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Archive for August, 2019

National and petrol taxes – when journalists gets it right

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It’s not often that it happens, but every so often one will stumble across examples of journalism that probes deeper than the immediacy of the here-and-now, and actually takes a step back in very recent history to put political events and utterances into context.

National’s desperation to remain relevant involves a two-pronged strategy to promote Simon Bridges as Prime-Minister-in-waiting and to portray the current coalition government as tax-and-spend and wasteful with our tax-dollars.

With Mr Bridges at 6% in the polls, the first of National’s strategy is stuck firmly in a political mire. The public do not seem to like and/or trust the current National leader. His constant barking-at-every-passing-car and relentless negativity (without proposing alternative solutions) is problematic and his hyper-critical, carping style is a major turn-off with voters.

The second prong of National’s grand strategy – to throw as much mud as possible at every part of the Coalition’s activities – continues at full-throttle. It’s success is yet to be determined.

National’s current attack focuses on  petrol prices, with the Opposition and it’s leader blaming the Coalition for high fuel prices. This despite Gull NZ’s general manager, Dave Bodger, stating that lack of competition was the deciding factor in fuel pricing, not government taxes;

“That restricts the supply, which inflates the price, especially if you look in parts of the South Island and areas where there’s not as great competition; the consumer is paying a lot more than they are in other places.”

The Commerce Commission’s recent investigation and report into the fuel industry criticised excessive profit-taking by some petrol companies. As Commerce Commission chairperson, Anna Rawlings stated unambiguously;

“Our preliminary findings suggest that many fuel companies are earning returns on investment that are higher than what we would consider a reasonable return to be.”

Those facts did not prevent National from issuing countless press statements and bombarding social media to smear the Coalition as culpable for high petrol prices;

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Fairfax/Stuff journalist, Henry Cooke, reported Simon Bridges’ attack-point verbatim;

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“I agree with Jacinda Ardern that New Zealanders are being fleeced, but the reality of this is the biggest fleecer isn’t the petrol companies, it’s Jacinda Ardern and her Government. Jacinda Ardern is the fleecer-in-chief.”

But then, Mr Cooke, took a further step. He delved into the past and with a few clicks of research, offered readers some further salient facts;

He said fuel taxes were rising by 24c over this Government’s term, compared to just 17c over nine years of National. But this figure included the 11.5c Regional Fuel Tax which is only charged in Auckland – where fuel is typically cheaper than other parts of the country – and did not include the GST rise his Government brought in.

National raised fuel taxes six times over nine years in Government, raising the price by 17c in total. The National Government also increased GST from 12.5 to 15 per cent.

The Labour Government has raised the excise by 7c so far this term and will raise it by another 3.5c in July next year. 

Which helps put current fuel excise rises into some context, when a journalist reminds readers that National was not averse to doing precisely what it self-righteously condemns the Coalition government for doing.

Not forgetting that as well as raising GST (despite promising not to do so), National’s tax-grab reached deep into the pockets of newspaper boys and girls, in a desperate effort to balance their books and make up for billions of dollars squandered in two tax cuts.

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Simon Bridges’ hypocrisy was underscored when Henry Cooke finished his story with the National Party leader’s comments;

Asked if he would cut excise taxes if elected he was non-commital, saying he would need to have a better look at the books when coming to Government.

He stood by the general user-pay system in transport, whereby fuel taxes fund major new roading infrastructure, rather than the general tax take.

The public’s collective eye-rolling at Mr Bridges’ “bob-each-way” explains why he is on 6% in the polls. This is not a politician who “means what he says, and says what he means”.

The following day, on Radio NZ’s deputy political editor, Craig McCulloch, also took National to task on its criticism over fuel excise taxes.

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On Checkpoint, on 21 August, Mr McCulloch  presented listeners with a refresher course in recent political history;

“By the end of it’s three year term, the [Coalition] government will have put up petrol taxes by ten and a half cents, not including the eleven and a half cent regional fuel tax in Auckland.

When National was in charge it put up taxes by seventeen cents, but over a much longer nine year period. But National also increased GST from 12.5% to 15.”

Embarrassing stuff.

Mediaworks/Newshub had also pointed out the same hypocrisy from Nation, but a few months earlier. Dan Satherley and Lisette Reymer reported in early July;

Between 2008 and 2017 National raised petrol taxes six times, usually by 3c – Simon Bridges was Transport Minister for three of those years. They also increased GST from 12.5 to 15 percent.

But more conspicuously, despite considerable media exposure; spending considerable effort and money on wide-reaching social media propagandising, aside from the Auckland regional fuel tax,  National leader Simon Bridges has refused to state if he would repeal the Coalition’s fuel tax excise increases;

“Right now, in the Transport Budget, they have dramatic underspends. I wouldn’t put the [taxes] on, my inclination would be to not have them, but if you are already there and they are already there, there is no way I am putting more on.”

That’s because last year, Mediaworks/Newshub pointed out that National and Labour have both increased fuel excise taxes by almost the same amount. (Though it is unclear from  the infograph below if Mediaworks/Newshub have factored in National’s GST increase in 2010.)

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It’s a fair bet that National will not be using the above infographic in any of their attack ads. Too close to the inconvenient truth for one thing.

It’s also a fair bet that National will retain the Coalition’s excise fuel tax increases; add a few of their own; and then offer a “neutral tax switch”. That’s because National believes in user-pays for most, if not all government services. In 2014 the NZ Labour Party kindly put together a list of just some of those government service fees increases;

  1. GST increase from 12.5% to 15%
  2. Increased taxes on KiwiSaver
  3. Compulsory student loan payment increase from 10% to 12%
  4. Increased tertiary fees
  5. The 2012 ‘Paperboy’ tax
  6. Civil Aviation Authority fees rise
  7. Additional fuel tax increase of 9 cents with annual CPI increases locked in for perpetuity
  8. Road User Charges increased
  9. New annual student loan fees introduced
  10. Massive unnecessary ACC levy increases
  11. Prescription fees increased by 66%
  12. New online company filing fees imposed on businesses
  13. Creeping expansion of the scope of Fringe Benefit Taxes – National tried to tax car parks and plain-clothes police uniforms
  14. Lowering of Working for Families abatement threshold and increasing the abatement rate, taking money out of the pockets of families
  15. Imposing a $900 Family Court fee

Whether fees for DoC huts and tracks, the Family Courts, ACC, roading, etc, National has never been averse to loading costs of those services onto individual users – whilst then cutting income taxes.

This is precisely what they did from 2009 to 2017.

We can expect more of the same from National should they be returned to power.

In the meantime, kudos to Henry Cooke, Craig McCulloch, and other journalists, for  delving into National’s past track record on this issue. This is the sort of journalism the public rightly demand – not simply cutting-and-pasting Party press releases.

The media should now press Mr Bridges harder on this issue: will he repeal Labour’s fuel excise tax increases or not? It’s a simple enough question. After all, he was 100% adamant that National would scrap any Capital Gains Tax if it became government;

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If Simon Bridges wanted the increased fuel excise taxes dumped, there is no reason on Earth why he wouldn’t commit. The fact is that National supports user-pays charges and their claims of being champions for “Kiwi battlers” is populist rubbish. National’s plans are blindingly obvious;

  • increase user pays charges, excise taxes, etc
  • cut personal income taxes – especially for the wealthy

Hence why Mr Bridges has said repeatedly;

“We will not introduce any new taxes during our first term.”

The caveat, Ifs, Buts, and fine print underlying that statement should not be lost on anyone.

If the (current) Leader of the National Party cannot be straight up with voters as to what his intentions are (on any issue!), then he cannot be trusted to lead this country.

For Simon Bridges, the timer on his political career is counting – downward.

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Postscript 1

Fuel prices in New Zealand Aotearoa from 2005 to 2019:

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A bit embarrassing for National: fuel was more expensive during their term in office. New Zealanders cannot afford a National government it would appear.

Postscript 2

Interesting to note that National’s spin doctors appear to have ‘borrowed from my “That was Then, This is Now” memes on which to base their own “What she said, What she did” propaganda;

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But we’re all aware by now that National is not averse to ‘borrowing’  from other peoples’ creative efforts – without paying.

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References

NZ Herald: Latest political poll – National rises against Labour, with 45 against 43 in 1 News Colmar Brunton poll

RNZ: Fuel prices – Government urged to free up wholesale market

Fairfax/Stuff media: Jacinda Ardern says New Zealanders are being ripped off over petrol

National Party: Axe the Tax

Twitter: National Party – petrol prices – taxes – 5.52 PM, Jul 24, 2019

Twitter: National Party – petrol prices – taxes – 6.26 AM, Aug 23, 2019

Twitter: National Party – petrol prices – taxes – 7.15 PM, Aug 21, 2019

Twitter: Simon Bridges – petrol prices – taxes – 2.49 PM, Aug 20, 2019

Twitter: National Party – petrol prices – taxes – 10.25 AM, Jul 1, 2018

Twitter: National Party – petrol prices – taxes – 9.40 AM, Jun 30, 2019

Twitter: National Party – petrol prices – 4.05 PM, Aug 29, 2018

Fairfax/Stuff media: Petrol prices – Simon Bridges says Jacinda Ardern is ‘fleecer-in-chief’

Fairfax/Stuff media: Key ‘no GST rise’ video emerges

Fairfax/Stuff media: Young workers out of pocket

RNZ: Blame game in Parliament over high petrol prices (audio-link)

Mediaworks/Newshub: Fuel tax hike – How much it might cost you

Mediaworks/Newshub: National’s Simon Bridges refuses to say he will overturn new petrol tax increase

TVNZ/One News: National promise no new taxes and repeal of Auckland fuel tax in first term

Mediaworks/Newshub: Fact check – Who taxed your petrol the most – Labour or National?

Fairfax/Stuff media: Trampers torn on price hike for New Zealand’s Great Walks

RNZ: DoC fees rise

Labour Party: At least 15 new taxes under National

Scoop media: National would repeal Capital Gains Tax

National Party: National would repeal Capital Gains Tax

Twitter: Simon Bridges – no ifs no buts no caveats – 6 March 2019

Twitter: Simon Bridges – tax cuts – 2.58 PM, Jan 30, 2019

Otago Daily Times – National: No new taxes in the first term

NZ Herald: National Party found guilty of Eminem copyright breach

Addition

Fairfax/Stuff media: Intolerance fed by wrong and hateful assumptions is all the rage right now

Fairfax/Stuff media: National’s ‘desperate’ attack ads to be investigated by Advertising Standards Authority

Previous related blogposts

That was Then, This is Now #28 – John Key on transparency

Simon Bridges: “No ifs, no buts, no caveats, I will repeal this CGT

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 August 2019.

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Judith Collins – Foot in Mouth Award? Or something more sinister?

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Former Police, Corrections, and Justice Minister in the previous John Key government, Judith Collins, has been ridiculed on social media after posting a comment on Twitter that was patently untrue;

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Wrong!! National did not remove Prisoners’ ability to vote. Parliament voted through a Private Member’s Bill not a Govt Bill. Note where NZF voted. Restoring prisoners’ right to vote still not a priority – Andrew Little | Newshub

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Ms Collins stated-as-fact “National did not remove Prisoners’ ability to vote. Parliament voted through a Private Member’s Bill not a Govt Bill. Note where NZF voted“.

Twitter posters were quick to point out that the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Act 2010 was indeed a National government Bill. The Bill was introduced by then-National MP, Paul Quinn, on 10 February 2010.

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Mr Quinn’s Bill passed it’s third reading on 8 December 2010, with National’s fiftyeight MPs and ACT’s five MPs voting it into law.

Labour, the Greens, the Māori Party, Jim Anderton (as the Progressive Party), and Peter Dunne (as the United Future)  voted against the Bill. Contrary to Ms Collins advising people to “note where NZF voted” – New Zealand First was not even present in Parliament at the time.

The Bill received Royal Assent from the Governor General seven days later, formally becoming the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Act 2010.

Ms Collins was wrong in almost every respect in her August 12, 2019  Twitter post: the law was National’s from beginning to end.

Her blunder (or wilful misrepresentation) was compounded when her Leader, Simon Bridges, publicly confirmed Ms Collins’ “tweet” as mis-information;

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It’s our law – we believed in it then and we still believe in it so we will oppose change. Quite simply if you do a crime that’s serious enough for jail you lose a number of rights, including most importantly your liberty, but also we think it’s right while you’re in prison you lose that right to vote.”

Simon Bridges’ statement owning the 2010 law change made Judith Collins look like a complete fool. She was lucky that her Twitter post did not gain wider media and public traction. (Those two really need to talk more often.)

This is not the first time Ms Collins has publicly mis-represented an issue. In August last year, Ms Collins used social media to promote a bogus ‘story’ from a fake news site;

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The mainstream media coverage was brutal in condemnation;

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Ms Collins was unrepentant, resorting to verbal gymnastics to defend her ‘right’ to spread lies;

I still share them because, actually, I don’t believe in censorship on people’s ideas.”

And politicians wonder why the public do not trust politicians?

National’s current Leader, Simon Bridges, made no attempt to reprimand his MP, saying;

“I’ve liked things before, actually genuinely accidentally. I think when you’re scrolling through things, you know that’s created its own little controversy. I think in this case Judith Collins feels strongly about the issue, that’s legitimate. But it is a wrong source, she acknowledges that, and we should in general try and get them right.”

The reason that Mr Bridges failed to tell Ms Collins to remove her fake news post was simple and had little to do with fearing a challenge from his errant MP.

Ms Collins, along with every other National MP and Party apparatchik are presently engaged in a Trumpesque campaign to win next year’s election. Whether this involves half-truths or shonky data, or outright spread of lies – National will do whatever it takes to win.

As Chris Trotter wrote this month (15 August 2019);

“And so it begins, the National Party’s simultaneous descent and ascent. Downwards, into the dark territory of “whatever it takes”. Upwards, into the glare of electoral victory. It’s happening because the party’s present leader has convinced himself that it is only the first movement which makes possible the second.

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That is no small matter. Once truth and propaganda become fused in the minds of one’s followers, debate and discussion become redundant. If one’s opponents are all outrageous liars, then engaging with them in any way is pointless. Rather than waste its time, a political party should, instead, target all its messages at those who have yet to grasp the full mendacity of the other side. Tell these “persuadables” the truth – your truth – before the other parties tell them theirs.”

Whether Ms Collins knew that her comments regarding the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Act 2010 was true or not is utterly irrelevant.

National has entered into a propaganda blitz. They will use half-truths, exaggeration, out-of-context material, distortions, and outright fabrications to win next years’ election.

Whatever it takes.

They will use dog-whistles; throw ‘red-meat’ to bigots; demonise every group that their conservative base despises.

Whatever. It. Takes.

Thus is the style of election campaign strategy set from now till Election Day: Whatever it takes.

With an under-resourced mainstream media, it will be a Herculean task for journalists to keep track of National Party propaganda. It may take a day to fact-check assertions from National MPs – and by then, party apparatchiks will have moved on to the next part of their diabolical strategy. (Though on 29 July, on Radio NZ’s “Morning Report Gyles Beckford challenged National leader Simon Bridges with dogged determination we rarely hear these days. )

Fortunately, they will still fail. New Zealanders, for the most part, don’t take kindly to Trumpian-style politics. And Simon Bridges is certainly no flamboyant Trump.

The only certainty is that Simon Bridges will not be leading the National Party in 2021.

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References

Wikipedia: Judith Collins, Former Police, Corrections, and Justice Minister

Twitter: Judith Collins – Prisoner Voting – 8:59AM August 12, 2019

Parliament: Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Act 2010

Parliament: Paul Quinn

Parliament: Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Bill — Third Reading

Wikipedia: NZ First – 2008 General Election

Radio NZ: NZ First tightlipped on prisoners’ voting rights

Twitter: Judith Collins – Fake News Twitter – 12:36 PM  Aug 6, 2018

Mediaworks/Newshub: Judith Collins defends her fake news tweet to Jacinda Ardern

TVNZ: ‘I don’t believe in censorship’ – Judith Collins stands firm over tweeting from ‘fake news’ site

Fairfax/Stuff media: Judith Collins defends linking to fake news article on France consent laws

Fairfax/Stuff media: Judith Collins digs in heels on fake news story

Radio NZ: Collins on fake news tweet: ‘I don’t believe in censorship’

NewstalkZB: Judith Collins slammed for retweeting fake news

Radio NZ: Collins’ fake news blunder a Bridges fail

Twitter: National Party – manufacturing graph – twitter – 5.24 PM  Aug 16, 2019

The Daily Blog: Chris Trotter – Simon Bridges Leads National Down Into The Dark

National Party: Tell them to go home, Prime Minister (alt.link)

Radio NZ: Simon Bridges criticises govt’s cancer treatment spending

Other Blogs

The Daily Blog: Prisoner Rights Blogger wins for Human Rights

Green:  Prisoner voting ban needs to be repealed

The Green Blog: Prisoner voting disqualification and the Bill of Rights Act

Public Address: Fact-checking Parliament – more prisoners can vote than they think

Werewolf: Robbing the Vote

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The Daily Blog: The madness of Judith Collin’s fake news tweet

The Standard: Is Judith Collins willing to denounce the use of fake news?

The Standard: Of course Judith should #DeleteTheTweet

Previous related blogposts

Twelve fun facts about National’s failed housing policies for Parmjeet Parmar to consider

Democracy denied – Labour’s saddest failing

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 19 August 2019.

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Recycling – National Party style. Something embarrassing about Mr Bridges conference speech uncovered

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Current Leader of the National Party, Simon Bridges gave the usual rah-rah speech to the Loyal & Faithful in Christchurch today (27 July). With National’s party polling and his own personal popularity sliding steadily in the polls, Mr Bridges has not much left to reverse his fortunes.

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The entire Conference was geared toward promoting Simon Bridges to the public.

Even his wife, Natalie Bridges, was pressganged to put in a good word for her husband;

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However, it was Mr Bridges’ speech that really stood out – though not for the right reasons.

When this blogger heard certain parts to it, there was a sense of deja vu. It was as if I had heard the speech before. In fact, listening to other parts of it, I was sure I had.  From eleven years ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On 30 January 2008, then leader of the National Party, John Key gave his own “State of the Nation” speech, whilst still in Opposition. Mr Key said;

“So the question I’m asking Kiwi voters is this: Do you really believe this is as good as it gets for New Zealand? Or are you prepared to back yourselves and this country to be greater still? National certainly is.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Saturday, Simon Bridges said;

“We cannot and will not sit back and think this is as good as it gets. You deserve better, you deserve and are entitled to expect a government that delivers.”

 

 

In 2008, John Key said;

“Why are grocery and petrol prices going through the roof? […] We know you cringe at the thought of filling up the car, paying for the groceries, or trying to pay off your credit card. “

 

 

Simon Bridges said;

“I feel a deep sense of urgency as I watch this country that I love falter, as I see middle New Zealanders struggling to pay increasing rents and to put petrol in their car.”

 

 

 

In 2008, John Key said;

“Why can’t our hardworking kids afford to buy their own house?”

 

 

 

Simon Bridges said;

“A housing market that builds houses.”

 

 

 

 

In 2008, John Key said;

Why hasn’t the health system improved when billions of extra dollars have been poured into it?”

 

 

Simon Bridges said;

“The New Zealand that I want to lead will not have a two class health system that provides care for those who can pay and leaves others suffering because they can’t.”

 

 

 

 

In 2008, John Key said;

“We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates”

 

 

Simon Bridges said;

“A strong economy means confident thriving businesses that create more jobs and increase incomes.”

 

 

 

In 2008, John Key said;

“It matters because at number 22 your income is lower, you have to work harder…”

 

 

Simon Bridges said;

“We know it’s the men and women of New Zealand that work hard…”

 

 

 

In 2008, John Key said;

“The National Party has an economic plan that will build the foundations for a better future.”

 

 

Simon Bridges said;

“National has a plan and a track record of getting things done. We are the ones that can manage the economy to ensure it is delivering for you.”

 

 

In 2008, John Key said;

“We will focus on lifting medium-term economic performance and managing taxpayers’ money effectively.”

 

 

 

Simon Bridges said;

“We are the ones that can manage the economy to ensure it is delivering for you.”

 

 

 

In 2008, John Key said;

“This year, signs are emerging that the winds of global growth have not only stopped but are turning into a head wind.”

 

 

Simon Bridges said;

“All that platitudes and hope have given us is a weakening economy that’s not delivering for anyone.”

 

 

 

 

In 2008, John Key said;

“We will invest in the infrastructure this country needs for productivity growth.”

 

 

Simon Bridges said;

“We are the party of infrastructure.”

 

And there’s more. Read both speeches and the repetition is startling and humourous. As if someone had dusted off past speeches; re-ordered a few words, and then handed it over to Mr Bridges.

Different decade, same bovine excrement. Political manure at it’s best.

This is recycling, done National-style.

Expect more of the same last nine years of National should that party find a coalition partner to propel it over the 50% party vote line.

Which, all humour aside, is a dangerous prospect. With New Zealand – and the entire planet – is facing unprecedented challenges (ie; crises) such as worsening climate change, and resurgent nationalism,  growing from social stresses and dislocation. There are war drums on the horizon.

National has not demonstrated it is a forward-looking political party. It’s “more-of-the-same, business-as-usual” philosophy, as demonstrated by Mr Bridges’ recycled speech,  is simply not tenable.

National’s contempt and constant undermining of policies to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions is a cynical ploy to win votes. It is short-term self-interest, done at the expense of our climate and future generations.

If National can re-cycle a speech from eleven years ago, it clearly demonstrates it has no new ideas.

Check out Simon Bridges’ speech. He does not mention climate change at all. The word “environment” is barely mentioned once, in passing. Even then it is in the context of growing the economy.

National is a relic of a by-gone age. For the 21st Century, it is simply not fit for purpose.

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References

Radio NZ: Simon Bridges: ‘NZ can’t afford another three years of this government’

National Party: Speech to National Party Conference. Our bottom line – You (alt.link)

NZ Herald: John Key – State of the Nation speech

Other blogposts

The Standard:  The weasel accurately dissects National

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 29 July  2019.

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