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Know your Tory fellow travellers and ideologues: John Bishop, Taxpayers Union, and the NZ Herald

25 April 2014 7 comments

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Taxpayers Union website banner

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On 19 March, I reported on the Board members of the so-called “Taxpayers Union”. With one exception, every single member of the Taxpayers Union Board was a current (or recent) card-carrying member or supporter of the National and/or ACT parties.

Recently, one of the Board members of the so-called “Taxpayers Union” – John Bishop – had a letter-to-the-editor published in Wellington’s Dominion Post;

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John Bishop_taxpayers Union_21 march 2014_dominion post

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Bishop’s ideological rant on performance pay for teachers is stock-standard ACT policy – a Party he was closely associated with between April 2000 and August 2002, as a Constituency Services Manager  for the ACT Parliamentary Office. His role was described as  “developing relationships with key target groups and organising events” – whatever that might mean.

The job was most likely funded through Parliamentary Services. (One hopes that he delivered “value for money”?)

Bishop’s ideological and Party links are nowhere better illustrated than the recent (and on-going) scandal over Judith Collins and the “Oravida stop-over dinner”. When the “Taxpayers Union” finally caved in to pressure to comment on Collins’ trip to China, Bishop wrote with a fair dollop of sophistry;

Being involved in political activity makes it tempting to comment on each and every movement in the political dimension. Early on, the Taxpayers’ Union decided that it would focus on instances of waste and extravagance in central and local government spending, and on cases where spending had clearly not achieved its purpose.

Hence we criticised Tony Marriott of the Christchurch City Council for charging a visit to Hooters’ Bar to his council funded credit card. And we decried Transpower for spending over a million dollars on a swept up cafeteria in its building for staff when there are plenty of cafes within easy walking distance. 

We also decided that, generally speaking, we would not go after what politicians’ poor performance, bad decisions, and questionable judgements unless there were circumstances to justify our intervention. Much of that is partisan debate and we were simply not going to get involved in every public issue, particularly when there were plenty of others making the same points as we would make.

Yes, that makes us look selective in our criticism, but we have taken on Peter Dunne over the cost of passports, and Len Brown over Auckland’s debt burden. We were also quick to point out that Hekia Parata’s inquiry into the Te Kohanga Reo National Trust asked questions about the wrong body, but we have stood back from the row over Judith Collin’s trip to China. 

In the first matter large sums of public money are involved and the misuse of funds is alleged. In the second, the cost of the Collins trip is not large, and her “crime” is not about the misuse of money. It may be a fine distinction, particularly for those who wish to attack us for existing at all, but it is a real one.

Contributors to our blog pages and tip line are constantly urging us to get involved in issues, whether it’s the funding of programmes promoting recreation and sport, the operation of the ACC scheme, the worth of the defence forces, or whatever else is on their minds.  We would love to be able to question policy matters, and to test whether a wide range of policies actually deliver on their objectives and represent value for taxpayers’ money.

It’s early days.  We only launched in October and we are still reliant to a large degree on volunteer time. Because of that we’re focused on exposing instances of clearly bad, mad and wasted spending – until we have built up our resources to do more.  Our record shows that we’re not favouring one party or another. For example, our exposé of the DOC IT cost blowout is precisely why we were established.

Waste and poor spending are our targets, not people and or partisanship.”

Bishop says that “the cost of the Collins trip is not large”.

According to media reports, Judith Collins’ junket to China cost taxpayers $36,000.

Contrast that to Mojo Mathers’ trip to Masterton, to participate in a radio station’s programme for people with disabilities. Cost to taxpayers – an estimated $550, according a NZ Herald story.

Jordan Williams, from the “Taxpayers Union” was scathing on Ms Mathers’ trip;

It’s amazing that she has so little to do with her time to actually travel to a community radio that probably has as many listeners as you can count on your hand.  The only silver lining is that the time spent travelling to go on the station in the middle of nowhere is less time spent dreaming up new ways to spend tax payers money.”

So according to the “Taxpayers Union”,  $36,000 “is not large” – but $550 was worthy of the scorn and wrath of the same, self-proclaimed “champions of the taxpayer”?

Is this what Bishop meant when he asserted; “waste and poor spending are our targets, not people and or partisanship”?

There is little doubt that Bishop and his fellow Board members in the “Taxpayers Union” are little more than a front organisation for the National/ACT parties.

For the media to constantly refer to this group for commentary on issues – on the pretext that the “Taxpayers Union” is some kind of  credible, non-partisan, neutral source – is ludicrous and deceiving the public.

Going further, by not explaining and disclosing the “Taxpayers Union’s” ties to National and ACT, the media reinforces suspicions or perceptions that it has become a captured tool; a mouthpiece for the Key government.

It is time that the mainstream media reconsidered it’s policy to seek comment from the “Taxpayers Union” on any and all issues.  The “Taxpayers Union” has demonstrated by it’s highly politicised membership and it’s failure at  any measure of non-partisanship, that it cannot be trusted to deliver unbiased commentary.

This group is simply no longer credible.

When journalists fail to report the “Union’s” close links to National and ACT, the media is complicit in this dishonest charade.

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References

Taxpayers Union: Who we are

Finda.co.nz: John Bishop Communicator

ACT Party: Confidence and Supply Agreement with ACT New Zealand

Johnbishop.co.nz: Bill English – Minister of Infrastructure

Advisoryboards.co.nz:  Curriculum Vitae: John Bishop – Advisory Boards NZ

Taxpayers Union: John Bishop on Judith Collins

TVNZ: Judith Collins faces third week of questioning over Chinese trip

NZ Herald: Green MP’s 800km taxpayer-funded trip questioned

Previous Related Blogposts

A Query to the Taxpayers Union

A Query to the Taxpayers Union – ***UP DATE ***

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

Other Blogs

The Dim Post: Slightly more thoughts on the Taxpayers’ Union

The Daily Blog – Chris Trotter: Dispelling The Negatives: Judith Collins refuses to cry over spilt milk

 

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Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 18 April 2014.

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A Query to the Taxpayers Union – ***UP DATE ***

27 March 2014 6 comments

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Taxpayers Union website banner

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Further to an earlier blogpost where I emailed Jordan Williams, at the Taxpayers Union, regarding Judith Collins’ taxpayer-funded trip to China, where she visited a milk importer (Oravida) of which  her husband is the sole Director…

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FROM:   "f.macskasy"
SUBJECT: Judith Collins
DATE:    Wed, 12 Mar 2014 10:39:48 +1300
TO:     "Taxpayers Union" <tipline@taxpayers.org.nz> 

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Kia ora,

I am aware that your Union recently condemned the cost
incurred by Green MP, Ms Mojo Mathers, in a trip she made to
Masterton to participate in a radio interview on
disabilities.

Accordingly, will you be investigating and commenting on the
trip made by National MP and Minister, Judith Collins, for
her recent taxpayer-funded trip to China? 

Ms Collins' portfolios include  Minister for Ethnic Affairs;
  Minister of Justice; and Minister for ACC.

It is unclear what purpose was served by a trip to China as
none of her portfolios relate directly  to foreign affairs
or trade.

Will you also be investigating and commenting on the
conflict of interest posed by her visit to Orivida - a
Chinese company of which her husband is a Director?

This appears to be little more than a tax-payer funded
'junket' and I await your response to this in the light of
your critical stance taken regarding Ms Mathers' trip to
Masterton.

Regards,
-Frank Macskasy

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Mr Williams, from the so-called Taxpayers Union, responded on the same day;

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National puppet organisation

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Several commentators on my previous blogpost suggested that blogs are a part of the media (or “new media”) and that Mr Williams should, accordingly, be responding to my query as if the NZ Herald had contacted him for a comment.

I took note of the suggestions and wrote back to Mr Williams,

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FROM:    "f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT:  Re: Judith Collins
DATE:     Sun, 16 Mar 2014 12:37:51 +1300
TO:      "Jordan Williams" <jordan@taxpayers.org.nz>
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Kia ora Jordan!

Thank you for taking the time to respond to my query, and in
such a timely fashion. That was greatly appreciated.

Regarding your point on the Mojo Mathers issue; I understand
that you stated you did not initiate contact with the
Herald, and that you responded to their query.

As you may be aware, I blog on various issues, including
covering public activities such as Select Committee
hearings; protests; etc. 

I am therefore part of the so-called "new media" of citizen
journalists/bloggers, as your colleague, Cameron Slater also
maintains.

Accordingly, I seek a response from you, on behalf of the
Taxpayers Union, on  National MP and Minister, Judith
Collins'  recent taxpayer-funded trip to China.

It is unclear what purpose was served by a trip to China as
none of her portfolios relate directly  to foreign  affairs
or trade. Ms Collins' portfolios include  Minister for
Ethnic  Affairs; Minister of Justice; and  Minister for ACC.

Considering that none of her portfolios relate to foreign 
affairs or trade, was this trip necessary? What purpose did
it serve, and for who?

What is the Taxpayers Union's response on the
perceived/actual conflict of interest posed by her visit to
Orivida - a  Chinese company of which her husband is a
Director?

Does the Taxpayers Union view Collins' trip as little more
than a tax-payer funded  'junket'?

Does the Taxpayers Union consider the $36,000 spent by
Collins on this trip "value for money"?

I look forward to the Taxpayers Union's statement on this
issue.

Regards,
-Frank Macskasy
Blogger

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As at 11.59PM, on 18 March, I have received no further correspondence from Mr Williams, nor from any other representative of the Taxpayers Union. Not even a simple acknowledgement of having received my 16 March email.

It is interesting to note the circumstances surrounding this issue.

I emailed the Taxpayers Union because it had commented – and roundly condemned – Mojo Mathers’ flight from Christchurch to Masterton, to attend a radio interview on the issue of disabilities.

On 2 March, Jordan Williams made this statement on the resulting furore surrounding his remarks on Ms Mathers’ travel;

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This morning there has been some criticism of my comments in a story on the Herald website about a trip Mojo Mathers took to Masterton from Christchurch apparently just for a short interview on a community radio station.

For clarification:

  • The Taxpayers’ Union did not seek media attention on this story. There is no associated press release. The Herald called yesterday evening asking for comment, as happens often.
  • The Taxpayers’ Union operate 24 hour media line for comment on taxpayer issues. Yesterday’s call came through to me and I was asked whether it was value for money for an MP to fly 800km for a radio interview on a small community station. I said it was not value for money when the interview could have been done on Skype as well as the comments that are quoted in the story.
  • I’ve made no comment about Ms Mathers disability. In fact, if the travel was necessary I would not criticise the spending. But answering questions posed by the Herald, on matter which as far as I know are completely unrelated to her disability, is legitimate.
  • Accusations that I (or the Union) sought to go after Mathers are ridiculous. To repeat, we were asked for comment by the Herald who were running the story. The comments would have been the same whoever the MP.
  • Accusations that the Taxpayers’ Union are partisan are also silly. I am proud that the Union has gone after National MPs and the current government for expenses, wasteful expenditure and corporate welfare. Seehttp://info.scoop.co.nz/New_Zealand_Taxpayers’_Union 

On reflection, I wonder why an MP from a party that prides itself for having a low environmental footprint choose to fly to a radio interview that could have been done on Skype. Perhaps Ms Mathers had other engagements in Masterton. If so, that was not the information provided to me at the time by the Herald reporter.

Jordan Williams.

Jordan Williams
Jordan Williams
Author

Note Mr Williams’ statement;

Accusations that the Taxpayers’ Union are partisan are also silly. I am proud that the Union has gone after National MPs and the current government for expenses, wasteful expenditure and corporate welfare

Aside from a handful  of press releases aimed at National Minister, Steven Joyce, most of the Taxpayers Unions public comments seemed to target Auckland mayor Len Brown; government departments (whilst not mentioning their Ministers); and strangely, the Labour Party – which is not even in government.

The Taxpayers Union has not commented on Judith Collins’ trip to China, despite there being glaring questions which demand to be asked. Questions such as why a Minister of Justice/Ethnic Affairs/ACC felt the need to spend $36,000 of taxpayers’ money on a junket overseas.

Mr Williams has not deigned to respond to my queries with a comment.

Yet, he was only too happy to launch into a savage excoriation of Green MP, Mojo Mathers, for spending an estimated $500 to speak on an issue that was actually her portfolio – and which, because of her disability, is  a matter she is intimately familiar to speak on.

One can only assume that Mr Williams does not wish to be drawn into this issue.  The reason is quite apparent.

Jordan Williams is closely connected to the likes of David Farrar, Cameron Slater, and Simon Lusk – all of whom are hard-Right National/ACT supporters and apparatchiks.

Right-wing blogger, David Farrar, is one of the  Board members of the Taxpayers Union. His ‘bio‘, however, mentions nothing about his close links to the National Party,

“David is a well known political blogger and commentator. David also owns and manages the specialist polling agency Curia Market Research and has an active involvement in Internet issues. He is an experienced political campaigner and former parliamentary staffer.

“I helped form the New Zealand Taxpayers Union because I believe that New Zealand needs a lobby group to stand up for the rights of taxpayers and ratepayers, and fight against those who treat them as a never ending source of funds”.”

David Farrar’s Disclosure Statement on Kiwiblog;

“Since I joined Young Nationals in 1986, I have been affiliated to, and a member of, the National Party. I do not regard National as always right, but it is the party which I believe gives me the greatest opportunity to achieve the New Zealand I want.

As a volunteer, I established National’s initial Internet presence in 1996 and have held various roles in the party up until 2005. I have three times been a temporary contractor to National HQ, helping out with the campaign in 1999, and also between staff appointments – in 2004 and 2007 for a total of ten months.”

Other Board Members are;

John Bishop; businessman; columnist for the right-leaning NBR; and authored a “puff piece” on National’s Deputy Leader, Bill English; Constituency Services Manager,  ACT Parliamentary Office, April 2000 – August 2002, “developing relationships with key target groups and organising events”.

Gabrielle O’Brien; businesswoman; National Party office holder, 2000-2009.

Jordan McCluskey; University student; member of the Young Nationals.

Jono (Jonathan) Brown; Administrator/Accounts Clerk at the Apostolic Equippers [Church] Wellington, which, amongst other conservative policies,  opposed the marriage equality Bill.

None of this is mentioned even in passing on the Taxpayers Union ‘Who We Are‘ page.

By now, it should be patently obvious that the Taxpayers Union is little more than a thinly-disguised, right-wing, front organisation for the National Party.

In which case, it would be “counter-productive” of the Taxpayers Union to be criticising Judith Collins’ trip to China. It would be a case of  attacking one of their own.

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References

Taxpayers Union:  A question of value for taxpayer money

TV1: Key puts Collins on warning, opposition calls for sacking

Fairfax Media: Anti-MMP plan leaked

Taxpayers Union: Who we are

Kiwiblog: Disclosure Statement

Finda.co.nz: John Bishop Communicator

Johnbishop.co.nz: Bill English – Minister of Infrastructure

Advisoryboards.co.nz:  Curriculum Vitae: John Bishop – Advisory Boards NZ

LinkedIn: Gabrielle O’Brien

LinkedIn: Jordan McCluskey

LinkedIn: Jonathan [“Jono”] Brown

Newswire.co.nz:  ‘Not up to church to dictate on gay marriage’

See Also

NZ Herald:  John Drinnan – High-risk PR strategy flies

Sciblogs: Jesus heals — but not cancer! [Equippers Church]

Previous related blogposts

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

A Query to the Taxpayers Union

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 19 March 2014.

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A Query to the Taxpayers Union

20 March 2014 5 comments

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Oravida - Cartoon-Rod-Emmerson-GIF

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A comment by Sally Randell, on The Daily Blog, raised this interesting point;

Why was Judith Collins in China anyway?

She is justice Minister, not trade minister.

Cheers, coz I can’t find it via google

Which is intriguing. Ms Randell is quite correct; Collins has no portfolios that would necessitate an expensive tax-payer funded trip – complete with a coterie of staffers – to travel thousand of kilometres to China. Airline fares. Plus hotel accomodation. Plus meals.

This would have cost thousands of taxpayer’s dollars.

How many hungry children; endangered species protection;   or hip operations could this money have paid for?

Accordingly, I wrote to the Taxpayers Union on this matter;

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FROM:   "f.macskasy"
SUBJECT: Judith Collins
DATE:    Wed, 12 Mar 2014 10:39:48 +1300
TO:     "Taxpayers Union" <tipline@taxpayers.org.nz> 

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Kia ora,

I am aware that your Union recently condemned the cost
incurred by Green MP, Ms Mojo Mathers, in a trip she made to
Masterton to participate in a radio interview on
disabilities.

Accordingly, will you be investigating and commenting on the
trip made by National MP and Minister, Judith Collins, for
her recent taxpayer-funded trip to China? 

Ms Collins' portfolios include  Minister for Ethnic Affairs;
  Minister of Justice; and Minister for ACC.

It is unclear what purpose was served by a trip to China as
none of her portfolios relate directly  to foreign affairs
or trade.

Will you also be investigating and commenting on the
conflict of interest posed by her visit to Orivida - a
Chinese company of which her husband is a Director?

This appears to be little more than a tax-payer funded
'junket' and I await your response to this in the light of
your critical stance taken regarding Ms Mathers' trip to
Masterton.

Regards,
-Frank Macskasy

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Ms Mathers’ trip cost taxpayers an estimated $500-$600.

Collins’ junket reportedly cost us $36,000.

It’ll be interesting if Jordan Williams lays into Judith Collins with the same gusto he did with Green MP, Mojo Mathers.

What are my chances?!

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*** Up date ***

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Evidently my “chances” weren’t too flash.

This was Jordan Williams’ response to my query to him;

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Jordan Williams - 12.2.14

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Hi Frank,

We commented on Mojo as a result of the Herald calling us and 
asking for such.  Of course we will do the same if asked.

Regards

Jordan Williams

Executive Director  |  New Zealand Taxpayers' Union Inc.

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So… I take it from Mr Williams’ reply that we will not be hearing from the Taxpayers’ Union unless the media asks them to comment?  And if the media doesn’t make any requests for comment – we’ll never hear from them at all, ever again?

I do believe Jordan Williams has just demonstrated – with crystal clarity – the pro-National partisanship of his “Taxpayers Union”.

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References

TV1 News:  Key puts Collins on warning, opposition calls for sacking

Related

The Daily Blog – Chris Trotter: Dispelling The Negatives: Judith Collins refuses to cry over spilt milk

Previous related blogposts

“It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash”

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

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Op Shopping by Tolley and Collins

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 13 March 2014.

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Jordan Williams from Taxpayers Union caught out fibbing to the public and media!

25 December 2013 3 comments

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When-I-grow-up-I-want-to-be-a-commentator-like-Jordan
Jordan Williams – lawyer; right wing commentator; anti-MMP activist; National/ACT apparatchik
Acknowledgement of image: frontpage.co.nz, via thepaepae.com

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For those who are not aware of Jordan Williams, he is a lawyer working in Wellington.

He is also a right wing commentator/activist; anti-MMP campaigner; and party apparatchik for National and ACT. He was closely involved in the Brash coup against ACT-leader Rodney Hide in 2011.

Williams is also a known associate of rightwing blogger and National Party worker, David Farrar; rightwing activist/campaigner Simon Lusk; and convicted criminal (and occassional blogger), Cameron Slater.

Peter Aranyi, of thepaepae blog described Williams thusly, in this well-written piece,

Based on his track record (fronting the Peter Shirtcliffe/Simon Lusk anti-MMP campaign and Don Brash’s ACT Party leadership coup) I personally see Jordan as a paid political mouthpiece — nothing more, nothing less. He is, it seems to me, merely another lobbyist who, it appears, works for ‘right wing’ figures or interest groups.”

Source

Recently, Williams set up the so-called “Taxpayers Union”, a group which he  explained on Radio NZ as being based on a UK version. His group’s objectives  include;

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is a non-partisan activist group, dedicated to being the voice for Kiwi taxpayers in the corridors of power. We’re here to fight government waste and make sure New Zealanders get value for money from their tax dollar.”

Source

The rest of the group’s aims & objectives reads pretty much like the Act Party’s manifesto (see: What we stand for) – a party that Williams is closely associated with. (Perhaps this is the next neo-liberal Party in the wings…?)

Just recently, under the banner of the “Taxpayer’s Union”, Williams launched an attack on Hone Harawira’s trip to South Africa to attend Mandela’s funeral.

William wrote,

Reacting to confirmation from Hone Harawira’s office that taxpayers will be footing the bill for the Mana Party leader’s trip to the Mandela service*, Executive Director of the Taxpayers’ Union Jordan Williams said:

“This trip is a slap in the face to taxpayers and particularly Mr Harawira’s electorate, who are supposed to be the beneficiaries of his parliamentary funding.

Mr Harawira already spends more than any other non-ministerial member of Parliament. Earlier in the year the public found out he spent even more than the then Leader of the Opposition.

Source

Interestingly, Williams  made no comment on the fact that Key’s “official” attendance at the funeral included a photographer. Far be it for Dear Leader to attend an event without the obligatory photo-op.

Maybe Mr Williams considers a photographer’s presence more valid than an attendance by someone who was an actual anti-apartheid campaigner – like Hone Harawira?

Williams’ 11 December press release, though, went on to state,

Originally Mr Harawira told the public that he was footing the bill himself. Now we know that he’s treating the taxpayer funded Parliamentary budget as a travel slush fund.”

This is where Williams’ begins to spin a lie.

A casual check of media reports at the time Harawira announced his plan to attend reveals something closer to the truth;

Mr Harawira said his trip is coming out of his parliamentary leadership fund.

TV3, 10 December

A Mana Party spokeswoman confirmed this morning the trip would be paid for out of Harawira’s leader’s budget.

Fairfax, 10 December

Mr Harawira hopes to have his trip paid for out of his parliamentary budget but if he can’t, he will fund it himself.

TV3, 10 December

Nowhere does Hone Harawira promise that he will be “footing the bill himself“.

What he does say is that he wants the trip funded from his own Parliamentary Budget,  but if he can’t, he will fund it himself.

Not exactly an auspicious start for a political lobby group (or nascent political party) that it has to resort to fabrication to push it’s agenda.

But if the so-called “Taxpayers Union” is to be ACT v.2, then it is par-for-course.

Postscript #1

When criticisms were made public regarding the make-up of John Key’s party to South Africa, there were cries of condemnation that not a single anti-apartheid activist had been invited to attend.

Indeed, right wing commentators were quick to point out,

Former Prime Minister Jim Bolger says people questioning the make-up of the NZ delegation going to South Africa for Nelson Mandela’s funeral should learn from the former South African president.

[…]

Mr Mandela could have been the most bitter man in the world when he came out of prison, but he wasn’t, Mr Bolger said.

“The challenge is whether the world will pick up and try to advance the cause which Mandela pursued the whole of his life – greater fairness and equity within society,” Mr Bolger told Breakfast from Pretoria this morning.

And on “Frankly Speaking“, on 7 December, Roger Gascoigne left this comment,

Whatever strange lens you look at the world through Frank, it’s the ‘office’ of the Prime Minister that will attend. Try a little of Mandela’s concept of forgiving and moving on yourself.
Given 1981 was pretty much a 50/50 split…what would be a grand gesture is if the PM’s office decided to take John Minto to represent the other half of NZ from 81. Then you might think we’ve ALL learned something.”

Source

None of which has stopped Jordan Williams from  blatant fibbing, and five days later,  John Key joined in with this outrageous comment,

This is a guy that went to South Africa on a jolly and shouldn’t be billing the taxpayer for it. The bottom line is we took a delegation – whether he likes it or not – that represented, in our view, the right mix. I personally don’t believe there was a role for him to go to South Africa.”

Source

(Were the two public comments related? Considering that Williams is closely connected to the National Party, did Key’s media spin-doctors take their cue from Williams’ 11 December media release?)

Then of course, we had Justice Minister Judith Collin with her infamous Twitter comments, where she ‘tweeted’ that Labour Leader David  Cunliffe and Springbok tour protest leader John Minto were “numpties with bells on“.

Source

So much for understanding and tolerance from the Right.

They should just stick to  bullshitting. They’re far better at it ( it’s in their DNA).

Postscript #2

So Jordan Williams has been caught out lying to the media and public? Does that mean he should resign from the “Taxpayers Union”, as David Farrar recently called for Len Brown’s ‘lying’?

I believe Len Brown must resign as Mayor of Auckland […] But the report makes Clear that Len Brown publicly lied to the media and the public.

Source

Lying to the media and public?! Terrible that!

Perhaps Len and Jordan can make it a double-act resignation?

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 18 December 2013.

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References

National Business Review:  OPINION – Brown must resign

Fairfax media:  Collins in Twitter war

The Paepae: Left and Right: useful when doing the hokey cokey, but past its use-by date for politics?

Scoop media: Taxpayers Footing the Bill for Harawira’s Mandela Trip

Fairfax media: Hone Harawira heading to Mandela funeral

TV3: Hone Harawira to travel to Mandela’s funeral

TV1 News: Learn from Mandela, says Bolger over delegation debate

Radio NZ: PM criticises Harawira’s Mandela trip

Previous related blogpost

Letter to the Editor: Should Key attend Mandela’s funeral?

Other blogs

The Daily Blog: The audacity of Key’s Hone Harawira dog whistle

The Daily Blog: We did what John Key should have done

International Embarrassment

Huffington Post: New Zealand’s Leader Questioned Over Apartheid Amnesia

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National – Party 4 Sale?

27 April 2016 1 comment

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Men in Dark Shadows 2

 

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Niue

Recent revelations that the National Party may have benefitted from a deal involving a resort hotel in Niue, by receiving a $101,000 donation has been in the headlines since 18 April, when Radio NZ’s political reporter, Benedict Collins, broke the story;

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Call for inquiry into Niue resort contract

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In October 2014, New Zealand’s Scenic Hotel Group announced it had “secured” the Matavai Resort in Niue.

The Niue Tourism Property Trust, whose trustees are appointed by Mr McCully, carried out what the minister said was a fully commercial process to find a company to run the resort.

The month before, Mr Hagaman, Scenic Hotel Group’s founder, had donated $101,000 to the National Party, making him National’s biggest living financial donor in 2014. Only a man who had died and left his estate to National gave more.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully Photo: RNZ

But Mr McCully said there was no link between the contract and the donation.

Radio NZ further reported;

Scenic Hotel managing director Brendan Taylor said Mr Hagaman didn’t know the company was in the running for the Matavai Resort contract.

“Earl wasn’t actually even aware that we were negotiating in Niue, because basically that was me and I had it all in-house until such time that we knew we had been awarded the contract.

I did get [Earl’s wife] Lani Hagaman to sign the contract because I wasn’t actually available to do it, but apart from that Earl really had no involvement in Niue whatsoever.

His donation is something he did purely from a personal situation, and basically the hotel company and what Earl does from a personal point of view we kind of keep separate.”

It simply defies credulity that the two events are not somehow connected – especially when, as Radio NZ discovered that “RNZ News could find no record of Mr Hagaman having ever made a large donation to the National Party before“.

It also beggars belief that Scenic Hotel managing director, Brendan Taylor, is asserting that “Earl wasn’t actually even aware that we were negotiating in Niue” when Brendan Taylor got “Lani Hagaman [Earl’s wife] to sign the contract”?!

As the story began to gain traction elsewhere in the msm, National Party president, Peter Goodfellow, said he  “ would be making no further comment about the donation“.

Three days later, on 21 April, our esteemed Dear Leader, John Key, attempted to close down the growing scandal;

Mr Key, speaking in China, said today that, while he hasn’t followed the issue closely, he’s not at all concerned.

“People make political donations and that’s well and truly disclosed.

“But actually Scenic Hotels have been operators for a very long period of time, that’s a management contract from what I can see in Niue – there’s nothing untoward there.”

It is intriguing that even though Key says “he hasn’t followed the issue closely, he’s not at all concerned“.

How can he be “not at all concerned” if “he hasn’t followed the issue closely“?

This is not the first time that National has been revealed to have benefitted from donations made by businessmen  who have been closely involved in commercial activites with this  government.

BMWs

In early 2011, National was roundly criticised for spending millions on thirtyfour new BMW limousines at a time when the country was experiencing recession after the Global Financial Crisis.

At first, Key denied all knowledge of the purchase, claiming he had been “kept in the dark” over the multi-million dollar upgrade;

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Ministers knew of BMW buy-up last year

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But our esteemed Dear Leader, John Key,  did know, as was revealed four days later in late February, 2011;

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pm-signed-papers-relating-to-bmws

 

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However, the BMW scandal becomes more serious than Key merely ducking responsibility and patently lying when he denied all prior knowledge of the limousine upgrade.

In May 2011, it was revealed that the suppliers of the BMWs had made a $50,000 donation to National prior to the vehicle-purchase. As reported in the NZ Herald at the time;

A private BMW dealer has rubbished the suggestion that a $50,000 donation from his company to the National Party had anything to do with the Government’s new fleet of BMW cars.

[…]

Labour’s internal affairs spokesman, Chris Hipkins, revealed that the BMW dealer’s donation came two days after a July 2010 meeting between Mr Key’s chief-of-staff, Wayne Eagleson, and the Department of Internal Affairs, which approved the BMW upgrade.

It was a month after a function that Mr Key attended at Auckland BMW dealership Team McMillan.

Radio NZ reported;

Prime Minister John Key says he has no responsibility for a $50,000 donation made to the National Party by a BMW dealership the day after the Government renewed its VIP transport contract.

[…]

Bob McMillan, the owner of BMW Team McMillan, says the claim he donated money to National the day after the party agreed to a contract for ministerial cars is ridiculous.

As senior Labour MP, Trevor Mallard said at the time;

“They sat down with Ministerial Services and agreed to a renewal of [the BMW] contract, and two days later $50,000 went to the National Party. If that was overseas, we would say it was corruption…”

Mr McMillan’s denial of any link between his donation of $50,000 to National, in return for the contract for the limousine up-grade sounds remarkably similar to Scenic Hotels managing director, Brendan Taylor, denying any link between Earl Hagaman’s  $101,000 donation  to the National Party and his company securing the contract with Matavai Resort.

To compound matters, the BMW dealership at the center of the donations scandal then expressed an interest in acquiring the soon-to-be-replaced government limousines (to re-sell, at a profit);

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dealer-who-gave-nats-50k-eyes-govt-bmws

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Whether or not the purchase went ahead is unclear.

Farms

In 2010 and late 2011, another apparent conflict of interest was reported when Shanghai Pengxin put in a bid for the Crafar dairy farms.  Shanghai Pengxin, under various guises, gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to the National Party;

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china-link-to-nats-200000

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chinese-cash-flows-to-nats

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A full analysis of the links between Oravida, Crafar Farm purchase, and the National Party was reported in a previous blogpost here; Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How (Part # Rua).

Conclusion

Whilst details are hard to confirm by the very nature of these highly secretive deals – many made informally – the questions arising from these (and other) murky ‘arrangements’ is sufficient to underscore a recent downgrading of our Transparency International Corruption Perception Index;

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corruption free - NZ drops again - transparency international

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We have had sufficient number of glimpses into dubious activities that hint at corrupt practices. Even fourth place on the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index may be wildly optimistic.

As the Saudi farm-bribe and use of GCSB to spy on behalf of Tim Groser has shown, National is not averse to employing dodgy practices and dirty deals to enrich itself or what it perceives may “benefit” the country (and consequently it’s re-election chances).

There are simply too many coincidences to ignore the inescapable conclusion: it is my considered opinion that National has benefitted financially from several commercial/government transactions.

Our political system has been tainted with corruption.

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Addendum1

As at 21  April, the so-called “Taxpayers Union” – a self-appointed group of “watchdogs” to protect public interest from political corruption and waste of taxpayers’ money, had made no comment on the Niue Scandal;

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taxpayers union home page

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The “Taxpayers Union” had condemned the Universal Basic Income; had a ‘go’ at Maori Iwi; lambasted Labour; criticised MoBIE; and several other attacks on perceived “wrong-doing”.

But not a peep on the Niue scandal.

But considering that the “Taxpayers Union” is made up of National Party apparatchiks and supporters, that is hardly surprising.

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References

Radio NZ: Call for inquiry into Niue resort contract

Radio NZ:  Contract not linked to donation – Scenic Hotel

NZ Herald: Labour questions $101,000 National donation and Niue resort management contract links

Radio NZ: PM not worried about Niue resort deal

Fairfax media: Ministers knew of BMW buy-up last year

Fairfax media: PM signed papers relating to BMWs

NZ Herald: Dealer denies donation link

Radio NZ: PM rejects claim donation linked to BMW upgrade

Transparency International (NZ): Corruption Free? NZ drops again

Fairfax media: Auditor-General had doubts Saudi sheep deal was legal

NZ Herald: GCSB spies monitored diplomats in line for World Trade Organisation job

Additional

Scoop media: BSA decision – One News on Sale of BMWs

Newzealandinc: McMillan family sells half stake in Team McMillan to Tim Cook’s Collins Asset

Previous related blogposts

Know your Tory fellow travellers and ideologues: John Bishop, Taxpayers Union, and the NZ Herald

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

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

Farms, politicians, and emails

A Query to the Taxpayers Union – ***UP DATE ***

User Pays: the eventual conclusion

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guy body editorial cartoon april 11 2016 panama papers tax haven

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 22 April 2016.

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The Mendacities of Mr Key # 16: No one deserves a free tertiary education (except my mates and me)

11 February 2016 9 comments

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student-loans-debt

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Prologue

As reported in a previous blogpost last year (Steven Joyce – Hypocrite of the Week);

Fun Fact #1: Student loan stood at $14.235 billion, as at 30 June 2014 – up from 9.573 billion in 2008.

*Up-date* – Student loan stood at  $14.837 billion as at 30 June 2015 – up from $14.235 billion in 2014.

Fun Fact #2: As at 30 June 2013, 721,437 people had an outstanding student loan, registered with Inland Revenue. That’s roughly 16% of the population.

Fun Fact #3: Approximately 1.2 million people – roughly a quarter of the population –  have taken out  student loans.

Fun Fact #4: Students have borrowed $20.119 billion of which  $9.157 billion has been collected in loan repayments.  More than 415,000 loans have been fully repaid.

Fun Fact #5: $1.031.7 billion in loan repayments were received, $22.2 million less than last year. The total number of students completing formal qualifications reached 144,000 in 2013 – a decrease of 0.6% from 2012. The number of people enrolled in tertiary education has dropped, from  504,000 in 2005 to  about 420,000 (in 2014).

Fun Fact #6: The student fees/debt system began in 1992. Prior to that, students  had access to Bursaries and Student Allowances and tuition fees were minimal.

Fun Fact #7: “The median borrowing increased – from $7,441 in 2013 to $7,708 in 2014. The median loan balance also increased – from $13,882 in 2013 to $14,421 in 2014. Both were driven by higher fee borrowing: fees are rising and students are more likely to take more expensive courses. In the 2014 academic year, 72.4% of eligible students took out a loan, down from 73.8% in 2013… The number of borrowers in default has declined slightly on 2013/14, but the amount in default has increased.”

Fun Fact #8: On 17 May 2013, National announced new legislation would give the IRD powers to arrest loan defaulters at “the border” (ie, airports) if they are “about to leave or attempt to leave New Zealand after returning from overseas”.

Fun Fact #9: On 18 January this year, the first person arrested at the border for non-payment of a student debt was a 40-year-old with  an  outstanding debt that, with interest,  had ballooned from $40,000 to $130,000.

Fun Fact #10: The Prime Minister, John Key, and Tertiary Education Minister, Steven Joyce, both received near-free tertiary education, paid nearly entirely by the New Zealand taxpayer.

Sources: Ministry of Education, Beehive, NBR, and The Wireless

Some Recent History: 1972 – 1992

Prior to 1992, tertiary education at Universities was mostly free, with minimal course fees. On top of which, a student allowance plus part-time paid employment, was usually sufficient for students to graduate with minimal debt hanging over them.

This allowed graduates to start their adult lives, careers, and families with only as much debt as they chose to take on. This was usually in the form of a mortgage and business start-up costs (if they elected to be self-employed).

Those that earned more in a professional capacity, paid a higher rate of tax. This ensured that those who stood to gain the most, financially, from a near-free tertiary system, paid more in taxation. This – in part – assisted funding for future generations to move through the tertiary education system.

Those that did not achieve high income-brackets could contribute in other ways.

When National’s Ruth Richardson became Finance Minister in 1990, the social contract between generations “paying it forward” was broken. University fees were increased; student loans were made available to cover payment for increasing user-pays;

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Prime Minister Jim Bolger and Finance Minister Ruth Richardson make their way to the House of Representatives for the presentation of the 1991 budget. Richardson was from the radical wing of the National Party, which promoted individual liberty and small government. This was reflected in the budget, which severely cut government spending, including on welfare. Richardson proudly proclaimed her plan as the 'mother of all budgets', but such was its unpopularity among voters that it – along with high levels of unemployment – nearly cost National the next election.

Prime Minister Jim Bolger and Finance Minister Ruth Richardson make their way to the House of Representatives for the presentation of the 1991 budget. Richardson was from the radical wing of the National Party, which promoted individual liberty and small government. This was reflected in the budget, which severely cut government spending, including on welfare. Richardson proudly proclaimed her plan as the ‘mother of all budgets’, but such was its unpopularity among voters that it – along with high levels of unemployment – nearly cost National the next election.

Acknowledgement of image: NZ Herald

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Ironically, Ruth Richardson herself was a beneficiary of New Zealand’s then near-free tertiary education system. In 1972, she graduated from the University of Canterbury with a Bachelor of Law  (Honours).  She immediately went to work – debt-free – for the NZ Department  of  Justice  (NZ).

She has made herself a Limited Liability Company, ostensibly to minimise her tax “liabilities”.  According to her website, her husband is General Manager of “Ruth Richardson Ltd”.

Some Recent History: 1986 – 2010

Though the tertiary education system was far from perfect – for example polytechnics could charge higher student fees – it offered near-free higher education and taxpayers were ultimately beneficiaries of a system that produced doctors, engineers, scientists, and other skilled professionals to take New Zealand into the 21st Century.

Even those who went overseas in pursuit of lucrative work gained valuable experience which benefited the country as a whole, upon their return.

Unfortunately, the social contract between generations was broken as the Lange-Douglas Labour Government implemented neo-liberal policies that included user-pays as a new concept upon which to base State/individual transactions.

Labour did not implement user-pays in tertiary education – but it laid the fertile ground for the following Bolger-Richardson National government to radically change University funding for course fees.

For the right-wing Labour (of the 1980s) and National, smaller government meant tax-cuts, and from 1986 there were no less than seven cuts to taxation;

1 October 1986 – Labour

1 October 1988 – Labour

1 July 1996 – National

1 July 1998 – National

1 October 2008 – Labour

1 April 2009 – National

1 October 2010 – National

Each cut to taxation has meant less revenue for the government and resulted in either reductions to social services, and/or increases in user-pays.

The ballooning of “voluntary” school fees to over a billion dollars since 2000 is the clearest example yet of  tax-cuts making way for the covert rise in user-pays for what is supposedly “free” schooling in this country.

The under-funding of schools and desperate need for parents’ “donations” has become such a pressing problem that Patrick Walsh, of the Principals Association of New Zealand,  has openly suggested that the ideal of  free education should be abandoned;

“I think the basic principle is you undertake a study … of what it costs to actually run a school, all the operational costs including staffing, and you either fund it to the level it actually costs, or you say the pie isn’t big enough to support that and we will now allow schools to charge parents for some of the services.”

Perhaps Walsh has a point. It would at least acknowledge the current semi-user-pays system as a reality, rather than fooling ourselves with dishonest and quaint notions of “school donations”.  Only then might New Zealanders clearly comprehend how we have arrived at a toxic mix of tax-cut bribes and implementation-by-stealth of user-pays in education, and other state services.

Education is not the only state service suffering from lack of adequate funding, as recent media reports from Canterbury and Waikato DHBs indicate. The increasing waiting times for public operations, and painful suffering of people with debilitating medical conditions,  is a telling indicator that our health care system is ailing through lack of funding.

A September 2012 Treasury paper,  “Average Marginal Income Tax Rates for New Zealand, 1907-2009“, revealed;

In 1900 tax revenues were approximately 8% of GDP. They rose to 28% of GDP during WWII and to a high of 37% in 2006. Currently tax revenues make up around 29% of GDP.

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government-tax-revenue-by-source-1903-2011

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Source

Taxation has fallen – as have once-free services which New Zealanders took for granted. At the same time, population growth has put pressure on (reduced) government revenue and spending.

In 1984 the population stood at 3,175,737 (as at 1981 Census).

By 2013: our population had swelled by over a million to 4,242,048 (as at 2013 Census).

We are spending less, for more people, to meet expectations that are simply unrealistic after seven tax cuts.

Rather unsurprisingly, the consequences of successive tax-cuts have been predictable, and well-reported in the media;

According to the most recent data, taken from the 2013 Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook, 44,000 Kiwis – who could comfortably fit into Eden Park with thousands of empty seats to spare – hold more wealth than three million New Zealanders. Put differently, this lists the share of wealth owned by the top one per cent of Kiwis as 25.1 per cent, meaning they control more than the bottom 70 per cent of the population.

New Zealand’s wealthiest individual, Graeme Hart, is ranked number 200 on the Forbes list of the world’s billionaires, with US$7 billion. That makes his net worth more than the bottom 30 per cent of New Zealanders, or 1.3 million people. 

The Progressive Response

January 31st marked a giant step Kiwi-kind that – if endorsed by voters – could prove to be the the first nail-in-the-coffin for user-pays.

Labour leader, Andrew Little, announced a policy that, while seemingly radical in the 21st century, was common-place policy in this country pre-1980s.

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Labour's announcement welcomed and slammed

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Little proposed;

“… that the next Labour government will invest in three years of free training and education after high school throughout a person’s life.

[…]

Three years of free skills training, of apprenticeships or higher education right across your working life.”

He then pointedly explained not just where the money would come from – but that bribes in the form of  successive tax-cuts had under-mined our once-proud cultural expectations of state-provided services;

“The money is there – the Government just has it earmarked for tax cuts. We will use that money instead to invest in New Zealand’s future.”

In effect, this would be a massive admission of failure in user-pays, and the beginning of rolling back thirty years of New Right doctrine.

The Neo-Libs Strike Back

The response of the National Party and it’s front-organisation, the so-called “Taxpayers’ Union“, has been utterly predictable.

From Tertiary Education minister, Steven Joyce, came these two ‘clangers’ via Twitter;

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Steven joyce - tertiary education - hypocrite

Source

Source

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Judging by the angry responses on Joyce’s Twitter account, his comments were more provocative and self-defeating, than achieving any ‘hits’ on Labour’s policy-announcement.

John Key fared little better after his jaw-dropping gaffe on this issue;

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John Key draws flak after questioning why waitresses' taxes should fund students

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Aside from the usual tactic of playing on low-paid workers’ dire plight to criticise free education (or free anything provided by the State), links were quickly drawn to Key’s on-going assault on waitress Amanda Bailey, in Auckland’s Rosie Cafe;

Prime Minister John Key has drawn a barrage of criticism after questioning if Labour’s fee free study policy was fair on waitresses who would be paying tax to subsidise students.

His comments also drew a quick response from some critics on social media who drew the link with Key’s repeated pulling of Auckland cafe waitress Amanda Bailey’s ponytail.

Key’s rhetorical question attempted to paint free tertiary education as unfair on low-paid workers;

“How much should the waitress.. how much of her taxes should go to a student who will absolutely earn a lot more?”

The question could equally be put;

“How much should the waitress.. how much of her taxes should go to…”;

  • National Ministers  gifting themselves 34 new BMWs. The last batch – bought in 2011 – are to be replaced only after about three years’ use. Cost? Unknown. According to National, the price is “commercially sensitive”. (Code for *politically embarrassing*.)
  • Subsidies and special tax concessions to Warner Bros for ‘The Hobbit‘, and to other movie companies? Cost – ongoing.

But the main question should be;

“How much should the waitress.. how much of her taxes should go to paying for tax-cuts for the top 1% of  New Zealanders.”

When National cut taxes for high-income earners in 2010, and raised GST from 12.5% to 15%, this was essentially a transfer of wealth from low-income earners to the uber-wealthy. Low income earners pay disproportionately more in GST than the wealthy.

People like Ruth Richardson can structure their tax-affairs by registering as a limited liability company (or using Trusts and other accounting trickery) – which allows her to claim back on GST – this puts the rest of us at a distinct disadvantage.

Other companies such as Facebook and Apple have made big profits in New Zealand, but paid minimal tax. Facebook paid $23,034 in 2013/14 (out of alleged revenue of just $846,391), whilst Apple paid $5.5 million in 2012/13 (out of $571 million revenue).

As for criticisms from the so-called “Taxpayers Union” – this is a front-organisation for National. It’s organisers are party apparatchiks from National and ACT;

Jordan Williams is closely connected to the likes of David Farrar, Cameron Slater, and Simon Lusk – all of whom are hard-Right National/ACT supporters and apparatchiks.

Right-wing blogger, David Farrar, is one of the  Board members of the Taxpayers Union. He has been a member of the National Party since 1986, as his candid Disclosure Statement on Kiwiblog reveals.

John Bishop; businessman; columnist for the right-leaning NBR; and authored a “puff piece” on National’s Deputy Leader, Bill English; Constituency Services Manager,  ACT Parliamentary Office, April 2000 – August 2002, “developing relationships with key target groups and organising events”.

Gabrielle O’Brien; businesswoman; National Party office holder, 2000-2009.

Jordan McCluskey; University student; member of the Young Nationals.

Jono (Jonathan) Brown; Administrator/Accounts Clerk at the Apostolic Equippers [Church] Wellington, which, amongst other conservative policies,  opposed the marriage equality Bill.

See: A Query to the Taxpayers Union – ***UP DATE ***

Publishing criticisms from the “Taxpayers Union” is simply another PR statement from National, masquerading as independent analysis.

People’s Exhibit #1 – The Case for Key’s and Joyce’s Hypocrisy

Undeniably the worst aspect of National’s condemnation of  free tertiary education rests with our esteemed Dear Leader, John  Key, and Tertiary Education minister, Steven Joyce.

Both men were recipients of free, tax-payer-funded, University education.

In Key’s case, his  was obtained at Canterbury University, from 1979 to 1981;

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POLITICS - John Key - A snapshot - tertiary university education - free education

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Has Key re-paid any of his University education? One suspects the answer is a firm “no”.

And with seven tax cuts, neither did he pay for it with taxation, as high-income earners paid less and less since 1986 – five years before graduating.

In Joyce’s case, as first reported on 6 August 2015, in a previous blogpost;

  1. Steven Joyce, born: 1963.

  2. After completing a zoology degree at Massey University, Steven started his first radio station, Energy FM, in his home town of New Plymouth, at age 21 (1984).

  3. Student Loan system is started: 1992.

Joyce completed his University studies and gained his degree eight years before the Bolger-led National government introduced student fees/debt in 1992.

One wonders how Joyce reconciles his free tertiary education – as well as benefiting from seven tax-cuts, along with John Key – with justifying National’s  issuing warrants-to-arrest for loans defaulters;

Just because people have left New Zealand it doesn’t mean they can leave behind their debt.  The New Zealand taxpayer helped to fund their education and they have an obligation to repay it so the scheme can continue to support future generations of students.

Key and Joyce never paid for their free University tuition.

Yet they expect other New Zealanders who followed in their foot-steps to pay for theirs.

Or face arrest.

What does it say about us as a nation, when we elect hypocrites as our elected representatives, who bludge of the tax-payer?

If this does not fly in the face of New Zealanders’ values of fairness and giving everyone a fair go – then we are not the same people we once were.

Postscript

Tweet from Steven Joyce, condemning Labour’s policy for free tertiary education;

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Steven joyce - tertiary education - hypocrite - achieving nothing

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Can we take it from the Tertiary Education Minister that his own university education “achieved absolutely nothing”?

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References

National Business Review: Budget 2015 – student loans – does the government dare to act?

Ministry of Education: Student Loan Scheme Annual Report 2014

Beehive.govt.nz: Celebrating student support under Labour

Ministry of Education: Student Loan Scheme Annual Report 2015

The Wireless: Getting by on a student budget

IRD: Student Loan Scheme Amendment Act 2014 – Arrest at border

Fairfax media: Joyce defends student loan crackdown

Fairfax media: Student loan arrest could prompt others to address debt

NZ Herald: ‘I don’t think I’m a criminal’

Teara.govt.nz: National Party – The ‘mother of all budgets’

Statistics NZ: Annual unemployment rate has increased from 1987

Ruth Richardson NZ Ltd: Ruth Richardson CV

Ruth Richardson NZ Ltd: Home page

Fairfax media: ‘Free’ education cost set to mount to more than $1 billion

Fairfax media: ‘Human scandal’ as Christchurch elderly refused access to surgeries

Fairfax media: ‘Painful wait’ for surgery

NZ Treasury:  Average Marginal Income Tax Rates for New Zealand, 1907-2009

NZ 1984 Yearbook: 3A – General Summary – Increase of population

Statistics NZ: 2013 Census Usually Resident Population Counts

Oxfam NZ: Richest 10% of Kiwis control more wealth than remaining 90%

Radio NZ: Labour’s announcement welcomed and slammed

Andrew Little: State of the Nation speech

Twitter: Steven Joyce

Twitter: Steven Joyce

Fairfax media: John Key draws flak after questioning why waitresses’ taxes should fund students

NZ Herald: Govt backtracks on limo statements

NZ Herald: Complaints laid against Murray McCully over Saudi farm deal

Radio NZ: Saudi abattoir deal will proceed – PM

Fairfax media: NZ government shells out $11m on New York apartment for UN representative

Fairfax media: NZ diplomat involved in decision to buy $6.2m luxury Hawaiian mansion

Otago Daily Times: Smelter gets Meridian, Govt lifeline

Rio Tinto.com: Rio Tinto announces a 10 per cent increase in underlying earnings to $10.2 billion and 15 per cent increase in full year dividend

NZ Herald: GST rise will hurt poor the most

Fairfax media: Time to pay some tax, Facebook?

NZ Herald: Apple’s NZ unit coughs up 0.4pc tax

Kiwiblog: Disclosure Statement

Sunday Star Times: Politics – John Key – A snapshot

Wikipedia: Steven Joyce

National Party: Steven Joyce

Fairfax media: IRD monitoring 20 for possible arrest in student loan repayment crackdown

Additional

Salient: A short history of tertiary education funding in New Zealand

NZ Herald: Minister to students – ‘keep your heads down’

Other bloggers

The Daily Blog: John Key said WHAT about waitresses’???

The Daily Blog: Why does Steven Joyce hate education so much?

Previous related blogposts

A Query to the Taxpayers Union

A Query to the Taxpayers Union – ***UP DATE ***

Know your Tory fellow travellers and ideologues: John Bishop, Taxpayers Union, and the NZ Herald

Greed is good?

It’s official: Political Dissent Discouraged in NZ!

Shafting our own children’s future? Hell yeah, why not!

Hon. Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy

Budget 2013: How NOT to deal with Student loan defaulters

Budget 2013: Student debt, politicians, and “social contracts”

Steven Joyce – Hypocrite of the Week

Anne Tolley’s psycopathy – public for all to see

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

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 15: John Key lies to NZ on consultation and ratification of TPPA

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*Note: For New Zealand audiences, simply replace "Social Security" with Superannuation, and "Medicare" with public health system.

*Note: For New Zealand audiences, simply replace “Social Security” with Superannuation, and “Medicare” with public health system.

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 7 February 2016.

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= fs =

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

2 February 2016 7 comments

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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Labour’s recent policy announcement regarding re-introducing free tertiary education met with predictable knee-jerk hysteria from the Right;

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Labour's announcement welcomed and slammed

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Though why the media still seeks comment from the so-called  “Taxpayers Union” escapes me, as they are a well-known front-group for the National Party, and are run almost exclusively by National and ACT party apparatchiks.

National’s Tertiary education minister, Steven Joyce, was somewhat frothy-mouthy with his panicky tweeting;

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Steven joyce - tertiary education - hypocrite

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Image courtesy of The Daily Blog

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Which prompted me to write letters to the editor to remind New Zealanders of a certain salient fact…

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: Sun, Jan 31, 2016
subject: Letters to the editor

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The editor
Dominion Post

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Immediatly after the release of Labour’s new tertiary education policy, which promised three years of free education, National’s Minister for Tertiary Education, Steven Joyce tweeted,

“Labour Party wants to take more than a billion dollars a year off taxpayers to achieve absolutely nothing #desperate”

Which is an irony, considering that Steven Joyce received a free university education, courtesy of the New Zealand taxpayer, before user-pays was implemented in 1992.

Even more ironic is that whilst National is unleashing the Police to arrest graduates who have not re-paid their student loans, neither Steven Joyce nor John Key have ever repaid their free University educations.

The only ones desperate are Joyce, Key, and other National ministers, who have rorted the system; gained personal benefit; and now displaying a level of hypocrisy that can only be described as breath-taking.

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-Frank Macskasy

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: NZ Herald <letters@herald.co.nz>
date: Sun, Jan 31, 2016
subject: Letter to the editor

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The Editor
NZ Herald
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Soon after Labour leader Andrew Little released their “new” policy advocating free tertiary education for the first three years, National’s own Tertiary Education Minister was quick to respond on Twitter;

“Labour more desperate than we all thought.Stealing massively expensive InternetMana policy on “free tertiary education from last election”

Which is astounding, for two reasons;

1. New Zealand once had free tertiary education and was readily affordable until seven tax cuts since 1986 gutted taxation-revenue, making social services less affordable and increasingly more user-pays.

2. Both John Key and Steven Joyce benefitted from a free tertiary educatyion. Yes, folks, Both Key and Joyce had their University tuition paid by the taxpayer. Neither men have ever repaid a single cent of their education.

Now Joyce is issuing comments on social media condemning the concept of free education? The same free education he personally benefitted from?!

The man’s hypocrisy is boundless.

Education was wasted on him.

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-Frank Macskasy

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[address and phone number supplied]

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References

Radio NZ: Labour’s announcement welcomed and slammed

The Daily Blog: Why does Steven Joyce hate education so much?

Previous Prize Hypocrites

Identifying a hypocrite in three easy steps.

Judith Collins – Hypocrite of the Week

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

Steven Joyce – Hypocrite of the Week

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= fs =

Latest from Whaledump2 – Jordan Williams and Cameron Slater

10 September 2014 5 comments

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whaledump - whaleoil - jordan williams

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Despite Twitter trying to close down Rawshark/Whaledump2, the hactivist  has released emails between far right loony blogger, Cameron Slater – and lawyer, “Taxpayers Union” organisor, National Party apparatchik, and one of Slater’s cabal – Jordan Williams.

The first email, dated 24 January 2012, shows Williams approaching Slater and making enquiries about his fees;

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cameron slater - jordan williams - potential work (1)

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A thousand a week?!

$20,000 every three months?!

Dayum, cousin Jethro, whodathunk propaganda work could be so lucrative!?

Slater also writes that “some pay with advertising, some with product“.

Does that include Katherine Rich from the Food and Grocery Council paying Slater with as much sugar as he can eat?! As Rich is very much an advocate for maximising profit from unhealthy, sugary foods,

Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich rejects outright the call for a tax on sugar. She says it has been tried overseas in different forms and failed to do more than collect more money from citizens for Governments.

“In the last couple of years some have advocated for sugar taxes while others have called for fat taxes. Add them together and all you get is more expensive food at the supermarket.”

She says tobacco taxes had cut rates of smoking because they were so high.

“Imagine what tobacco-style taxes would do to the price of food. Sugar taxes would seriously adversely affect those on low incomes and hit a lot of popular supermarket items such as jam and honey. Last year the University of Otago put jam and honey on a “Need not” list and received a lot of negative comments from the general public.”

Equally Rich does not favour regulations imposing labelling rules on the food industry. The council has been involved with a new transtasman labelling scheme, which featured a star system. “We’re sure it’s on the right track.”

On The Jackal’s blog, the blogger reports on a previous dump of emails, showing Katherine Rich’s relationship with Whaleoil associate, Carrick Graham. Theirs was  an orchestrated hate-campaign to undermine critics of the  alcohol, tobacco, bad food, and sugary soft drink industries.

As a Radio NZ report stated,

Newly released hacked emails appear to show that Ms Rich was in contact with WhaleOil blogger Cameron Slater and public relations executive Carrick Graham who were attacking public health advocates and critics of food companies.

Little wonder that Green MP, Kevin Hague has called for Rich to resign from the government Health Promotion Agency;

“Katherine Rich, Carrick Graham and Cameron Slater have all been involved in a systematic undermining of health promotion in New Zealand. She cannot tenably remain on the board of that organisation.”

Back to the emails. Even Jordan Williams  remarked on the amount that Slater claimed to be raking in from his “clients”;

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cameron slater - jordan williams - potential work (2)

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– though as the response from Slater immediatly following showed, Williams appears none-to-bright when it comes to sending a reply to the correct recipient! *Doh!*

Never mind, Jordan,  a self-deprecating *bugger* covers such stuff -ups;

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cameron slater - jordan williams - potential work (3)

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Now note Slater’s response below, where he refers to Mark Hotchin;

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cameron slater - jordan williams - potential work (4)

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This is obviously a sly reference to one of Slater’s clients – Mark Hotchins – which was referenced in previous Whaledump releases and covered by the msm at length;

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Whale Oil quiet on Hotchin allegations

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Note Patrick Gower’s statement-question;

The key question now is whether the campaign was funded by Mr Hotchin to help him escape charges.

I think that question has been answered – at least in-part.
In other words, when rich white men demand ‘utu’ and want some dirty work done – there are those even in our own quiet, little, ‘corruption free’ country, willing to get their hands dirty.

Reading the email exchange between Williams and Slater, another thought crossed my mind – I hope Slater has declared all his income to the IRD? Even payment “in kind” can be liable to be taxed.

If the IRD decide to sniff around, not all the Key’s Men and Horses will be able to save the Whale from being harpooned for (possible) tax evasion.

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References

Twitter: Whaledump2 – Jordan Williams

NZ Herald: PR men say Dirty Politics claims don’t hurt

NZ Herald: Time to end the weight

Radio NZ: Food council boss won’t resign

TV3: Whale Oil quiet on Hotchin allegations

IRD: Income and expenses

Previous related blogposts

Crony Watch – Katherine Rich

Other blogs

The Jackal: Who is Katherine Rich?

 


 

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Twitter Judith Collins John Key Oravida

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 5 September 2014

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Dear John – Time to answer a few questions! – Hone Harawira

15 August 2014 8 comments

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Mana logo

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The following statement was issued on 14 August by Mana Movement leader, Hone Harawira;

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“When Cameron Slater says about Kim Dotcom ‘I have lots on him…death by a thousand cuts…wait till you see what comes out in coming weeks on that fat c***t’, you have to ask whether this is the same Cameron Slater that Prime Minister calls a close friend”.

“The release of the book Dirty Politics is a game-changer that I sincerely hope results in the current government being voted out of office”, said Harawira. “Questions about secret deals done between nasty and malicious bloggers with direct access to the Prime Minister’s office and their role in undermining the democratic process, demand answers.”

“And although John Key and his cronies want to make this all about Nicky Hager’s credibility, the fact is that Hager is a credible investigative journalist who is meticulous in his work and has never been proven wrong. What this whole ugly episode is about … is dirty politics.”

“Prime Minister John Key himself has spoken often of his closeness to Cameron Slater who is mentioned throughout Dirty Politics for trying to derail my campaign, looking for ‘dirt’ on the Internet Party, and a whole host of attacks against Kim Dotcom, including one rant which reads “I hope the bastard is sweating between his fat rolls…I have lots on him…death by a thousand cuts…wait till you see what comes out in coming weeks on that fat c***t.”

“Really Mr Prime Minister – is this guy Cameron Slater really a close friend of yours? Did you know what your good friend has been up to? Did you approve any of it?”

“Or are you going to let your senior press secretary, Jason Ede, take the hit for all this, because his name keeps cropping up as well.”

“And while we’re dropping names, perhaps you can explain to the public some of the comments attributed to other people closely associated with your office, whose names also crop up throughout Dirty Politics, people like David Farrar who was Publications and Information Manager within the Prime Minister’s Office, Judith Collins who is the current Minister of Justice, ACC and Ethnic Affairs, Jordan Williams, Executive Director of the New Zealand’s Taxpayers Union, and Cameron Slater himself, Whale Oil Blogger, and close friend of the Prime Minister.”

“This book is a damming expose on how the Prime Minister’s Office operates, and shows the true side of National’s ‘attack politics’ that gives real weight to the description of Key as the ‘Smiling Assassin’.”

“I congratulate Nicky Hager for showing the country the underbelly of National Party politics, and showing how digging dirt on their opponents has become more important for National than feeding hungry kids or building houses for the homeless.”

Hone Harawira,
MP, Te Tai Tokerau
Leader, Mana Movement

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Well said, Mr Harawira.

I concur with each and every word.

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20 september 2014 VOTE

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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

16 September 2017 1 comment

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Ask David: When is a Bribe not a Bribe?

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

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

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

This is a further sign of National Party desperation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Challenge to David Seymour on the RMA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seymour ducked the challenge, changing the subject.

For good reason.

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

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

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

Melksham Tower around 1975 with locals protesting;

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

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

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

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

[…]

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

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

[…]

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

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

Would Seymour accept that challenge?

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

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

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

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

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

Which raises some interesting and obvious questions;

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

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

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

It’s a very aspirational target.

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

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

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ACT considers Eugenic Final Solution for the Poor?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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References

Fairfax media:  National announce $10.5 billion roading plan

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

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

Newsroom:  Election 2017 Live – National doubles first home grant

NZ Herald:  Editorial – Saudi sheep deal leaves bitter taste

Scoop media:  National pumps up house prices with HomeStart bribe

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

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

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

ACT Party: Principles

Mediaworks:  Winston Peters pulls out of minor parties debate

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

Wikipedia:  Resource Management Act 1991

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

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

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

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

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

NZ Herald:  Bennett slammed over child poverty claim

Mediaworks:  Paula Bennett disputes UNICEF poverty report

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

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

Twitter: ACT Party – Poor shouldn’t have kids

Twitter: Wendy Smith responds to ACT

Additional

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

Other Blogs

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

Previous related blogposts

Election ’17 Countdown: The Promise of Nirvana to come

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

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

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

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

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

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

9 September 2017 Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

Paula Bennett was adamant;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr Key says he still stands by the Justice Minister.

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

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

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

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

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

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

They have ‘form’.

Postscript

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

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Especially those who dare criticise the current regime.

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A face-palm moment for ACT candidate, Anneka Carlson

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

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

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

“It was meant to happen.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Another poll indicates coming change in government

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Another step back from globalisation

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

Ms Palaszczuk was unapologetic in renouncing globalisation;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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References

Radio NZ:  Timeline – Winston Peters’ superannuation overpayments saga

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

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

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

Mediaworks:  Collins ‘unwise’ to pass information to Slater

NZ Herald:  Statement from Judith Collins

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

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

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

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

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

Horizon Poll:  Ardern preferred Prime Minister with 6% lead

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

SBS: Qld govt to prioritise local businesses

Scoop media:  Trade Ministers need firm hand over Queensland

Other Blogs

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

Previous related blogposts

The slow dismantling of a Prime Minister – downward slide continues

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

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

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

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Trumpwatch – How Elon Musk can overcome Trump’s climate-change obstinacy

23 June 2017 1 comment

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Fun Fact #1:According to an ongoing temperature analysis conducted by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), the average global temperature on Earth has increased by about 0.8° Celsius (1.4° Fahrenheit) since 1880. Two-thirds of the warming has occurred since 1975, at a rate of roughly 0.15-0.20°C per decade.” – NASA, Earth Observatory

Fun Fact #2:Atmospheric CO2 concentration started to increase at the time of the Industrial Revolution and has been increasing rapidly since 1900. This increase is in proportion to the usage of fossil fuels. Therefore, reducing consumption of fossil fuels in order to reduce CO2 emissions has become a crucial countermeasure for global warming.” – Mitsubishi Heavy Industries

Fun Fact #3: In 2011/13, China had 78 million  cars. In 2014, there were 154 million cars in China. By 2015, that number had risen to 172 million. A year later, another 28.3 million were sold, taking the figure to around 200.3 million private cars. By 2050, the estimated number of private vehicles in China is estimated to be between 464.9 to 557.7 million.

Fun Fact #4:The global number of cars on the road and kilometers flown in planes will nearly double by 2040 […] Cars are projected to reach the two billion mark by 2040.” – World Economic Forum

Fun Fact #5:A typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.”  – US Environmental Protection Agency

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Until recently, Canadian-American businessman,  engineer,and inventor, Elon Musk was an Advisor on  Donald Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum.

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Elon Musk

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Musk’s appointment to this Forum on 14 December last year joined the likes of;

  • Stephen A. Schwarzman (Forum Chairman), Chairman, CEO, and Co-Founder of Blackstone;
  • Paul Atkins, CEO, Patomak Global Partners, LLC, Former Commissioner of the Securities and Exchange Commission;
  • Mary Barra, Chairman and CEO, General Motors;
  • Toby Cosgrove, CEO, Cleveland Clinic;
  • Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO, JPMorgan Chase & Co;
  • Larry Fink, Chairman and CEO, BlackRock;
  • Travis Kalanick, CEO and Co-founder, Uber Technologies;
  • Bob Iger, Chairman and CEO, The Walt Disney Company;
  • Rich Lesser, President and CEO, Boston Consulting Group;
  • Doug McMillon, President and CEO, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.;
  • Jim McNerney, Former Chairman, President, and CEO, Boeing;
  • Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo;
  • Adebayo “Bayo” Ogunlesi, Chairman and Managing Partner, Global Infrastructure Partners;
  • Ginni Rometty, Chairman, President, and CEO, IBM;
  • Kevin Warsh, Shepard Family Distinguished Visiting Fellow in Economics, Hoover Institute, Former Member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System;
  • Mark Weinberger, Global Chairman and CEO, EY;
  • Jack Welch, Former Chairman and CEO, General Electric;
  • Daniel Yergin, Pulitzer Prize-winner, Vice Chairman of IHS Markit;

A formidable Who’s Who of American capitalism’s “Captain’s of Industry”.

Trump’s propaganda website, “Great Again” stated;

Members of the Forum will be charged with providing their individual views to the President — informed by their unique vantage points in the private sector — on how government policy impacts economic growth, job creation and productivity. The Forum is designed to provide direct input to the President from many of the best and brightest in the business world in a frank, non-bureaucratic and non-partisan manner.

Trump was more effusive;

You’re doing well right now and I’m very honored by the bounce. They’re all talking about the bounce … Anything we can do to help this go along, and we’re going to be there for you. And you’ll call my people, you’ll call me. It doesn’t make any difference. We have no formal chain of command around here.

Musk’s appointment to the Forum had been unforeseen, as he had voiced criticisms of Trump and his victory at the elections;

The announcement came as a big surprise to many, considering Musk has been very critical of Donald Trump before and after the election. Before Trump became President-elect, Musk said in an interview with CNBC that the Republican nominee was “not the right man for the job” and that “he doesn’t seem to have the character that reflects well on the States.” After the business tycoon won more electoral votes than Hillary Clinton, Musk also lamented that the outcome “not the finest moment in our democracy in general.”

Before the election took place, Musk also stated that Hillary Clinton’s economic and environmental policies were better. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering Musk has made much of his fortune from harnessing renewable energy. He’s also a proud advocate of environmental sustainability. Trump, on the other hand, believes climate change is a “hoax” invented by the Chinese.

Musk holds strong views regarding human civilisation’s impact on the planet’s environment;

We’re running the most dangerous experiment in history right now, which is to see how much carbon dioxide the atmosphere … can handle before there is an environmental catastrophe.” – 17 April 2013

We are going to exit the fossil fuel era. It is inevitable. Right now we have an incentive structure that is designed to slow it down [transition from fossil fuels]. If countries decide to do a carbon tax or cap and trade, and it is real and not watered-down and weak, I think we can see a transition that is in the 15 to 20 years time frame as supposed to 40 to 50 years time frame. By putting a price on carbon, we are fixing a pricing error in the market. Any price will be better than the close to zero we have right now. ” –  2 December 2015

Burning oil is like taking furniture from your house and setting it on fire for heat.” – 1 July 2016

By definition, we must at some point achieve a sustainable energy economy or we will run out of fossil fuels to burn and civilization will collapse. Given that we must get off fossil fuels anyway and that virtually all scientists agree that dramatically increasing atmospheric and oceanic carbon levels is insane, the faster we achieve sustainability, the better.” – 20 July 2016

“  CO2 isn’t exactly pollution, but it does cause warming and slight acidification of water if very large quantities are dug from deep underground and added to the surface cycle. The problem is the age-old tragedy of the commons. The common good being consumed is atmospheric and oceanic carbon capacity, which currently has a price of zero. This results in an error in market signals and far more CO2 is generated than should be. We won’t ever go to zero CO2, but the rate over time should be dropped far below what it is today.”  – 26 January 2017

Musk’s views are clear. They are also in direct stark contrast to Trump’s own, stated belief, that global warming was a “hoax perpetrated by the Chinese to hobble American industry“.  By participating in Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum, Musk appears to be an optimistic believer  in being inside the enemy’s tent pissing out, rather than vice versa.

At best, it was a naive belief.

On 27 May, Trump used his favourite medium to announce that he was going to… make an announcement;

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On 28 May, rumours began to circulate that Trump had already made up his mind and was going to make good on his threat to withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord;

President Trump has privately told multiple people, including EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, that he plans to leave the Paris agreement on climate change, according to three sources with direct knowledge.

Publicly, Trump’s position is that he has not made up his mind and when we asked the White House about these private comments, Director of Strategic Communications Hope Hicks said, “I think his tweet was clear. He will make a decision this week.”

The same report claimed that “… the EPA staff are quietly working with outside supporters to place op eds favoring withdrawal from Paris“. Evidently, the more unpopular/unreasonable a political decision is, the more ‘spin’ is required to ‘massage the message’ and lull the masses back to sleep.

Trump’s appointee to head the Environmental Protection Agency, and fellow climate-change denier, Scott Pruitt, had been advocating since April for the US to withdraw from the Paris Accords;

Scott Pruitt, the head of the US Environmental Protection Agency, has said that the US should back out of its commitment to the Paris climate agreement, the landmark plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions in a bid to limit global warming to below 2˚C.

This follows President Donald Trump’s campaign promise to cancel the agreement, with a decision on whether he will do so expected within the next month.

“It’s a bad deal for America,” Pruitt told cable news show Fox & Friends last week. “China and India had no obligations under the agreement until 2030.”

Pruitt  was being willfully disingenuous (ie; lying his head off);

“That statement is either deliberately misleading or woefully uninformed about what the Paris agreement is and what it does,” says Alden Meyer at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

China and India have already taken action to reach the goals they set for 2030, and China has committed to cutting its greenhouse gas emissions by a higher percentage than US commitments. “Pruitt is really off the mark here,” Meyer says. “It’s very clear that China is going to overachieve its Paris objectives.”

Han Chen of the Natural Resources Defense Council in New York says that China implemented its first mandatory national cap on coal consumption last year and added three times as much wind capacity as the US in 2016.

“China already suspended over 100 planned or under-construction coal projects last year,” says Chen. “Meanwhile, the Trump administration wants policies that favor highly polluting fossil fuels. It’s no question which country is more ambitious on climate action at the moment.”

On 31  May, just days before Trump was due to officially announce what the entire world already knew, Elon Musk issued his own announcement;

 Tesla CEO Elon Musk threatened Wednesday to stop advising President Donald Trump if the White House withdraws from the Paris climate accords.

Asked on Twitter what he would do if Trump pulled out of the landmark global deal to curb emissions, Musk said…

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Musk, who also founded SpaceX, is on Trump’s manufacturing jobs council, his strategic and policy forum, and his infrastructure council. Musk has defended his role advising Trump in the face of some criticism from anti-Trump activists, arguing that they should want his voice in the discussions to offer views that differ from those of the president’s other advisors.

Sure enough, on 2 June (New Zealand time), Trump did not fail to disappoint an entire planet of  7.3 billion humans;

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Without any hint of self-awareness of irony, Trump stated;

“ The United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord but begin negotiations to re-enter either the Paris accord or an entirely new transaction, on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers.”

Trump’s arrogance was such that even the North Korean leadership (who are also a signatory to the Paris Accord) was moved to say the right thing at the right time;

A spokesman for the North Korean government described the move as the “height of egotism and moral vacuum seeking only their well-being even at the cost of the entire planet, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

“[The US] is ignorant of the fact that the protection of the global environment is in their own interests,” the spokesman added.

“The selfish act of the US does not only have grave consequences for the international efforts to protect the environment, but poses great danger to other areas as well.”

Following on from Trump’s announcement, Elon Musk  made good on his warning that he would not be a collaborator to any undermining of the Paris Accord;

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Musk further tweeted;

Under Paris deal, China committed to produce as much clean electricity by 2030 as the US does from all sources today

Musk was correct. The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman,  Hua Chunying, declared  China’s intention to  persevere with the Paris Accord;

“ Climate change is a global challenge. No county can place itself outside of this. At the same time, we will continue to resolutely be a protector and promoter of the global climate system process, proactively participating in the multilateral climate change process. We are willing to work with all sides to jointly protect the Paris agreement process, promote the actual rules and regulations of the agreement in follow-up talks and effectively enact them, and promote global green, low carbon, sustainable development.”

China has strong motivation to reduce atmospheric pollution generated by human industrial activity;

China had fought previous attempts by foreign governments to limit carbon emissions, claiming it should be allowed the same space to develop and pollute that industrialized nations had.

But with its capital often choked by smog and its people angry about the environmental degradation that rapid development has wrought across the country, Beijing has become a strong proponent of efforts to halt global warming.

The consequences of runaway climate change could be devastating for China, it’s people, and it’s economy. According to Climate Scientist, Benjamin Strauss;

Roughly a quarter of the world’s people who live on land at risk from 4C warming are living in China. That is more that twice as many as who live on vulnerable land in Europe and the US combined. The Shanghai region by itself has more than 20 million people living on land that could be lost.

Spokesman for the Russian Federation, Dmitry Peskov, added his country’s voice to endorsing the Paris Accord;

“ President Vladimir Putin signed this convention when he was in Paris. Russia attaches great significance to it. At the same time, it goes without saying that the effectiveness of this convention is likely to be reduced without its key participants.”

Meanwhile, many Trump supporters; alt. right purveyors of lies and conspiracy-theories such as ‘Infowars‘ and ‘Brietbart‘;  and assorted right-wing conservatives like Anne Coulter and Mark Levin were falling over each other in their scramble to praise their Dear Leader for taking the planet closer to ecological melt-down. The American Right seem to be the only ones supporting Trump.

Ironically, big corporations have parted company with Trump and the American Right, siding instead with the science community;

Major U.S. corporations and leading business figures are raising an eleventh-hour appeal to President Donald Trump, urging him to not pull the country out of the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.

[…]

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff tweeted Wednesday an image of an earlier joint open letter from over 20 top companies based in the U.S. or having business stateside, in which they made a business case that the U.S. should remain a part of the accord.

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In the face of  an intransigent anti-science cabal that now occupies the White House, aided by Republicans in control of the House of Representatives and the Senate, the rest of Planet Earth has no choice but carry working to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions (CO2, nitrous oxide, and methane).

People of influence such as Elon Musk must now reassess their options.

By fortuitous coincidence, one option is already available to Musk and is stated on his Tesla website;

Yesterday, there was a wall of Tesla patents in the lobby of our Palo Alto headquarters. That is no longer the case. They have been removed, in the spirit of the open source movement, for the advancement of electric vehicle technology.

Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport. If we clear a path to the creation of compelling electric vehicles, but then lay intellectual property landmines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal. Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.

[…]

Given that annual new vehicle production is approaching 100 million per year and the global fleet is approximately 2 billion cars, it is impossible for Tesla to build electric cars fast enough to address the carbon crisis. By the same token, it means the market is enormous. Our true competition is not the small trickle of non-Tesla electric cars being produced, but rather the enormous flood of gasoline cars pouring out of the world’s factories every day.

We believe that Tesla, other companies making electric cars, and the world would all benefit from a common, rapidly-evolving technology platform.

Technology leadership is not defined by patents, which history has repeatedly shown to be small protection indeed against a determined competitor, but rather by the ability of a company to attract and motivate the world’s most talented engineers. We believe that applying the open source philosophy to our patents will strengthen rather than diminish Tesla’s position in this regard.

Musk has given away his electric car patents, promising “not [to]  initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.

He has indeed joined the Open Source movement. Open Source is described as “a decentralized development model that encourages open collaboration“. There is an element of socialist co-operative behaviour with OS.

However, simply stating that Musk will not stand in the way of  anyone who “wants to use [Tesla]  technology” is not enough.   This is an opportunity for Musk to counter Trump’s refusal to act decisively on climate change. This is Musk’s opportunity to show leadership where Trump – and other Republicans and conservatives – will not.

This is the proposal I have sent to Elon Musk, via Twitter;

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Frank Macskasy
New Zealand/Aotearoa – @fmacskasy

 

Kia Ora Mr Musk,

I wish to congratulate you on your principled decision to withdraw from Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum. Withdrawing the United States from the Paris Accord on climate change shows a disturbing lack of understanding by Trump and a refusal to understand the science behind climate change, and it’s impact on Planet Earth.

By rejecting the science and claiming that climate change is a “Chinese orchestrated hoax” implies that the Chinese government has exercised full-spectrum dominance and control over NASA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), American Geophysical Union (AGU), American Meteorological Society, American Physical Society, Geological Society of America, and many others. This is patently laughable.

Mr Musk, you are in a unique position to take a measure of leadership on this critical problem confronting humanity and the entire planet.

On your Tesla website, you have stated that you intend to allow people to use your electric car technology without any impediments created by patent-rights;

“Yesterday, there was a wall of Tesla patents in the lobby of our Palo Alto headquarters. That is no longer the case. They have been removed, in the spirit of the open source movement, for the advancement of electric vehicle technology.

Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport. If we clear a path to the creation of compelling electric vehicles, but then lay intellectual property landmines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal. Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.”

Your generosity in removing patents to Tesla technology is the seed to which the Paris Accord can move forward with a giant leap.

Instead of just allowing access to Tesla technology, I propose that you engage with the Chinese government to set up Tesla car-manufacturing plants throughout the Chinese People’s Republic. You could stipulate that the only two provisos would be;

1. Each plant must be powered by renewable energy. No fossil fuel energy sources to be used.

2. All electric vehicles will be for domestic consumption only (if you so wish).

With the number of private vehicles in China estimated to each 464.9 to 557.7 million by 2050 (ref: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/251560842Modeling_future_vehicle_sales_and_stock_in_China) and with each typical car emitting approximately 4.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year (ref: https://www.epa.gov/greenvehicles/greenhouse-gas-emissions-typical-passenger-vehicle-0), it does not take much maths to work out how much extra CO2 will be pumped into the atmosphere by just one nation alone.

Your leadership on this problem would rival that of your SpaceX programme and ambitions for Mars.

You can achieve what Trump has failed in such a dismal fashion.

This would be a spectacular act of international co-operation with the future of the entire planet and our species at stake.

Mr Musk, you can be the visionary. If China is to have 557.7 million cars by 2050, let them be electric. Let them all be Teslas.

Best wishes,
-Frank Macskasy

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Solving the crisis of climate change will take a titanic, collective effort from us all.

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References

NASA: World of Change – Global Temperatures

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries:  History of Fossil Fuel Usage since the Industrial Revolution

Huffington Post:  Number Of Cars Worldwide Surpasses 1 Billion – Can The World Handle This Many Wheels?

Wall Street Journal:  China Soon to Have Almost as Many Drivers as U.S. Has People

News.Cn:  China’s car ownership reaches 172 million

South China Morning Post: China 2016 car sales surge at fastest rate in three years

Researchgate:  Modeling future vehicle sales and stock in China (p26)

US Environmental Protection Agency:  Greenhouse Gas Emissions from a Typical Passenger Vehicle

World Economic Forum: The number of cars worldwide is set to double by 2040

Wikipedia: Elon Musk

The Hill:  Trump names Elon Musk, Uber CEO to advisory team

Great Again:  President-Elect Donald J. Trump Announces Travis Kalanick of Uber, Elon Musk of SpaceX and Tesla, and Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo to Join President’s Strategic and Policy Forum

The Guardian:   The Minute – Trump promises Silicon Valley ‘bounce’

True Activist:  Donald Trump Appoints Elon Musk As Strategic Presidential Advisor

Twitter: Donald Trump – global warming Chinese hoax

USA Today: Icons – Elon Musk doesn’t let up at Tesla, SpaceX

Reuters:  Tesla’s Elon Musk says transition from fossil fuels inevitable

Twitter: Elon Musk – burning fossil fuel

Tesla: Master Plan, Part Deux

Gizmodo:  Gizmodo Chats With Elon Musk About Climate Change And Donald Trump

Twitter: Donald Trump – global warming Chinese hoax

Twitter: Donald Trump – Decision on Paris Accord

Axios:  Scoop – Trump tells confidants U.S. will quit Paris climate deal

New Scientist:  Environment chief says US should exit Paris climate agreement

CNBC:  Elon Musk threatens to leave White House advisory councils if Trump drops Paris accord

Twitter: Elon Musk – will have to resign from councils

Radio NZ:  Donald Trump withdraws US from Paris climate deal

RT News:  ‘Height of egotism’ – North Korea blasts US withdrawal from Paris climate accord

Twitter: Elon Musk – departing presidential councils

Twitter: Elon Musk – China committed to producing clean electricity

Scientific American: Ahead of Trump Decision, China Says It Will Stick to Paris Climate Deal

China Dialogue:  Chinese cities most at risk from rising sea levels

RT News: Russia confirms commitment to Paris climate change agreement amid fears of US pullout

Media Matters:  Right-wing media cheer Trump withdrawing United States from the Paris climate agreement

Fortune.Com: Top CEOs Are In a Last Ditch Bid to Persuade Trump to Stick with the Paris Climate Deal

Twitter: Marc Benioff – Decision on Paris Accord

Tesla: All Our Patent Are Belong To You

Wikipedia: Open Source Model

Twitter: Frank Macskasy – sharing Tesla

Previous related blogposts

Trumpwatch: One minute closer to midnight on the Doomsday Clock

Trumpwatch: What’s a few more nails in the planet’s coffin?

 

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 18 June 2017.

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“Spinning” in a post-truth era

18 August 2016 3 comments

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ministry-of-truth-update

 

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Two recent media stories, on two utterly disparate issues, were clear examples of how tax-payer funded media “spin doctors” were guiding government ministers to respond to questions in a certain way.

Two interviews; two ministers; both on Radio New Zealand’s ‘Morning Report‘ – and both interviews left the audience none-the-wiser afterwards.

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“Guidelines”

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The first, on 5 August, featured Finance  and Social Housing Minister, Bill English, defending Housing NZ’s use of flawed testing regimes for methamphetamine-use in state housing.

On 20 June this year, Housing NZ admitted that the current testing for methamphetamine use (smoking)  was flawed;

“…The current standard guidelines were written to address meth ‘cooking’ and not use, meaning they are not entirely suitable for the contamination that occurs through use of meth.

The Ministry of Health guidelines were written a while ago. At that time it wasn’t perceived that consumption would be at the levels that it has reached. For this reason the guidelines do not cover all they need to.”

Drug Foundation executive director, Ross Bell, was scathing;

“I think they’re out of control…

[…]

I don’t know how they can justify that. Housing New Zealand has spent over $20 million in the last financial year doing these tests and these cleanups. Knowing that these are flawed the minister should step in and stop taxpayers’ money being wasted and vulnerable people being punished.”

Despite the testing regime  – which TVNZ’s  ‘Fair Go‘ programme used to “detect” methamphetamine on bank-notes – “not fit for purpose”, Housing NZ has continued to use the flawed guidelines to evict tenants;

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Expert questions meth contamination evictions

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Housing NZ Minister, Bill English, agreed that the testing for methamphetamine was flawed;

“They’re operating to a Ministry of Health guideline which I understand is internationally standard, but is regarded as not quite appropriate, particularly for dealing for use of P in houses…

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Now, the test as I understand it, indicates the presence of any P at all which may be a very low health risk.”

The interesting aspect to Radio NZ’s Susie Ferguson’s interview with Minister English was not that he disagreed with the premise that the P testing regime  was flawed. He gave a straight answer to Ms Ferguson’s question;

Susie Ferguson: “Are these tests fit for purpose?”

Bill English: “Ah, no. And Housing NZ have said that.”

English then spent the next seven minutes defending the flawed testing regime.

In part of his interview, the “g”-word became glaringly  prominent;

“Housing New Zealand is in the position where there is currently a moh guideline, you can’t just wish that away – Housing New Zealand are not health experts.

Ministry of Health stand by the guideline, and the Ministry of Health are the statutory organisation that promulgates the guideline.

I think everyone involved with this is frustrated, I suppose except for the scientists that gave us the guideline in the first place.”

It is obvious what phrase English’s media spin-doctors told him to stay “on-message”.

He referred to “guidelines” no less than sixteen times within those seven minutes.

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“Technical matters”

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On 8 August, in an unrelated matter, our esteemed Dear Leader, John Key, was interviewed over  China’s threats to launch a trade war if New Zealand investigated cheap imports/dumping of sub-standard Chinese steel.

As Vernon Small described the situation on 4 August, in the Dominion Post;

Now let’s see if we’ve got this right.

In early June Chinese officials find a type of fungus (Neofabraea actinidiae) on board a bunch of kiwifruit heading into the country.

Nothing much happens.

Then in early July a message is passed, through back channels, to Zespri and Fonterra (and potentially other primary producers) that China is extremely peeved that a complaint has been laid about the potential dumping of cheap Chinese steel in our market.

A steel inquiry by regulators here could lead to the imposition of non-tariff barriers that could slow down our exports, the warning suggests. And, what’s more, China is angry that the complaint was even accepted for consideration by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

After some to-ing and fro-ing, China officially denies it draws a link between a potential steel-dumping inquiry and sales of our food products. The various New Zealand agencies and exporters chant in unison that it is an “unsubstantiated rumour” that such a link had been made.

Trade Minister Todd McClay at first tries to dismiss media reports as reflecting a single low-level source talking to Zespri. But he later back tracks and apologises to Prime Minister John Key and concedes the Zespri warning was not all. In fact, there had been “discussions and limited correspondence over the past few months as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has endeavoured to assess the veracity of these reports”. But in the end they were not verified.

[…]

On July 22, Zespri said it had experienced no problems. 

But on July 29, just a few weeks after the initial “warning” – and right in sync with that warning –  Chinese border agencies impose non-tariff barriers, involving a risk notification and strengthened inspection and quarantine processes, on our kiwifruit.

Zespri says their unwelcome fungal friend does not affect food safety and is not a pathogen. It exists in several countries, including New Zealand, Australia, Holland, the United States and Ecuador – and potentially China itself, the home of the chinese gooseberry to which the noble kiwifruit is whakapapa.

But in contrast with Zespri’s relatively sanguine view, the Chinese notice from the AQSIQ, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, describes Mr and Mrs Neofabraea actinidiae in very unflattering terms as a “rot pathogen” and a “major disease” that could infect other fruit such as apples and persimmons, thus inflicting “serious economic loss”.

It saying the fungus hails from New Zealand and Australia – the targets of Chinese suspicions that we are acting in league with Uncle Sam.

And through it all ministers and Zespri are ruling out any link to the “unsubstantiated” trade threat.  “China throws up these non-tariff barriers all the time” is the tenor of the message emanating from the Beehive. Nothing to see here.

(The full text of Vernon Small’s analysis is worth reading, and reminiscent of the sort of critical journalistic insights that we used to have in abundance in the Fourth Estate, and which could ultimately do great harm to an encumbent government’s reputation.)

On Radio NZ’s Morning Report, on 8 August, Guyon Espiner interviewed our esteemed Dear Leader on China’s blocking of our kiwifruit exports.

Key’s responses to Espiner’s questions were a tribute to the Prime Minister’s media spin-doctors. Throughout the entire four and a half minutes interview, Key stayed on-message, referring to the blocking of Zespri’s export as “a technical issue“.

The phrase “technical issue” was used three times.

Other answers given were verbose – but not very enlightening for the listener;

Espiner: “Did he [Todd McClay] tell the truth about that, though?

Key: “Yeah, he did, but he was-“

Espiner: “You said he was dancing on the head of a pin.”

Key: “He was very specific in the answer that he gave to a very specific question.”

Espiner: “He was misleading, wasn’t he?”

Key: “Well, I just think, in our business the problem is that even though often a journalist will ask me a direct and specific question, you really know they’re  asking a broader question. And it’s kind of tidier if you can at least give a, give them [a] more fulsome answer.”

So according to Key, if “a journalist will ask… a direct and specific question, you really know they’re  asking a broader question“?

This was quintessential Key silly-speak for “Yes, Todd McClay lied”.

The curious aspect to Key’s “spun” answers is that Guyon Espiner – a seasoned journalist of the calibre of Lisa Owen, Kim Hill, Simon Walker, et al – allowed Key to make his specious drivel unchallenged.

At the very least, Espiner should have challenged Key of his references to “technical matters” with the simple question,

“Prime Minister, is the phrase “technical matters” the on-message phrase you’ve been told to use?”

Key would have responded with a resounding “No, of course not!”.

But that would have blown that phrase out of the water from that point on in the interview. The carefully ‘spun’ message crafted by his spin-doctors would have been rendered neutralised, and Key would have had to rely on other answers to Espiner’s probing. Perhaps even something approaching the truth.

The best way to counter “spin” is to clearly identify it as such.

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Shades of Bill Birch

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In 1991, when former Finance Minister, Bill Birch, was promoting the Employment Contracts Bill to the New Zealand public and media, his constant mantra was that it would “raise real wages”;

” The challenge New Zealand faces in industrial relations is to create an environment that delivers high productivity, high income and high employment.”

The promise of “higher wages” was an attempt to justify  the de-unionised, laissez-faire bargaining aspects of the Employment Contracts Act (later passed into law as an Act of Parliament).

But such was not to be. As economist, Andrew Morrison, reported for the  Parliamentary Library in 1996;

“The content of employment contracts has also changed. There are more flexible work practices, greater multi-skilling and increased use of performance pay. Rates for overtime and penal rates have dropped.

[…]

Econometric work shows the ECA as having had no significant effect on the aggregate level of wages. There may have been some deterioration in working conditions, however evidence is not clear-cut.”

Birch’s claims of the ECA “raising wages” were utterly bogus of course.

In reality, the Act increased wages for a few – but either froze or reduced wages for the majority, as Morrison pointed out.

It was the first occassion when this blogger noticed an oft-repeated phrase used by a politician to promote a wildly unpopular piece of legislation. It may have been one of the first (?) uses of ‘spin’ in such a context (as opposed to mis-use of information or outright lies).

In 1991, the “raising wages” mantra was not challenged in any meaningful way (that this blogger can recall).

A quarter of a century later, we still seem to have a problem with political ‘spin’.

The scary thing is, that our elected representatives don’t really seem perturbed that we recognise their ‘spin’ for what it is. In a post-truth environment, it seems to be the “new norm”.

As Andrea Vance wrote in an opinion piece on 1 July;

Politicians are now playing a game in which it’s up to their opponents to fact-check, to catch out their lies. (“People have had enough of experts,” as British Tory leadership hopeful Michael Gove put it.)

They presume media and the voters should accept what they say as fact.

Earlier this week, Trump’s supporter Jeffrey Lord dismissed this “fact-checking business” as an “elitist, media-type thing”.

People only care about “what the candidates say”, he added.

But if what the candidates say are bare-faced lies…then where does that leave us?

Indeed, where does that leave us?

Perhaps needing new standards for political honesty?

We can call them “guidelines“.

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References

Radio NZ: Drug Foundation critical of meth contamination evictions

Housing NZ: HNZ supports new meth standards committee

Radio NZ: English calls for more specific housing meth tests

Radio NZ: Expert questions meth contamination evictions

Radio NZ: NZ braces for effects on Zespri’s halt of kiwifruit exports

Fairfax media: China’s attack on kiwifruit after trade reprisal warning ‘just a coincidence’

Radio NZ: NZ braces for effects on Zespri’s halt of kiwifruit exports

Parliamentary Library: The Employment Contracts Act and its Economic Impact – Andrew Morrison, Economist (November 1996)

Otago.ac.nz: Labour’s Labour Relations

Additional

TV1 News: A post-truth era in politics

TV1 News: Perhaps the Government might want to say sorry

Radio NZ: Is a ‘post-truth’ era upon us?

Radio NZ: Give facts a chance

Previous related blogposts

Military ‘spin-doctoring’ – the media catch-up

The Art of ‘Spin’

Paula Bennett on unemployment: spin baby, spin!

The Dark Art of ‘Spin’ – How It’s Done

The Dark Art of ‘Spin’ – How It’s Done (Part #Rua)

When spin doctors go bad

“Spin me a conspiracy”, said Dear Leader!

“Spin me a brain exchange”, said Dear Leader!

National Party spin on Aaron Gilmore and MMP

National spins BS to undermine Labour’s Capital Gains Tax

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

The Mendacities of Mr English – Fibbing from Finance Minister confirmed

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quick it's an emergency - spin doctors

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 13 August 2016.

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John Key – we will not be held to ransom!

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11380618-Modern-Janus-with-two-masks-isolated-on-white-backgground-Stock-Vector

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When news of the kidnapping of Australians and a New Zealand citizen in Nigeria hit our headlines, our esteemed Dear Leader’s response was unequivocal;

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John Key - NZ won't pay ransom for Kiwi kidnapped by gunmen in Nigeria

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Key was adamant;

“Our very strong policy is not to pay a ransom and our reason for that is we think if we paid a ransom, we’d potentially put a bounty on any New Zealander’s head who travels to a dangerous part of the world, and it potentially makes the situation worse.”

Our Leader was not for turning. Key does not cave in to pressures.

Or, so it seems…

In October 2010, the country was “rocked” with news that that  the Hobbit movies would be “taken away” from New Zealand;

Jackson’s company, Wingnut Films, said in a statement that Warners representatives were coming to New Zealand next week “to make arrangements to move the production offshore” because “they are now, quite rightly, very concerned about the security of their investment.”

A week after Peter Jackson’s dire warnings of impending Mordor-like doom, Dear Leader Key intervened and rode like a Ranger to the rescue (in a BMW limousine, not a stallion);

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Key comes through $34m deal sees Hobbit stay in NZ - NBR - Peter Jackson - Warner Bros

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Even the Warner Bros movie execs had  stallions limos provided (at taxpayers’ expense, yet again) when they came-a-visitin’ to New Zealand to collect their $34 million bucks;

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no-decision-yet-in-hobbit-talks-key

 

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Along with $34 million of taxpayer’s money paid over to Warner Bros, the National government passed legislation changing the status of Jackson’s workers from employees, to “contractors”. This lessened the working-conditions of people working throughout New Zealand’s movie industry.

The employment law changes passed through Parliament within forty eight hours – a feat unheard of in New Zealand’s political process. Unions, workers, and the public had no say in the matter.

As Key said at the time,

“It was a commercial reality that without this [law] change, these movies would not be made in New Zealand.”

So the sovereignty of New Zealand’s Parliament was not ransomed by Warner Bros to gain $34 million plus a change in our labour laws?

Note: On 21 December 2010, two months after Jackson declared that there was an imminent threat to losing The Hobbit to another country, he conceded that no such “threat” existed;

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Peter Jackson Actors no threat to Hobbit - Warner Bros

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Three years later, Rio Tinto threatened to close it’s Tiwai Point aluminium smelter if it’s demands were not met;

Mining giant Rio Tinto has rejected the Government’s offer of a short-term subsidy to continue running the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter.

Instead, it has gone back into negotiations with electricity supplier Meridian to try and get a better deal.

If no deal is made, Prime Minister John Key says the smelter, 79 percent owned by Rio Tinto and 21 percent owned by Japanese company Sumitomo, could be shut down in about five years.

In February 2014, National conceded to Rio Tinto’s demands that it’s electricity subsidies be increased. A further ‘sweetener’ of $30 million of taxpayer’s money was paid over to the smelting multi-national;

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As Key said at the time;

“If Tiwai Point had closed straight away then hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of jobs would have disappeared and the Greens would have said the Government doesn’t care about those workers and is turning their back on them so they really can’t have it both ways.”

This was echoed by Finance Minister, Bill English;

“The $30m was a ‘one-off incentive payment’ to help secure agreement on the revised contract because of the importance of the smelter to the stability of the New Zealand electricity market.”

So the jobs of eight hundred jobs in Southland were not ransomed by Rio Tinto to gain $30 million plus cheaper electricity rates?

John Key says his government will not pay ransom to extortionists?

His track record proves otherwise.

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References

Fairfax media:  John Key – NZ won’t pay ransom for Kiwi kidnapped by gunmen in Nigeria

Hitfix:   ‘Hobbit’ Crisis – Peter Jackson warns film could leave New Zealand

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

Fairfax media:  Govt pays $30 million to Tiwai Pt

Previous related blogposts

The real reason for the GCSB Bill

Muppets, Hobbits, and Scab ‘Unions’

And the Oscar for Union-Smashing and Manipulating Public Opinion goes to…

Peter Jackson’s “Precious”

The Mendacities of Mr Key #9: The Sky’s the limit with taxpayer subsidies!

The cupboard is bare, says Dear Leader

Government Minister sees history repeat – responsible for death

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 16: No one deserves a free tertiary education (except my mates and me)

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

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KickingThe HobbitRGB

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on day month year.

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The consequences of tax-cuts – worker exploitation?

31 October 2015 10 comments

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wage-gap-real-estate-gender-inequality

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Fun Fact #1

Since 1986, there have been no less than seven tax cuts in New Zealand;

1 October 1986 – Labour

1 October 1988 – Labour

1 July 1996 – National

1 July 1998 – National

1 October 2008 – Labour

1 April 2009 – National

1 October 2010 – National

Fun Fact #2

John Key says he supports New Zealanders paid higher wages. In fact, he stated  that desire in 2007, and repeated it in  2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012;

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We think Kiwis deserve higher wages and lower taxes during their working lives, as well as a good retirement.” – John Key, 27 May 2007

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We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.” – John Key, 29 January 2008

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We want to make New Zealand an attractive place for our children and grandchildren to live – including those who are currently living in Australia, the UK, or elsewhere. To stem that flow so we must ensure Kiwis can receive competitive after-tax wages in New Zealand.”   – John Key, 6 September 2008

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I don’t want our talented young people leaving permanently for Australia, the US, Europe, or Asia, because they feel they have to go overseas to better themselves.” – John Key, 15 July 2009

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Science and innovation are important. They’re one of the keys to growing our economy, raising wages, and providing the world-class public services that Kiwi families need.” – John Key, 12 March 2010

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We will also continue our work to increase the incomes New Zealanders earn. That is a fundamental objective of our plan to build a stronger economy.” – John Key, 8 February 2011

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The driving goal of my Government is to build a more competitive and internationally-focused economy with less debt, more  jobs and higher incomes.” – John Key, 21 December 2011

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We want to increase the level of earnings and the level of incomes of the average New Zealander and we think we have a quality product with which we can do that.” –  John Key, 19 April 2012

Mr Key has not repeated those statements since April 2012.

Fun Fact #3

The gender pay gap in New Zealand has worsened, from 9.9% last year to 11.8% this year;

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Source

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Timeline

2012

Kristine Bartlett and the Service and Food Workers Union lodge a claim with the Employment Relations Authority, alleging Ms Bartlett’s employer Terranova Homes and Care Ltd was in breach of the Equal Pay Act 1972.

November 2012

Ms Bartlett’s case referred to the Employment Court as it raises an important question of law.

June 2013

A preliminary Employment Court hearing held on questions of law.

23 August 2013

Landmark ruling on equal pay welcomed

Unions are hailing an Employment Court decision which allows a female rest home caregiver to argue she is underpaid because she is in a female-dominated industry.

Hutt Valley woman Kristine Bartlett is arguing her employer Terranova Homes is violating equal pay for equal work legislation, saying she would get more money if she was not working in an industry dominated by female staff.

The Employment Court held a preliminary hearing after Terranova Homes argued the court could only compare staff within its own workplace and not look at other workplaces.

The three court judges say the legislation makes specific provision for work predominantly performed by women.

The law says pay rates must be the same as male employees with the same, or substantially similar, skills, responsibility and service performing the work under substantially similar conditions and with substantially similar effort.

The judges said there was no way gender discrimination in pay could be removed if they could not compare pay rates more widely.

January 2014

Terranova appealed this ruling to the Court of Appeal.

February 2014

A decision on a landmark pay equality case has been reserved by the Court of Appeal.

The Employment Court last year found in favour of Lower Hutt caregiver Kristine Bartlett, who argued her $14.32 hourly pay rate was a result of gender discrimination under the Equal Pay Act.

The ruling – which paves the way for pay equality in the female-dominated aged care sector – has been challenged in the Court of Appeal by Ms Bartlett’s employer, Terranova Homes. The two-day hearing finished yesterday with the decision by Justices Mark O’Regan, Lynton Stevens and Christine French reserved.

October 2014

The Court of Appeal has supported an Employment Court decision which ruled that a Lower Hutt rest home worker should receive pay parity with other equivalent sectors.

Kristine Bartlett won her landmark Employment Court case last year – arguing that being paid less than 15 dollars per hour, despite working in rest homes for over 20 years, was discriminatory. Her employer, Terranova Homes and Care, took the issue to the Court of Appeal. But the Appeal Court has dismissed the appeal, saying the language and purpose of the Equal Pay Act back up the decision by the Employment Court.

November 2014

Today the New Zealand Aged Care Association will appeal to the Supreme Court on behalf of TerraNova Homes and Care Limited in their case with the Service and Food Workers’ Union and Kristine Bartlett.

“This case has vast implications for all New Zealanders and we felt compelled to have the highest court in the land settle the questions around the Equal Pay Act 1972 once and for all,” said Martin Taylor, CEO of the NZACA.

“In handing down its recent judgement, the Court of Appeal said the decision was finely balanced with strong arguments favouring both sides. We believe the issue must be seriously looked at and tested again.

22 December 2014

Supreme Court denies Terranova leave to appeal in landmark pay equity case

The Supreme Court has denied aged care provider Terranova Homes and Care, at the centre of a landmark court case paving the way for gender pay equity, leave to appeal the ruling.In October the Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal by Terranova Homes against an earlier Employment Court ruling backing Lower Hutt rest home worker Kristine Bartlett’s claim that women care workers’ low pay was discriminatory. She took a case against her employer, arguing her $14.32 an hour pay rate was a result of gender discrimination under the Equal Pay Act.

The Service and Food Workers Union also made a claim on behalf of 15 other caregivers employed by the company, asking for a statement of the general principles to be observed for implementing equal pay.

In a Supreme Court decision out this afternoon, the judges said it considered the company’s appeal premature.

20 October 2015

Equal pay on the way for women?

The government has set up a taskforce to look into pay equity issues, which could lead to a change to the current law.

Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Michael Woodhouse said unions and employers had agreed to a working group to establish principles for dealing with pay equity claims.

It had been prompted by a recent Court of Appeal decision on pay rates in the aged care sector, which found women in predominantly female workforces were paid less.

Early 2016

Case scheduled to go before the Employment Court  to early 2016 (dates to be determined). 

(Acknowledgement: Much of the above Time-line, with  exceptions, is re-published from the New Zealand Aged Care Association.)

 

The Case: exploited labour

The case of Kristine Bartlett  is a relatively simple one. For twentytwo years working-experience in rest-home facilities she earned just barely above minimum wage. Since the 1990s, her wages have risen by $5.

Ms Bartlett’s profession is predominantly female, and like many female-dominated professions, it is paid less than male-equivalent jobs.

As Fairfax media Christie Hall wrote  on 19 January;

On  23 August 2013,  the Employment Court ruled that Ms Bartlett’s was in fact underpaid because she worked  in a female-dominated industry. (The document is well-worth reading and provides sound, rational, and carefully-constructed argument for advancing equal pay for women.)

Subsequent Court decisions have upheld the Employment Court (see Timeline above).

The NZ Aged Care Association (NZACA) has expended large sums of money on legal action to thwart  the cost of raising wages for aged-care workers. NZACA fears the increased cost of a ballooning wages-bill impacting on it’s members, which has traditionally relied on low-paid labour to operate.

In October 2014, in a press release published on nzdoctor.co.nz, NZACA stated;

Unfortunately the Government subsidy for aged care is not enough for providers to make a profit. Over the last decade, 200 aged care facilities have closed primarily for financial reasons. The majority of these facilities relied on the government’s subsidy for their revenue.

[…]

The existing aged care sector cannot afford to increase all aged care worker’s wages at an estimated cost of $120 – $140 million alone – the sector will need increased Government subsidies to prevent further closures of our aged care facilities.

In an undated statement on NZACA’s website, the Association states;

The Government contract undervalues the worth of caregivers working in the private aged care sector. A caregiver working in a District Health Board geriatric hospital receives on average $17.50 an hour compared with an average hourly rate of $15.30 in our sector.

NZCA has been lobbying Government for many years to put more money into this sector which cares for New Zealand’s most vulnerable citizens.

And in November 2014, NZACA’s CEO, Martin Taylor, stated;

“Another reason why we need to appeal is that there are hundreds of rest homes operated by individuals and community trusts from Kaitaia to Bluff who have told us they would close if wages went up significantly and funding stayed the same.

When you understand this reality we have no option but to appeal, despite everyone agreeing caregivers are worth more.”

On 23 December last year Service and Food Workers Union National secretary, John Ryall, said it was about time the Government  took responsibility to achieve gender pay equity;

“The Government is the sector funder and it is really up to it to decide whether it wants a resolution to the long standing pay equity issue,” he said.

Encouraging National to act will be no easy task to achieve.

Bronwen Beechey, writing for Fightback! on 17 April 2015, pointed out National’s apalling track record when it came to implementing equal pay legislation;

The Employment Equity Act was passed in 1990, but repealed within months after the National Party came to government.

In 2009, the current National government abolished the Pay and Employment Equity plan of Action and the Pay and Employment Equity Unit that had been set up in the Department of Labour in 2004.

A cynic would suggest that low wages assist National to reduce the amount it has to pay to subsidise aged-care workers. It is providing a service ‘on-the-cheap’, in a way similar to  fast-food chains employing staff at minimum wage, to produce  high-carb, fat-laden, ‘fast food’.

In fact, it would not be the first time that National has been exposed as supporting low wages – despite Key’s pious utterances otherwise.

Three and a half years ago, on  10 April 2011, on TVNZ’s Q+A, English made his now-infamous comments justifying a low-wage economy;

“Well, it’s a way of competing, isn’t it? I mean, if we want to grow this economy, we need the capital – more capital per worker – and we’re competing for people as well…

… we need to get on with competing with Australia. So if you take an area like tourism, we are competing with Australia. We’re trying to get Australians here instead of spending their tourist dollar in Australia.”

Three years later, on 30 July 2014, John Key appeared to ‘forget’ his earlier pronouncements on increasing wages when he responded to a question in Parliament from David Cunliffe;

Hon David Cunliffe: Will the Prime Minister support the pay increase for the quarter of a million workers who would directly benefit from Labour’s minimum wage changes, which will provide a significant boost to the economy through boosting workers’ spending power?

Rt Hon John Key: In a word, no. The reason for that is I am not so irresponsible that I would say to 6,000 New Zealanders that they are losing their jobs because the Labour Party is polling at 25 percent—

No wonder E Tu  union spokesperson, Alistair Duncan, was wary of how National would respond to the Court rulings, as he said on 21 October;

“This is a well-timed and very smart move – if we can deliver genuine equal pay, it will be a very good thing.  But it’s not certain and we now need to work very hard to make sure we get equal pay for equal value.”

Meanwhile, as aged-care workers (and low-paid women workers in other industries) have had their case validated by the Courts, employers are not so happy. A new ‘bogey-man’ was erected by the Employers and Manufacturers Association CEO;

Employers and Manufacturers Association chief executive Kim Campbell said the task force would need to establish clear terms of reference, because comparing the relative value of different jobs was complex.

He said any decision to boost pay rates in some industries would come with a cost.

“The government has the greatest interest in this because they’re paying for most of the aged care and hospital workers and they must be concerned that if you increase their salaries, people’s taxes may go through the roof.”

This argument that, by increasing wages, people’s taxes “may go through the roof” is not just over-the-top scare-mongering – but is instructive of the mentality of individuals like Kim Campbell.

The argument that Campbell is putting forward is that taxpayers are entitled to cheap labour.

Is this the inevitable consequence after seven tax cuts, spanning twentynine years?

Because if reduced tax revenue has resulted in central government being unable to pay fair wages for workers (whether as state sector employees or subsidised workers in the private sector), then we have created a rod for our own backs.

Regardless whether sufficient tax revenue exists or not, Campbell’s suggestion that taxpayers are somehow justified in expecting an exploited workforce is odious. It is attempting to re-create a quasi-modern-day slave work-force.

The Employment Court addressed this very issue in it’s 22 August 2013 Judgment:

History is redolent with examples of strongly voiced concerns about the
implementation of anti-discrimination initiatives on the basis that they will spell
financial and social ruin, but which prove to be misplaced or have been acceptable as
the short term price of the longer term social good. The abolition of slavery is an old
example, and the prohibition on discrimination in employment based on sex is both a
recent and particularly apposite example. [pg 32]

If successive governments were foolish in cutting taxes (usually as election bribes) to such a level that the State can no longer afford to pay for services New Zealanders expect as of right, then the solution is crystal clear: raise taxes.

Or go without.

I doubt many National-voting New Zealanders will happily contemplate a future in their dotage without a workforce of aged-care staff who are remunerated sufficiently to wipe the spittle from their wrinkled chins; change their faeces-and-urine-soaked underwear; and all the other myriad tasks associated with necessary good care.

Just how much do New Zealanders want aged-care in their twilight years?

If we do, we should be prepared to pay for it.

National Prompted to act

The successful court cases supporting Kristin Bartlett’,  equal-pay case has prompted National to finally move on the problem;

The government has set up a taskforce to look into pay equity issues, which could lead to a change to the current law.

Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Michael Woodhouse said unions and employers had agreed to a working group to establish principles for dealing with pay equity claims.

It had been prompted by a recent Court of Appeal decision on pay rates in the aged care sector, which found women in predominantly female workforces were paid less.

Mr Woodhouse said there were other cases before the courts.

“We believe the most efficient way to deal with that, and to step back and take a look at what the principles for pay equity might look like is to get this working group together, and I’m very pleased we’ve been able to do that.”

Unions had agreed to put legal action on hold until March 2016 to allow the working group to proceed, he said.

This problem could never be resolved without government involvement. By subsidising aged-care workers, it is in effect, a secondary employer, and therefore has responsibilities to make good an untenable and unfair situation.

Otherwise, if National cannot resolve this decades long problem, more radical and direct solutions need to be considered.

Possible solutions

  1. Where aged-care facilities are non-profit, increase subsidies paid directly to workers or change their employment status to State employees, with similar pay rates, benefits, and protections.
  2. Where an aged-care company, are profit-making ventures that return a dividend to shareholders, such Oceania (45 facilities), Ryman (25 facilities), and Radius (19 facilities), they should be made by law to increase the wages of their staff first and foremost.
  3. Nationalise the aged-care industry. Looking after the elderly should not be an “industry” where the profit motive (in many instances) is the guiding principle. This should be no more acceptable than having primary schools or hospices run as businesses.

If private enterprise cannot pay it’s workers a fair wage, as well as operate effectively, then the State has a responsibility to intervene and assume a more direct role.

Neo-liberal activists and fellow-travellers may balk at such a suggestion, but they should consider one important factor they may have forgotten: we all grow old eventually. Including free-marketeers.

Appendix1

Legislation.

Equal Pay Act 1972

Court may state principles for implementation of equal pay
  • The court shall have power from time to time, of its own motion or on the application of any organisation of employers or employees, to state, for the guidance of parties in negotiations, the general principles to be observed for the implementation of equal pay in accordance with the provisions of sections 3 to 8.

Appendix2

Employment Court.

[108]

Reference was also made to the likely high costs of adopting a broader
approach, if it leads to a significant wage increase for the plaintiff members.
The Aged Care Association made the point that it receives funding from the Government,
via the Ministry of Health, on a per bed basis and that it would not be able to absorb
any increase. Although the Ministry was invited to appear as intervener it apparently
declined to do so. Accordingly, we did not have the benefit of hearing from it. In
any event, it is apparent that the Government of the day, in promoting the Bill, was
aware of the potential financial implications of the legislation. The Minister
of Labour made the point that female industries would feel the greatest impact in terms
of cost, a point later echoed by the Hon E S F Holland. [pg 31]

[109]

Further, and more fundamentally, the expressed concerns relating to cost
overlook one important point, namely the unquantifiable cost (including societal
cost) of adopting an approach which may have the effect of perpetuating
discrimination against a significant and vulnerable group in the community simply
because they are women, doing what has been described as undervalued women’s work. [pg 32]

[110]

History is redolent with examples of strongly voiced concerns about the
implementation of anti-discrimination initiatives on the basis that they will spell
financial and social ruin, but which prove to be misplaced or have been acceptable as
the short term price of the longer term social good. The abolition of slavery is an old
example, and the prohibition on discrimination in employment based on sex is both a
recent and particularly apposite example. [pg 32]

Employment Court – Judgment: 22 August 2013

Appendix3

Employment Court.

Never let it be said that the Employment Court is bereft of a sense of humour, as this comment suggests;

[31]
The purpose of the Equal Pay Act is plain, and is reflected in its long title. [p 9]

Appendix4

On 2 April, Aged Care Association’s CEO, Martin Taylor, left his role at NZACA and assumed a new position  as Labour leader, Andrew Little’s,  director of research and policy. The nzdoctor.co.nz press release refers to Taylor’s role in the Kristin Bartlett equal-pay case.

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References

Ministry for Women: Gender pay gap

Radio NZ: Caregivers back equal pay campaign

New Zealand Aged Care Association: Equal Pay Case

TV3 News: Landmark ruling on equal pay welcomed

NZ Herald: Landmark pay equality case decision reserved

Scoop media: Court dismisses appeal by Hutt rest home, supports decision on equal pay

Scoop media: TerraNova Case Appealed To Supreme Court

Scoop media: Supreme Court denies Terranova leave to appeal in pay case

Radio NZ: Equal pay on the way for women?

Radio NZ: Landmark ruling for women

Fairfax media: Where next for equal pay

Nzdoctor.co.nz: Understanding caregiver wages in aged residential care

Fightback!: Fight for Equal Pay continues

TVNZ Q+A: Guyon Espiner interviws Bill English (April 2011)

Parliament: Hansards – Wage Rates – Growth, Inequality, and Minimum Wage

Legislation: Equal Pay Act 1972

Employment Court: Judgment: 22 August 2013

Nzdoctor.co.nz: Andrew Little headhunts Aged Care boss Martin Taylor

Additional

NBR:  National bows to minimum wage myths – ACT

NZ Herald: Battle to close the pay gap

Previous related blogposts

“It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash”

Roads, grandma, and John Key

John Key’s track record on raising wages – 4. Rest Home Workers

Aged Care: The Price of Compassion

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 26 October 2015.

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The Mendacities of Mr Key #9: The Sky’s the limit with taxpayer subsidies!

20 February 2015 3 comments

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We all know the story by now; how Key admitted to discussing a convention-centre deal over  dinner with Skycity executives on 4 November 2009,

“I attended a dinner with the Sky City board 4 November 2009 where we discussed a possible national convention centre and they raised issues relating to the Gambling Act 2003”.

The lack of transparency in the deal-making process was subsequently criticised by the Auditor-General in February 2013. Toby Manhire from The Listener listed ten quotes outlining the AG’s dissatisfaction with Key and his officials’  behaviour;

1. “We found a range of deficiencies in the advice provided and steps taken leading up to [the] decision.”

2. “Although decisions were made on the merits of the different proposals, we do not consider that the evaluation process was transparent or even handed.”

3. “By the time it was expected that SkyCity would put a firm proposal to the Government for support, officials should have been working to understand and advise on the procedural obligations and principles that would need to govern the next steps. We found no evidence that officials were doing so at this stage.”

4. “The meetings and discussion between the Government representatives and SkyCity were materially different in quantity and kind from those between the Government and the other parties that responded.”

5. “SkyCity was treated very differently from the other parties that responded and the evaluation process effectively moved into a different phase with one party. In our view, the steps that were taken were not consistent with good practice principles of transparency and fairness.”

6. “Overall, we regard the EOI [expressions of interest] process in stage two as having been poorly planned and executed. Insufficient attention was given to planning and management of the process as a whole, so that risks were not adequately addressed and managed.”

7. “We did not see any evidence of formal discussions or decisions on the evaluation process and criteria, or mapping out of the basic options for what might happen next, or advice to Ministers on how the process would be managed and their involvement in it. We do not regard this as adequate for a project of this potential scale, complexity, and risk.”

8. “We have concluded that the preparation for the EOI process and the EOI document, fell short of good practice in a number of respects.”

9. “In our view, the result was that one potential submitter had a clearer understanding of the actual position on a critical issue – that the Government did not want to fund any capital costs – than any other potential submitters … We accept that it is unlikely that this flaw made a material difference to the outcome. However, we have spent some time discussing it because we regard it as symptomatic of the lack of attention to procedural risks, and therefore to the fairness and credibility of the process.”

10. “We are unable to comment on the value of any contribution the Government might make as part of any eventual agreement with SkyCity, because negotiations have not yet been concluded.”

Key’s response, in Parliament was an outright denial;

“Absolutely, and the reason for that, as the member will be aware, is that the Auditor-General’s report was divided into three parts. The first part of it was focused on my involvement, and I was totally and utterly cleared and vindicated in that. That was my only involvement.”

The Auditor General, Phillipa Smith, was less than impressed by Key’s attempts at mis-representing her Office’s report as a ‘vindication’;

”That fact that [the report] took 50 or 60 pages suggests that nothing was entirely clear cut. We have said that we found problems with the process that was adopted and so I think the report speaks for itself.”

Right-wing NZ Herald columnist and National sympathiser, John Armstrong, was trenchant in his condemnation of Key’s comments. On 20 February, 2013, he wrote;

Verging on banana republic kind of stuff without the bananas – that is the only conclusion to draw from the deeply disturbing report into the shonkiness surrounding the Government’s selection of SkyCity as the preferred builder and operator of a national convention centre.

The Prime Minister’s attempt to downplay Deputy Auditor-General Phillippa Smith’s findings in advance of their release yesterday by saying he had not lost any sleep from reading draft copies may turn out to be a costly political miscalculation.

John Key may have escaped personal blame for the serious flaws in the old Ministry of Economic Development’s handling of the convention centre project but the report is far worse than he had been leading people to believe.

He is taking refuge in the report’s assurances that no evidence could be found to suggest “inappropriate considerations”, such as connections between political and business leaders, were behind the final decision for the Government to negotiate with SkyCity as the preferred bidder.

In other words, no corruption. Or at least none that could be found.

Right-wing commentator, Matthew Hooton, was more scathing and pulled no punches;

The procurement process for the Auckland centre was a farce and as close to corruption as we ever see in New Zealand.

As reported by the Deputy Auditor-General, Mr Eagleson – whose best friend and Las Vegas gambling buddy is Mark Unsworth, SkyCity’s Wellington lobbyist – had been conducting private talks with SkyCity through 2009 and early 2010, including about what regulatory relief SkyCity wanted.

Mr Eagleson argued a procurement process was unnecessary and that the government should just go with SkyCity on the grounds no one else could realistically compete.

(Hat-tip: No Right Turn.)

Read Hooton’s full column. It is far more critical and insightful than any left-wing commentator (including myself) has been on this issue.

Even before the AG’s investigation and damning report, Key’s figures of extra jobs resulting from the proposed convention centre were in doubt.

On 3 April 2012, Key stated in Parliament;

“I might add, when we were out announcing that we were doing a deal with Len Brown in Auckland, he was quite a little lamb chops before the election, because Len Brown knew as well that it will create 1,000 jobs in its construction, 900 jobs ongoing, hundreds of thousands of visitor nights for a convention centre, and tourists who will be spending twice as much in New Zealand.”

By June, Key’s claims for “1,000 jobs in its construction, 900 jobs ongoing” were questioned by hospitality and travel specialist analyst, Horwath Ltd. Horwath director, Stephen Hamilton, was blunt;

Horwath director Stephen Hamilton said he was concerned over reports the convention centre would employ 800 staff – a fulltime-equivalent total of 500.

He said the feasibility study put the number of people who would be hired at between 318 and 479.

“That’s not the number of employees at the convention centre. That’s the number in the whole economy. Some will be at the convention centre, some will be in the hotels and some will be additional taxi drivers.”

[…]

He also questioned the construction job figures, saying: “I’m not quite sure what the source of that 1000 was.”

The original Horwath report said 150 jobs could be created over a five-year construction period for a total of 750.

But the most well-known promise from Key was that the convention centre would not cost tax-payers a cent. In May 2013, Key justified his deal-making with SkyCity by stating;

“The construction of the new convention centre will not cost taxpayers or ratepayers a cent, with SkyCity meeting the full project costs in return for some concessions from the Government.”

Nearly two years later, inflation appears to have  turned “not a cent” into an estimated “$70m to $130m shortfall”, with SkyCity hustling National for a tax-payer bail-out.

On 10 February, Key appeared to have caved to SkyCity pressure to pay a massive taxpayer-funded subsidy to the casino operator;

“I’m keen to see the best convention centre I can for Auckland, because this is a very long-term asset, so I would hate to see some sort of eyesore constructed down town.

There are issues around the construction of it. Obviously you can spend more and get something that looks a lot better, or spend a bit less and get something that looks worse.

In a nutshell, the Government has an agreement with them [SkyCity]. It could make them meet that agreement but the escalation in prices to build the convention centre, which is bigger than was proposed and flasher than was proposed, means there is a hole.

So there are a couple of options. Option one would be to say to Sky City, ‘Build the convention centre exactly at the price that we all agreed, on the conditions of the deal that we agreed’, but it would be smaller I think than we had hoped and less attractive.

Or the second option is to see if there’s any way of filling that hole and to identify how big that hole is, and that’s the process we’re going through.”

By the following day, as a public and media furore exploded in Key’s face, and even his own Finance Minister was cool on the proposed bail-out,  he was forced to do a sudden 180-degree u-turn;

“We agreed a deal at $402 million…our strong preference is that the SkyCity convention centre is built and paid for by SkyCity.”

It seems that the public and media have become weary of Key’s continual back-tracking; broken promises; and often outright lies.

This was not the first time that Key had promised the public one thing – and then delivered something else. In October 2010, as an industrial dispute erupted between SPADA and Actor’s Equity, there were threats that Peter Jackson’s “Hobbit”  movie project would be moved off-shore (an empty threat as Jackson later revealed).

On 26 October, Key was telling the public that his government would not be paying extra incentives to Warner Bros and that there would be no “bidding war” with other countries to provide greater incentives to the U.S. movie industry;

“If we could make the deal sweeter for them that would help; that’s something we would consider… but we can’t bridge the gap that is potentially on offer from other locations around the world. We’re not prepared to do that and… I don’t think the New Zealand taxpayer would want us to do that.”

When asked about any possible taxpayer subsidies, to match other countries incentives, he added;

“It’s not in the tens of millions, put it that way. There’s a lot of noughts.”

Key was  adamant; Warner Bros would not screw another cent out of the New Zealand tax-payer. There were already generous tax breaks in place. So said Dear Leader at 11.45am, on the morning of 27 October;

“They’ve got movies to make and in the end, money talks in Hollywood. That’s just the way it works. We can’t stop other countries around the world putting up much better and more financially-lucrative deals. If it’s just simply a matter of dollars and cents, I’m just not going to write out cheques that New Zealand can’t afford.”

By 7.38pm – barely eight hours later – Key had pulled out the taxpayer chequebook,

Tax rebates will also be changed for Warner Bros, which will mean up to an extra $NZ20.4 million per movie for Warner Bros, subject to the success of the movies…

… The Government will offset $NZ13.6 million of Warner Bros’ marketing costs as part of the strategic partnership.”

As Key lamely explained,

 “It was commercial reality. We did the business.”

The subsidy that was supposedly “ not in the tens of millionsbecame a $34 million tax-payer funded gift to Warner Bros  – on top of a 15% tax-break given to the movie industry – a tax-break not available to any other industry in this country.

Key had caved to the movie moguls from Hollywood, and the tax-payer would foot the bill.

Three years later, the next corporation to hold a “gun” to Key’s head and extort millions in tax-dollars was Rio Tinto.

As State Owned powerco’s were being partially privatised, the multi-national corporation demanded their electricity-supply contract be “re-negotiated” and tax-payer “assistance” to keep the smelter at Tiwai Point  afloat during low aluminium prices – or else the facility would be closed. The threat was the loss of 800 jobs (some claimed indirect jobs up to 3,000) and economic activity that was claimed to be 10% of Southland’s GDP.

With the possible closure of the smelter – which uses 15% of the country’s electricity – the price of power would collapse, making shares in Meridian, Genesis, and Mighty River Power worth only a fraction of their float price.

Key bravely asserted  on 3 April 2013  that government and the New Zealand tax-payer would not  be “held hostage” to Rio Tinto’s threats of closure;

“It’s quite possible that that power could be used either by new ventures that come to New Zealand or, alternatively, it would allow some less productive assets to be closed down or it would allow New Zealand not to build as much generation as might be required.”

Five months later, on 8 August 2013, Key had surrendered to Rio Tinto’s demands and as well as a deal for increased  electricity subsidies, National handed over a cheque for $30 million to the corporation.

Key justified the tax-payer bail-out and increased subsidies by pointing to saving jobs;

“If Tiwai Point had closed straight away then hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of jobs would have disappeared and the Greens would have said the Government doesn’t care about those workers and is turning their back on them so they really can’t have it both ways.”

However, the loss of thousands of jobs from the economy seems not to have taxed Key’s concerns when it came to thousands of State sector workers being made redundant;

.

State-sector job cuts 'will make life tough'

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By February the following year, Rio Tinto  posted a US$3.7 billion profit, and issued a 15% increase in dividends to it’s shareholders. Part of the dividends pocketed by shareholders was no doubt made up of $30 million gifted  from the pockets of hard working New Zealand tax-payers.

Soon after the tax-payer funded bail-out of Rio Tinto, Green Party MP, Gareth Hughes made this remarkably prescient comment;

“Treasury told National right from the start ‘don’t give them any money’ – it just means every corporation will have its hand out for public money whenever they have any leverage over the Government.

[…]

Is that how you want your government to govern? Do you want your government playing fast and loose with public money; using your cash as a bargaining chip to cut deals over the phone with multi-nationals every time it finds itself backed into a corner?”

I can answer Gareth’s question: the next corporation with it’s hand out is SkyCity.

John Key plays fast and loose  with tax-payers’ money – not to save jobs – but to present an appearance to the public that National is “saving” jobs. It is a matter of the public’s perception he is focused on.

If that involves handing out cheques to Warner Bros, Rio Tinto, and now possibly SkyCity – he will do it.

This is the party that prides itself on being a “sound, prudent, fiscal manager” of the government’s books. Except that New Zealand governments have not engaged in this kind of  tax-payer funded largesse since Supplementary Minimum Prices were paid to farmers in the 1960s and 1970s.

That, to, was initiated by the supposedly pro-free market National Party.

Which leads on to an interesting situation regarding this government; it’s lip-service to the “free market” and supposed hands-off by the State. Committed right wing National/ACT supporters should be asking themselves three very pertinent questions:

  1. Is it ok if future Labour governments intervene and gives subsidies to various businesses as National has done?
  2. Does on-going State intervention by this National government signal the end of the neo-liberal experiment?
  3. Has National’s intervention in the “marketplace” illustrated the failure of neo-liberalism?

One thing, though, should now be clear to all; Key will say one thing, and then renege and do completely the opposite if it suits him politically.

One would think that any self-respecting journo from the media (no, not you, Mike Hosking) these days would be asking Key a very simple question;

“Mr Prime Minister, you have issued statements in the past and then flip-flopped months down the track. Why should we take anything you say at face value value, when you have back-tracked so many times previously?”

Put another way;

“Mr Prime Minister, you’ve said what you intend to do. How long before you change your mind when it becomes convenient to do so? You do have ‘form’, you realise?”

Or, even more bluntly;

“Mr Prime Minister, how long will this decision last? Days? Weeks? Six months?

I’ll leave it to esteemed members of the Fourth Estate to frame their questions in a suitable manner.

Just don’t be expecting an honest answer.

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Opening of Masu at SkyCity Grand Hotel, L to R, Nigel Morrison, Julia Smith Bronagh Key and PM John Key, October 12th 2013

Opening of Masu at SkyCity Grand Hotel, L to R, SkyCity CEO Nigel Morrison, Julia Smith Bronagh Key and PM John Key, October 12th 2013

Image acknowledgement: “The A List

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Postscript 1

As I wrote on 6 February;

In terms of past events; past scandals; and past instances where the PM has been caught out – it is by no means the worst.

This time, however, matters have reached a critical flash-point. The media has awoken to a smell of a government on the defensive and where Dear Leader has pushed the envelope once too often. Journalists and media commentators are no longer as tolerant;  no longer awed; and no longer willing to be mollified by a popular prime minister.

The Shipley Factor has kicked in.

At this point, nothing that National does will counter the  same style of growing clamour of criticism it’s predecessor faced in the late ’90s.

Nothing that has happened since then has caused me to resile from my earlier expressed belief that Key’s current administration is terminal.

.

Postscript 2

‘Natwatch’ from The Standard wrote on 12 February;

“The focus group results are in and John Key is backing off from the Government injecting further money into the SkyCity convention centre.”

Which probably makes more sense than anything else this shabby government has done since 2008.

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References

NZ Herald:  SkyCity deal was PM’s own offer

Office of Auditor General: Skycity

NZ Listener: The SkyCity convention centre deal: 10 quotes from the Auditor-General report

Parliament Today: Questions and Answers – June 4 2013

Fairfax Media: Auditor-general backs Sky City report

NZ Herald: John Armstrong: Sky City report ‘deeply disturbing’

NBR: Close to corruption

Parliament: Prime Minister—Statements and Statements Made on His Behalf

NZ Herald:  Puzzle of Key’s extra casino jobs

Fairfax Media: Govt at odds over SkyCity convention centre

NZ Herald: John Key warns of SkyCity ‘eyesore’ if more money is not found

NZ Herald: John Key backtracks on taxpayer cash for SkyCity convention centre

NZ Herald: Sir Peter – Actors no threat to Hobbit

Fairfax Media: Key – No Hobbit bidding war

NZ Herald: PM – I’m not going to write cheques NZ can’t afford

NZ Herald: Hobbit to stay in NZ

NBR: Key on Hobbit deal: ‘It was commercial reality. We did the business.’

NBR: Key comes through: $34m deal sees Hobbit stay in NZ

TVNZ News: Relief in Southland over Tiwai Point deal

Radio NZ: Tiwai Point closing could have some advantages – PM

Otago Daily Times: PM defends Tiwai payout

Fairfax Media: State-sector job cuts ‘will make life tough’

RadioLive: Why John Key handed $30 million of your money to Rio Tinto

Te Ara:  Government and agriculture – Subsidies and changing markets, 1946–1983

Additional

Fairfax media: SkyCity’s ‘fair deal for all’ questioned (hat-tip Mike Smith, The Standard)

Previous related blogposts

Muppets, Hobbits, and Scab ‘Unions’

And the Oscar for Union-Smashing and Manipulating Public Opinion goes to…

Peter Jackson’s “Precious”…

National under attack – defaults to Deflection #2

Dear Leader caught telling porkies (again)?! (part rua)

Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How

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

The Maori Party, the I’m-Not-Racist-Pakeha Party, the Gambling-My-Money-Away Party, and John Key’s Party

ACC. Skycity. NZ Superannuation. What is the connection?

Skycity: National prostitutes New Zealand yet again

Witnessing the slow decay of a government past it’s Use-By date

The Mendacities of Mr Key #8: A roof over your head, and boots on the ground

Other blogs & blogposts

Imperator Fish: It’s about friends helping friends

Insight NZ: National splits in two over Sky City bailout

Liberation: NZ Politics Daily – 13 February 2015: SkyCity

Local Bodies: SkyCity’s Glorious Deal

No Right Turn: More money down the drain

No Right Turn: “Close to corruption”

Polity: Fleeced

Polity: Mo’ money

Polity: Small on “free” convention centre

Polity: I agree with DPF, Jordan Williams, and (mostly) with Matthew Hooton, too

Polity: Why all governments are bad at commercial deals

The Civilian: Disappointment as meteor misses Sky Tower

The Daily Blog: Key’s SkyCity Scam is a dirty deed done relatively expensively

The Daily Blog: Brenda McQuillan – A Problem Gamblers View of the Deal

The Dim Post: On Hooton on Sky City

The Dim Post: Win by not playing

The Standard: The SkyCity Deal

The Standard: Sky City’s playing us for suckers

The Standard: Key is in reverse gear about Sky City

.

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 15 February 2015.

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= fs =

From the mouth of Dear Leader…

11 April 2014 1 comment

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National Party leader

 

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Every so often, I dip into my files and use one of Dear Leader John Key’s quotes. They are highly useful to illustrate his flip-flops, broken promises, exaggerations, and fibbing, over the years.

They may prove equally useful to the reader. You never quite know when you feel the need to remind a faithful, loyal National Party sycophant that their Leader’s utterances can be quite revealing.

Ladies and Gentlemen, and the good folk on the LGBT spectrum, I present, from the National Party Politburo and Ministry of Truth,

.

the Thoughts of (Board) Chairman Key

.

 

 


 

re: ASSET SALES – WATER – MAORI

7 February 2012

“In my view no one owns the water. It’s like air, no one owns the air.”

http://tvnz.co.nz/politics-news/legal-threat-over-asset-sales-4713323

 


 

re: ASSET SALES – WATER – MAORI

9 July 2012

“We don’t believe anybody owns water. What we do accept is that people own water rights. We don’t think the sale of 49 per cent of Mighty River Power in any way impinges on those water rights.”

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10818360


 

re: ASSET SALES – LIES – EXAGGERATION

26 January 2011

“If we could do that with those five entities … if we can make some savings in terms of what were looking at in the budget and maybe a little on the upside you’re talking about somewhere in the order of $7 to $10 billion less borrowing that the Government could undertake.”

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/4582922/John-Key-reveals-plan-for-asset-sales


 

re: ASSET SALES – LIES – EXAGGERATION
2 January  2011

“I know the polling indicates people don’t necessarily like the concept, but do they like the concept of interest rates going up? Do they like the concept of the economy all of a sudden being controlled by bailout?”

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10702285

 


re: ASSET SALES – BUYING “NEW” ASSETS

19 July 2012

“Those points around companies operating more efficiently and effectively have been well made by the Government, as has the view that we’d like to see New Zealanders investing more in their country and the fact that we want to buy new assets without having to incur more debt. I think those points have been made.”

http://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/auckland/news/nbpol/730281858-key-defends-asset-sales-policy-promotion

 


 

re: ASSET SALES – MUMS & DADS FIRST IN QUEUE

6 March 2012

“That’s what we are working our way through at the moment. But the intention is for that retail distribution, that opportunity for mums and dads to buy, to be absolutely front of the queue. They’re my number one priority.”
“We’ve made it absolutely crystal clear what our intentions are..If it comes to mum and dad, and they want to buy 1000 shares or whatever…I want to make sure they get their allocation, they’re not scaled and they’re at the front of the queue.”

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/6530777/Key-No-referendum-on-asset-sales


 

re: ASSET SALES – INVESTMENTS – SHARE MARKETS

23 July 2012

“My view is that the debt element, which allows us to buy other assets without having to put more debt on the balance sheet, is a compelling argument in its own right. But it’s only ever been one of a small number of other factors – making the companies perform better, giving people places to invest, transparency.You’ve got all this money pouring into your KiwiSaver account but where do you invest it? There’s $12 billion there at the moment and it’s the same with mum and dad with their money in the bank.”

http://tvnz.co.nz/politics-news/push-soe-shares-worries-finance-experts-4979780


 

re: ASSET SALES – ON-SELLING SHARES TO FOREIGNERS

26 June 2012

“You can’t and wouldn’t want to stop them – but the question you have to ask yourself is why would they go and do that? The question comes down to, why would a foreigner find an investment in Mighty River Power to be far more attractive on the long run than a retail investor sitting in Karori? And there’s no logic that they would.”

http://www.3news.co.nz/Cant-stop-asset-shares-being-sold-overseas—John-Key/tabid/817/articleID/259174/Default.aspx#ixzz20Jj4nIKL


 

re: ASSET SALES – AIR NEW ZEALAND MODEL – SAME WITH OTHER SOES

26 June 2012

“They have Government control, but they also are on the market, they have continuous disclosure, they are at arm’s length from the Government, they make commercial decisions, they try and maximise their returns. The same can apply to Mighty River Power, Genesis, Meridian, Solid Energy.”

http://www.3news.co.nz/Cant-stop-asset-shares-being-sold-overseas—John-Key/tabid/817/articleID/259174/Default.aspx#ixzz20Jj4nIKL

 


 

re: ASSET SALES – WATER- MAORI – REJECT WAITANGI DECISION

July 10, 2012

“We could choose to ignore what findings they might have – I’m not saying we would, but we could.”

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10818534


 

re: ASSET SALES – $7-$10 BILLION

26 January 2011

“If we could do that with those five entities … if we can make some savings in terms of what were looking at in the budget and maybe a little on the upside you’re talking about somewhere in the order of $7 to $10 billion less borrowing that the Government could undertake.”

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/4582922/John-Key-reveals-plan-for-asset-sales


 

re: ASSET SALES – PROPERTY – FINANCE COMPANIES

22 July 2012

“But for a number of reasons, New Zealanders have tended to put their savings into property, term deposits and finance companies. We own relatively low levels of financial assets like shares, compared to people in other countries. “

http://www.stuff.co.nz/waikato-times/news/national-news/7325745/Kiwis-encouraged-to-take-up-SOE-shares

 


 

re: ASSET SALES – WATER- MAORI – REJECT WAITANGI DECISION

10 July 2012

“In the same way we don’t think anyone owns the sea and we don’t think anyone owns air.”

http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/politics/7254329/Harawira-criticises-Key-over-Maori-water-claim?

 


 

re: ASSET SALES – STOCK MARKET

23 July 2012

Key said one of his motivators for selling assets is growing the stock market in New Zealand, which is currently 25% of the country’s GDP, while in Australia it is 80% of its GDP.

“You’ve got all this money pouring into your KiwiSaver account but where do you invest it? There’s $12 billion there at the moment and it’s the same with mum and dad with their money in the bank.”

http://tvnz.co.nz/politics-news/push-soe-shares-worries-finance-experts-4979780

 


 

re: CHARTER SCHOOLS

3 August 2012

“If they don’t work then the Government will close them down very quickly – if they do work then it will be great for the children involved.”

 

http://www.odt.co.nz/news/politics/220109/pm-vows-charter-schools-out-door-if-they-fail


 

re: COMPANIES GONE OFFSHORE

1 July 2011

“Basically it’s about using innovation to drive our economy. We have some of these companies already – the likes of Fisher and Paykel*, Tait and Rakon*. Our world-leading dairy industry also owes much of its success to innovation.”

http://www.national.org.nz/Article.aspx?articleId=36398

Fisher & Paykel is now Chinese-owned, and Rakon shifted half  it’s manufacturing to China in 2011/12.

 


 

re: CRIME – TAKING CREDIT

3 July 2012

“The Government is committed to keeping New Zealanders safe – on our streets and in our communities. We’ve delivered the lowest crime rate in 30 years, but we want to continue to keep driving the crime rate down.” 

http://johnkey.co.nz/archives/1473-Prime-Minister-welcomes-first-action-plan.html

 


re: DEBT – LABOUR’S SURPLUS – ASSET SALES

4 March 2005

“Firstly let me start by saying that New Zealand does not face the balance sheet crisis of 1984, or even of the early 1990s. Far from having dangerously high debt levels, gross debt to GDP is around a modest 25 percent and net debt may well be zero by 2008.”
“In other words, there is no longer any balance sheet reason to justify an aggressive privatisation programme of the kind associated with the 1980s Labour Government.”

 

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0503/S00102.htm

 


 

re: DEBT – LABOUR’S SURPLUS

[undated]

“The level of public debt in New Zealand was $8 billion when National came into office in 2008. It’s now $53 billion, and it’s forecast to rise to $72 billion in 2016. Without selling minority shares in five companies, it would rise to $78 billion. Our total investment liabilities, which cover both public and private liabilities, are $150 billion – one of the worst in the world because of the high levels of private debt in New Zealand.”

 

http://www.national.org.nz/mixed-ownership.aspx


 

re: DEBT – LABOUR’S SURPLUS

 

9 December 2013

“If you go back to 2005, when the previous government were in office, they had a number, you know, a little bit less than ours, but not a lot less, there was a 180,000 children in poverty, I think this shows 240,000 on that measure.

Back then, New Zealand recorded the biggest surplus in New Zealand’s history…”

@ 2.45

http://tvnz.co.nz/breakfast-news/mind-gap-key-tackles-child-poverty-video-5766147


 

re: EDUCATION – FREE EDUCATION

29 January 2008

 

“Because we don’t think it’s fair that a 16- or 17-year-old can get a free education at their local high school, but is asked to front up with as much as $4,000 in fees for a work-skills course at their local polytechnic. ” 

http://www.national.org.nz/Article.aspx?ArticleId=11772


 

re: ENVIRONMENT – GLOBAL WARMING

28 November 2006

“When I left university, if anyone had heard of global warming they were keeping it to themselves. Now, no one with any awareness of the world can be ignorant of it. It is a mystery to me why the political Left acts as if it has a monopoly on environmental policies, when it is obvious to anyone who cares to look that all of us, across the political spectrum, with the exception perhaps of the Greens, have taken too long to put the protection of our environment at the forefront of our thinking. That needs to change. In the National Party we have taken steps to do this, and we will be taking more steps.”

http://www.national.org.nz/Article.aspx?ArticleID=8778

 

 


 

re: ENVIRONMENT – GLOBAL WARMING

6 September 2008

“What global Leaders know, and what the National Party knows, is that environmentalism and a commitment to economic growth must go hand in hand. We should be wary of anyone who claims that one can or should come without the other.

And we should always measure a Government’s environmental rhetoric against its environmental record.” 

http://www.national.org.nz/Article.aspx?ArticleId=28477


re: EXCUSES FOR POOR ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE – GFC – RECESSION

16 September 2012

“The point here is we can’t magic away the European recession or the US recession or the issues the world faces. “

TVNZ Q+A
http://tvnz.co.nz/q-and-a-news/interview-prime-minister-john-key-5085886

 

 


 

re: EXCUSES FOR POOR ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE – GFC

11 September 2011

“We did inherit a pretty bad situation with the global financial crisis. We have had three terrible earthquakes in Christchurch. We have had the collapse of finance companies. We have had to bail out what is, in terms of the earthquakes, the single biggest economic impact on a developed economy as the result of a disaster. The public don’t agree with every decision… but I think they believe on balance it’s been a tough three years and we’ve handled most things well. The second thing is it’s all relative. Yes, our unemployment went to 7 per cent and now it’s 6.5, but in America it’s 9 per cent officially and 14 per cent unofficially and in Spain it’s 20 per cent… “

http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/5602953/View-from-the-top


re: EXCUSES FOR POOR ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE – GFC

17 November 2011

“While I think we have to acknowledge that the last three years have been pretty tough with the Global Financial Crisis, on a relative basisNew Zealand’s been doing a better than a lot of other countries.”

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/readers-reporter/5977596/Key-and-Goff-Q-A-Creating-jobs

 


 

re: FARM SALES

27 July 2010

“If we ended up in a position where New Zealanders are tenants in their own country, I can’t see how that would be in New Zealand’s best interests.”

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10661724

 

2 February 2012

“No where is that better illustrated than in the Crafar farm deal where the tenant will be a Government state-owned enterprise, Landcorp.”

http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/politics/6352464/Investors-should-not-have-to-live-here-Key-says

 


 

re: FAMILIES

28 November 2006

 

“As a husband and father, the things I value most in life are not anything you’ll see listed on the Stock Exchange. I think all New Zealanders would agree that the security, happiness and welfare of their family, which is also dependent on the security and welfare of their community and country, is the most precious thing to them.

http://www.national.org.nz/Article.aspx?ArticleID=8778

 


 

re: FAMILIES – JUDGING OTHER FAMILIES

28 November 2006

 

“I support families. In modern New Zealand they come in many shapes and sizes, so let me tell you that I for one will not pre-judge the construction of them. They are in my view the most important institution in our society, and any government I have the privilege of leading will do what it can to support them. “

http://www.national.org.nz/Article.aspx?ArticleID=8778

 


 

re: FINLAND – NZ INCOME DECLINE

1 July 2011

 

“Finland is another example of our relative decline. In 1979 our per capita income lines crossed – New Zealand going down and Finland going up. The Finns are now about 20 percent ahead of us.”

http://www.national.org.nz/Article.aspx?articleId=36398

 


 

re: GOVERNMENT – ELECTIONS – MMP

2 July 2013

“But it’s been a funny thing. Ever since we’ve had MMP in 1996 the public have had a way of finding the Government that they want.”

“If National was to go out there and poll 46% or 47% – very similar to the result in 2011 – and not form the Government I think there would be outrage in NZ.”

 

http://tvnz.co.nz/politics-news/key-rethinks-options-form-next-govt-5484600


 

re: HEALTH – PRESCRIPTIONS

14 May 2012

“This is the first increase in any prescription charges in 20 years and New Zealand will continue to have low prescription charges compared to almost every other developed country. We could have chosen to leave prescription charges at $3 and had less money to spend on health or said to New Zealanders ‘look, we think you paying a small increase more will give you much more peace of mind.'”

http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/rise-in-prescription-charges-not-fair-labour-4887239

 


 

re: HOUSING BUBBLE

 

22 November 2008

“For well over a decade a glut of global credit created an illusion of almost limitless liquidity that in turn fuelled an unsustainable credit boom. This capital was mainly sourced from offshore.

The result of these seemingly unlimited foreign-capital flows was that New Zealanders were able to rely on cheap fixed-rate debt, which in turn drove house prices ever higher.

While the Reserve Bank worked hard to lean against these trends, the credit glut weighed against our Reserve Bank’s power to contain demand through monetary policy adjustments. “

http://www.johnkey.co.nz/index.php?/archives/580-Address-to-the-CEO-Summit,-APEC-Business-Advisory-Council-ABAC.html

 

 


 

re: INCOME INEQUALITY – LIE
2 August 2011

Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that “I think we all have to accept that there is a degree of inequality in New Zealand”; if so, has he read any recent reports on the growing gap between rich and poor in New Zealand?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, I do stand by that statement, and I have excellent news for the member: a very detailed scientific report on income equality actually went up on the Ministry of Social Development’s website at 2 o’clock today. It is titled Household Incomes in New Zealand. The report shows that the degree of income inequality in New Zealand, under standard measures like the Gini coefficient or the 80:20 ratio, has actually fallen in recent years. I go on to say that in fact the report shows that the distribution of income in New Zealand is more even now than it was at any time under the previous Labour Government. So I point out to the member that he is quite wrong to say the gap between the rich and the poor has been growing; in fact, it has been reducing. I urge the member to read the report.

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1108/S00041/questions-and-answers-august-2.htm


 

re: INTEREST RATE RISES

13 March 2014

“It’s true we are the only developed country in the world that’s currently raising interest rates, but that’s because we are growing at a faster rate than most other countries around the world and we’ve got a very robust outlook. So while I think there will be some disappointment and frustration from homeowners, on the other side of the coin they can take real confidence that the strong economy will underpin good job opportunities and probably wage growth over time.”

http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/money/9822918/Mortgage-pain-time-OCR-rises-to-2-75-per-cent

 


 

re: JOBS – INCOMES – WAGES – TAXES

27 May 2007

“We think Kiwis deserve higher wages and lower taxes during their working lives, as well as a good retirement.”

http://www.johnkey.co.nz/archives/135-SPEECH-National-Tough-on-Crime.html


 

re: JOBS – INCOMES – WAGES – MIGRATION

 

6 September 2008

“We want to make New Zealand an attractive place for our children and grandchildren to live – including those who are currently living in Australia, the UK, or elsewhere. To stem that flow so we must ensure Kiwis can receive competitive after-tax wages in New Zealand.”

 

http://www.national.org.nz/Article.aspx?ArticleId=28477


 

re: JOBS – INCOMES – WAGES

29 January 2008

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

http://www.johnkey.co.nz/archives/306-SPEECH-2008-A-Fresh-Start-for-New-Zealand.html


 

 

re: JOBS – INCOMES – WAGES

15 July 2009

I don’t want our talented young people leaving permanently for Australia, the US, Europe, or Asia, because they feel they have to go overseas to better themselves.”

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0907/S00173/speech-key-business-breakfast-150709.htm


 

 

re: JOBS – INCOMES – WAGES

12 March 2010

Science and innovation are important. They’re one of the keys to growing our economy, raising wages, and providing the world-class public services that Kiwi families need.”

http://www.johnkey.co.nz/archives/905-Boosting-Science-and-Innovation.html


 

re: JOBS – INCOMES – WAGES

21 December 2011

“The driving goal of my Government is to build a more competitive and internationally-focused economy with less debt, more jobs and higher incomes.” – John Key,

http://www.national.org.nz/Article.aspx?ArticleId=37752


re: JOBS – INCOMES – WAGES

8 February 2011

“We will also continue our work to increase the incomes New Zealanders earn. That is a fundamental objective of our plan to build a stronger economy.”

http://www.beehive.govt.nz/feature/statement-parliament-2011


 

re: JOBS – INCOMES – WAGES

19 April 2012

“We want to increase the level of earnings and the level of incomes of the average New Zealander and we think we have a quality product with which we can do that.”

http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/politics/6769026/Key-wants-a-high-wage-NZ?

 

 


 

re: JOBS – UNEMPLOYMENT – WANT A JOB

25 November 2012

“Because at a high level, my belief is every single New Zealander wants to work, wants to provide for their family, wants independence and wants the comfort that comes from the knowledge that you can pay the bills and look after your family in the way that you want to. That’s the ambition of New Zealanders. “

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1211/S00355/shane-taurima-interviews-john-key.htm


 

re: JOBS – UNEMPLOYMENT – WANT A JOB

17 November 2011

“We salute your willingness to want to go get a job, ‘cos we believe that’s what most New Zealanders want to do.”

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/readers-reporter/5977596/Key-and-Goff-Q-A-Creating-jobs


 

re: JOBS – UNEMPLOYMENT – GOVT’s RESPONSIBILITY

17 November 2011

“We agree with you, it’s the government’s responsibility to do everything within it’s powers to try to get people jobs.” – John Key,

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/readers-reporter/5977596/Key-and-Goff-Q-A-Creating-jobs


 

re: JOBS – 170,000 NEW JOBS

“National’s Brighter Future Plan will help businesses create 170,000 new jobs over the next four years.”

(election flyer)

http://www.national.org.nz/OOF/flyer.pdf


 

re: JOBS – AUSTRALIA – LABOUR

22 July 2012

“They say no to jobs that are coming from Australia and they even said no to those cute, furry, fluffy little hobbits. And the latest thing is they want the unions to help elect their leader – well good luck with that one”.

http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/political/111289/joyce-hits-out-at-labour-%27hypocrisy%27


 

re: JOBS – JOB CREATION BY BUSINESS

24 August 2012

“Nothing creates jobs and boosts incomes better than business growth. For New Zealand to build a more productive and competitive economy, we need more innovative companies out there selling their products on the world stage.”  

http://johnkey.co.nz/archives/1507-Key-Notes-Honouring-our-fallen-soldiers.html


 

re: JOBS – JOB CREATION BY BUSINESS – NOT ENOUGH JOBS

28 February 2012

“It’s true, ultimately if every one was to get off welfare we’d need to create even more jobs, but that’s the Government’s whole agenda is to have a vibrant economy that does produce jobs. I certainly accept there’s not a job for every single person, but I don’t accept there aren’t some jobs out there.” 

http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/politics/6489372/Welfare-changes-just-the-start

 


 

re: JOBS – LOST JOBS

8 February 2011

“Under the last Labour Government the economy got way out of balance. Since 2004, almost 60 per cent of new jobs have been in heavily government-dominated sectors, while jobs were lost in the export-focused agricultural and manufacturing sectors.”

http://www.beehive.govt.nz/feature/statement-parliament-2011


re: MIGRATION TO AUSTRALIA – POOR ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE

15 July 2009

“I don’t want our talented young people leaving permanently for Australia, the US, Europe, or Asia, because they feel they have to go overseas to better themselves. That’s why this Government is focused squarely on improving New Zealand’s economic performance. And to be frank, New Zealand’s economic performance over a number of years has been disappointing. “

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0907/S00173/speech-key-business-breakfast-150709.htm


 

re: MIGRATION TO AUSTRALIA – HIGHER WAGES

6 September 2008

“One of National’s key goals, should we lead the next Government, will be to stem the flow of New Zealanders choosing to live and work overseas. We want to make New Zealand an attractive place for our children and grandchildren to live – including those who are currently living in Australia, the UK, or elsewhere. To stem that flow so we must ensure Kiwis can receive competitive after-tax wages in New Zealand. We must cut taxes and grow our economy, and National will have policies to ensure both occur.” 

http://www.johnkey.co.nz/archives/454-SPEECH-Environment-Policy-Launch.html

 


 

re: MINIMUM WAGE

10 November 2011

“Look, I think it would be very difficult for anyone to do that.”

http://www.3news.co.nz/Raising-minimum-wage-wont-cost-jobs—Treasury/tabid/419/articleID/232338/Default.aspx


 

re: NATIONAL MPS

27 May 2007

“New Zealanders chose National MPs to replace them because National MPs can be trusted to listen and work hard for the causes their constituents care about.” 

http://www.johnkey.co.nz/archives/135-SPEECH-National-Tough-on-Crime.html


 

re: OUT ON PAROLE – COMMITTING CRIME

13 May 2007

“Karl Kuchenbecker – a good man, a father of two young boys – was tragically killed by a man on parole. A man who should have been locked up for life. A Government I lead will not put up with that. “

http://johnkey.co.nz/categories/9-Key-Notes/pages/connect/%20http/%20http/index.php?/archives/115-SPEECH-50-by-50-New-Zealands-Climate-Change-Target.html


 

re: POVERTY

9 December 2013

 

“If you go back to 2005, when the previous government were in office, they had a number, you know, a little bit less than ours, but not a lot less, there was a 180,000 children in poverty, I think this shows 240,000 on that measure.

Back then, New Zealand recorded the biggest surplus in New Zealand’s history…”

@ 2.45

http://tvnz.co.nz/breakfast-news/mind-gap-key-tackles-child-poverty-video-5766147


 

re: RESPONSIBILITY

27 May 2007

“The National Party is built on age-tested principles that reflect what is best about New Zealand. We are a party of enterprise; a party of personal freedom and individual responsibility; a party of family; an inclusive party; a party of ambition.”

 

http://www.johnkey.co.nz/archives/135-SPEECH-National-Tough-on-Crime.html


 

re: RESPONSIBILITY

30 January 2007

“We also need to remember the enduring principles on which the National Party is based – individual responsibility, support for families and communities, and a belief that the State can’t and shouldn’t do everything.”

http://www.national.org.nz/Article.aspx?articleId=9215


 

re: TAX CUTS – RAISING TAXES – GST – LIE

10 February 2010/2008

“National is not going to be raising GST. National wants to cut taxes not raise taxes.”

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/3311679/Key-no-GST-rise-video-emerges


 

re: TAX CUTS – LIE

19 November 2011

“We actually cancelled the first round of personal tax cuts in 2009/10,” he says. But Key is wrong. Despite calls from many commentators to cancel them, National passed its first round of tax cuts into law by December 2008, forgoing $1 billion a year in government revenue from April 2009, even though it was apparent tax revenue was about to take a dive in the wake the global recession. What National did do was defer its second round of tax cuts, worth $900 million a year, and instead rolled them into a 2010 tax package that included raising GST. Key cites the 2010 tax package, which raised GST to 15% while cutting personal tax rates, as another tough-minded decision…”

http://www.listener.co.nz/commentary/can-john-key-lead-us-through-the-global-debt-crisis/

 


 

re: TAX CUTS – COST OF 2009 TAX CUTS

1 April 2009

“…The tax cuts we have delivered today will inject an extra $1 billion into the economy over the coming year, thereby helping to stimulate the economy during this recession. More important, over the longer term these tax cuts will reward hard work and help to encourage people to invest in their own skills, in order to earn and keep more money.”

http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/PB/Business/QOA/d/d/a/49HansQ_20090401_00000001-1-Tax-Cuts-Implementation.htm

 


 

re: TAX CUTS JUSTIFICATION

1 April 2009

“… The reason why we are having tax cuts at this time is that if we look at most of the stimulatory packages in countries around the world and not just in New Zealand, we see they have a tax cut component as part of those packages, and that is an important stimulatory part of those economies. In my view, if we were not to do that, then we would drive our economy into a much deeper recession… “

http://theyworkforyou.co.nz/portfolios/prime_minister/2009/apr/01/tax_cuts_1

 

 


 

re: TAXPAYERS BAILING OUT CORPORATIONS

22 November 2008

“So now the party is over and the taxpayers of the world are left to underwrite – in one form or another – the liabilities and obligations of banks and, by extension, their hedge-fund clientele. “

http://www.johnkey.co.nz/index.php?/archives/580-Address-to-the-CEO-Summit,-APEC-Business-Advisory-Council-ABAC.html


 

re: THIRTY YEARS AGO – LIFE DIFFERENT THAN BACK THEN

30 January 2007

“However, things are different now than they were 30 years ago. It used to be that any street in any community could be the launching pad for a happy and fulfilling life. That’s not the case anymore. Today many are being left behind.

There are streets in our country where helplessness has become ingrained. There are streets of people who believe they are locked out of everyday New Zealand the way most of us experience it, and are locked into a way of life for which the exit signs and the road maps have long since been discarded. These streets have become dead ends for those who live in them.”

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10421543


re: THIS IS OUR COUNTRY

30 January 2007

“We are not four million spectators, having a passing interest in someone else’s game. This is our country; we make the rules and we should decide its direction.”

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10421543


 

re: TRANS PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP – AUSTRALIA

15 June 2012

“I would be very surprised. I think we’re all in or all out. An exclusion solely for Australia and not for everybody else is unlikely to be something we would support.”

TPP: Australia odd man out over disputes
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10813233

 


 

re: WELFARE STATE – JOHN KEY – BENEFICIARY BACKING

27 August 2011

“I’m a product of the welfare state – there hasn’t been any great secret about that.”

http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/politics/5516068/Socialist-streak-just-means-we-have-a-heart-says-Key

“My father died when I was young. My mother was, for a time, on the Widow’s Benefit, and also worked as a cleaner. But the State ensured that I had a roof over my head and money for my mother to put food on the table. It also gave me the opportunity to have a good education. My mother made sure I took that opportunity, and the rest was up to me.”

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10421543

30 January 2007

” I have said before that I believe in the welfare state and that I will never turn my back on it.

We should be proud to be a country that looks after its most vulnerable citizens. We should be proud to be a country that supports people when they can’t find work, are ill, or aren’t able to work. “

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10421543

28 November 2006

“You can measure a society by how it looks after its most vunerable, once I was one of them. I will never turn my back on that.” 

http://www.johnkey.co.nz/archives/44-Speech-to-North-Shore-National-Party-luncheon.html

 


 

re: WELFARE STATE – JOHN KEY – BENEFICIARY BASHING

17 February 2011

“But it is also true that anyone on a benefit actually has a lifestyle choice. If one budgets properly, one can pay one’s bills. And that is true because the bulk of New Zealanders on a benefit do actually pay for food, their rent and other things. Now some make poor choices and they don’t have money left.” 

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10706851

 


 

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 4 April 2014.

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Detroit – neo-liberalism’s “Grand Success”

29 July 2013 3 comments

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Detroit files for bankruptcy

Source: Radio NZ – Detroit files for bankruptcy

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America’s grand experiment in neo-liberal capitalism has claimed it’s third bloody sacrifice; Detroit (after Jefferson County, Alabama, and Stockton, California).

Detroit now owes US$18.5 billion in debt. It has declared itself officially bankrupt – the largest US city ever to do so.

There are no doubt several reasons for Detroit’s current economic decline and its inevitable urban decay, but it is a dying city nevertheless,

The governor painted a picture of a city in collapse. Citizens wait 58 minutes for the police to respond to calls, compared to a national average of 11 minutes. Only a third of ambulances were in service in the first quarter of 2013. There are approximately 78,000 abandoned buildings in the city. The unemployment rate had nearly tripled since 2000 and the homicide rate was at its highest level in 40 years, he said. Detroit is unable to meet its most basic obligations to its residents, let alone its creditors.

Source: UK Guardian – Detroit becomes largest US city to file for bankruptcy in historic ‘low point’

Jobs in the industry have dropped by 40 percent since 2000, from 1.3 million to 800,000“, wrote Evan Soltas for Bloomberg.

Michael Snyder, writing in theeconomiccollapseblog.com, posted  17 Facts About The Decline Of The U.S. Auto Industry That Are Almost Too Crazy To Believe,

#1 The average age of an automobile in the United States has gone up more than 50% since 1990 and is now sitting at an all-time record of 10.8 years.  The average length of a marriage in the United States that ends in divorce is only 8 years.

#2 Germany made 5.5 million cars in 2010.  The United States made less than half that (2.7 million).

#3 When you add up salary and benefits, the average auto worker in Germany makes $67.14 an hour.  In the United States, auto workers only make $33.77 an hour in salary and benefits.

#4 Back in 2000, about 17 million new automobiles were sold in the United States.  During 2011, less than 13 million new automobiles were sold in the United States.

#5 Do you remember when the United States was the dominant manufacturer of automobiles and trucks on the globe?  Well, in 2010 the U.S. ran a trade deficit in automobiles, trucks and parts with the rest of the world of $110 billion.

#6 Japan builds more cars than anyone else on the globe.  Japan now manufactures about 5 million more automobiles than the United States does.

#7 In 2010, South Korea exported approximately 12 times as many automobiles to us as we exported to them.

#8 According to the New York Times, a Jeep Grand Cherokee that costs $27,490 in the United States costs about $85,000 in China thanks to new tariffs.

#9 U.S. car companies are spending hundreds of millions of dollars building shiny new automobile factories in China.

#10 In 1970, General Motors had about a 60 percent share of the U.S. automobile market.  Today, that figure is down to about 20 percent.

#11 The combined U.S. market share of the “Big Three” American car companies fell from 70% in 1998 to 53% in 2008.

#12 Detroit was once known as the “Motor City”, but in recent decades automobile production has been leaving Detroit at a staggering pace.  One analysis of census figures found that 48.5% of all men living in Detroit from age 20 to age 64 did not have a job during 2008.

#13 Today, only Chrysler still operates an automobile assembly line within Detroit city limits.

#14 Since Alan Mulally became CEO of Ford, the company has reduced its North American workforce by nearly half.

#15 Today, only about 40 percent of Ford’s 178,000 workers are employed in North America, and a significant portion of those jobs are in Canada and Mexico.

#16 The average Mexican auto worker brings in less than a tenth of the total compensation that a U.S. auto worker makes.

#17 In the year 2000, the U.S. auto industry employed more than 1.3 million Americans.  Today, the U.S. auto industry employs about 698,000 people.

Item #9 is off particular relevance to New Zealand, because we are doing precisely the same thing;

U.S. car companies are spending hundreds of millions of dollars building shiny new automobile factories in China.

As Forbes posted in May 2010, in an article  U.S. Companies That Invest Big In China,

General Motors and Volkswagen have invested billions in China, starting more than a decade ago. Ford is rushing to catch up by adding production capacity and expanding its dealer network in China. Ford and its joint-venture partner, Chang’an Ford Mazda Automobile, plan to start producing next-generation Ford Focus models at a new, $490 million plant in Chongqingin 2012.

Essentially, the United States car manufacturing industry has been busy exporting it’s production facilities and jobs to other low-wage  countries – China and Mexico to give two examples.

Here in New Zealand, we’ve done pretty much the same thing; gutted  our manufacturing sector by  busily exporting it to China (and elsewhere) where wages are low, in comparison to New Zealand workers*,

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Rakon blames job cuts on high dollar

Source: Radio NZ – Rakon blames job cuts on high dollar

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This, essentially, is the end-result of eliminating tariffs with so-called “free trade” agreements. Except, these agreements are not  “free” at all. They cost jobs.

For every pair of cheap Skellerup  “Red Band” gumboots you and I buy at The Warehouse – New Zealander’s jobs were sacrificed,

The first pairs of Red Band Men’s gumboots retailed for twenty five shillings and 11 pence. Red Band gumboots continued to be made at Skellerup’s Woolston factory in Christchurch until the late 1980s when economic considerations forced the company to move production offshore.

Source

So how cheap are those gumboots made in China?

The economic cost of  people out of work is astronomical: $805,759,000 for the 2012/13 period alone (Unemployment Benefit and Emergency Benefit (M63) – Vote Social Development – Estimates of Appropriations 2013/14)

The social cost is beyond a dollar value.

And yet, it was not always like this. Once upon a time, we had full employment.

In 1973, the numbers of registered unemployed (not including overall jobseekers) stood at 2,321. (source)

By June 2008 the number of registered unemployed (not including overall jobseekers) had increased to 17,710. (Pre Global Financial Crisis recession.)(source)

Forty years later, by June this year, after de-regulation, free trade treaties, abolition of tariffs, and the dismantling employment legislation and the trade union movement, the number of registered unemployed (not including overall jobseekers) increased to 48,438. (IBID)

The actual numbers of jobless, according to regular Household Labour Force Surveys, is much higher (currently at  146,000). (source)

It could be said that the cost of those  cheap, foreign-made Redband gumboots (and other consumer goods)  is costing taxpayers $805,759,000 per annum.

Conformist middle class consumers, if they read this, would probably shrug and dismiss it from their minds. Such matters as Detroit and the pernicious consequences of  the “free” market (which, as I have shown, is not “free”) on our employment, economy, and social fabric is beyond their ken.

It doesn’t affect them directly so they blot it from their minds.

They simply look at a pair of  Redband gumboots and see the printed pricetag.

After all, the capricious nature of neo-liberalism such as the fate of Detroit could never happen here, right?

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Wellington Dying - John Key - 7 May 2013

Capital a dying city says Prime Minister – Dominion Post – 7 July 2013

Source: Dominion Post (scanned hard-copy)

Related story: Dominion Post – Shearer slams PM over capital dying quip

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* Yes, there are other serfs in the world paid less than Kiwis.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 24 July 2013.

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The Politics of Power and a Very Clear Choice – Part Tahi

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new zealand high electricity prices

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Historical Background

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New Zealanders, by and large, are not stupid.

We can recognise a rort when we see it. And in the case of electricity prices, we see it on a regular basis in our power bills and media headlines,

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2008

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Government to seek inquiry into power price rise - 2008

Acknowledgement: Fairfax: Government to seek inquiry into power price rise

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2009

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More profit than power for state-owned energy companies - 2009

Acknowledgement:  NBR – More profit than power for state-owned energy companies

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2010

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High spot prices hint at power price rise - 2010

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – High spot prices hint at power price rise

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2011

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Power bills set to rise up to 8pc from March - 2011

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald- Power bills set to rise up to 8pc from March

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2012

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Electricity prices tipped to rise steeply - 2012

Acknowledgement:  Fairfax Media –  Electricity prices tipped to rise steeply

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2013

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Power prices rise by average $120 nationwide - 2013

Acknowledgement:  TVNZ –  Power prices rise by average $120 nationwide

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We all know the facts and figures by now,

None of Bradford’s promises came to fruition and on 27 November 1999, Bradford lost his Rotorua seat to Labour’s Stephanie Chadwick (see: Rotorua – New Zealand electorate).

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A Bold New Plan

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On 18 April, Labour and the Greens announced a bold new policy initiative to reign in escalating power price rises. Called NZ Power, the reform would work thusly,

Key to the proposals is the creation of a central buying and electricity system planning agency, dubbed NZ Power, which would drive down power prices because of its market power and would not be required to make a profit.

It would also be the market regulator.

“It will not just supervise the market, it will be actively involved,” said Labour’s finance spokesman David Parker, a Minister of Energy in the 1999 to 2008 Labour-led administration.

It would tender for new electricity generation, or potentially energy efficiency measures, rather than the current crop of generators competing to identify the next least costly unit of new generation when demand rises.

In some cases, industrial users would be able to contract directly with NZ Power.

Power prices would be set not by reference to the cost of the next new unit of generation, but by average costs that include the anticipated price of new generation. However, there would still be a traded market in wholesale electricity, which could reflect regional variations.

Acknowledgement: Scoop –  Labour-Greens to rip up the book on electricity pricing

This new plan was the confirmation (if any was needed) that National’s grand experiment in privatisation and “competition” in the electricity sector was not working. Only  fools  (mostly those posting on right-wing, pro-National Kiwiblog) could possibly argue that the current system was “succeeding”.

In fact, even as far back as May 2009, National Minister Gerry Brownlee demanded that power generators put price rises on hold. He stated,

There is something fundamentally wrong in the way in which we’re marketing electricity in New Zealand.

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald –  Put prices on hold, Brownlee tells power companies

And even the architect of this ill-conceived “reform”, Max Bradford, was reported in May 1999 in the media as planning to regulate electricity line charges,

Enterprise  and Commerce minister  Max Bradford  is to press ahead with regulations to control electricity line charges, but sees no reason to implement regulation in the competitive end of the market.

Acknowledgement: Otago Daily Times – No case for regulation

So even National ministers reluctantly concede that the electricity sector cannot work in an unregulated “freemarket” model, and is unable  to deliver the ‘golden fruits’ of de-regulation and so-called competition.

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Carping & Criticisms

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After the press conference on 18 April, criticism flew thick and fast from National ministers; right wing bloggers;  pro-National sycophantic elements of the media, and their ideologically-wedded fellow-travellers.

On Steven Joyce’s twitter account,

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Steven Joyce - Tweet - NZ Power - soviet style nationalisation

Source: Twitter/Steven Joyce

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Judith “Crusher” Collins added this bit of gratuitous fantasy-fear mongering,

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Judith Collins - Tweet - NZ Power - soviet style nationalisation

Source: Twitter/IBID

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From Simon Bridges, this little bit of muppetry,

They may want to return to sort of United Soviet Socialist Republic of New Zealand days but National certainly doesn’t.”

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Power plan likened to Soviet era

It was  actually the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Mr Bridges, not “United” Soviet Socialist Republic. Get your Evil Empires  right, mate.

And anyway, most of New Zealand’s centralised planning occurred during National’s administration, from 1975 to 1984, under the late Robert Muldoon. Remember the price/wage freeze?

Mighty River Power chief executive Doug Heffernan, also called the plan “socialist” (by the way, is that a bad thing?) He declared,

“What you’ve just described is a socialist consumer model.”

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – MRP chief slams socialist’ plan

To which I would point out to the reader,

  1. Heffernan benefits from a $1.49 million p.a. salary – whilst Mighty River Power keeps raising it’s power prices. So the gentleman has a vested interest in this issue.
  2. In February this year, Heffernan announced that Mighty River Power’s half-yearly profit has quadrupled; prices had risen by 2%; despite demand “being flat”. (see:  Mighty River Power profit quadruples )
  3. Saying that “Mighty River Power would not have made the $1billion investment into geothermal energy that we’ve made in the last five years … The risks would have been too high” – insults our intelligence.  Mighty River Power was built up by the State, with taxpayers’ money.  Heffernan forgets himself; MRP is not a private company.
  4. And anyway,  is it the role of  SOE chief executives to be promoting privatisation?

Steven Joyce added to the “red menace scare”on TVNZ’s Q+A on 21 April,

“By definition, it’s socialism.

“They are not just talking about the price, they’re talking about telling the generators when they can generate, which generating assets they can use, which ones they can introduce to the markets.”

The Minister said the proposed plan would also scare off investors, with evidence of this seen late last week when the market dropped.

“On Thursday and Friday, the market dropped nearly $600 million across three companies because they said, ‘Jeez, we’re not interested in this’.”

Which is rather strange… Joyce, Bridges, Collins, Key, et al, are likening Labour-Green’s plans to “North Korean economics” or “Soviet style socialism”.

But when did the former USSR or the current North Korea ever have a share market or multi-party Parliamentaty democracy?!?!

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hyperbole will sink legislation

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Could it possibly be that National ministers have no intellectual, rational response  to the proposed NZ Power scheme?

Could it be that they must rely on fear-mongering?  Which reminds me of this,

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dancing cossacks - national fear mongering

Acknowledgement: NZ History Online:  Dancing Cossacks political TV ad

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Could it possibly be that National ministers are placing their faith in free market economics – vis-a-vis the partial sale of state powercos – to get prices to drop? (Which, after 14 years is yet to happen for the domestic consumer.)

Could it be that National ministers are… panicking?!

Because as NZ Herald columnist, John Armstrong wrote on 19 April,

“There may be good reasons for the seemingly constant above-inflation hikes in retail prices. But politicians have given up explaining because consumers long ago stopped listening.

All this would suggest there is fertile ground for Labour and the Greens, who yesterday foreshadowed plans to slash power prices by setting up a new agency, NZ Power, to act as a single buyer of wholesale electricity.

National was truly gobsmacked. It accused Labour of “Muldoonism”, “loony tunes” policy making and “North Korean economics”.

National accepts that at the outset there might be lower prices. But it argues the policy would distort price signals that are so vital to matching supply and demand. That could lead to power shortages. The policy would distort and even discourage investment in power generation.”

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald:  National gobsmacked at Labour idea

Gobsmacked” is about right.

And ironically enough, “Muldoonism” was a product of the National Party – not Labour. Hilarious stuff, indeed!

This is nothing less than a full-scale retreat from market-driven political orthodoxy. In effect, Labour has done the unthinkable; it has publicly announced that neo-liberalism and it’s supposed “free” market economics does not, and cannot,  deliver all of society’s needs.

We get a glimpse  of what it must have been like in 1989 when Mikhail Gorbachev sat down with his colleagues in the Soviet Politburo and announced to a stunned meeting,

Comrades, our communist ideology and centralised economic system has failed.”

Mark 18 April 2013 on your calendar as the day that one of our two main Parties (or, two out of our three main Parties, if  Green political support keeps increasing) renounced neo-liberal free market ideology as a failure.

There is now a clear, unequivocal difference between an increasingly  right wing, ideologically-driven  National, and a decidely more-leftist – but  pragmatic – Labour.

And the public now has a clear choice as well, for whom to vote;

Option A (for the Blue Team): maintain the neo-liberal status quo; proceed with privatisation; and hope-like-hell  that Max Bradford’s promises eventually, maybe, one day, will  come true.

Option B (for the Red Team): vote for change; abandon our slavish adherence to neo-liberal dogma; and, as a side-effect, enjoy cheaper power bills.

Continued at: The Politics of Power and a Very Clear Choice – Part Rua

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 24 April 2013.

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Previous Related Blogposts

History Lesson – Tahi – Electricity Sector “reforms”  (4 March 2012)

John Key: Man of Many Principles (28 Sept 2012)

Labour, Greens, NZ First, & Mana – A Bright Idea with electricity! (10 March 2013)

References

NZ History Online:  Dancing Cossacks political TV ad

NZPA: Splitting up ECNZ expected to cut wholesale power price (16 Dec 1998)

NZPA:  Reforms aimed at business – Luxton (21 April 1999)

Otago Daily Times: Power Prices Set To Soar (12 May 1999)

Otago Daily Times: No case for regulation (24 May 1999)

Otago Daily Times: Lower power prices coming says Bradford (3 June 1999)

Otago Daily Times: Power prices to rise by up to 15.1% (29 June 1999)

Otago Daily Times:  Reforms blamed for hike (13 July 1999)

Scoop: Alliance to hold Winston Peters accountable (8 Oct 1999)

NZ Herald: Peters ‘forgets’ NZ First support for power reforms (13 Aug 2008)

Fairfax: Government to seek inquiry into power price rise  (30 September 2008)

NZ Herald:  Put prices on hold, Brownlee tells power companies (21  May 2009)

NZ Herald: Mighty River directors’ 73pc pay rise realistic – Key (5 April 2013)

Scoop:  Labour-Greens to rip up the book on electricity pricing (18 April 2013)

NZ Herald:  Labour-Greens plan could work, says Vector CEO (19 April 2013)

NZ Herald:  National gobsmacked at Labour idea (19 April 2013)

NZ Herald: Power plan likened to Soviet era (19 April 2013)

NZ Herald: MRP chief slams socialist’ plan (21 April 2013)

TVNZ:  Q+A – Transcript of Steven Joyce interview (21 April 2013)

NZ Herald:  Bernard Hickey: Power barons fail to fool the public this time around (21 April 2013)

Radio NZ: Power prices nearly double since 2000 (21 April 2013)

Other blogs

Kiwiblog: Electricity Prices

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Priorities – according to the ‘gospel’ of Colin Craig

15 February 2013 27 comments

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conservative party logo

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This came through our letter box today,

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Frankly Speaking - Colin Craig - conservative party - 15 february 2013 - do you agree - marriage equality

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It came with other advertising junk-mail (despite the “No Junk Mail” clearly visible on our letterbox), so it was obviously delivered by a commercial leafletting company and not by Party volunteers.

The front page instantly commanded attention with the wording, “Do you agree?”  followed by “Find out what 34% of people surveyed didn’t know!”.

Stirring stuff!

What was taxing the mind of Conservative Party leader, Colin Craig?

What pressing issues were dominating his thoughts?

Was it the loss of 40,000 jobs in the last four years as the manufacturing and export sector are hit by a higher and higher New Zealand Dollar?

Was it 85,000+ young people not in employment, education of training?

Was it the 175,000 unemployed?

Was it 250,000 children living in poverty?

Was it National’s intention to partially flog of  five state assets, worth billions to taxpayers in this country?

Time to open the pamplet and find out…

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Frankly Speaking - Colin Craig - conservative party - 15 february 2013 - do you agree - marriage equality

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Marriage equality?!

Craig has spent tens of thousands of dollars on a piece of colour-printed, glossy paper to complain about gays and lesbians being given marriage equality???

Where is this man’s head at?

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Frankly Speaking - Colin Craig - conservative party - 15 february 2013 - do you agree - marriage equality

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Craig’s comments are not even logical.

For one thing, he states that “this is not about equality”.

Rubbish.

It is all about equality.

He even admits it,

The Civil Union Act in fact copied the operating provisions of the Marriage Act so both have the same legal equality (except deliberately in the case of adoption and parentingof children.)”

Oh… so there’s ‘equality’ – except in cases of blah, blah, blah.

Um… *scratches head*… then it’s not equality, is it, Mr Craig?

Saying that “…both have the same legal equality except deliberately in the case of adoption and parentingof children” is like saying that Blacks in the Southern States of America were equal to Whites in the 1950s… except for blah, blah, blah…

Or Blacks in South Africa were equal to Whites in South Africa during the Apartheid Era. Oh, except that Blacks couldn’t vote. And weren’t allowed on certain beaches. Or blah, blah, blah…

Message to Mr Craig’s remaining functioning brain cells: you can’t have equality where exceptions undermine that equality. Because then it’s not equality. It’s something else.

Which, by the way, is one of the strange points that Craig attempts to make in his weirdly surreal propaganda.

On the page below, Craig states,

This country has become a dangerous place to be a child. If nothing else we must fight and speak for the children. We must seek their absolute best [?] and give of ourselves to protect them, blah, blah, blah…”

So what is it that Colin Craig is trying to say? That two people in love and wanting to marry is going to make “this country …  a dangerous place to be a child “?! How the f**k does that work?

Poverty is dangerous for children.

Lack of nutritious food is dangerous for children.

Damp houses are dangerous for children.

Drugs and alcohol dangerous for children.

Abusive households are dangerous for children.

Government policies to do with low wages; poor housing; and lack of opportunities is dangerous for children.

But two people in love wanting to get married?

The workings of Colin Craig’s mind is even more unfathomable than I had previously believed possible. No wonder John Key rolled his eyes and muttered “it’s going to be a long two and a half years” when presented with the possibility of the bizarre Conservative Party as a potential coalition partner (see:  John Key’s midterm blues?).

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Frankly Speaking - Colin Craig - conservative party - 15 february 2013 - do you agree - marriage equality

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Reading this trash, I laughed even harder when I spotted another incongruency at Craig’s disjointed thinking.

On page 2,

… Mr Key is now ignoring his electorate and says he will support same-sex marriage and adoption. He will not be voting as directed by his electorate. This is simply wrong. If Mr Key will not vote on behalf of his electorate, then who will? He is their paid representative; he is the one person sent to Parliament on their behalf.

On page 3,

Good leadership requires listening to both sides of the debate  and then deciding  what is best for our country.”

So on the one hand… Craig sez that it “is simply wrong” for Key not to vote according to his electorate (not that we actually know what his electorate “thinks”.

But on the other hand, “good leadership ” is about “ listening to both sides of the debate  and then deciding  what is best for our country“.

Hmmm, a bit contradictory there, Colin. You should proof-read your writing a bit more closely.

Last bit,

I believe the evidence shows that it is ideal  that an adopted child grow up with a great Mum and Dad…”

Two things bother me about that blanket statement.

1. If “evidence” exists to support Mr Craig’s prehistoric views, then it’s not a matter of  “belief”. Evidence either exists to support his views. Or it does not.

Belief does not enter into it.

2. Unfortunately, the evidence that does exist points to one inescapable fact; many homes in our country are dangerous places for young children.

Too many have been neglected, severely injured, beaten, sexually abused, traumatised, and killed – at the hands of their “Dads” and too often, their “Mums”.

Heterosexual, ‘nuclear’-style families.

They are killing the children of our nation.

And not a gay parent to be seen anywhere.

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Other blogs

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= fs =

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment – Growth

9 January 2013 7 comments

To Whom It May Concern; the following Report Card detail’s Johnny’s achievements over the last four years.

The following contrasts compare four years, ranging from the end of 2008 to the end of this year, 2012.

Whilst it is acknowledged that the Global Financial Crisis impacted harshly on our society and economy, it is also fair to say that National has had the benefits of starting out with a sound economy (surpluses, low unemployment, etc)  in 2008 and four years in office to make good on it’s election promises.

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Growth

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Recent history:

In the past, whenever National (or the right wing “Labour-ACT” government of the 1980s) came to power, the result was never very good,

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Decline in economic activity

Source: Dunedin Star

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Highest jobless rate in 2 years - 7 May 1998

Source: Otago Daily Times

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Redundancies hit Tranz Rail workers hard - 2 Oct 1998

Source: Otago Daily Times

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Current Account deficit blows out to 10-year high - 28 Jan 1997

Source: Otago Daily Times

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The rhetoric:

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

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

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

* We will cut taxes, not just in election year, but in a regular programme of ongoing tax cuts.

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

* We will be more careful with how we spend the cash in the public purse, monitoring not just the quantity but also the quality of government spending.

* We will concentrate on equipping young New Zealanders with the education they need for a 21st century global economy.

* We will reduce the burden of compliance and bureaucracy, and we will say goodbye to the blind ideology that locks the private sector out of too many parts of our economy.

And we will do all of this while improving the public services that Kiwis have a right to expect.  ” – John Key, 29 July 2008

See: 2008: A Fresh Start for New Zealand

Growing the economy is the Government’s number one priority, and science and innovation have a key part to play in that growth.

Indeed, this Government has made science and innovation one of the six cornerstones of its economic growth agenda. We’ve done this because New Zealand needs an economic jolt. Our productivity and economic growth have been sluggish for decades and as a result we have slipped down the OECD’s ranking of national wealth per capita.

Our performance compared to other smaller advanced economies has been uninspiring at best. For example, in 1976 our per capita income was slightly ahead of Australia. It was nearly 20 percent greater than the OECD average.

We are now 20 percent behind the OECD average. Australia, by contrast, is still about 20 percent ahead.

Finland is another example of our relative decline. In 1979 our per capita income lines crossed – New Zealand going down and Finland going up. The Finns are now about 20 percent ahead of us.

So, how do we turn the situation around? ” – John Key, 1 July 2011

See: National Economic Development Forum

Present  reality:

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Declining traffic bad for the economy

Full story

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Unemployment up to 7.3pc - a 13 year high

Full story

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KiwiRail under fire over job cuts

Full story

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Current account gap narrows as trade balance shrinks

Full story

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Two things would be fair to say,

    1. National inherited an economy with low unemployment and net government debt at an all time low of 5.6% of New Zealand’s GDP, net. (Far from being fiscally profligate as National claims, Labour actually behaved more responsibly than National has done, as the information below clearly illustrates.)
    2. The Global Financial Crisis was not an event of National’s making. (Though the ideology of corporate greed, profiteering, and minimal government oversight which contributed to the Crisis is most certainly one that National shares.)

As Treasury data shows, New Zealand’s net government debt situation worsened from 2008 to June of 2012,

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NZ Government net debt 2008 - 2012

Source: Treasury – Financial Statemement of the Government of New Zealand

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NZ Government net debt 2008 - 2012 table 16

Source: IBID

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Table 16 above opened with a net government debt of 5.6% – left by the outgoing Labour government.

It closed with 25% net government debt – a fourfold increase – courtesy of National’s “prudent fiscal management”.

As the Treasury document explained,

Net debt increases as a result of cash deficits and
declines as a result of cash surpluses. It also
fluctuates in line with valuation movements in the
underlying financial assets and liabilities of the Crown
and movements in the amounts of currency issued to
New Zealand banks.

Net debt increased this year, continuing the steady
increase since the global financial crisis (figure 11).
Net debt increased from last year primarily due to
additional borrowings over the year to meet the
residual cash deficit (refer table 17).

Source: IBID

In other words, National took in lower revenue – taxes – which  inevitably resulted in increased borrowings; slashing of State services and funding; increasing user pays for other state services;  mass redundancies of state sector workers, and impending partial state asset sales.

The Treasury document goes on to show how much revenue was lost between 2008 and 2012,

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NZ Government tax revenue 2008 - 2012

Source: IBID

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A recent NZ Herald report has updated Treasury’s expections. The tax-take, GDP growth, and unemployment outlooks are not good,

A weaker economic outlook over the next four years has taken a bite of nearly $8 billion out of the Government’s forecast tax revenues for that period.

Nevertheless the Treasury is still forecasting a return to surplus, though only just, on schedule by 2015.

The forecasts in yesterday’s half-year economic and fiscal update are in line with the latest consensus forecasts, which means they are significantly weaker than in the Budget.

The growth track is lower by around 0.5 percentage points a year.

It reflects downwards revisions to expected growth among New Zealand’s trading partners, and a kiwi dollar expected to remain around present levels until the first half of 2014, so that net exports subtract from growth for the next couple of years.

Unemployment has been revised higher; it is 7.3 per cent now and still expected to be 5.6 per cent by March 2016.

See: Outlook slashes tax-take by $8b

The forecast rate of tepid growth is on top of low to negative growth in the last four years,

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NZ GDP growth rate 2000 - 2012

Source: tradingeconomics.com

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So what caused the drop in government tax revenue? And why did the lower tax revenue impact on higher unemployment and lower domestic growth?

The answer, in part, is not hard to uncover, and the following reports tell the story of how National undermined (sabotaged?) our nation’s government accounts.

First, we were offered The Bribe,

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National's 2005 tax cut plans still credible - Key

Full story

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Then we got the warning signs,

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Treasury to Rescue Fannie and Freddie

Full story

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Russia Halts Trading After 17% Share Price Fall

Full story

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Lehman folds with record $613 billion debt

Full story

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We were not exempt from the looming storm that was the coming Global Financial Crisis ,

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Recession confirmed - GDP fall

Full story

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National’s response?

The prudent step to take would have been to cancel the tax cuts as simply unaffordable.  (Labour’s Phil Goff generously promised to support National had it taken such a prudent measure. See: Labour would support deferral of tax cuts)

As a nation, we  would then maintain social services (education, housing, healthcare, justice system, early childhood education, superannuation, etc)  – or cut taxes. We could not have both. Not without even further massive borrowings from overseas.

National’s decision to persevere with their taxcuts beggered belief for those who understood the seriousness of the GFC and the recession we had fallen into,

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Key - $30b deficit won't stop Nats tax cuts

Full story

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The consequences of  National’s irresponsible cutting of taxation revenue was utterly predictable,

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Govt borrowing $380m a week

Full story

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Govt's 2010 tax cuts 'costing $2 billion and counting'

Full story

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Writing for the NZ Herald, Brian Fallow put the cost of taxcuts at $8 billion. (See:  Outlook slashes tax-take by $8b)

Only a fool (or devoted National supporter – the two are not mutually exclusive) could believe that we could give away billions in tax cuts without resorting to massive borrowings to cover the shortfall.

The result was a government deficit rising fourfold from 2008 to 2012, as the above Treasury stats clearly show.

National then desperately needed to balance the books. It scrimped and scrapped by cutting the state sector; raising taxes (gst, fuel tax, ACC levies, government charges, etc) elsewhere; closing tax exemptions for property investors; and cutting back on services (see: Student allowances a thing of the past for post-graduate students ).

Even paper delivery kids were not exempt from the grasp of this Scrooge-like ‘government’. See:  Budget 2012: ‘Paper boy tax’ on small earnings stuns Labour)

It also desperately needed to proceed with it’s state asset sales.

A cynic with a conspiratorial ‘bent’ might suspect that National deliberately manufactured it’s own debt crisis so that it could justify the partial privatisation of Meridian, Genesis, Might River Power, Solid Energy, and Air New Zealand, to it’s corporate/investor/aspirationist constituent-base.

In doing so, not only was the door left open for their privatisation agenda – but the side-effects of tax cuts left National with few options and manouvering room for job creation policies.

With net government debt quadrupling in four years from $10.2 billion (2008)  to $50.6 billion (2012), and taxation revenue falling from $56.7 billion (2008) to  $55 billion (2012), their hands were seemingly “tied”.

Compounding matters,    National cut back state services and  fired thousands of state sector workers, resulting in a further drop in  expenditure, all of which  impacted harshly on the economy.

Whether Free Marketeers like it or not, the state is the #1 business generator in our economy and society. When it cuts spending, the flow-on effects on  other, down-stream businesses, is inescapable.

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Govt austerity slows growth, keeps rates low - RBNZ

Full story

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With higher income earners either saving their tax cuts or paying down debt, tax cuts failed to “fire” the economy as Little Leader said in 2009 and Dear Leader adamantly predicted in  2010,

By taking firm, early and decisive action, the Government is managing the downturn to cushion the immediate impact on New Zealanders and to enhance future growth.” – Bill English, 28 May 2009

See: Budget 2009 – House goes into urgency

We’ve cut all personal income tax rates, GST has increased to 15%, and we’ve boosted NZ Super, Working For Families, and benefit payments by 2.02% to compensate for the rise in GST.

Today’s changes are just one part of our comprehensive plan to grow the economy, create jobs, boost incomes, and raise living standards for all New Zealanders. The tax package improves incentives to work, and tilts the economy towards savings, investment, and exports.” – John Key, 1 Oct 2010

See: Tax cuts today

In May 2010, Key had even used the migration issue as justification to cut taxes for higher income earners, professionals, and others in top brackets,

We can be envious about these things but without those people in our economy all the rest of us will either have less people paying tax or fundamentally less services that they provide.

They include doctors, entrepreneurs often, scientists, engineers, lawyers, accountants, school principals and nurses.

On Thursday you will see a deliberate attempt to make sure those people stay and put their skills to work here in our economy.” – John Key, 18 May 2010

See:  Key again defends tax cuts

BS. All of it is, BS.

None of it worked, of course. The economy not only failed to grow – it  stagnated or contracted (see:  Economic recovery stagnates – NZIER). And despite two tax  cuts, migration to Australia skyrocketed – ten thousand higher than under the previous Labour government’s last four years.  (see related blogpost:  Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment y/e 2012: migration)

Up until 2011, two of our most important  industries – manufacturing and construction – contracted, at a time when the Christchurch re-build should have been growing their turn-over and profitability. The downturn in manufacturing and construction had a flow-on effect on the  Wholesale Trade sector,

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New Zealand in Profile_2012_economy

Source: New Zealand in Profile: 2012 – Economy

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Other measures of the economy show no sign of improvement,

Bank profits back over $3 billion while economy stagnates (24 April 2012)

then “good news”,

Pickup in economic growth predicted (29 Aug 2012)

followed two months later by bad news,

Businesses gloomy about economic growth (9 Oct 2012)

Current Account Deficit Widens (19 Sept 2012)

 Trade deficit widens as dairy values fall (27 Nov 2012)

Terms of trade continue to drop (4 Dec 2012)

Govt deficit up as tax take dips (5 Dec 2012)

Deficit $169m wider than predictions (6 Dec 2012)

Growth forecast cut, debt seen higher (18 Dec 2012)

Current account gap narrows as trade balance shrinks (19 Dec 2012)

Outlook slashes tax-take by $8b (19 Dec2012)

Whichever way one looks at it, it’s a mess.

And it’s simply a bad joke for Key to reassure us,

While I think we have to acknowledge that the last three years have been pretty tough with the Global Financial Crisis, on a relative basisNew Zealand’s been doing a better than a lot of other countries.” – John Key, 17 Nov 2011

See: Key and Goff Q&A: Creating jobs

Trying to suggest that we  are nowhere as bad off as other nations such as the US, Spain,  Greece, etc – so our current stagnating economy is somehow  acceptable – is sheer rubbish.

One might as well justify National’s poor performance and reckless decision-making by stating we are better off than Zimbabwe, Haiti, or Bangladesh,

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catching-up-with-bangladesh

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We should not be “worse off” than those nations – we headed into the Global Financial Crisis with relatively good economic indicators!

There is Always An Alternative!

A responsible government would have abandoned any prospect of taxcuts and prepared policies to keep people in work; off the unemployment queues;  paying taxes; and contributing to the economy.

Policies such as,

With Option #3, National appears to have missed the obvious.

Injecting several billion into a crash-programme to build ten thousand homes for New Zealanders, who are currently struggling to buy their own houses, makes sense.

The Christchurch re-build has proven this to be the case, as the NZ Herald reported on 20 December 2012,

The economy grew at an annual pace of 2.5 per cent, and was 2 per cent higher than the same quarter a year earlier. Revisions to previous quarters showed New Zealand dipped back into recession in the second half of 2010, with two 0.3 per cent contractions in each quarter.

 The New Zealand dollar dropped to 83.33 US cents after the figures were released, from 83.60 cents immediately before.

Construction kept the economy ticking over with a 4.5 per cent expansion, contributing 0.2 of percentage point to overall GDP. Electricity, gas, water and waste services grew 4.4 per cent in the quarter, contributing 0.1 of a percentage point in growth to GDP, underpinned by an increase in hydroelectric generation.

“Residential and non-residential building activities were both up strongly this quarter, and both were boosted by Canterbury,” Statistics NZ said in its report. “The upper North Island also contributed to the growth in residential building activity.”

The Canterbury rebuild, which is expected to top $30 billion, is widely seen as the saving grace for an economy that has struggled to recover from its deepest recession in two decades, and has been getting some help from a resurgent property market in Auckland in recent months.

See: Economy grows 0.2pc – saved by construction

Statistics NZ national accounts manager Rachael Milicich didn’t split hairs. She bluntly stated,

 “The growth in the latest quarter was driven by construction.”

See: Economic activity up 0.2 percent

As for the tax cuts stimulating the economy with extra spending – you can forget that pipedream. According to Statistics NZ,

Household consumption expenditure, which measures the volume of spending by New Zealand households, was flat this quarter (0.0 percent).

See: IBID

National not only bought the 2008 election with promises of unsustainable, unaffordable tax cuts – Key, English, Joyce, et al, squandered an opportunity to keep 70,000 New Zealanders in paid employment (see: Employment graph, 2008-2012).

It was all so unnecessary.

Addendum

In March 2008, the then Finance Minister, Michael Cullen said,

Even before these challenges hit home John Key wants to increase our debt to at least 25 per cent of GDP. But he does not pretend he wants to borrow more to pay for more services and he does not really believe he needs to borrow more to pay for roads. He only wants to outspend Labour on tax cuts.”

See: [Labour]Government will not borrow for tax cuts

According to Treasury, the current net government debt as at 30 June 2012  stands at… 24.8% of GDP – just shy of 25%,

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NZ Government net debt 2008 - 2012 - Cullen's prediction

Source: Treasury – Financial Statemement of the Government of New Zealand

Cullen called it 100%.

It’s a shame that 1,053,398 voters couldn’t look past their own selfishness, and the lure of cash dangled before them, by a Party that was hell-bent on it’s own agenda to win power at any cost.

For New Zealand, that cost measured $50 billion and 175,000 unemployed.

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

11 November 2012 8 comments

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Continued from:  John Key’s track record on raising wages – preface

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1. The “Hobbit Law”

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On 20 October 2010, Peter Jackson released this statement to the media,

“Next week Warners are coming down to New Zealand to make arrangements to move the production offshore. It appears we cannot make films in our own country even when substantial financing is available.”

See: Warner preparing to take Hobbit offshore – Sir Peter

It was the opening shot of a public war-of-words between Jackson and his camp, and Actor’s Equity.  An industrial dispute had been elevated to DefCon One, and things were about to ‘go nuclear‘.

Almost overnight, a mood of hysteria gripped the country; we were about to lose ‘Our Precious‘ movies to Eastern Europe, Mongolia, or Timbuktu.

Public panic reached levels unseen since the 1981 Springbok Tour, or the satanic child abuse-ritual stories of the early 199os. There were patriotic street marches (flaming torches were considered but rejected because of OSH concerns.) Union officials were harassed in public; vilified; and threatened with death. A well-known  actress – popular up till this point – considered leaving for Australia after receiving death threats, because of her pro-Union stance.

See: And everybody take a deep breath – please

It was the nastier side of New Zealand’s collective psyche which we’ve come  to be familiar with. We do ‘mob hysteria‘ very well.

John Key and National would have none of it, of course. Dear Leader acted with authoritarian style not seen outside ex-Soviet republics, African, and Middle East  dictatorships.

As the Dominion Post reported,

The Hobbit dispute was resolved after Warner Bros executives jetted into New Zealand for a meeting with Government ministers at Mr Key’s official Wellington residence, Premier House.

After two days of tense days of talks with Warner Bros bosses, who were chauffeured around Wellington in Crown limousines, the Government agreed to a raft of measures including a $20 million tax break to keep the two Hobbit movies in New Zealand.

An agreement to change New Zealand’s employment laws clinched the deal after studio bosses and Jackson threatened to move production off-shore over a stoush with the actors union. Labour lawswere were [subsequently amended].

See: PM’s ‘special’ movie studio meeting

The labour law that the Dompost piece referred to was the Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Bill which made film industry workers independent contractors by default – thereby changing the definition in employment legislation of what constitutes an “employee”.

See: The Hobbit law – what does it mean for workers?

Even if the nature of your employment mirrors that of an employee with a boss who determines your hours of on-site work; supplies all your tools and work materials; dictates your workplace requirements, including meal breaks – your employer can still treat you legally as a “contractor”.

A worker under these conditions has all the obligations of an employee – but none of the rights.  That same worker may be deemed a “self employed contractor” – but has none of the usual independence of a contractor.

A worker in this “limbo” has had all his/her security of employment; minimum wages;  holidays; and right to collective bargaining stripped away.

In effect, for the first time in our democracy, a government has legislated away a  workers right to choose. They no longer have any choice in the matter.

All done at the stroke of a pen. No consultation. It was all decided for you, whether you wanted it or not. Only a totalitarian, One Party, regime could match such dictatorial powers.

The “Hobbit Law” took precisely two days from First Reading to Royal Assent. An Olympic record in law-making.

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

By 21 December 2010 – two months after Jackson had sent the entire nation into a spin with his first press release –  an email dated 18 October, to Economic Development Minister Gerry Brownlee, revealed a startling new picture,

There is no connection between the blacklist (and it’s eventual retraction) and the choice of production base for The Hobbit”.

“What Warners requires for The Hobbit is the certainty of a stable employment environment and the ability to conduct its business in such as way that it feels its $500 million investment is as secure as possible.”

See: Sir Peter: Actors no threat to Hobbit

Peter Jackson and John Key knew precisely how to pull this country’s strings and make workers and the public dance to their tune. They managed to con workers to demand losing their own rights as employees. Well played, Mr Jackson, Mr Key.

So precisely, how does this raise wages, as per Dear Leader’s promises?

Next chaper:  2. The 90 Day Employment Trial Period

See also previous blogposts:Muppets, Hobbits, and Scab ‘Unions’, Roosting chickens

Additional

Tech Dirt: The Hobbit Took $120M From Kiwi Taxpayers – Maybe They Should Own The Rights (5 Dec 2012)

Fairfax Media: To save regular earth, kill Hobbit subsidies (6 Dec 2012)

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Guest Author: David Cunliffe on Scandinavian Economic Development

– Hon David Cunliffe, Labour Economic Development and Associate Finance Spokesperson, Clean-tech Cluster Chair

Published 30 September 2012

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Scandinavian Economic Development Speech: Fast Forward – Growing Good Jobs

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Speech to Laingholm District Citizens Association, Laingholm, 30 September 2012

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Robert Louis Stevenson, the man who wrote ‘Treasure Island’, once said: “Everybody lives by selling something”.

In these days of economic treachery, this sounds like a very negative statement.

Everybody lives, today, by selling something.

But actually, the phrase: ‘Everybody lives by selling something’ is merely stating a simple truth.

In order to survive I must breathe air.

In order for me to breathe air, there need to be green plants producing oxygen.

So, when I breathe in, I’m breathing in air that was mostly made in the green plants.

But this is not a one-sided trade.  I don’t just breath in air, I breathe out carbon dioxide, which is in return breathed in by the green plants, and converted back into oxygen, for me to breathe once more.

The green plants and I need each other. We trade what we produce, and both sides survive and prosper as a result of our necessary partnership.

Ecologists call this process of mutually-beneficial trading ‘symbiosis’.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Motivational speakers have a simpler term: they call this process ‘win-win’. There’s no winner and loser when I trade my carbon dioxide to the green plants and get oxygen in return. I need the oxygen; the plants need my carbon dioxide in order to convert sunlight into food.

Provided both sides play fair, this is truly a win-win situation.

The problem is, too often over the last 30 years, and some would say for much longer, the world’s economic system has not been win-win for the average person, indeed for most of us. It’s been win-lose: they win and you lose.

The rich speculators and traders get richer, while the rest of us get poorer. Like it or not, our country is going backwards.

What happened? This widening gap isn’t the Kiwi way. What’s changed over the last thirty years?

Let’s have a quick recap of history. As a result of the Great Depression of the 1930s, the New Zealand Labour Party – like its counterparts around the world – legislated to rein in speculation, to protect jobs and to protect human rights.

Most of New Zealand’s great economic assets, such as our farms, our roads and our forests, grew and prospered as a direct result of these policies. As our nation grew more prosperous, the wealth was widely shared. No children needed to starve in the New Zealand I grew up in.

However, the 1980s and ’90s saw the rise of a philosophy developed by the rich, for the rich. It was called Neo-Liberalism.

Neo-Liberalism is based on the idea that it’s a dog-eat-dog world. Neo-Liberalism is based on the idea that greed is good, that we’re all locked in an economic life-and-death-struggle with each other. Neo-Liberalism says that compassion is for suckers. Neo-Liberalism says that if the world is going to the dogs, it might as well be the top dogs. Indeed, to borrow from Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, not only is greed good, “it’s legal.”[i]

When the British Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher was asked about the effects that her Neo-liberal policies would have on society, she replied:

There is no such thing as society… There are individual men and women.[ii]

The amazing thing about the Neo-Liberals is their wilful blindness to how badly their ideas have failed. Not just once, but repeatedly. Neo-Liberal policies directly caused two of the largest financial crashes in history. Did they apologise? No way. Like some mad doctor, when the first dose of medicine didn’t work, they wanted to double the dose.

And so, the Neo-Liberal bandwagon rolls on. Right here in New Zealand, the National Party is still trotting out the same discredited economic policies that got us into this mess in the first place.

I have just returned from Denmark and Finland, and I am convinced there are lessons for us all in how these Scandinavian countries run their economies. In particular, we need to take note of why the Scandinavian countries are slowly winning while many other European countries are rapidly losing.

Let’s take a quick look at the ‘Scandinavian model.’

The ‘Scandinavian model’ isn’t really Scandinavian at all. It could also be called the traditional New Zealand model. A model based on the idea that the economy is like a farm or garden. If you want a garden to grow, then you have to dig the soil and plant the seeds. You have to feed and nurture the plants and you have deal to the weeds when they grow up amongst the crop.

If this sounds like simple common sense: it is.

Any farmer will tell you that you get back from a farm what you put in. If you let weeds grow, you get a farm full of weeds. If you nurture your soil, livestock and crops, you have a good chance of a healthy farm, and a healthy return on your investment.

Which countries are currently surviving the recession best? The ones with the Scandinavian economic model.

According to Neo-Liberal economic theory, the Scandinavian countries should have collapsed by now. After all, they have large numbers of public employees on decent wages. Large trade unions. Very high taxation. A huge amount of government spending. I’m not arguing for a carbon-copy, but it has worked for them.

While the Neo-Liberals in America, Britain and New Zealand have been targeting those on welfare, blaming them for the world’s problems, the Scandinavian countries have been doing the opposite. That is, they’ve been helping those on welfare to get jobs, not blaming them for being poor.

After taking a big hit from the global financial crisis in 2009, the Scandinavian economies have bounced back strongly, while most of the rest of Europe seems stuck in reverse.

What’s the Scandinavian secret? The Scandinavian people have mastered the art of win-win.

For example, on my recent visit, I saw the Danish approach to economic development.

Denmark doesn’t tell its businesspeople what to do. Instead, Denmark sees its businesspeople as partners. The Danish government sits down with its key business groups. The two sides plan a workable strategy. After listening to its voters, workers and business partners, the Danish government doesn’t muck around. Incentives, sector plans, skills training, research and development, industry investment, targets and timetables are all actively used to get the economy moving and to keep it moving.

There is real symbiosis; it’s a win-win partnership, and the whole country benefits.

No surprise then, that Finland and Sweden came third and fourth respectively in the latest World Economic Forum competitiveness survey.[iii]

This competitiveness is driven by a government that understands how to invest in its people. According to the World Economic Forum, the key to the Scandinavians’ success is largely the result of a high level investment by the government and industry in education and training.[iv] The Scandinavians understand that ignorance is poison.

The Scandinavians know they cannot compete with China for low labour costs. They don’t bother to try. Instead, the Scandinavians have learned the value of working smarter instead of merely working harder.

Scandinavian bosses and workers don’t see each other as natural enemies. They may not always get along and they may not always agree, but they understand clearly that bosses and workers need each other.

I wish our government understood this.

GROWING JOBS, NOT WEEDS

So what would a good farmer do to grow the farm called New Zealand? What practical tools and lessons can we take from the small, smart countries of Scandinavia?

Good soil

A good farmer ploughs the soil to create the conditions for healthy growth.

Getting the economic basics right is important.

The first economic basic that we need to get right is trust. Whether it’s with respect to John Banks skirting around the truth or John Key burying his head in the sand over the Dotcom saga, New Zealand’s reputation as an honest country in which to do business is under serious threat.

We have to restore trust, both in New Zealand and overseas. Investors won’t come to New Zealand if they think we’re a banana republic.

And make no mistake about it: Labour welcomes investors to New Zealand. However, we welcome investors who come as partners, not masters. Our country is not for sale. New Zealanders do not wish to become tenants in their own country.

We also need to stabilise our currency, so that businesses have some certainty. We need to keep the New Zealand dollar from continually rising, because if the dollar is too high then our exported goods become too expensive. Other countries do this – so should we. The high New Zealand dollar is making life hard for exporters and it’s simply ruining manufacturing in New Zealand.

As my colleague David Parker has said recently, targeting inflation alone is an old orthodoxy that few countries support[v]. We need more balanced objectives, and a broader range of tools to achieve them.

We also need to stop the housing market from spinning out of control. Not only do high housing prices make homes unaffordable for many ordinary families, but housing booms are usually followed by housing busts. We’ve had quite enough economic train wrecks in recent years, thanks very much.

But economic and financial stability is about more than just keeping prices stable.

Watering the soil

Good farmers don’t just dig the soil, they keep it watered.

The lifeblood of business is capital, but many private investors have taken flight since the crash of 2008. A business community without investment is like a field without irrigation: without some water, the crops will wither and die.

I’m not advocating the government dolling out taxpayer funds to big business. There’s been too much of that already. Taxpayers are sick of it. I’m sick of it.

However, there’s no reason that the government can’t help those who are helping themselves.

For example, suppose a private company needs to do some expensive research and development, and this research and development benefits the whole country.

As another example, suppose a private company is researching a cure for Kiwifruit disease? Labour’s research and development tax credits would help that company find a solution.

Accelerated tax depreciation for short-life technology, and other measures soon to be announced, would also assist the innovation process.

Those kinds of policies could be part of a broader win-win approach. That’s how things work in the Scandinavian countries. That’s how the Scandinavians gets results.

Investment also comes from savings. For those who don’t know it, New Zealanders in recent times has had some of the lowest levels of savings in the developed world.[vi] This is wrong for two reasons: one, without savings, our citizens have no fall-back position if something goes wrong. Two, because when people save these savings can be invested wisely.

That’s why Labour’s universal KiwiSaver plan lifted our savings rate four times faster than National’s alternative. Under Labour’s policy, New Zealand would have more capital available for local investment, rather than relying so heavily on foreign-owned banks.

That’s a lesson the Scandinavians have learned and that our Aussie mates have also got right. We need to get it right as well.

Another area in which Labour is streets ahead of National is in the area of capital gains tax. Let me explain this very briefly: many New Zealand businesses have given up investing in useful and productive areas. Why? Because the New Zealand tax system encourages business to invest in the wrong places. That’s because many of the richest New Zealanders have grown rich from capital gains. They buy a piece of land for a million and sell it for three million. That’s a cool two million dollar profit, much of it tax-free. Regardless of how they earn their income, everyone should pay the same rate of tax.

Investing in property for capital gains not only makes home buying unaffordable for many families, it sucks billions away from productive investments.[vii]

Worse still, history has shown that what goes up generally comes down, and often with a crash.

What a capital gains tax does is encourage all investors to put their money into areas that produce something.  This will have the effect of dampening the current property bubble, while freeing up billions for investment in areas like computer technology or energy production.

This is not some freak theory; it’s acknowledged internationally. That’s why there are only two other developed countries that don’t have a capital gains tax.

Pro-growth tax reform, including a capital gains tax and the restoration of tax credits for research and development, is needed to water the soils: feeding real Kiwi businesses and creating real Kiwi jobs.

Planting the seeds

Good farmers carefully sow and nurture the seeds and tend the crops as they grow to maturity.

The seeds of our economy are the innovation and ideas that can be raised in our universities, businesses, garages and garden sheds.

Kiwis are an innovative, creative people. Our capacity for working wonders with reduced resources has led us to developing the world’s first electric fences, jet boats and so on. The list is almost endless and the ideas are often brilliant. But too often, unless the inventor has deep pockets, too many good ideas don’t get off the shelf. Once the seed capital from ‘friends, fools and family’ runs out, often, so does the business. The sad fact is that – even during the economic good times, four out of five Kiwi business start-ups withered and died in the first two years.

In Japan and Korea, four out of five new businesses survive past two years[viii]. The difference is that in Japan and Korea, there is comprehensive government support for small business development. Support with budgeting. Support with obtaining investment. Support with business plans. Support with taking successful products and showing them to the world.

Last week, the New Zealand Herald told the sad story of how 32 of New Zealand’s biggest high-tech companies have been sold off overseas at an early stage[ix]. That’s like ripping out a crop when it’s half-grown. It’s madness.

Labour welcomes positive investment, but we want to avoid the best and brightest of our young companies being continually hollowed-out from Kiwi ownership.

We need policies that will help young Kiwi companies grow for longer, and become stronger, right here in New Zealand. We know the main problems: a lack of capital to support growth, a lack of experience in trading outside of New Zealand, difficulty communicating with overseas customers and a difficulty delivering the product or service around the world. David Shearer, who is also our Innovation Spokesperson, will be speaking more on our ideas in this area shortly.

Labour also believes that government should try to buy Kiwi-made products where possible and appropriate, and ensure that Kiwi companies have a fair chance to sell to their own government. Taking a hard look at government procurement is also a part of Labour’s policy mix.

The government should also have a strong policy of avoiding products that cause significant environmental harm and those that rely on the cynical exploitation of workers, especially women and children.

Rebuilding manufacturing, sectors and regions

Good farmers have a plan for every paddock on the farm. We need a sustainable growth strategy for every industry sector and region.

Sadly, however, since National took over many regions have slipped backwards, and this is no accident. The East Coast and Northland have skyrocketing youth unemployment. Wasting a generation of young Kiwis in our regions is not good enough. Take forestry for example. We don’t build enough quality products with our own wood. Instead we cut down the trees and ship the logs to ‘sweatshops’ overseas. Under the current New Zealand government policy, there’s simply no incentive to do otherwise.

A similar thing happens in dairy. Our milk is mainly shipped overseas as commodity products like milk powder, while too often those that develop these ingredients into branded products get most of the benefit.

It’s even worse with our seafood. Did you know that for the next four years it is legal for New Zealand companies to catch fish in our waters using Korean boats manned by Filipino sailors who are treated like slaves?[x] This fish, in some cases, is then sent to Asia for processing, then shipped back to New Zealand for sale in our supermarkets. This is madness.

Both the International Monetary Fund and the credit rating agencies have said New Zealand’s biggest weakness is that too great a share of our total exports is selling raw commodities like milk and logs at low prices. Instead, we need to be making something more valuable out of our milk and timber before we export them[xi]. That’s the Scandinavian way.

In case anyone has missed the headlines of the last few weeks about massive layoffs at Tiwai Point, Norske Skog’s Kawerau mill, Solid Energy’s Huntly and Spring Creek mines, Nuplex and APN in Auckland, and many, many others – manufacturing is in crisis in New Zealand.

40,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost since 2008 when National came to government and there are more layoffs to come[xii].  Some 65,000 more New Zealanders are unemployed[xiii] and that’s not counting what Bill English now calls the “safety valve”[xiv] of 54,000 other New Zealanders giving up and moving permanently to Australia in the last year alone – an all-time record.

So we desperately need a high-value manufacturing strategy in this country. Gone are the days when manufacturing was just some unskilled worker bolting two parts together. That style of manufacturing is now inevitably done in low-wage countries. In most cases, we simply can’t compete with Asia when it comes to large-scale, low-cost manufacturing.

However, we’re not out of the race, by any means. According to Statistics New Zealand, there are about 22,700 manufacturing businesses in New Zealand[xv], which together produce about $20 billion of sales[xvi]. $20 billion.

I believe we could triple that, not by lowering our environmental standards or paying our workers less, but doing what we do so well.

New Zealand is very good at thinking small and thinking smart. We can do small production runs of specialist items. We can process raw materials that were gathered nearby. We can produce products on demand for our local market or international markets.

Above all, we can think smart. We can take an idea from concept to manufacture, often on a budget that wouldn’t pay for lunch in America or Germany.

Should the government be backing the manufacturing sector? Absolutely. Just look to the Scandinavian example.

Prof Göran Roos, a leading Scandinavian industrial economist, points out that every dollar in manufacturing business leads directly to $1.74 in turnover elsewhere in the economy[xvii].  And he and others point out that with increasing linkage between manufacturing and high value services in global trade, you can’t win without manufacturing capability. Buy a new car, get a regular servicing package.

The Scandinavians understand that a successful manufacturing strategy provides high-value jobs, good incomes, and helps reduce our overseas debt.

Labour will work with unions and businesses to enhance skills training to help support a strong manufacturing heart. The heart of a high-performance manufacturing sector is highly-productive workplaces with excellent training and decent living wages.

Like in the Scandinavian countries, we want workers to have the training and support to adapt to changing jobs with ‘flexicurity’ throughout their lives. Flexicurity: it means ‘flexible security’[xviii].

This is important. Look at what’s happening with the West Coast coal miners. After a lifetime of hard work in the coalmines, these miners are now facing the economic scrapheap[xix] thanks to National’s plans to railroad the sale of Solid Energy. The miners must now adapt to a changing world.  Can they do this overnight? Of course not.

That’s where the government can help, not with a handout, and not by lowering environmental standards or strip-mining national parks, but with an investment in the future of those workers and an investment in the future of our entire country. It’s time to recognise that our most valuable resource is not just our land, but our people.

Clean and green

Another crucial sector is clean-tech. Labour leader David Shearer has called for a clean, green and clever economy for good reason – there are almost seven billion people on the planet[xx].

It’s obvious now to most governments, including not only the Scandinavians but also most of Europe, China, Korea and Japan, that we simply can’t keep living the wasteful and destructive ways of the past. As government regulations around the world get tougher, there’s a huge global market for clean technology. That is, technology that makes more effective use of our precious resources while reducing pollution and wastage.

You may rest assured; our competitors are investing heavily in clean technology. Why is New Zealand not doing more to win in the global green race – the $6 trillion export market for clean-tech[xxi]?

There are already some great ideas being developed, but building a strong clean-tech sector will only happen if the government sends the right signals. For example, the more we require our power generators to act responsibly, the more we are encouraging the development of alternative ways of generating electricity.

But the National government is going the other way – scrapping Labour’s biofuels obligations and effectively wiping out the infant biofuels industry.  Now they have the gall to say biofuels will save Kawerau[xxii]. Shameful.

Labour believes there is no inherent conflict between positive business and the environment.

Labour is not opposed to environmentally responsible mineral and energy exploration. However, Labour never forgets that most of New Zealand’s export dollars come from living things. A wise government, like a good farmer, needs to protect and nurture the source of our wealth.

We are interested in investments that have a win-win outcome. Investments that create jobs and exports, balanced with appropriate responsibilities to our communities and the environment.

Nobody in Parliament, and nobody in this room, will still be here in 100 years. However, those who follow us will enjoy the gifts we give and will endure the mistakes we make. That thought alone should make us pause.

GROWING JOBS AND HOPE

We need better from our government. We need a comprehensive strategy that includes planning, research, financial incentives and assistance with helping local companies sell their products overseas.

It’s not rocket science; it’s common sense.

Kiwis are very decent people.  They know they’ve been conned by Neo-liberalism and its National-Act acolytes. They want to do something about it. They want to reclaim that wonderful sense of fairness, safety and honesty that used to be the hallmark of this country.

In my remarks today I have stressed three key things:

First, contrary to the failed Neo-liberal policies that got the world into this mess, it’s really clear to you, to me and to the incoming Labour government, that we all do better together when we all win together. Think Scandinavia. Think symbiosis.

Second, it’s in Kiwi DNA to understand farming – the role of government in helping to create an innovative, job rich economy should be like a good farmer.

  • Tending the soil to get the fundamentals right.  Irrigating it with capital and fertilizing it with skills and technology.
  • Planting the seeds of future success through a step change in innovation.
  • Having a plan for each paddock – our industry sectors and regions – so we can be the best we can be.  Understanding that it is crucial to have high value manufacturing and clean technology developed alongside making the best sustainable use from our resources.
  • And never forgetting that our most valuable asset is always our people. Investing in education, skills and lifelong learning; building decent high performance workplaces, and using the power of government to reward good business practices.

Third, we need a government that listens, that works in partnership, then takes action. We can rebuild this economy. We can make this country the envy of the world again. But we need a government that acts, like a good farmer, not one that just sits on the fence, watching the weeds grow, and letting the farm go to ruin.

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REFERENCES AND READINGS

[i] Internet Movie Database, Gordon Gekko quotes, available at http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0012282/quotes

[ii] Keay, D. (1987, September 23), Margaret Thatcher interview, Women’s Own.

[iii] Schwab, K. (ed.), ‘The Global Competitiveness Report 2008–2009’, World Economic Forum, available at: http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GlobalCompetitivenessReport_2012-13.pdf

[iv] ibid.

[v] Hon David Parker’s recent Finance portfolio statements are available at http://www.labour.org.nz/portfolios/finance

[vi] Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2012, June 7). Household saving rates – forecasts: Percentage of disposable household income, DOI: 10.1787/2074384x-table7.

[vii] New Zealand Labour Party (2011), David Cunliffe talks about the debt propelled economy (video), available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjyHctIljPM

[viii] Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan. Briefing note.

[ix] Wishart, S. (2012, September 24), ‘Kiwi high tech for sale’, New Zealand Herald, available at http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10836029

[x] Ministry for Primary Industries (2012, February), Ministerial Inquiry into Foreign Charter Vessels, available at http://www.fish.govt.nz/en-nz/Consultations/Ministerial+Inquiry+into+Foreign+Charter+Vessels/default.htm

[xi] International Monetary Fund (2012, June 7 and prior), New Zealand and the IMF series, available at http://www.imf.org/external/country/nzl/index.htm

[xii] Newson, B. (2012, September 12), ‘Nothing ‘inevitable’ about mass redundancies’, EPMU statement, available at http://www.epmu.org.nz/news/show/173416

[xiv] Cited by Tarrant, A. (2012, September 21), ‘Record loss of migrants to Australia in year to August, Stats NZ says; Nearly net 40,000 cross Tasman to the ‘lucky country’’, interest.co.nz, available at http://www.interest.co.nz/news/61231/record-loss-migrants-australia-year-august-stats-nz-says-nearly-net-40000-cross-tasman-lu

[xv] Statistics New Zealand (2012, September 10), Survey and methods section, ‘Quarterly economic survey of manufacturing’, available at http://www.stats.govt.nz/surveys_and_methods/completing-a-survey/faqs-about-our-surveys/quarterly-economic-survey-of-manufacturing.aspx

[xvi] Statistics New Zealand (2012, September 10), Table 1: All Manufacturing section, ‘Economic Survey of Manufacturing: June 2012 quarter’, available from http://www.stats.govt.nz/~/media/Statistics/Browse%20for%20stats/EconomicSurveyofManufacturing/HOTPJun12qtr/esm-jun12-qtr-tables.xls

[xvii] Roos, G., (2012, June 29), Is Manufacturing in Decline?, special presentation.

[xviii] One European interpretation of ‘Flexicurity’ is detailed at European Commission – Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion section (n.d.), Flexicurity, available at: http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=102&langId=en

[xix] Sabin, B. (2012, September 25), ‘Spring Creek miner’s 5th redundancy’, 3news, available at http://www.3news.co.nz/Spring-Creek-miners-5th-redundancy/tabid/421/articleID/270538/Default.aspx

[xx] World Bank estimate cited in Google Public Data set. Granular global population analysis is available from the WolframAlpha knowledgebase (2012), available at http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=world+population&lk=4

[xxi] Innovas, cited in Pure Advantage (2012, May), New Zealand’s Position in the Green Race, p. 2.

[xxii] Hon Steven Joyce, National Party MP and Economic Development Minister, cited by Radio New Zealand (2012, September 11).

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Previous related blogposts

Guest Author: David Cunliffe, Get your invisible hand off our assets

Guest Author: David Cunliffe, A Bold New Direction?

Charter Schools – Another lie from John Banks!

Finland, some thoughts

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Child Poverty: Labour on track

10 September 2012 2 comments

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1. National

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Sad to say, these are the headlines that have  been commonplace in our newspapers for the last few years,

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Youth jobless rate soars to 19.4%

A poverty of ideas

Unemployment ‘alarmingly high’

Warnings for Government in inequality report

Kiwis still flocking across Tasman

Unemployment rises to 6.8 per cent

Agencies fear Govt will chop vital child services

CEO pay packets 9.9pc fatter

New welfare law a ‘war on poor’

Growth slows – GDP up just 0.3pc

Fear of dangerous rift from wealth gap

UN urges Govt reforms to not target beneficiaries

NZ rich-poor gap widens faster than rest of world

Low income households less likely to move up scale – study

Govt has caused ‘incredible shift of wealth’ – CTU

No food, no shoes and kids kept home

Playing politics is not helping kids

Struggling families borrow to buy food

Family struggle on minimum wage

Hungry kids scavenge pig slops

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National’s response to this obscene -but preventable –  crisis  has been,

  • to “reform welfare” (as if welfare needed “reform – which it does not)
  • implement purchase cards to prevent 16 and 17 year old beneficiaries from buying booze and ‘baccy (despite the law already preventing retailers from selling these items to young people)
  • paint unemployed and solo-mums (but never solo dads) as lazy; drug-addicts; criminals; kidnappers, etc.

Even National’s election pledge last year, to create 170,000 new jobs is drowning in a wave of ongoing  redundancies, day after day,

Quite simply, National is struggling to address any of the inter-connected socio-economic problems currently besetting our country.

Why? Because National is trapped in an ideological paradigm of its own making.

National is heavily reliant on The Market delivering jobs – not central government – as John Key and his Party has maintained over the years,

Nothing creates jobs and boosts incomes better than business growth. For New Zealand to build a more productive and competitive economy, we need more innovative companies out there selling their products on the world stage.”

See: Agenda to help Kiwi businesses

Key may have a point. Sort of.

In good times, when the economy is strong, it is mostly business growth that delivers job growth. The two go together, hand in hand, as they did in the early 2000s,

See: Labour shortage holds back growth

See: Skills shortage delays building

See: Skill shortage restrains firms

See: Wellington short of skills

But in bad times, when the economy falters and stagnates, it is the role of central government to step in and take up the slack. It is central government that can implement policies to keep people employed; small to medium businesses turning over; and keep workers off welfare, until the economy picks up.

The alternative is recession; mass unemployment; businesses going under; and people on welfare.

It should be fairly obvious to all  but the most ardent National/ACT  ideologues that society benefits from keeping people in work, rather than allowing them to be made redundant and unemployed. This blogger sees no social good or business gain in permitting high unemployment to blight our society.

National’s abandonment of any responsibility toward actively creating jobs during an economic downturn – as has been ongoing since 2007/08 –  is an indictment on our Prime Minister; his leadership; and his Party’s ineffectual policies.

An ideological faith in the  Marketplace is not a sound basis on which to grow a modern economy and generate new jobs. An ideological faith in the Marketplace is simply grown-ups indulging in  “wishful thinking”.

The result of which is,

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2. Labour

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Problem: child poverty is resulting in children going to schools hungry.

Labour’s solution: feed them.

It’s that simple.

Cost to taxpayers to do this: up to $20 million dollars a year.

Cost of doing nothing (National’s option):  3% of GDP (NZ$5 billion per year)

See: Stop debating and feed the kids, says Shearer

$20 million to fix a problem vs $5 billion to do nothing. Most common sense people would agree that this is a no-brainer. (Hardline National and ACT supporters  would probably opt for the $5 billion cost to our GDP to do nothing,  but then again, extremist National/ACT supporters are not reknowned for common sense.)

The next argument used by the Selfish Mob is, that it’s the fault of parents for not feeding their own kids; that it’s no one else’s responsibility; that they shouldn’t have had kids; stop drinking and smoking, blah, blah, blah.

Which is all simply a way to say, “It’s too big a problem and I don’t want to deal with it”.

Let’s cut to the chase;

  1. It’s not a child’s fault which family they were born into
  2. Not all families are druggies, alkies, smokers, etc. That’s playing the Blame Game, and it is dishonest.
  3. We either spend a few hundred or thousand dollars now, on each child in poverty, or we spend $90,000 per annum on them – when they end up in prison. Your call.

As Shearer said,

I hear people argue that this is the responsibility of parents. We can debate that endlessly, but it won’t change this reality: tomorrow morning kids will still turn up to school hungry.”

See: Stop debating and feed the kids, says Shearer

Labour leader David Shearer has found his mojo and reacquainted himself with Labour’s heritage; caring for people at the bottom of the socio-economic heap, and not just the braying middle classes.

His announcement of a bold plan to feed every child in the bottom Decile 3 schools –  650  primary and intermediate schools – in our country, is gutsy. It flies in the face of the current fad of Individualism and playing the Blame Game which has infected our society since the late 1980s, when Rogernomics decreed with chest-thumping triumph that ‘Greed is Good’.

No more.

Several media reports, political commentators, professional experts, et al,  have stated that child poverty has been increasing in the last 30 years. By ‘coincidence’, Rogernomics and the Cult of the Individual began thirty years ago.

We all know that is no coincidence. It is an unspoken truth that child poverty has increased these last 30 years because of the unforeseen (?) consequences of free market policies; loss of jobs to overseas low-wage economies; de-regulation; undermining of trade unions; seven tax cuts that transferred wealth upwards to the upper- middle class and 1%;  other right wing socio-economic policies, and the pre-emininence of Individual selfishness over Community good.

The consequences were indeed predictable, and a few lone voices like ex-Wigram MP, Jim Anderton, tried warning us where we were heading. (Anderton predicted in the mid 1990s that increased student debt of dentistry students would push up dentistry fees and make oral healthcare unaffordable for many. That prediction has come painfully true. See: Costs of dental care hurting.)

Shearer has promised that a Labour-led government would pledge,

  • One meal a day for every child in a decile 1 to 3 primary or intermediate school. Cost: $3m-$19m a year.
  • Extend Reading Recovery programme to all schools and put 5000 more 6-year-olds on it annually. Cost: $20m a year.
  • Plain English report on schools.
  • No class size increases.

Good stuff. This is  a fine start to un-doing 30 years of neo-liberal damage and to wind back the jungle-like mentality of me-first Individualism.

This blogger supports 100% the concept of meals in schools. And why not? Our cuzzies in Europe, America, and other nations do precisely this. Not only have their societies not collapsed – but their standards of living are measurably  higher than ours.

It is common sense really. Who could say ‘no’? Well, sycophants to National can.

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3.  National

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A cursory check of some commentary opposing Shearer’s announcement is based on costings; where will Labour get the money from?

Interestingly, the same questions are very rarely asked of National, when they engage in big spend-ups on “must have” things.

For example, there seems to be plenty of cash to spend on “consultants”,

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Full story

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Plenty of cash found by National, to spend  on the Rugby World Cup last year,

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Full story

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Plenty of taxpayers’ money on plastic wakas  –  a real “must have”, according to National. Why not spend up $2 million on another Rugby World Cup project? Money seems to be no object when it comes to our national past-time,

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Full story

See previous blogpost: Priorities?

And who can forget this  expensive little fiasco,

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Full story

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National can also spend millions on subsiding businesses  when it suits them;  ETS subsidies for farmers; millions on Ministerial travel; and much more.

It is not so much a matter of whether or not we have enough money to spend on our children, so much as prioritising.

A reader should ask him/herself, what is more important; investing in children and lifting them out of poverty?

Or spending on sports tournaments, Ministerial travel, consultants, business subsidies, etc?

What on Earth can be more important than the children of our nation?! And why the hell am I even asking a question like this in 2012AD?!?!

Once upon a time, even John Key advocated for a Food in Schools programme,

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Full story

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To repeat what  John Key said in 2007,

We all instinctively know that hungry kids aren’t happy and healthy kids.  I want this to be the first of many schools and businesses that we put together.

I’m interested in what works and I am humbled by the support this idea has received already.

We are going to put together the package while in Opposition. We are not waiting to be in Government, because all our kids deserve better.”

What happened to John Key’s wonderful idea (no sarcasm intended)?

Simple. He became Prime Minister. And that was the end of that policy.

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4. Labour

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If  Labour is to be the new government in 2014, it cannot rely simply on National dropping in the polls. There are too many unforeseen events that may work in National’s favour to rebuild their public support.

Shearer and his colleagues must give the Voting Public a new reason to turn away from John Key and look  at Labour instead.

There must be a “brand difference” between National and Labour – something that gives the punters a very real point of difference to consider.

I offer this to Labour’s strategists; the public are starting to sniff the wind blowing from National, and there’s a definite “odour” wafting down  from the Ninth Floor.  Too many things are rotten in the National Party; too many things don’t add up; John Key’s smile and wave has worn thin; and his promises are amounting to nothing.

Even Bennett’s beneficiary bashing is starting to look for what it is; an attempt to deflect public attention from National’s failure to create jobs.

Because despite National’s slavish adherence to free market dogma, even Key  slipped when he admitted,

We agree with you, it’s the government’s responsibility to do everything within it’s powers to try to get people jobs.”

See: Key and Goff Q and A Creating jobs

And they’ve failed miserably.

Which leaves a vacuum.

And as any High School student can tell you; Nature abhors a vacuum.

To the Labour Party I say this, don’t try to be “National lite”.

In fact, don’t even try to be something you’re not. Return to values upon which the New Zealand Labour Party was built.

Stay loyal to those values.  Except for a group in our society  of die-hard self-centered bastards who couldn’t care less about their fellow kiwis,  most New Zealanders are decent, fair-minded, and long for a society that we can be proud of,  because everyone gets a fair go.

If Labour stays confident and loyal to it’s true core values, then it need not pretend to be something it’s not. People will recognise that dedication and there will be no need to try to pander to the lowest common denominator to win votes.

That kind of self-confidence is what will win you votes. Lots and lots of votes.

Labour’s policy on child poverty is where we, as a country, turn the tide on selfish Individualism and the creed of  “Greed is Good”. This is where we start saying that we can do better – but we have to change the road upon which we are travelling.

The road of the free market is leading us into a mire of income disparity; poverty; hopelessness on the part of the Have Nots;  selfishness on the part of the Haves; and a general sense of feeling that… something is not right with this country.

People are leaving New Zealand in droves – but it’s not just the money. This blogger senses a feeling of ‘disconnect’ from many families and young folk departing our shores. It is as if they no longer feel a committment to, or from, this society.

The road to the Free Market has failed.

We need a new road. We can start with feeding the poorest children in our society. Because, goddamit, it we can’t – or won’t – do a simple little thing like that, then we are not a society any more.

As TV3’s Lachlan Forsyth wrote on his blog,

… For too long we, as a country, have done nothing.

If you don’t think the issue of child poverty in New Zealand is a problem, you’re dreaming.

And you’re part of the problem.

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Previous related blogpost

Priorities?

Greed is good?

Additional

Sccop.co.nz: National launches its Food in Schools programme

Radio NZ:  Listen to more from Hekia Parata on Morning Report

Radio NZ:  Feeding school children important for nation – Shearer

NZ Herald: Child poverty costs NZ $10b a year – expert

NZ Herald: Free meal policy good, but more needed: KidsCan

NZ Herald: Blowouts push public Rugby World Cup spending well over $200m

NZ Herald: Illiteracy a yearly $3 billion cost – report

Office of Child Commissioner: Solutions to Child Poverty in New Zealand

Other Blogs

Tumeke: Days after Pagani goes – Labour steps to the left with MANA Party ‘feed the kids’ policy

The Standard: A decent policy

The Dim Post: The Big Lie

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= fs =

Charter Schools – Another lie from John Banks!

2 August 2012 42 comments

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Somewhere in New Zealand is a building. It’s not signposted and it most likely looks like any other building in any other town or city.

The only difference is what this building contains.

This building contains all the stupid ideas that humanity has ever come up with in the last 100,000 years or so. It’s quite a big building, because there are so  many stupid ideas that have been collected; filed; and lovingly stored. There is practically  a stupid idea for every occassion.

This is the building where National and ACT Ministers go to get their next big, “bright”, idea.

This is where John Banks, along with Hekia Parata,  went in search of  the lunatic concept that is known as “Charter Schools”. It was stored in a little shoe-box, labelled,

“Dumb and Dumber – how to Dumb Down Your Child Using Taxpayer’s Money

Stupid Idea #2,717,990: Charter Schools”

The idea goes something like this;

  • Organisations  and/or private companies will set up schools – Charter Schools
  • Charter Schools would be managed by said Organisation/Church/Company, but funded by the taxpayer
  • Charter schools could be run for profit, or non-profit
  • Charter schools need not employ qualified, trained teaching staff
  • Charter School managers would negotiate salary levels and employment conditions directly with employees – so a “teacher” could be hired on minimum wage – $13.50 an hour
  • Charter schools would set their own hours, term dates, etc.
  • Charter schools can set their own curriculum
  • Charter schools could be run by religious groups such as the  Destiny Church cult

Education Minister Hekia Parata and Associate Education Minister, John Banks, today announced the framework for the New Zealand Model of Charter School  – or, as they have euphemistically branded them, the Orwellian-sounding  “Partnership Schools”, or pandering to culturally-sensitive niceties,  “Kura Hourua” .

In effect, ACT and National will be using tax-payer’s  money to fund private schools. Not since farming subsidies has National  come up with such an odd way to throw our taxes at private companies and organisations.

Private schools and educational institutions have always been a part of New Zealand’s social structure. They were usually religious-based, such as Catholic high schools; Jewish schools; or private training  institutions.

Many have now become “State integrated” schools,

There are three types of school: state, private (or registered or independent) and state integrated schools. State and state integrated schools are government funded. Private schools receive about 25% of their funding from the government, and rely on tuition fees for the rest.

State integrated schools are former private schools which are now “integrated” into the state system under the Private Schools Conditional Integration Act 1975  “on a basis which will preserve and safeguard the special character of the education provided by them”.

According to Ministry of Education statistics, of the 286,886 secondary students (Years 9–15) enrolled in New Zealand schools at 1 July 2011, 81.9 percent (235,048) attend state schools, 12.4 percent (35,631) attend state integrated schools, and 5.6 percent (16104) attend private schools.

See: Wikipedia Secondary education in New Zealand

The odd thing about Charter Schools is that they are an American construct, originating in 1988, and with the first Charter School law enacted in 1991 in the US.

See: Wikipedia Charter Schools

It could be  justified that Charter Schools is an  American attempt to employ  free-market principles to produce better education outcomes,

Caps on the number of charters in a state drag down performance as much as lax oversight, because they cramp the diversification of the market and discourage investment…

[abridged]

Since 1993 15% of charter schools have shut their gates, most because of low enrolment, a sign that the market is working.”

See: The Economist – Charting a better course

It’s hardly surprising that our American cuzzies would turn to their precious capitalist Market Place for solutions to their poor education system.

In a recent OECD PISA report, member states were ranked according to education outcomes for reading, mathematics, and science. The results were… educational.

See: OECD PISA report Education at a Glance, 2011

The graphic below is an abbreviated version of data gleaned from the report,

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It’s interesting to note that in reading achievement, Finland, New Zealand, and the US ranked;

# 3 Finland

# 9 New Zealand

#18 United States

In mathematics,

# 2 Finland

# 9 New Zealand

# 26 United States (below OECD average)

In science,

# 2 Finland

#10 New Zealand

# 23 United States

Any reasonable, rational adult could conclude that Finland must be doing something better with it’s  education system than either New Zealand or United States.  However, since  right wing political parties like National and their low-information supporters don’t always engage in issues on a reasonable, rational level, it’s usually left up to the public to persuade National to review policies that are incoherent and based more on dubious  ideology, rather than proven methods.

One simple fact; Finland does education better than us, and way better than our American cuzzies.

When it comes to charter schools, it’s mostly an American ‘game’. Few other countries follow it.  Finland certainly doesn’t,

“… What can we learn from Finland and South Korea?

Finland probably has the most successful school system in Europe. Tests of 15-year-old students from 34 nations find the Finns leading in reading, mathematical literacy and scientific literacy. Finnish schools have been in a reform mode for the past 40 years.

Yet, Ms. Ravitch says, “Finland rejects all of the ‘reforms’ currently popular in the United States, such as testing, charter schools, vouchers, merit pay, competition, and evaluating teachers in relation to the test scores of their students.”

The Finnish system is built on rigorously prepared teachers. Teacher training in Finland is an elite profession, open to only the most qualified and offered at only eight universities, which have formidable entrance requirements. Teachers are high achievers, well paid and highly respected.

Ms. Ravitch, who was in Finland last year, found bright and cheerful schools where students engaged in music, dramatics, play, and academic studies with 15-minute recesses between classes. She found that: “Free from the testing obsession that consumes so much of the day in American schools, the staff has time to plan and discuss the students and the program”. “

See: Lessons from Finland, Korea

How do our Finnish cuzzies do it, you may ask. Perhaps a clue can be found here, by Paul Frysh, from CNN,

The most important lesson the United States can take from Finland is the “preparation and development of high-quality teachers,” Paine said.

This starts with honoring the profession, he said.

“In Finland, it is a tremendous honor to be a teacher, and teachers are afforded a status comparable to what doctors, lawyers and other highly regarded professionals enjoy in the U.S.,” he said.

In addition, like other professions, teachers gain seniority and tenure primarily on the basis of training and experience, and teacher unions have a strong voice in shaping education policy — all very controversial in the United States.

The profession is held in such high regard that competition to get teacher training is fierce. Nationally, only about 10% of some 7,000 applicants to primary school programs are accepted annually to Finnish teacher training programs, according to statistics from the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture.

And it’s not about the money.

“In Finland, they do attract the very best and brightest into the profession, and it has nothing to do with money. It has everything to do with the respect that is given to the profession,” Paine said.

In fact, teachers in Finland are paid about the same as teachers in the U.S.

One young Finnish teacher, asked why he went into the profession, told Paine: “Because it is the most honorable of all professions. It is a patriotic, national calling to be a teacher.”

But what he learned in Finland, Paine said, is that the respect must be more than just lip service.

Administrators in Finland really listen to teachers, then back up their words by giving teachers autonomy and resources, said Paine.

“If you want enduring, lasting student learning, there’s no easy way around that but to invest your time and your resources, including money, as close to the classroom as you can possibly get and that’s with the teacher.”

Part of this investment is in initial teacher education.

In the U.S., most teachers accumulate debt paying for their education, teacher-mentoring is rare and training ranges wildly from a few weeks of training in alternative teacher training programs such as Teach for America to world-class four-year and graduate college programs.

In Finland, by contrast, teachers train for free, receive a stipend and begin hands-on teaching with a mentor almost immediately. All school teachers must hold a master’s degree in addition to four or five years of undergraduate training to be permanently employed, and teachers without a master’s are given time and resources to get it.

And it turns out that well-respected, well-educated teachers stick around longer.  “

See: West Virginia learns Finland’s ‘most honorable profession’: Teacher

So Finland did not achieve it’s high education outcomes through short-cuts and fads such as “charter schools” and  performance pay. Their strategy was a greater investment in the teaching profession itself. It wasn’t about the school structure – it was about the teachers – the men at women who actually front up, at the chalk-face, of our class-rooms.

By comparison, Charter schools have had a poor education outcome in the US, according to a 2009 report by Stanford University’s Centre for Research for Education Outcomes (CREDO),

The group portrait shows wide variation in performance. The study reveals that a decent fraction of charter schools, 17 percent, provide superior education opportunities for their students.

Nearly half of the charter schools nationwide have results that are no different from the local public school options and over a third, 37 percent, deliver learning results that are significantly worse than their student would have realized had they remained in traditional public schools.

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A study done by Stanford University found that charter schools on average perform about the same or worse compared to public schools.

Source: Wikipedia Charter Schools

These findings underlie the parallel findings of significant state‐by‐state differences in charter school performance and in the national aggregate performance of charter schools. The policy challenge is how to deal constructively with varying levels of performance today and into the future…

[abridged]

… Our national pooled analysis reveals, on the whole, a slightly negative picture of average charter school performance nationwide.

On average, charter school students can expect to see their academic growth be somewhat lower than their traditional public school peers, though the absolute differences are small. “

See: Stanford University: Charter School Performance in 16 States (USA)

So the question we now pose is; Why do it? Why borrow from a country that has worse education outcomes than us – instead of looking toward an education system from a country near the top of the OECD?!?!

Hekia Parata stated,

We want all our students leaving school with the skills they need to reach their potential in the modern economyPartnerships schools or Kura Hourua will be based on international best practice and will ensure high levels of accountability and flexibility, while being tailored to New Zealand’s education environment.  “

See: Ministers announce framework for Partnership Schools

In which case, who in their right mind emulates a nation’s education system that has a worse ranking on the OECD scale than we do?  Because if that’s the standard that John Key, Hekia Parata, and John “I-can’t-recall” Banks is searching for, then perhaps we should emulate Indonesia.

They’re at the bottom of the scale.

If anyone knows the answer to this question, you may have unlocked the enigmatic, convoluted inner-workings of a right wing politicians brain.

As for John Banks – he was interviewed on today’s (2 August) Radio NZ “Checkpoint” programme, where he stated,

“… because I know, Suzie [RNZ interviewer] , that for the kids that are not engaged in the education system today, abandoning them to the dole is not good enough. This does work in Britain, does work in America, does work in Finland, does work in Switzerland, and this special partnbership schools are going to work here.

Radio NZ Checkpoint: Associate Education Minister on charter schools

Unfortunately for Banks, his comments are not supported by evidence,

  1. Charter schools “does not work” in the United States. The CREDO report states quite clearly that only 17% showed any appreciable improvement in outcomes. The remainder showed either no difference (46%) or a worse outcome (37%).
  2. Finland does not use the Charter schools system; Finland rejects all of the ‘reforms’ currently popular in the United States, such as testing, charter schools, vouchers, merit pay, competition, and evaluating teachers in relation to the test scores of their students.”
  3. This blogger can find no evidence that Charter schools exist in Switzerland. Indeed, quite the oppposite; “In Switzerland, most children go to public schools. Private schools usually are expensive and people tend to think that students of private schools probably didn’t make it at the public school. Public schools include “Kindergarten”, “Volksschule” (elementary school), “Gymnasium” (secondary school) and “Universitäten” (universities). Most municipalities provide kindergarten, primary and secondary schools. Most cantons provide at least one secondary school. There are eleven universities in Switzerland, nine are run by cantons, two are run by the confederation“.  See: Information about Education in Switzerland
  4. Of the countries mentioned by Banks, only Britain has Charter Schools, which they call academies. This blogger can find no peer-reviewed study to confirm their effectiveness or otherwise.

Once again, John Banks appears to be lying to the public. Nothing that escapes his lips can be taken at face-value.

There are  further points that warrant attention,

Subsidies

ACT has, in the main, been quick to oppose  subsidies.  It is a Party that prefers the “free market” approach. Indeed, it went so far as to oppose subsidies for superannuitants for  GP visits, power bills, and insurance.

See: John Banks –  Speaking Truth To (Grey) Power

ACT has condemned Kiwisaver subsidies –  incentives for people to save for retirement  –  as a “bribe”.

Likewise, subsidies for doctor’s visits and University education were condemned as not in the “public good”.

See: Saving New Zealand: Building a More Prosperous New Zealand

ACT condemned the previous Labour’s job-creation programme, which invested $251 million subsidising young people into work, as an  “expensive band-aid”.

See: Labour Created Record Youth Unemployment

Yet, at the same time, ACT sees no contradiction in subsidising private organisations, churches, and corporations to set up and run Charter Schools?

One can only surmise that corporate welfare is still very much an integral part of ACT policy. “Money for mates” – business mates – is one way to put it.

If someone wants to set up a school, within certain Ministry of Education guidelines, then let them spend their own money on such a venture. This blogger sees no reason why the taxpayer should be spending our taxes on private enterprises. That is not why we pay our taxes.

Untrained Teachers

The prospect that Charter Schools will be staffed by untrained “teachers” beggars belief. This is not how a modern nation upskills it’s people – by engaging untrained staff instead of highly educated professionals.

If National is  going for the cheaper option, where untrained “teachers” are paid minimum wages to teach vulnerable, low socio-economic children – then what is the point of spending millions of dollars on teacher training?

Especially when Education Minister Hekia Parata recently  announced last week that a postgraduate qualification would become the new minimum requirement for all trainee teachers.

As Hekia Parata stated, on 16 May, National’s new policies would include,

1. Invest an additional $60 million over four years to boost new teacher- recruitment and training

2. Ensure that student teachers are equipped with the best teaching practices for 21st century learning

3. Shift to a post-graduate qualification for new teachers

4. And give stronger mentoring and coaching for those teachers working towards full registration.

See: Hekia Parata: Raising achievement for all in Budget 2012

Parata went on to say,

Even so, our National-led Government is committed to improving the quality of teaching through an ongoing investment of just over $300m over the next four years in professional learning and development.

 · Today I am pleased to announce that in Budget 2012 we will invest a further $511.9m of new money into quality frontline education services.

 · Quality teaching is about holding high expectations of, being able to relate to and finding what works for every single child in the classroom. That’s what every one of our teachers needs to be able to do.

So if National is pushing for new teachers to attain postgraduate qualifications – an expensive investment in on-going education – then what is the point of spending taxpayers’ money on setting up  Charter Schools staffed by untrained or poorly trained staff?!

On what planet does this make sense to anyone? Planet National?

The Finns certainly did not achieve their #2 and #3 rankings on the OECD scale by dumbing down the teaching profession and opting for second-best.

In contrast to Parata’s 16 May statement, it is sobering to note that the 2 August media release by Hekia Parata and John Banks, announcing the advent of Charter Schools, did not once mention teachers or improved teacher training.

Not once.

See: Ministers announce framework for Partnership Schools

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That little fact speaks volumes about National/ACT’s reliance on ideology rather than common sense.

John Key’s insistance that we shouldn’t get “hung up” on the issue of untrained teachers in classrooms simply boggles the mind.

See: Key: Don’t worry about unqualified teachers

In this instance, his casualness will have raised eyebrows and probably a few hackles.  His suggestion that “he would be happy with his children being taught by unregistered teachers” is a derisable joke – Key sends his kids to expensive private schools.

The stench of hypocrisy…

But I’ll leave the last word to investigative journalist/documentary maker, Bryan Bruce,

So… charter schools will not have to employ qualified teachers. What a brilliant idea!

Let’s see …next we could have charter doctors, charter dentists, charter architects, charter engineers… all totally unqualified.. and Hey! we could get rid of universities.. Think of all that lovely money we’d save.

Goodbye student loan – who needs one?

Hip hip! for our charter politicians John Banks and Hekia Parata . Hurrah !

Now our Charter kids won’t have to worry about the future.

They won’t have one.”

See: Facebook -Inside Child Poverty

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Previous Blogposts

Privatisation of our schools?!

Additional

Education shake-up ‘biggest for years’

Destiny Church may get funding for new school

Key defends state-funded private schools

On charter schools – Gordon Campbell

OECD:  Student Performance in Reading, Mathematics and Science

OECD: PISA – Education at a Glance 2011

Ministers announce framework for Partnership Schools

Charter schools could employ unregistered teachers

Keep religion out of schools

Charter Schools Still A Pig

Government allows non-qualified teachers into school system

New charter school model ignores findings of research

Key: Don’t worry about unqualified teachers

Stanford University: Charter School Performance in 16 States (USA)

The Economist: Charting a better course

Radio NZ: Checkpoint – Plan to allow unregistered teachers into charter schools

Lessons from Finland, Korea

West Virginia learns Finland’s ‘most honorable profession’: Teacher

Majority against hiring unqualified teachers

From around the world

Salon: Education reform’s central myths

allthingslearning: Can a teacher “create” LEARNing THAT LASTS?

BBC: Academies told they can hire unqualified teachers

New Statesman: The American revolution in English schools

Huffington Post: In Support of the Whole Child

Other Blogs

No Right Turn: Charter schools are bad schools

Local Bodies: NZ Charter Schools Defined

The Standard: Incoherent education policy

The Standard: Robber’s charter

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