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The Mendacities of Ms Amy Adams – “hidden borrowing”?!

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National is at it again;  indulging in rank hypocrisy by criticising the Labour-NZ First- Green Coalition Government of policies that they themselves carried out.

This time, the National Party’s finance spokesperson, Amy Adams, has accused the Coalition Government of “hiding away debt” in SOEs. Speaking to Mediawork’s Newshub, she protested;

“…If you actually look at where Grant Robertson has hidden another six billion dollars of borrowing in Crown entities, total borrowing has actually gone up almost $17 billion. And if you look at it in that way, it’s going to take up our debt-to-GDP ratio to above the 20% target in 2022. So I think he’s being very tricky in fudging the numbers and hiding $6 billion more debt in that Crown entity space.”

Ms Adams has apparently “forgotten” that the previous National government did precisely what she is now alleging that the Coalition is doing.

By  2009, the Global Financial Crisis began to heavily impact on the National Government’s tax revenue. Except for GST, company, individual, duties, and other revenue were down;

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Despite the fall in taxation and other revenue, National proceeded  with it’s first tranche of tax cuts in April 2009. According to then-Finance Minister, Bill English, the 2009 tax cut represented a $1 billion loss of revenue to the National government;

“About 1.5 million workers will receive a personal tax cut, injecting an extra $1 billion into the economy in the coming year.”

This presented a serious problem for National, as it was borrowing $450 million per week, by December 2009, according to BNZ Capital economist, Craig Ebert.

This left National in dire straits. Government revenue was collapsing; borrowing was ballooning – and worse was to come. National had tax cuts planned for the following year. They would be estimated to cost government at least $2 billion in lost revenue.

National’s Cabinet came up with a novel ‘solution’: State-owned enterprises would be treated as ‘cash cows’. Each SOE would be instructed to borrow to their maximum limit and “… release all surplus capital to the shareholder as special dividends“.

In May 2009, then-SOE Minister, Simon Power, issued this letter to all relevant state owned enterprises. Note the red-highlighted portions;

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(Please note that the above version differs slights from the text provided in the NZ Herald version. Some of the redactions above re-appear in the NZ Herald version.)

By November 2011, a Treasuring scoping-study revealed that Solid Energy was experiencing severe financial problems. National’s Ministers were officially advised of Solid Energy’s precarious financial state, but this would not become public knowledge until two years later, in February 2013.

By August 2015, Solid Energy was placed into voluntary administration. By March this year, the liquidation process was near to completion.

Interestingly, the Herald story announcing the final stages stages of liquidation stated only;

Solid Energy first started its downward spiral in 2013 when global coal costs plummeted, exposing its commercial error in carrying substantial debt on its balance sheet.

There was no mentioned of the tens of millions of dollars expropriated by the National government after it’s letter-of-demand from Simon Power in 2009.

Neither was there a mention of the debt levels forced upon Solid Energy;

Solid Energy’s gearing ratio [borrowings] was 13.8 per cent in 2009, but that rose to 34.4 per cent in 2010 and 41.7 per cent last year [2012].

In fact, Solid Energy was bankrupted not only because of it’s high debt levels (four times higher than in 2008/09), but because National demanded 65% of cash reserves to be paid to the government as “special dividends”, as the CCMAU document below shows;

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Solid Energy had meagre cash reserves remaining when the international price of coal fell, reducing it’s income.

Neither did it help when  National abruptly reneged on it’s subsidy to Solid Energy to  generate bio-fuels. National implemented it’s subsidy in 2008 – and scrapped it in 2012.

That decision left Solid Energy with a bio-fuels subsidiary (Biodiesel New Zealand) that was suddenly uneconomical to produce.

Adding insult to injury, and perhaps one of former Dear Leader  John Key’s worst case of misdirected blame-gaming, he lamented the collapse of Solid Energy;

“The causes of the financial crisis at Solid Energy are the usual suspects in failing businesses – too much debt, unsuccessful investments and no reserves to weather a slump in coal prices.

Prime Minister John Key’s comments yesterday indicated these problems and pointed the finger at an imprudent amount of debt and investments that have not returned any cash yet.

Key said the debt had climbed to $389 million when “typically coal companies do not have a lot of debt on their balance sheets”.

Through incompetence;  election year tax bribes that sent sovereign debt soaring and government deficits ballooning; SOE management that failed to assert independence from Ministerial interference; a willingness to strip SOEs of their cash; and demanding that they ramp up their “gearing” (borrowing/indebtedness) – like a fiscal vampire, National sucked Solid Energy dry.

So that combined with the removal of biofuels subsidies and a collapse in international coal prices, the final ‘leg’ of the three-legged stool – unsustainable debt and depleted cash reserves – was enough to send Solid Energy spiralling down into bankruptcy.

It is against this backdrop of “hidden borrowing” by National, that undermined and destroyed one SOE, that Ms Adams is now accusing the Coalition government of the same thing.

National has a distinctly predictable habit of blaming it’s political opponents for behaviour that it itself is guilty off.

Accordingly, Ms Adams wins this dubious “merit award”…

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Postscript: Amy Adams was elected into Parliament on 8 November 2008. She therefore shares collective responsibility for the  demise of Solid Energy, along with her colleagues, Bill English, John Key, Tony Ryall, and Simon Power.

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References

Mediaworks/Newshub: Govt not honest about debt in new Budget – Amy Adams

IRD: Revenue collected 2008 to 2017

Scoop media: Rankin -Tax Cuts 2009-2011

Scoop media: Government delivers April 1 tax cuts, SME changes

Otago Daily Times: Government now borrowing $450 million a week – claim

NBR: Key again defends tax cuts

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

NZ Herald: Simon Power letter to SOEs, May 2009

Treasury NZ:  Treasury Report T2011/2373: Solid Energy New Zealand Scoping Study Report

Fairfax media: Solid Energy in debt crisis talks

Fairfax media: Solid Energy announces voluntary administration ahead of sale

NZ Herald: Solid Energy enters final stages of liquidation process

Fairfax media: Ministers pressured Solid Energy, Parliament told

Treasury: Solid Energy Information Release March 2013 (Document 1875419)

Fairfax media: Biodiesel loses subsidy, prices to rise

NZ Herald: Solid Energy half year profit down as coal export price falls

Fairfax media: State miner to return to coalface

Additional

Other Blogs

The Standard: The real reason Solid Energy is failing

The Standard: Has John Key jumped the shark?

Previous related blogposts

Solid Energy – A solid drama of facts, fibs, and fall-guys

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

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 21 May 2018.

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Simon burns his Teal Coalition Bridges

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Act I – Post-election, Dealing the Cards

During the post-election coalition negotiations last year, there was much entrails-reading of which way NZ First would move to form a new government. Labour and NZ First? Or National and NZ First?

Then came the novel suggestion from several  media and mostly right-leaning political commentators – all with singularly hyper-active imaginations – of a potential  National-Green Coalition government. This was mentioned by Laura Walters and Katie Kenny, on 24 September (2017), both writing for Fairfax media; former National PM, Jim Bolger on 25 September, talking with John Campbell on Radio NZ’s Checkpoint; Bill English on 25 September; National’s deputy Paula Bennett on 29 September;  Jim Bolger again on 1 October; Fairfax’s Tracy Watkins on 2 October, et al…

The ‘cheerleaders’ were lining up to “encourage” (and in one instance, demand!) the installation of a ‘Teal’ Coalition.

Even former cricketer-turned-Mediaworks-AM Show presenter , Mark Richardson, offered his one cent worth of advice to Green Party leader James Shaw to  “be a risk taker and back yourself” by coalescing with the Nats. (Though Richardson admitted that a decision by Shaw to coalesce with National would “blow his Party to smithereens“. This did not seem to perturb Richardson, a self-confessed National Party supporter.)

Tracy Watkins had to concede that any coalition deal with the Nats was a lengthy, but guaranteed,  political suicide mission, “National has used up all its future coalition partners. United Future and the Maori Party are gone and ACT is on life support“.

Strangely, Shaw’s response was utterly predictable. He would take a phone call from then National-leader Bill English… but…

“It’s my responsibility to do so. And we’ll have to see what they’ve got to say. But one of the things I will be saying in return is ‘You know we campaigned on a change of government and you know what was in our manifesto … and how incongruous that is to what the National Party policy programme is’.”

Act II – Was a ‘Teal’ Deal the Real Deal?

So how viable would a coalition have been between two political parties that – on the face of things have as much in common as a chicken and a platypus?

Not much, it would seem.

On several occassions,  National’s current caretaker  Leader, Simon Bridges criticised the Green Party’s policies on social issues;

In terms of the Greens, if they were a true environmental party that wasn’t focused on other bits and bobs, they could be a party that we could work with and work with strongly,” Bridges said on Tuesday.

And;

You’ve seen me say that I think actually there is a role for us in the environment.

I do have problems with the fact that they’re more than simply an environmental party – a lot of other stuff I disagree with, but on the environment we know… New Zealanders care passionately about this.”

And;

It’s a deep red rather than Green. I’m interested in working with them on genuine conservation, environmental issues but not picketing on the streets.”

The sub-text of that narrative was for the Green Party to neuter itself. As James Shaw had to point out to Simon Bridges – much like an exasperated parent patiently explaining something to a young child;

“History has shown that people want to vote for parties on a range of issues. We’ve always said that sustainability is a function of society, of the environment, and of the economy, and you can’t disaggregate those things,”

It would not be dissimilar to the Green Party dictating to National to abandon it’s close links to corporate interests, the farming sector, and other pro-business lobby groups. A point made by recently-elected Green Party Party co-leader, and former Daily Blog contributor, Marama Davidson;

“They’ve got to change a lot. It’s not good enough that Simon’s trying to position himself as all of a sudden caring about our rivers and our water, when his very policies under his party led to the exact environmental degradation that we’re seeing. He wanted to open up drilling to our Maui dolphins’ home.

They don’t understand the connection of the flawed economic model that led to the environmental degradation in the first place. They would have to change a lot, and I don’t think that’s what they intend to do.”

So how ‘green’ is our true-blue National Party?

Act III – National plays the Green Card

On 28 April, at a so-called “Bluegreens” Forum – a greenwashed front for the National Party –  Simon Bridges made much of his party’s “green credentials“;

“Good environmental practice is crucial for securing the type of future we want for our children and grandchildren.

My view is that people aren’t used to hearing a National Party leader talk like this, but I’ve said right from the start that the environment is important to me and the National Party … The environment isn’t an optional extra.

Climate change is going to be one of the most challenging issues of our time. We’ve made some good progress in recent years, but we need to do much more.

We now need to wrestle emissions down, just staying stable doesn’t cut it … We need to incentivise households, businesses, scientists and entrepreneurs to be developing and implementing technological solutions.”

Note; the reported comment from Bridges – “Good environmental practice is crucial for securing the type of future we want for our children and grandchildren” – is almost a word-for-word repeat from last year’s National’s Environment policy on their website;

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Most crucially, note Bridges reference to needing “ to incentivise households, businesses, scientists and entrepreneurs to be developing and implementing technological solutions“.

Developing and implementing technological solutions” – not reducing reliance on fossil fuels. For National that was a No-Go Area.

Not so for this coalition government.

On 12 April, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced  that “There will be no further offshore oil and gas exploration permits granted“. She said;

“This is a responsible step which provides certainty for businesses and communities that rely on fossil fuels. We’re striking the right balance for New Zealand – we’re protecting existing industry, and protecting future generations from climate change.”

More than “a step”, it was a bold leap – perhaps one of the most radical since New Zealand declared itself a nuclear-free nation on 8 June 1987. Climate change officially became this generation’s “nuclear free moment” on 12 April 2018.

Without doubt, it would be an expensive proposition to forego possible, undiscovered, oil reserves that might be worthy millions – billions! – to our country.

But the cost of runaway climate change; increasing CO2; rising temperatures and sea levels; more energetic storms; growing threats of flooding and coastal storm surges; harsher droughts; heavier rains – would  cost us billions as well. With rising sea levels and more powerful storm surges, thousands of homes were now within coastal danger zones;

“Climate change will increasingly create severe risks for New Zealand’s coastal housing stock. Even a small amount of sea-level rise will substantially exacerbate the costs of flooding and storm surges. Under the most optimistic emissions scenario studied by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, global average sea levels will likely rise by between 44cm and 55cm by 2100, and around 1 m with continued high emissions. Across New Zealand, for regions with high-quality data, there are 43,683 homes within 1.5m of the present average spring high tide and 8,806 homes within 50cm.”

According to the Ministry for the Environment, the cost of not addressing climate change threats cannot even be accurately ascertained;

The costs of inaction are difficult to quantify as they depend on the actions that the whole world takes to reduce emissions, not just New Zealand. The costs of inaction will be large but are hard to predict accurately and hard to express in monetary terms. This is also the case for modelling co-benefits of action such as air quality and health benefits. Current research and model development is beginning to address these complexities.

As a rough indicator, the cost of the Christchurch earthquakes was estimated to be about $40 billion (in 2015 dollars), which includes $16 billion  for residential construction. Around 10,000 homes were demolished due to earthquake damage. Compare that figure with Motu’s; “43,683 homes within 1.5m of the present average spring high tide and 8,806 homes within 50cm“.

Regrettably, National’s green rhetoric and Simon Bridges’ pious claims were not matched with more recent stated intentions – intentions that pose a direct threat to the long-term environmental well-being of our country as well as the entire planet.

Despite Simon Bridges asserting that “climate change is going to be one of the most challenging issues of our time. We’ve made some good progress in recent years, but we need to do much more” – National was going to do everything in it’s power to oppose practical solutions to reduce climate gas emissions.

Bridges point-blank refused to “do much more“.

Act IV – Blue card trumps Green for Bridges?

Soon after Prime Minister Ardern issued her government’s 12 April Declaration, Bridges responded like a child with his favourite toy taken off him;

If we are the Government in two years we will change it back.”

Bridges’ double-speak on environmental matters was pointed out by Fairfax’s Laura Walters in no uncertain terms;

Bridges had made a point of talking about National’s future environmental direction, and saying he would be open to working with the Green Party in the future – something the Greens have said was unlikely to happen.

However, when he was asked about his plans for the environment on Thursday, he was not able to point to any policies, or general policy areas.

In case Bridges protests at being “unfairly misquoted” in the media, his follow MPs were also vociferous in their opposition to the coalition government’s decision to curtail further offshore oil and gas exploration. In a recent press release, National’s Energy and Resources Spokesperson, Jonathan Young, said;

“The Government’s decision to ban gas and petroleum exploration is economic vandalism that makes no environmental sense […]

This decision will ensure the demise of an industry that provides over 8000 high paying jobs and $2.5 billion for the economy.

Without exploration there will be no investment in oil and gas production or the downstream industries. That means significantly fewer jobs.

This decision is devoid of any rationale. It certainly has nothing to do with climate change. These changes will simply shift production elsewhere in the world, not reduce emissions.”

And in a bizarre twist, National’s own Climate Change spokesperson, Todd Muller, also condemned winding back New Zealand’s fossil fuel industry. In the same press release as Jonathan Young, he said;

“The decision makes no sense – environmentally or economically – because less gas production means more coal being burnt and higher carbon emissions.

Many overseas countries depend on coal for energy production. Those CO2 emissions would halve if they could switch to natural gas while they transition to renewable energy.

By stopping New Zealand’s gas exploration we are turning our backs on an opportunity to help reduce global emissions while providing a major economic return to improve our standard of living and the environment.

We need to reduce global CO2 emissions. But there is no need to put an entire industry and thousands of New Zealanders’ jobs at risk.

The Government’s decision today is another blow to regional New Zealand, and Taranaki in particular.

It comes hot on the heels of big decisions that reduce roading expenditure, cancel irrigation funding, and discourage international investment in the regions.”

Todd Mueller has the wrong job title. With his unwavering support  for the fossil fuel industry and increased roading expenditure, he should be National’s Increasing Greenhouse Gas Emissions spokesperson. Nothing that Mueller has said would lead to any reduction in dangerous emissions from burning fossil fuels.

The press release from Young and Mueller was also dated 12 April;

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– the same day Prime Minister Ardern released her statement to wind-back oil and gas exploration off our coast. This indicates how long and hard Young and Mueller must have thought deeply on this matter  before issuing their press release.

Not content with being advocates for the fossil fuel industry, Simon Bridges announced eighteen days later that a National government would over-turn the coalition government’s regional fuel tax in Auckland;

“A re-elected National Party will overturn the Government’s regional fuel tax to leave more money in the back pockets of hard-working New Zealand families.

Regional fuel taxes are unfair on New Zealanders. They are regressive, and hit poorer New Zealanders the hardest.

The fuel taxes the Government has announced will leave a typical Auckland family around $700 a year out of pocket.

The regional fuel tax is simply punishing Aucklanders for the Government and the Council’s lack of fiscal discipline.

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And to Councils I say don’t get used to this raid on the back pockets of hard working New Zealanders because a re-elected National Government will repeal this tax.”

Bridges attacked Auckland Mayor Phil Goff;

“Auckland Council is a clear case in point. We know it is a free spender of rate-payers money. It was true under Len Brown and it’s true under Phil Goff.”

Which contrasted with former National Party leader and PM, John Key, who all but endorsed Phil Goff’s bid for the mayoralty in 2015;

“Phil Goff has been a very long standing member of Parliament. It was quite a combative relationship when he was leader of the opposition, but there’s no question he had a big work rate and he was a very effective minster.”

Simon Bridges obviously didn’t get the memo from Key’s office that Goff “was a very effective minster“.

It is also worth remembering that when National was in power, they also raised the petrol excise duty by nine cents per litre over a three year period, with Road user charges increasing similarly. In March 2009, National’s Transport Minister, Steven Joyce announced;

”Our preference is for a simpler system which delivers benefits to road users across the board.” From 1 October this year motorists will pay an increase of 3 cents per litre in fuel excise duty and drivers of diesel vehicles will pay the equivalent in road user charges. A second 3 cents increase will occur at October 1 next year. Each 3 cent per litre increase includes an annual increase of 1.5 cents per litre scheduled by the previous government.

…these smaller adjustments to roading excise and road user charges across New Zealand will make more funding available for roading across the country.”

Evidently, increasing fuel excise taxes for more roads (and thereby more cars) is a good thing. But increasing  fuel excise taxes to fund public transport initiatives – thereby assisting in reducing greenhouse gas emissions – is a bad thing. How else could one interpret National’s contradictory statements and policies?

National took matters a step further when they announced on Twitter a petition to persuade the coalition government to reverse it’s decision to ban offshore exploration;

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This wasn’t just Opposition for the sake of opposition. National’s petition signalled a deep ideological opposition to any steps  that would reduce the production of fossil fuels  in this country. The prospect of losing revenue from this industry – despite being a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions – was simply too much for National to contemplate.

National was signalling to all and sundry that given a choice between maintaining the fossil fuel industry and keeping the revenue stream from it – or beginning a slow phase-out and reduced revenue, the winner would always be industry.

And the environment be damned.

So much for the pious sentiments from Bridges at the National’s Bluegreen Conference;

“Good environmental practice is crucial for securing the type of future we want for our children and grandchildren.”

So with National’s antipathy to taking the crucial, hard steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, what was National’s reasoning to entice the Green Party into a coalition deal (or at least a confidence and supply arrangement)?

The answer came from Bluegreens co-chairman, Geoff Thompson. Thompson was unequivocally clear in his stated intention to using his front-organisation as a way for National to return to power;

“We’re a well-liked party … but it’s not good enough. Forty-four per cent [in a recent poll] doesn’t get us there so we want to expand and we see the environmental side of the party, that’s us, as being an opportunity for that expansion.”

For National, “to expand … we see the environmental … as being an opportunity for that expansion” was the answer.

Appealing to the Green Party to work with National would have been made with generous offers.

But the reality is that the Nats would have demanded that the Greens abandon;

  • their “red green” “bits and bobs” social policies;
  • their policies to move away from oil and gas exploration;
  • and policies to improve public transport in Auckland through regional fuel taxes

In short, the Green Party would have found itself neutered on their environmental as well as social policies.

That would have left the Greens with no alternative but to dump their coalition deal, thereby probably triggering an early election. And we all know how voters treat small political parties that cause early elections.

Simon Bridges and his National Party have demonstrated through their opposition to abandoning offshore oil and gas exploration permits that they have very little interest in environmental issues. It is even doubtful they will ever fully  honour the Paris Climate Agreement.

As early as 2012, National had already broken it’s commitment to include agriculture in the emissions trading scheme;

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National’s behaviour in the last few months have proven that a coalition with the Green Party is not only impossible – but fraught with danger of broken promises and backsliding on environmental commitments.

National would always give pre-eminence to industry; fossil fuel production, and building roads.  Environmentalism, alternative fuels, and public transport would always taken second priority – if at all.

Epilogue – Whatever the game, Physics Wins. Always.

In June 2016, atmospheric carbon dioxide reached 400 parts per million (ppm) at NIWA’s Clean Air Monitoring Station at Baring Head, Wellington;

It came a year after it was crossed at the Mauna Loa station in Hawaii, which has recorded a 24 per cent rise in carbon dioxide levels since it began gathering data in 1958.

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Last month, the level was passed at the Australian monitoring station at Cape Grim, Tasmania.

Like something out of Neville Shute’s post-apocalyptic novel, “On The Beach“, but instead of a deadly radioactive cloud, heightened CO2 levels have reached Australia, and shortly thereafter, New Zealand.

In April last year, Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory detected CO2 reaching 410 parts per million for the first time in our recorded history.

We should be recording that level about now, here at the bottom of the world.

It is a grim reminder that rising CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide wait for no man (or woman). Not even for Simon Bridges.

Meanwhile, NIWA reported that January 2018 was New Zealand’s hottest month on record;

NIWA figures show average temperatures for the month of January across the country was 20.3°C.

The temperature for January normally averages 17.1°.

NIWA climate scientist Gregor Macara said the month’s temperatures were unprecedented.

“It was unusual that the entire country seemed to observe temperatures that weren’t only above average, but really considerably above average.”

“The majority of observation stations we had observed temperatures more than 3° above normal and in fact there are quite a few sites that were 4° above normal which were essentially unprecedented – particularly for this time of year,” he said.

While we baked, Simon Bridges and his cronies in the National Party were planning to over-turn any practical steps taken by the current coalition government to do our bit to try to reduce CO2 emissions.

This is why any talk of a Greens coalition with National is ludicrous.  National’s policies, ideology, and base-support is not compatible with environmental protection.

National is part of the problem.

The Joker in the pack

From April 2014;

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“Out of touch” doesn’t even begin to cover Simon Bridges and the environment.

 

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Note: All National Party webspages have been downloaded and saved for future reference. (They have a ‘habit’ of disappearing after a while.)

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References

Radio NZ: NZ First to meet National and Labour today

Fairfax media:  The coalitions that could form NZ’s 52nd Government and how likely they are

Fairfax media:  The day after the election

Radio NZ: Former PM Jim Bolger on how to deal with Winston Peters

Newsroom: National single-minded about its only option

Fairfax media: National wants conversation with Greens, official talks yet to begin

Fairfax media: Greens have a responsibility to talk to National – Jim Bolger

NZ Herald: Grassroots petition calls for National-Green coalition

Fairfax media: Politically Correct – Green Party won’t pick up the phone

Fairfax media:  AM Show host Mark Richardson’s advice to Green Party leader – ‘Be a risk-taker’

Fairfax media: Mark Richardson declares himself as a National supporter, does that matter?

Fairfax media: Bridges offers olive branch out to Greens, only to be quickly shot down

Mediaworks: National open to working with Greens, NZ First – Simon Bridges

Mediaworks:  National needs to ‘change a lot’ to get Greens onside – Marama Davidson

Fairfax media:  National Party ‘resetting our approach to environmental issues’ – Bridges

National Party: 2017 Environment Policy

Beehive.govt.nz: Planning for the future – no new offshore oil and gas exploration permits

NZhistory.govt.nz: New Zealand goes nuclear-free

Fairfax media: How climate change could send your insurance costs soaring

Motu: Insurance, Housing and Climate Change Adapation:Current Knowledge and future research

Ministry for the Environment: Modelling the economic costs of New Zealand’s intended nationally determined contribution

RBNZ:  The Canterbury rebuild five years on from the Christchurch earthquake

NZ Herald: Christchurch Earthquake: 100,000 homes damaged, 10,000 unsavable

Fairfax media:  Nats would reverse Govt’s decision on oil and gas exploration

National Party: Gas and petroleum decision is economic vandalism

National Party: National to overturn Government’s regional fuel tax

NZ Herald: John Key willing to work with Phil Goff

Ministry of Transport:  Increases to petrol excise duty and road user charges

Beehive.govt.nz: Regional fuel taxes replaced

Twitter: National – Sign our Petition

Ministry for the Environment: The Paris Agreement

Radio NZ: Farmers’ ETS exemption progresses

NZ Herald: Scientists record symbolic milestone, and it’s not one to celebrate

NIWA: Baring Head greenhouse gases

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist: The continuing relevance of “On the Beach”

Scientific American: We Just Breached the 410 PPM Threshold for CO2

Radio NZ: January 2018 NZ’s hottest month on record

Mediaworks: Minister didn’t know park was in drilling plan

Additional

Monkeywrench (Sandor.net):  The Politics of Green Coalitions – rethinking our strategy and positioning

Monkeywrench (Sandor.net):  Which way Winston, and what’s in it for the Greens?

Ministry for the Environment: Overview of likely climate change impacts in New Zealand

Other Blogs

The Standard: How a National/Green coalition could work

Previous related blogposts

As predicted: National abandons climate-change responsibilities

ETS – National continues to fart around

National’s moving goalposts on climate change targets

 

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 17 May 2018.

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Ali Jones rips right wing blogger a “new one” on Radio NZ’s “The Panel”

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Unexpected fireworks erupted on Jim Mora’s ‘The Panel’ on Radio NZ on Tuesday 15 May when PR consultant and  former Christchurch City Councillor, Ali Jones, took on National Party apparatchik, pollster, wannabe Bond-villain, and right-wing blogger, David Farrar.

Farrar began by parroting the current National party propaganda line – at 1.51 – that “despite being nine years in opposition, the government hasn’t actually come in with a lot of detailed policy“.

Ali Jones responded – at 3.15 – taking umbrage at Farrar’s pro-National spin. She replied with a scathing critique of National’s poor track record for the last nine years. It is worth listening to;

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National’s artificially manufactured reputation for “sound/prudent fiscal management” didn’t just take another hit from Ms Jones.  It got a swift, hard kick in the ‘goolies’ by a person unwilling to take any bullshit from one of National’s chief apologists.

Nicely aimed and delivered, Ms Jones.

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References

Radio NZ: Labour accused of doing nothing but setting up committees (alt.link)

P & R Communications

The Press: Ali Jones not seeking second term on Christchurch City Council

Kiwiblog

Previous related blogposts

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

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

The many mendacities of Mr Bridges – a few volts short of an EV

Newsflash: apparently our public hospital system is in crisis?!

National spins new “fake news” narrative: there is no health crisis

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 16 May 2018.

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Media bullsh*t vs the Bovine variety

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A case in point where the media can misrepresent what an elected representative  has stated occurred immediately after Corin Dann interviewed Environment Minister, David Parker, on 6 May, on TVNZ’s Q+A;

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David Parker and Corin Dann on TVNZ’s Q+A, 6 May 2018

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The interview itself was professional, with Dann asking pertinent questions and drilling down into Minister Parker’s stated objective to reduce agricultural pollution of our waterways.

Corin Dann asked;

“So an admirable goal, but the question is — how will you do it? Now, you have a— you’ve talked about beefing up the current guidelines, the national policy statement on water. How far will you go? And I guess the key question is here — will you cap the number of cows that can be in a certain paddock, depending on nutrient levels? In other words, potentially force farmers to destock?”

To which Minister Parker replied;

“Well, cow numbers have already peaked and are going down, but yes, in some areas, the number of cows per hectare is higher than the environment can sustain. That won’t be done through a raw cap on cow numbers; it will be done on nutrient limits, the amount of nutrient that can be lost from a farm to a waterway, because it’s not just a dairy cow issue.”

Note the Minister’s carefully chosen words;

“…the number of cows per hectare is higher than the environment can sustain. That won’t be done through a raw cap on cow numbers; it will be done on nutrient limits, the amount of nutrient that can be lost from a farm to a waterway, because it’s not just a dairy cow issue.”

Minister Parker flatly rejected “ a raw cap on cow numbers” – explaining “it will be done on nutrient limits“.

For a politician, it was a remarkable moment, providing a clear-cut answer to a crucial question. (How many National Ministers have ever given such an unambiguous response?)

How did the rest of the mainstream media report Minister Parker’s comments?

Dishonestly.

TVNZ – Q+A’s broadcaster – presented Minister Parker’s position on the same day as the programme was aired, with this stunningly inaccurate headline and lead-paragraph;

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Despite Minister Parker’s categorical statement that reducing effluent-pollution “won’t be done through a raw cap on cow numbers; it will be done on nutrient limits” – TVNZ chose to misreport the Minister’s position. Anyone who had not watched/listened to Minister Parker’s original interview would inevitably have concluded that cow-reduction was on Minister Parker’s main agenda.

Later that same day – 6 May – Radio NZ also misrepresented Minister Parker in an online article headline and lead-paragraph;

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However, the author of the Radio NZ write-up could not have been ignorant of Minister Parker’s stated position, because the second paragraph read;

Environment Minister David Parker said there wouldn’t be a direct cap on the number of cattle, but instead work was being done on restricting the amount of nutrients being lost from farm to waterway.

Two day later, the Otago Daily Times followed suit;

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– though in a stunning exercise in double-think, the un-named Editorial-writer presented two conflicting statements of Minister Parker’s position;

At the weekend, Mr Parker indicated he wants fewer cows per hectare because the number now is higher than the environment can sustain.

This will not be done through a raw cap on cow numbers. Instead, it will be done on nutrient limits, the amount of nutrients that can be lost from a farm to a waterway.

It was clear from on-line stories that the mainstream media were finding difficulty in reporting Minister Parker’s statements. After all, how could effluent be reduced with reducing cow numbers?

Despite the Minister stating without ambiguity that he was targetting “the amount of nutrient that can be lost from a farm to a waterway, because it’s not just a dairy cow issue” – the msm couldn’t seem to get their heads around that concept.

How could effluent be reduced without cutting cow numbers?

Canterbury dairy farmer, Willy Leferink, offered one solution;

Mr Leferink said he had built a large hangar-like barn on his land to house his cows at certain times during winter which would collect and treat their waste instead of it dropping straight onto paddocks.

It’s bad enough when a politician misrepresents a situation. Former Dear Leader John Key built quite a reputation around misrepresentation; omission; bending the truth; and some outright lies.

But we expect more from our media.

If an elected representative expresses a clear direction, the correct response of the media is to report it fairly to the public. Question; probe; and doubt, by all means. Look behind the facade. Follow-up. Do the stuff we expect from the Fourth Estate.

But do not misreport.

Misquoting or misreporting adds nothing to the sum total of informed discourse.  It only reaffirms suspicion that the media cannot be trusted.

For when the media that has exhausted its trust with the public, the road to political corruption and the rise of demagoguery becomes easier to travel.

Aesop’s The Boy Who Cried Wolf is a fable about loss of credibility that is as valid now as it was 2,600 years ago.

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References

Scoop media: TVNZ Q+A – Minister David Parker interviewed by Corin Dann (transcript)

TVNZ: Environment Minister admits some dairy farmers may have to reduce cow numbers under tough new waterway pollution rules

Radio NZ: Farmers may be forced to reduce cattle numbers

Otago Daily Times: Fewer cows no easy task

Radio NZ: Moves made to reduce runoff already – farmers

Wikipedia: The Boy Who Cried Wolf

Previous related blogposts

The GCSB law – Oh FFS!!!

When the mainstream media go feral

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

Worse than “fake news” – sloppy news!

Syria: the mendacities of the mainstream media (part tahi)

Syria: the mendacities of the mainstream media (part rua)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 11 May 2018.

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Tracy Watkins – Getting it half right on the “Decade of Deficits”

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Writing in the new, tabloid compact-sized Dominon Post on 2 May, political columnist Tracy Watkins mentioned the oft-parroted cliche from the Right, the so-called “decade of deficits”;

“Labour spent years in the wilderness after the global financial crisis gave it a “decade of deficits” as its legacy.”

Watkins left out a crucial factor in National’s ongoing deficits – a fact to be pointed out;

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from: Frank Macskasy
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: 5 May 2018
subject: Letter to the editor
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The Editor
Dominion Post
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Tracy Watkins’s recent opinion piece referred to “decade of deficits” as Labour’s “legacy” in 2008 (1 May). She fleetingly mentioned the Global Financial Crisis as a contributing factor. English himself called the GFC “the deepest, most synchronised recession since the 1930s”.

Nowhere did Watkins mention that Labour’s finance minister paid down this country’s government; posted eight surpluses in a row; as well as funding long-term initiatives such as Working For Families (essentially a tax cut) and NZ Super fund.

Watkins resurrected the tired old fictional trope of Labour’s “first budget is all about playing to the wider masses to show it can be trusted with the chequebook”.

What was also missing was another crucial contributing factor to the so-called “decade of deficits” – a term first coined by former PM, John Key and National’s pollster, David Farrar, in October 2008.

The missing factor were the tax cuts of 2009 and 2010, which reduced government tax revenue by several billions of dollars. The 2010 cuts alone slashed tax revenue by an estimated $2 billion pa.

A Regulatory Impact Statement from Treasury, dated 9 December 2008, warned National;

“With a deteriorating global economic out look New Zealand is expecting weaker economic growth in the next few years, resulting in slower tax revenue growth and increased government expenditure.”

National borrowed billions to make up the shortfall – in essence funding taxcuts through offshore bankers.

So who is it that cannot be “trusted with the chequebook”?
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-Frank Macskasy

[citations, address, and phone number supplied]

 

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References

Fairfax:  Why Labour isn’t about to fall for the ‘spend more’ honey trap

Fairfax:  Tax cuts off as Govt fights recession

Kiwiblog:  PREFU – Ten years of deficits

Fairfax media:  Nats blame Labour for ‘decade of deficits’

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

Treasury: Regulatory Impact Statement – Changes to Personal Tax, the Research & Development Tax Credit and KiwiSaver

Additional

The Atlantic: Tax Cuts Don’t Lead to Economic Growth, a New 65-Year Study Finds

Previous related blogposts

That was Then, This is Now #19 – A “Decade of Deficits”

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 10 May 2018.

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National’s new-found concern for the poor

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There are times when National’s opposition to the Coalition government’s new policies leaves one shaking their head in utter dismay.  Jami-Lee Ross – a notorious union-basher and unrepentant enemy of workers – shedding crocodile tears for the poor of this country, is not a pretty sight…

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A response was called for, pointing out the crass hypocrisy of National to invoke the welfare of the poor to score a cheap political point;

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from: Frank Macskasy
to: NZ Herald <letters@herald.co.nz>
date: 29 April 2018
subject: Letter to the editor

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Letters to the editor
NZ Herald

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National’s transport spokesperson, Jami-Lee Ross, recently criticised the new Coalition government’s plans to promote the use of electric vehicles. On 27 April, Ross said;

“It would effectively be a tax on the poor, you’d see the poorest New Zealanders who are purchasing second-hand Japanese imports having to pay the levy which would go towards subsidising electric vehicles for those who are more likely to be wealthier – and more likely to be able to purchase an electric vehicle.”

The sheer hypocrisy for Ross to cry a river of crocodile tears for the poor when, for nine years, National caused great harm to the poorest families and individuals of our once egalitarian nation.

Specifically, National;

  • raised ACC levies for workers by a staggering 21%
  • increased GST from 12.5% to 15% – raising food prices 4% that year
  • announced increases for petrol excise duty of 3 cents per litre for 2013, 2014, and 2015*, with Road user charges increasing similarly
  • raised Family Court fees to $900
  • increased prescription charges from $3 to $5
  • implemented the infamous “paperboy tax” in 2012 by cutting children’s tax refunds
  • and other increases to government charges, fees, surtaxes, et al

Ross would do well to examine National’s own abysmal record. They hardly helped the poorest families struggling to make ends meet.

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-Frank Macskasy

[address and phone number supplied]

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* 9 cents/litre, spread over three years.

Ross also demanded that the Coalition government do more to purchase electric vehicles;

“I’d encourage this government to continue with what National did by exempting road-user charges, I’d encourage them to continue to purchase more electric vehicles as a government, so the government fleet is full of more electric vehicles.”

The new Labour-Green-NZ First government certainly could not do worse than their National predecessors. In 2016, National’s then Minister for Energy, Simon Bridges, dumped proposals to assist in the purchase EVs for  State agencies;

Cabinet has pulled the handbrake on its Electric Vehicles plan, pulling proposals to help agencies cover the extra cost, documents show.

Bridges’ excuse was about as pathetic as a Crown minister could possibly get;

But Transport Minister Simon Bridges says he canned the two proposals, in order to be “more ambitious” later.

This is the National Party lecturing the rest of us how to curtail greenhouse gas emissions.

They have nothing to offer except more of the same failed policies from the 20th Century that have led humanity to the abyss of cataclysmic climate change.

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References

Scoop Media:  Union biting the hand that feeds

Youtube: Ports behind bill

Radio NZ:  National – petrol car levy will hurt the poor

Fairfax media: Workers to pay large increase in ACC levies

Radio NZ: PM defends proposed GST increase

NBR: GST increase pushes food prices up

Fairfax media: Plans for Family Court attacked

Fairfax media: Prescription price rise hits vulnerable

Ministry of Transport:  Increases to petrol excise duty and road user charges

NZ Herald: Budget 2012 -‘Paper boy tax’ on small earnings stuns Labour

Fairfax media:  Cabinet handbrake proves ‘government lack of leadership’ on electric vehicles – Greens

Radio NZ:  NZ’s summer the hottest on record – Niwa

Other Blogs

The Standard: National’s 18 new taxes

Previous related blogposts

National MP admits collusion with bosses to set up strike-breaking law!!

The many mendacities of Mr Bridges – a few volts short of an EV

2017: Parting shots from the Right: tantrums, bloated entitlements, and low, low expectations for our Youth – toru

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 3 May 2018.

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National spins new “fake news” narrative: there is no health crisis

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National is under attack. It’s reputation as a “prudent fiscal manager” is threatened by a growing realisation that it has achieved government surpluses at the expense of under-funded DHBs, decaying infrastructure, poorly resourced mental healthcare, budget cuts to DoC, frozen funding for Radio New Zealand, cuts to early childhood education and schools, etc.

After nine years of frozen budgets (a cut, once inflation, population growth, and other pressures are factored in), New Zealanders have been made to understand the painful realities of austerity-National-style;

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It is against a backdrop of  startling revelations that hospital buildings are rotting from within and threatened with sewage leaking through walls, that National’s credibility has been challenged.

The new narrative is that National’s so-called “successful fiscal stewardship” has been achieved by deferring vitally-needed spending on critical infrastructure and basic social services.

In essence, after nine years in government, National is being held to account.

But National is beginning to push-back on the new narrative.

This became apparent on 29 April, on TVNZ Q+A’s Twitter account when several ‘tweets’ by obvious-National tribalists (and one disaffected ex-Labour member) all featured a similar theme.  The recurring use of the terms “false story” appeared several times along with the short-hand cliche, “fake news”;

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All of which could be dismissed as the self-induced, delusional denials of individuals who identify a little too closely with the National Party – except it does not end with a handful of misguided National Party members.

On the same day Q+A was broadcast, and whilst National’s faithful Keyboard-warriors were engaging in “fake news” denials all over social media, NewstalkZB posted this on their Twitter account;

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NewstalkZB’s website carried this story that the above ‘tweet’ referred to;

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On  TV3/Newshub, Woodhouse was reported as saying;

[Michael Woodhouse] said the Government has racked up a “woeful litany” of broken promises in just six months, including “the manufactured Middlemore crisis, raising massive expectations for nurse pay increases he won’t now meet, the debacle of the air ambulance tender, inertia and an unnecessary inquiry in mental health”.

Woodhouses’ statements were taken from a National Party Press Release, dated 29 April, where he alleged;

“The Prime Minister recently stated the issues at Middlemore Hospital are emblematic. I agree – emblematic of a Government that has manufactured a crisis that doesn’t exist in order to mask its broken promises.

The Minister’s record now includes the manufactured Middlemore crisis, raising massive expectations for nurse pay increases he won’t now meet, the debacle of the air ambulance tender, inertia and an unnecessary inquiry in Mental Health and now a billion dollar broken promise. This is a woeful litany after just six months in office.”

Woodhouse has a singular gift for misrepresenting facts and ‘bending the truth’ when it suits him.

On 12 February 2018 on Radio NZ, National’s Housing spokesperson – Michael Woodhouse – responded to New Zealand’s housing crisis – by denying it!

He stated categorically;

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

His assertion “that the number of state housing properties have … gone up” was a bare-faced lie.

After nine years in office, National had disposed of some six thousand state houses. As this blogger reported in February this year;

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

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

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

National’s track record after nine years in government is so bad that that cannot rely on the truth to validate themselves.   Instead, they must resort to lies.

National’s MPs and their tribalist supporters have nothing to be proud of.

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References

Fairfax media: Is National really better than Labour with the Government books? Well, not really

Radio NZ: Doctors blame under-funding for DHB blowouts

Mediaworks: Sickening state of Auckland hospital buildings revealed

Radio NZ: DoC funding cut by $40m – independent expert

Mediaworks: What’s behind New Zealand’s mental health funding crisis?

NZ Herald: Govt has cut millions off early childhood education – Study

Manawatu Standard: Struggling schools cut teacher aide hours to keep up with minimum wage increase

NZ Herald: John Drinnan – Radio NZ survives the big freeze

Fairfax media: Funding in Auckland health sector not keeping up with population growth, politicians told

Radio NZ: Sewage leaking into Middlemore building’s walls

Fairfax media: Over 5000 at risk of going blind waiting for treatment, Ministry of Health says

Twitter: TVNZ Q+A

Twitter: NewstalkZB – Michael Woodhouse – 29 April 2018

NewstalkZB:  Government manufacturing a health-sector crisis – Michael Woodhouse

Mediaworks: GP visits might not get cheaper soon after all

Scoop media: Clark confirms broken promise on GP fees

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

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2008/09

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2016/17

Related Other Blogs

The Standard: Micky Savage – National’s fiscal ineptitude over Auckland transport

The Daily Blog: Martyn Bradbury -New Zealand’s new Alt-Right Twitter Trolls – Dirty Politics 2018

Previous related blogposts

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

“Fool me once”

The many mendacities of Mr Bridges – a few volts short of an EV

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

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

Newsflash: apparently our public hospital system is in crisis?!

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 May 2015.

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