head Inquiries into everything from Peter Dunne’s ‘alleged’ leaking of materials around the GCSB’s illegal conduct through to the ‘Leask’ affair concerning MFAT information being anonymously passed to the Labour Party.

Curwen continued to strip away National’s faux outrage;

Further, if I recall correctly, the previous National Government’s “2025 Taskforce” on pensions and the like was convened to be *chaired by* none other than arch-neoliberal [and former National Party Leader] Don Brash. I don’t seem to recall the National Party raising any issue with “politically tied” appointments to policy working-group style arrangements THEN…?

What’s different about Cullen on the Tax Working Group, I wonder…?

But when it came to cronyism mixed with  commercial self interest, Judith Collins’ involvement in the Oravida milk company scandal was hard to top, as political commentator, Bryce Edwards put bluntly;

Justice Minister Judith Collins has revealed she had a dinner with the head of Oravida and a senior Chinese government official while in China last year and admits she was wrong not to disclose the dinner last week. Mrs Collins has been under pressure to explain her dealings with the milk company Oravida, where her husband is a director;

Perceptions of corruption, cronyism and conflicts of interest can be incredibly damaging to any government, and National will be very wary of a narrative developing that this administration is infected with political sleaze.

Nothing makes a government look more tired, out-of-touch, and arrogant than scandals that suggest governing politicians are ethically compromised and governing in the interests of the powerful rather than the public.

Judith Collins’ milk endorsement scandal is beginning to have a serious impact on the Government’s reputation. But unfortunately for National, there are a number of similar stories dogging it at the moment, and they all come on the back of previous allegations of cronyism related to the scandals over John Banks as well as the SkyCity convention centre procurement process.

The scandal over Judith Collins and her allegedly favourable treatment of the milk company that her husband helps run has allowed National’s opponents to make some strong attacks on the character of, not only the Minister of Justice, but the whole National administration

By August 2014, the allegations of sleaze, corruption, conflicts of interest became over-whelmingly and Collins was forced to step down from her ministerial roles.

There were many other instances of cronyism revealed during National’s nine years in office. Several resulted in ministerial resignations.

If the appointment of a former Finance Minister to a working group focused on Finance issues (ie, taxation) is the worst that National can throw at the new Coalition government – then it is lobbing damp squibs.

Considering National’s own recent murky history, the issue of cronyism is one where it might be wiser to keep a very, very, very low profile.

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Appendix

A roll call of some of National’s cronies – ex-members of Parliament appointed to various government bodies, organisations, NGOs, working groups, etc;

Blue, Jackie

Creech, Wyatt

English, Mervyn

Gardiner, Sir Wira

Isaac, Catherine

Kirk, Judy

Long, Richard

Mapp, Wayne

McElrea, Stephen

McLay, Jim

Milnes, Belinda

Musuku, Ravi

Neeson, Brian

Prendergast, Kerry

Rich, Katherine

Shipley, Jenny

Shirley, Ken

Sowry, Roger

Webster, Penny

This list is not complete.

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References

Fairfax media:  Sir Michael Cullen to head tax working group, GST changes possible

NZ Herald:  Cullen leaves politics for NZ Post role

NZ Herald:  Cullen to replace Bolger at NZ Post

Fairfax media:  Cullen appointed NZ Post chairman

Radio NZ: National accused of cronyism over ‘loopy rules’ report

Wanganui Chronicle:  Concern over lack of funding for NGOs

Facebook: Curwen Ares Rolinson – 24 November 2017

NZ Herald:  Bryce Edwards – The National Government is looking sleazy

Radio NZ: Collins resigns after ‘smear campaign’

Frankly Speaking: Cronywatch

Additional

Radio NZ:  National accused of cronyism over ‘loopy rules’ report

NZ Herald:  Bryce Edwards – The National Government is looking sleazy

Other Blogs

AmeriNZ Blog:  Is John Key’s government corrupt?

The Standard:  Cabinet Club

Previous related blogposts

The Fletcher Affair – a warning for Labour

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

Crony Watch!

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 26 November 2017.

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