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Archive for February, 2018

National’s housing spokesperson Michael Woodhouse – delusional or outright fibber?

18 February 2018 6 comments

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The recent Housing Report reveals National’s ineptitude when it came to homelessness and housing unaffordability. Even retiring baby-boomers do not escape National’s incompetence when it came to unrestrained migration; insufficient housing stock; spiralling speculation; and poorly-planned infrastructure to cope with a rising population;

It also showed home ownership had slumped dramatically since the 1980s – especially among Pacific and Maori people – and Auckland’s housing problem was created by a mix of population growth, partly fuelled by migration, and the construction and land development sectors “hindering” housing affordability.

It also pointed to a potential time bomb in the impact on housing affordability on the elderly, finding the proportion of older people who were living in mortgage-free homes had dropped from 86 per cent to 72 per cent since the 1980s.

The consequences are now plain for everyone to see.

And just in case some National voters have still missed the point;

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
bcc: craig.mcculloch@radionz.co.nz,
Benedict Collins <benedict.collins@radionz.co.nz>
date: 12 February 2018
subject: Letters to the editor

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The Editor
The Dominion

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Sir/madam,

The recent Housing Report commissioned by the new Labour-led Coalition is a damning indictment of the previous National government’s indifference and gross negligence to homelessness and housing unaffordability.

The report confirms a worsening housing and homelessness crisis which most New Zealanders saw happening before their very eyes.

In response to their appalling record, National’s housing spokesperson, Michael Woodhouse, told Radio NZ on 12 February;

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“They acknowledge that social housing includes housing provided by NGOs [non governmental organisations] but then ignore that when they conclude that the number of state housing properties have gone down. Clearly that hasn’t happened, they’ve gone up.”

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What is clear is that Mr Woodhouse is utterly clueless when it comes to State housing properties.

In the 2008/09 Annual Report, Housing NZ stated that it “manages a portfolio of more than 69,000 houses” (p4).

Nine years later, Housing NZ’s 2016/17 Annual Report revealed “we own or manage approximately 63,000 homes”. (p7)

Either Mr Woodhouse’s or my arithmetic is way out, because that is a 6,000 drop in State housing.

No wonder housing has become this country’s worst social crisis since the Great Depression.

This explains why Bill English still thinks they should be governing. Apparently he and his former ministers cannot count.

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-Frank Macskasy

[address & phone number supplied]

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References

Radio NZ:   Housing report paints ‘sobering picture’ of crisis

NZ Herald:  New Zealand ‘a society divided by wealth’ – new housing report

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2008/09

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2016/17

Previous related blogposts

National recycles Housing Policy and produces good manure!

Our growing housing problem

National Housing propaganda – McGehan Close Revisited

Housing; broken promises, families in cars, and ideological idiocy (Part Tahi)

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

Government Minister sees history repeat – responsible for death

Housing Minister Paula Bennett continues National’s spin on rundown State Houses

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

 

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 13 February 2018.

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The Mendacities of Mr English – No, I wasn’t told – Yes, I was told

9 February 2018 4 comments

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On 2 November last year – and still smarting from a colossal rebuff from NZ First – Bill English was unabashedly vindictive at losing out on coalition talks to form a fourth National-led administration;

“You should expect more tension and more pressure in the Parliament, and particularly through the select committee process. Because we are the dominant select committee party.

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 is a minority.

You will get to understand that it is a minority Government with a majority Opposition, and the Greens as the support party. That is how we are going to run it…we have no obligation to smooth [Labour’s] path. None whatsoever.”

Just how difficult English intended for the new Coalition government has been made abundantly clear over the last three months. At every opportunity in front of a live radio microphone, tv camera, or any available passing set of ears, English has carped at every announcement and action undertaken by the Coalition.

National has gone so far as to create an attack-website in Labour-party colours, inciting resentment at the Labour-NZ First-Green Coalition;

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A noticeable feature of this website is a lack any  marker identifying it as a National Party construct. Aside from the authoriser – National’s General Manager, “G Hamilton”, the website shows no obvious affiliation to the Nats.

Not very honest of them, but it’s what we’ve come to expect from the National Party: deception to suit their agenda.

English’s  fixation on making National  a disruptive force and to deny the Coalition a “smooth path” landed him with egg on his face on 30 January this year, when he mis-led listeners to Radio NZ’s  Morning Report.

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Speaking to Radio NZ’s Susie Ferguson, English complained bitterly that he had not been consulted over the Coalition’s government’s Child Poverty Bill;

“ Well we haven’t seen the bill yet. We’ve been offered a official’s briefing today. The day the Bill’s been introduced. So we’ve no ability to influence it. That’s not a good way to influence bi-partisan approach. It’s pretty limited I have to say. So we’ll have a look at it, ah, we want to see it’s more than symbolism…

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Well, they haven’t gone about it in a very sensible way if they want concensus. First we’ve had no [unintelligible word] opportunity to influence the Bill…”

English desperately attempted to deflect the conversation to a purely fiscally-driven narrative;

“ This new government has used up all it’s spare cash according to it’s own limits. And they don’t have much ability actually over the next few years to do anything beyond the first of April this year.

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New Zealand has a fantastic opportunity here. Sustainable surpluses, the ability to lift incomes at the bottom end, the ability to dig in and do the long term investment in dealing with long – with deprivation, and the government is doing it’s best to mess that up.”

However, English’s claim that he and his Party had had no opportunity for consensus-building on this critical issue affecting New Zealand was convincingly demolished that very same afternoon.

Not only had Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern approached National last year, seeking consensus and feedback from National – she had done it in writing;

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[Image courtesy of Radio NZ]

There we have it: in black and white writing. And stamped with the Opposition Leader’s [currently Bill English – but subject to change very shortly] Office; 13 December 2017.

Prime Minister Ardern wrote to English requesting his support for the Coalition’s Child Poverty Bill – and seeking his feedback . She did everything feasible to engage English and his Party short of banging on his office door with her high-heels, demanding that he participate;

“ Damn you, Bill! Come out and engage with us!”

English’s obstructionism has either clouded his memory – or he was willfully not telling the truth. The former indicates that his memory is becoming unreliable. The latter, that he is a liar. Neither is a particularly comforting option.

Thankfully, Labour has learned not to trust National.That lesson was firmly driven home for Labour on 8 November last year when National disrupted the election of Trevor Mallard as Speaker of the House by threatening to put the issue to a vote and insisting they had the numbers to vote down Mallard’s nomination.

They didn’t. It was a sly bluff;

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Chris Hipkins and Grant Robertson negotiate with duplicitous and self-serving National Opposition MPs

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After that debacle, Labour’s Whip, Chris Hipkins promised;

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. Lesson learned.

Thankfully, a simple little thing like a letter has shown up Bill English to be either unreliable – or willing to engage in outright lying to smear the Coalition.

Postscript1

Bill English condemned the Coalition government’s decision to scrap National’s “Better Public Service” targets, set in 2012, and revised in 2017. The initial targets were set to:

  • Reducing long-term welfare dependence
  • A good start to life for mothers and babies
  • Reduce assaults and abuse of children
  • Improve mathematics and literacy skills and upskill the New Zealand workforce
  • Reducing crime
  • Better access to social housing
  • Improving interaction with government

The Labour-led coalition has decided to do away with National’s “Better Public Service” targets and instead opted to focus on Child poverty. This did not sit well with Bill English, who complained bitterly;

[The targets] meant that when New Zealand’s public servants turned up to work they knew exactly what it was they should be doing to improve lives and to do their jobs better – and they, along with the Government, were held to account because their results were measured.

It’s a step backwards to lazy, dumb Government.

The public service was starting to get good at digging into our hardest long term social problems: child abuse, family violence, serious criminal offending, and long term welfare dependency.

Instead, we are likely to see a shift to higher-level longer-term targets that apply to no one in particular and for which no one in particular can be held accountable and that’s not good enough.

I think there will be a lot of public servants who are putting their feet up around the country because now they don’t have to worry too much about achieving much or being accountable. But I think there will be even more public servants disappointed because they had a sense of purpose.

Prime Minister Ardern responded;

“ We will in the longer term absolutely be replacing those Better Public Service targets. Our view always has been that those targets didn’t give us the systemic change that we need for some of those big issues that the country faces.

Unfortunately for English, the most devastating critique of his so-called “Better Public Service” targets came not from a left-wing Prime Minister – but from one of his own Cabinet Ministers in July 2016.

When asked on TV3’s The Nation  about National’s failure to move 65,000 people off the benefit within the next two years – one of the “Better Public Service” targets – then MSD Minister Anne Tolley replied;

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It’s a very aspirational target.

So Bill English is upset that targets – which are, at best, only “very aspirational” – are being dumped?

It is unclear why he is so wedded to targets when they are only “very aspirational“, according to one of his former Ministers. Minister Tolley was able to easily dismiss National’s  “Better Public Service” targets with barely an explanation.

Aspirational is meaningless if not backed up by legislation and measureable standards.

Such as the Coalition’s Child Poverty Bill.

Perhaps Bill English should become “more aspirational“?

Postscript2

English’s pathological opposition to the Coalition’s Child Poverty Bill can be better understood when one understands that National policies have actively contributed to growing homelessness and increasing child poverty.

In 2008, Housing NZ’s state housing stock comprised of  69,000 rental properties.

By 2016, that number had dramatically fallen to 61,600 (plus a further 2,700 leased) – a crucial shortfall of 7,400 properties.

In nine years, National sold off thousands of state homes – a policy that continued until a housing crisis forced families to live in over-crowded houses; run-down “boarding houses”  garages, and cars.

National’s desperate attempt to stave off increasingly horrifying stories of hardship and poverty forced them to enter… the motel business;

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If Mr English appears to have difficulty supporting the Coalition’s Child Poverty Bill, perhaps it’s because he knows his government is partly responsible for the current poverty-stricken state of the country today.

He knows National did not have to sell off 7,400 state houses.

He knows National need not have squeezed a staggering $664 million out of Housing NZ by way of annual dividends over a seven year period.

He knows that the tax cuts of 2009 and 2010 benefitted the wealthy predominantly, whilst increasing gst and raising user-pays part-charges for prescription medicines impacted disproportionately on the poorest people of this country.

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Those are amongst National’s legacies after nine years. Policies that benefitted the well-off; placated the comfortable Middle Classes; and made life harder for the poorest of our fellow New Zealanders.

His guilt must be so deep-seated that English is only able to deal with it by continually criticising those who are willing to clean up the mess left after nine years of National.

Christian guilt can be a terrible, debilitating thing.

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References

NZ Herald:  Bill English warns Labour: ‘it’s not our job to make this place run’

National Party: Lets Undo This

Beehive:  Taking action to reduce child poverty

Radio NZ:  English on government’s child poverty legislation

Radio NZ:  PM ‘saddened’ at claims Nats not consulted on poverty 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

Beehive:  New Better Public Services targets

MSD:  Better Public Services

Fairfax media: Bill English slams Government for getting rid of public service targets

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

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

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2008/09

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2015/16

NZ Herald:   Govt to buy more motels to house homeless as its role in emergency housing grows

NZ Herald:  GST rise will hurt poor the most

Fairfax media:  Prescription price rise hits vulnerable

Additional

Gordon Campbell on the battle over select committees

Other Blogs

The Standard:  Bill your pants may be on fire

Previous related blogposts

Foot in mouth award – Bill English, for his recent “Flat Earth” comment in Parliament

The Mendacities of Mr English – Fibbing from Finance Minister confirmed

The Mendacities of Mr English – Social Services under National’s tender mercies

The Mendacities of Mr English – The covert agenda of high immigration

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

National continues to panic on housing crisis as election day looms

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

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

“Fool me once”…

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 4 February 2018.

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Handouts to the Racing Industry? So no more homeless then?!

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Deputy PM, Racing Minister, and de facto godfather, Winston Peters  announced on Sunday (28 January) that the New Zealand racing industry was due for tax-cuts for horse breeders and a taxpayer-funded all-weather horse racing track;

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He’s promising the racing industry a multi-million dollar track that can be used even when its pouring with rain. Mr Peters says it is expected to cost around $10 million to construct.

It comes as several races throughout the country had to be abandoned.

The Minister says both taxpayers and the industry will be helping to pay for the new track.

Mr Peters is also promising tax relief for owners who are breeding horses for racing. He says the current legislation, which he delivered last time he was Racing Minister, isn’t working like it should.

This, at a time when homelessness in this country has been steadily rising since the 2006 Census;

The number of homeless people in New Zealand rose between the last two Census counts, a new study says.

The University of Otago study, which is based on Census data, said one in 100 were homeless in 2013, compared with one in 120 in 2006 and one in 130 in 2001.

The study used the Government’s official definition of homeless, which is people living in severely crowded houses, in motels, boarding houses, on the street or in cars.

Between 2006 and 2013, the rise in homeless people outstripped population growth.  New Zealand’s population grew by 4.8 per cent over this period, while the number of homeless grew by 25 per cent.

As Prime Minister Ardern said on TV3’s The Nation on 21 October last year;

“When you have a market economy, it all comes down to whether or not you acknowledge where the market has failed and where intervention is required. Has it failed our people in recent times? Yes. How can you claim you’ve been successful when you have growth roughly 3 percent, but you’ve got the worst homelessness in the developed world?”

For Winston Peters to be offering tax-breaks and taxpayer funded covered racetracks, at a time of critical need for boosting funding for housing, hospitals, mental healthcare, and other services is a return to the corporate cronyism we’ve experienced for the last nine years under National.

National’s corporate cronyism has included;

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There is probably more. National’s nine years in office has been less free-market and more corporate welfare than Muldoonism at it’s height. They’ve simply been more adept at hiding it.

In 2013, when it came to throwing taxpayers’ dollars at The Hobbit, Winston Peters was scathing at National’s corporate welfare  largesse;

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Peters even demanded that Warner Bros repay taxpayer’s money;

“Now the first movie has grossed more than $1 billion, Warner Brothers should repay the $67 million subsidy the movie moguls sucked from Kiwi taxpayers.”

After all the criticisms from Labour and NZ First at National’s corporate welfarism, the Coalition government has succumbed to the same folly of throwing money – our money! – at multi-million dollar businesses.

For an industry sector that turns over $1.6 billion, it beggars belief that they have their corporate hands out for taxpayer largesse and tax breaks. What other industry will be receiving tax breaks? Tourism? Wine and beer producers? Why not our nascent computer-gaming industry? Or Rocketlabs?

Key must be laughing his head off at this fiasco. After all the ‘stick’ given to Key and his National government for their corporate welfare, the Labour-led coalition have engaged in the same practice – only three months into their first term.

Was there no one with sufficient political nouse in Labour or NZ First’s Parliamentary offices to express reservations over this daft plan? That giving tax-dollars and tax-breaks to a “sport” enjoyed by predominantly affluent New Zealanders is not a particularly good idea? Especially when Labour and NZ First (and the Greens) made so much of New Zealand’s housing crisis during last year’s election campaign?

In effect, Peters has just handed the National Opposition a bloody big stick with which to whack the Coalition over their  heads. English and his minions will be gleefully strategising over how they can best use this corporate welfare to attack the Coalition.

National’s strategists have already started by launching this attack-website carrying negative messages;

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Side-note: Interestingly, the website is done in Labour Party colours – not National’s own blue livery. The National Party is not even directly mentioned anywhere on the main page. (Though the “Privacy Policy” link will take you to the National Party website. The authorisation statement is by “G. Hamilton”, National’s General Manager – though few people would know that.)

The racing industry has complained that a covered race-track is essential to allow all-weather events to be held. If so, let the racing industry pay for it. The “Sport of Kings” should not be paid from the taxes of hard-working New Zealanders who expect essential services in health, education, conservation, housing, mental health, policing, etc from their hard-earned tax-dollars. Not enhancing horse-racing facilities.

For perhaps the first (and hopefully the only) time, I find myself nodding in agreement with far-right blogger and former Libertarian/ACT candidate, Lindsay Mitchell, when she wrote her own critique of Peters’ plans;

Today [28 January] Racing Minister Winston Peters apparently promised an all weather track at the cost of $10 million (double it for starters) and either promised or called for tax breaks because the industry (breeding in particular) brings in so much money.

If tax breaks can make one industry stronger, then they can make any industry stronger.

Government picking winners is a recipe for corruption and injustice. We cannot expect New Zealanders who have not a skerrick of interest in the racing industry to disproportionately pay taxes to advance it.

Tax breaks are not subsidies if they are applied universally. Reduce tax period.

You are a guardian of public money Winston. Not a private investor.

On the upside, I am looking forward to our Prime anti-poverty crusader getting it in the neck today over her government’s support for “rich pricks”.

I, for one, will not be defending this policy from criticism from the Right. Because with thousands of New Zealanders homeless and struggling in poverty, it is indefensible. Absolutely, utterly, indefensible.

If the Coalition government wants to assist the racing industry, and they are incapable of raising their own funds, then a suitable compromise is  available. The State could easily borrow on behalf of the racing industry and on-lend to the appropriate racing club. Governments with good credit ratings can generally borrow at lower interest rates than from the commercial banking sector.

But it would have to be paid back.

The responsibility of this Coalition government is simple: Putting roofs over homeless families.

Not roofs over race tracks.

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References

NZ Herald:   Jacinda Ardern arrives at Ratana Pa in first visit by Labour PM since Clark

TVNZ:   Winston Peters announces a multi-million dollar all weather horse racing track is on the way

NZ Herald:  Homelessness rising in New Zealand

Mediaworks:  Homelessness proves capitalism is a ‘blatant failure’ – Jacinda Ardern

Fairfax media: Government denies MediaWorks loan

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

Radio NZ:  Farmers’ ETS exemption progresses

Fairfax media:  Federated Farmers say moving to ETS will cost primary industry $83m

Radio NZ:  Saudi sheep deal – MFAT didn’t provide legal advice on lawsuit risk

Interest.co.nz: Key says Government won’t add to NZ$30 million of support given to Rio Tinto to keep Tiwai Pt open

Fairfax media: $191m in public grants paid to Hollywood for Hobbit trilogy

Fairfax media:  Government called on to stand by existing irrigation contracts

Radio NZ:  Government defends Hobbit subsidies

Fairfax media:  Peters – Hobbit subsidy should be handed back

Otago Daily Times:  Peters signals intention to make ‘positive changes’

National Party: Let’s Undo This

Fairfax media:  Winston Peters back at helm of racing as a return to the old days is heralded

Youtube: Bad Taste

Other Blogs

Lindsay Mitchell:  Winston picking winners

Previous related blogposts

National Party Corporate welfare vs real welfare

National ditches environmental policies

ETS – National continues to fart around

“National Party Corporate welfare vs real welfare”

Corporate Welfare under National

The Corporate Welfare of Tiwai Point – An exercise in National’s “prudent fiscal management”?

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 31 January 2018.

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