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Capitalism and the price of chocolate

1 March 2015 1 comment

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From a previous blogpost published on 4 July 2013, in The Daily Blog

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The Price of Cocoa (2013)

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Three cans of cocoa tell an interesting story.

Can A is the oldest, with an expiry date of April 2011. The can measures 110mm (H) x 75mm (D). It contained 200g net dry cocoa powder.

We purchased Can B sometime  in 2011 (?). The expiry date was March 2012, so it’s the second oldest can.

Interestingly, it also contained 200g net dry cocoa powder. However,   whilst the contents remained the same as Can A – the dimensions of the can inexplicably increased; 130mm (H) x 75mm (D). Same diameter as Can A – but 20mm taller. Contents remain the same net weight.

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KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

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A month ago we purchased Can C (expiry date, March 2015). The dimensions of this can is the same as Can B: 130mm (H) x 75mm (D). But this time, the contents decreased from 200 to 190g net dry cocoa powder. Ten grams less.

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KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

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So the up-shot? The can-sizes have gotten bigger – whilst the contents has reduced by 5%.

On 9 June, I emailed Nestle to find out what was going on,

Kia ora,

It has recently come to my attention that two cans of Nestle Baking Cocoa measure 110mm X 75mm, whilst the other measures 130mm x 75mm.

Both contain 200g net  cocoa powder.

The smaller can measuring 110 x 75 has a “best before” date April 2011.

The larger can, 130×75 has a “best before” date March 2012.

It appears that you have increased the SIZE of the can, whilst the contents remain the same.

Is there a reason why the size of the cans  was increased, by 20mm in height?

And can you confirm that the price stayed the same; increased; or reduced; when the change was made from a 110mm height to 130mm height?

(The email was sent prior to purchasing Can C.)

Perhaps not surprisingly, I received no reply from Nestle. [Blogger’s note: I never received any reply from Nestle.]

Unfortunately, I never retained the receipts for Cans A and B, otherwise I could compare prices. But what’s the bet that the retail price probably increased?

And thus it came to pass…

“As short a time ago as February, the Ministry of Plenty had issued a promise (a “categorical pledge” were the official words) that there would be no reduction of the chocolate ration during 1984. Actually, as Winston was aware, the chocolate ration was to be reduced from thirty grams to twenty at the end of the present week. All that was needed was to substitute for the original promise a warning that it would probably be necessary to reduce the ration at some time in April.” – George Orwell,  ‘1984’

Doubleplusgood!

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The Price of Chocolate (2015)

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A recent story in the media caught my attention;

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Cadbury blocks get the chop

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The unattributed Fairfax article further stated,

Amanda Banfield, managing director of Australasia for Mondelez International, the parent company that owns Cadbury, said she expected a backlash.

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She pointed to rising packaging costs and a lift in the price of raw materials.

The main ingredients are cocoa, sugar and milk.

So let’s have a look at the prices of raw ingredients.

Sugar.

This commodity dropped in price from NZ$0.22  per pound, in July 2014, to NZ$0.20 per pound, by January of this year, according to IndexMundi.com;

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price of sugar - 7 months

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Over the last year, the price of sugar increased, peaking in July last year, before falling back;

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price of sugar - 12 months

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But taken over a five year period, look at how the price of sugar has dropped dramatically;

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price of sugar - 5 years

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So the rationale for Cadbury’s decision to de facto increase their prices cannot be blamed on sugar, which is cheaper now than it was, five years ago.

Let’s have a look at cocoa (beans) – and a similar story unfolds;

Six months – a 3.95% increase;

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price of cocoa beans - 6 months

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Twelve months – a 12.26% increase;

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price of cocoa beans - 12 months

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However – over 5 years – a 21.06% drop in price;

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price of cocoa beans - 5 years

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It would be interesting to note if when the price of cocoa beans collapsed to NZ$2,601.96 per metric ton, in March 2013, did the price of a Cadbury’s bar of chocolate increase in size? Or fall in price?

As for the price of packaging, this would be based on a local commodity (paper and ink) and if  New Zealand’s low inflation is anything to go by (an average of 2.7% pa since 2000), would not be much of a factor in pricing. With the exception of four Quarters around late 2010 to mid-2011, inflation has remained at or below 2%, a fallout from the 2008 Global Financial Crisis and ongoing recessionary/low-growth influences;

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trading economics - inflation 2010 - 2014 nz

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So with commodity prices for sugar and cocoa beans lower now than five years ago, and with low inflation, what other cause  could there be for the de facto price price of Cadbury’s chocolate bars?

Perhaps the answer lies with Kraft’s acquisition of Cadburys  for  £11.5 billion (US$18.9 billion) in 2010. Kraft financed the take-over deal by  borrowing a massive  £7 billion (US$11.5 billion) to finance the deal.

However, the New Zealand branch of Cadbury’s did not return a profit to it’s parent company (Mondelez International) until three years later, when it paid a dividend of NZ$40 million to its parent company, Mondelez.

According to  statements, Cadbury NZ’s profit  tripled to $11.6 million, from $3.5 million a year earlier, even as costs fell by  2.3%.

So despite falling costs, and increased profits, Cadbury NZ was struggling to make dividend payments to it’s parent company, and meanwhile Kraft was committed to servicing a £7 billion (US$11.5 billion) loan which had financed the acquisition in 2010.

The reduction in Cadbury’s chocolate bars can therefore be attributed to Kraft’s indebtedness rather than the official company line of increased costs. Unless Cadbury is lying in it’s financial statements, their costs have actually fallen, not increased.

As with many corporate takeovers, the benefits do not necessarily accrue to the public. The number one beneficiary is almost always shareholders, and consumers come a poor second (or third, or fourth…).

In this case, reducing the size of Cadbury chocolate bars by 20% is equivalent to a price increase, and Kraft’s shareholders will reap the rewards of increased profits.

Not exactly a sweet deal for New Zealand consumers.

Postscript

On 15 February, I contacted Statistics NZ, to enquire how SNZ views reduction in product sizes, whilst retail prices remain the same, in it’s calculation of the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Dave Lum, from Statistics NZ replied;

The CPI measures price change in a “fixed” basket of goods and services, which means that we aim to measure price change based on quality being constant. In an instance where the quality (in your example, the weight/size) of an item changes, we show a price adjustment to account for the fact that the quality of the item has changed.

 As an example, if the size of a can of beans goes from 300g to 330g for the same price, this is shown as a price decrease for that item in the CPI. Likewise, if the can of beans went from 300g to 250g for the same price, it would be represented as a price increase.

So according to Mr Lum, Cadbury’s “switcheroo” with product sizes, will not materially distort CPI price measures.

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References

Fairfax media:  Cadbury blocks get the chop

IndexMundi.com: Sugar Futures End of Day Settlement Price (6 months)

IndexMundi.com: Sugar Futures End of Day Settlement Price (12 months)

IndexMundi.com: Sugar Futures End of Day Settlement Price (5 years)

IndexMundi.com: Cocoa beans Monthly Price – New Zealand Dollar per Metric Ton (6 months)

IndexMundi.com: Cocoa beans Monthly Price – New Zealand Dollar per Metric Ton (12 months)

IndexMundi.com: Cocoa beans Monthly Price – New Zealand Dollar per Metric Ton (5 years)

Reserve Bank: Inflation 1990-2014

Trading Economics: Inflation 2010 – 2015

NBR: Kraft Foods (NZ) pays $40m dividend to parent Mondelez

Wikipedia: Acquisition by Kraft Foods

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 24 February 2015.

 

 

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

20 February 2015 1 comment

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key and skycity

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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;

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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.

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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.

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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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Letter to the editor – hitting charities where it hurts, courtesy of the Nats

16 February 2015 1 comment

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking.

A cash-strapped government – having frittered billions away in two tax cuts for the rich – now seeks to penny-pinch voluntary organisations and charities to make up for the gaping deficits they have created?!

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Fee for police background checks slated by charities

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Sunday Star Times <editor@star-times.co.nz>
date: Mon, Feb 16, 2015
subject: Letter to the ed

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The Editor
Sunday Star Times

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This government is planning to implement a user-pays charge whereby charities; other voluntary organisations, and non-profit groups are required to pay for police vetting of volunteers and employed staff.

How long will it be before the $5 or $7 vetting fee becomes $10? $20? Then full recovery costs? If there is one thing we know about government charges, once they are introduced, they invariably increase as governments look to cut taxes, and raise user-pays charges for state services. Tertiary fees, fuel taxes, gst, prescription fees, court costs, are all examples of government shifting costs on to the individuals and public organisations.

One day, New Zealanders will wake up to the realisation that far from being “prudent fiscal managers”, National’s track record in managing the government books are ad hoc and worse still, penalise those who need help the most.

This is penny-pinching in the extreme, and shows how we are still paying for two ill-considered and unaffordable tax-cuts in 2009 and 2010.

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-Frank Macskasy

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[Address and phone number supplied]

 

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References

NZ Herald: Fee for police background checks slated by charities

Radio NZ:  Education and charity sector worry about cost of police checks (Audio - 12′ 24″ )

 


 

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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2015 – Ongoing jobless tally

16 February 2015 Leave a comment

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Unemployment logo

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Continued from: 2014 – Ongoing jobless tally

So by the numbers, for this year;

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Actual

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January

February

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Statistics

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New Zealand Unemployment Rate - January 2014 - January 2015

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September 2014 quarter – Employment & Unemployment

In the September 2014 quarter compared with the June 2014 quarter:

  • The number of people employed increased by 18,000.
  • The employment rate increased 0.2 percentage points, to 65.2 percent. This came as employment growth outpaced population growth.
  • The unemployment rate fell 0.2 percentage points to 5.4 percent.
  • The number of people unemployed decreased by 4,000.
  • The labour force participation rate increased 0.1 percentage points, to 69.0 percent.
September 2014 quarter Quarterly change Annual change
(000) (Percent)
Employed 2,346 +0.8 +3.2
Unemployed    134  -2.8 -9.6
Not in the labour force 1,116  +0.1  +0.6
Working-age population 3,595 +0.4 +1.8
(Percent) (Percentage points)
Employment rate  65.2 +0.2  +0.8
Unemployment rate    5.4 -0.2   -0.7
Labour force participation rate  69.0 +0.1  +0.4

Notes:

1. All figures are seasonally adjusted. Source: Statistics New Zealand

2. Employed: Includes people who worked one hour (or more) per week, whether paid or unpaid.

Source

December 2014 quarter – Employment & Unemployment

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Employment at a glance
Dec 2014 quarter Quarterly change Annual change
(000) Percent
Employed 2,375 +1.2 +3.5
Unemployed    143 +5.8 -2.6
Filled jobs 1,800 +0.1 +2.5
Percent Percentage points
Employment rate  65.7 +0.4 +1.0
Unemployment rate 5.7 +0.3 -0.3
Labour force participation rate 69.7 +0.7 +0.9

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Notes:

1. All figures are seasonally adjusted. Data source: Household Labour Force Survey: December 2014 quarter

2. Employed: Includes people who worked one hour (or more) per week, whether paid or unpaid.

3. Statistics NZ  has combined the Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS), Quarterly Employment Survey (QES), and Labour Cost Index (LCI) information  into one combined Labour Market Statistics release.

Source

Analysis – Unemployment rising

Unemployment jumped from 5.4% to  5.7% in the December 2014 quarter. That translates into 8,000 more people being unemployed over the intervening quarter.

Data for March 2015 quarter will be released  6 May 2015.

Additional Information

The  under-employment stats;

People who are underemployed are those who work part-time, would prefer to work more hours, and are available to do so. In unadjusted terms, the number of underemployed grew by 12 percent over the year. While the number of part-time workers increased over the year, the ratio of people underemployed to employed part-time also rose – from 17.1 percent in June 2013 to 18.7 percent this quarter.

Official under-employment: up

 

Definitions

Jobless: people who are either officially unemployed, available but not seeking work, or actively seeking but not available for work. The ‘available but not seeking work’ category is made up of the ‘seeking through newspaper only’, ‘discouraged’, and ‘other’ categories.

Under-employment: employed people who work part time (ie usually work less than 30 hours in all jobs) and are willing and available to work more hours than they usually do.

Employed: people in the working-age population who, during the reference week, did one of the following:

  • worked for one hour or more for pay or profit in the context of an employee/employer relationship or self-employment 

  • worked without pay for one hour or more in work which contributed directly to the operation of a farm, business, or professional practice owned or operated by a relative 

  • had a job but were not at work due to: own illness or injury, personal or family responsibilities, bad weather or mechanical breakdown, direct involvement in an industrial dispute, or leave or holiday.

Source

Other Sources

Statistics NZ:  Household Labour Force Survey

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[To  be periodically up-dated]

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The Mendacities of Mr Key #8: A roof over your head, and boots on the ground

15 February 2015 Leave a comment

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boots and homes

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Recent Timeline of Events: Iraq

18 June 2014

Prime Minister John Key has ruled out sending special forces soldiers to Iraq as the United States mulls options in response to the unfolding crisis there.

Speaking in New York, Key said the New Zealand Government was looking at what humanitarian aid it might provide as tens of thousands of Iraqis have been displaced by a violent takeover of parts of the country.

He said it was high unlikely New Zealand would put “boots on the ground” in Iraq in terms of combat troops.

“We’re not a country out there looking for a fight.” – Source

 

Prime Minister John Key has ruled out New Zealand military intervention in Iraq, barring an unlikely United Nations Security Council mission.

Mr Key, who is in the United States on a four-day tour, told media that New Zealand wouldn’t send SAS troops to Iraq in a training role, or troops in a non-combat role, as Sunni militants approach Iraq.

“I don’t see New Zealand overly getting tied up in that. That wouldn’t be something we’d want to do,” he said at a visit to the September 11 memorial site in New York.

[…]
“We said we would only respond to a UN Security Council mandate for any humanitarian assistance,” he said on Firstline this morning.

“We are a loyal and active member of the international and the UN. If there’s a UN operation and it’s non-combat down the track, then that is something we could consider.” - Source

20 September 2014

National wins third term in government, with United Future, ACT, and Maori Party support.

30 September 2014

New Zealand’s elite Special Air Service (SAS) personnel are not yet on standby for deployment to combat Islamic State militants in Iraq or Syria, Prime Minister John Key says, but he won’t rule out sending them if asked “as a last resort”.

[…]

Asked whether he would send military personnel if requested, Mr Key said: “I can’t rule out that there won’t be because what you can see around the world is countries being asked to give support.”

As far as sending SAS personnel, Mr Key said: “I can’t rule that absolutely out, but what I can say is that I’ll get advice and we’ll see how that goes, but it would be my least preferred option.”Source

5 November 2014

Kiwi military personnel are on their way to Iraq as New Zealand swings in behind the fight against the Islamic State group.

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee confirmed three unarmed military personnel left for Iraq this week to assess how New Zealand could help the fight against the Islamic State group…  - Source

 20 January 2015

The Government will make a decision in the next month or so about whether to send training forces to Iraq, Prime Minister John Key says.

[…]

The prime minister said…

“We are going through that process of doing the [reconnaissance] to see whether it’s logical for New Zealand to take the next step, whether we should do that with Australia, whether we can find a location that fits the criteria that I set in my national security speech late last year.

“My guess is that by the middle of February or late February we’ll be in a better position to assess whether we are actually going to put people into Iraq to train Iraqi forces.” - Source

 

Recent Timeline of Events: Housing

24 February 2014

Prime Minister John Key is ruling out any further sales of state assets, once Genesis Energy is partially sold.

[…]

However, he said there are no more state-owned companies that would make sense to partially sell, with New Zealand Post facing declining business and Transpower operating as a monopoly.

“The truth is that there aren’t a lot of other assets that would fit in the category where they would be either appealing to take to the market or of a size that would warrant a further programme. Or they sit in the category where they are very large, like Transpower, but are a monopoly asset and so aren’t suited I think.” - Source

20 September 2014

National wins third term in government, with United Future, ACT, and Maori Party support.

28 January 2015

Prime Minister John Key today confirmed the Government planned to sell 1000 to 2000 state houses in the next year to community-housing providers, with with more sales possible in coming years. – Source

 

“It’s definitely not [an asset sale],” says Mr Key. “The overall focus here is to accommodate more New Zealanders in social housing.” – Source

On 9 February, on Radio NZ, Labour’s Phil Twyford outlined how state houses passed into ownership of community organisations could inevitably fall into the ownership of banks, and then on-sold.
Key claimed on Radio NZ’s Morning Report;

“There will be a contract formed between the Government and the community housing providers that buy the houses. The community housing provider won’t be able to on-sell the house unless they have the permission of the Government. To get the permission of the government, the government would have to consider why the community housing provider wanted to do that.”

Considering that Key has a solid reputation for saying one thing, and then months later back-tracking, there is no reason to believe him or take him at his word. His recent one-eighty degree u-turns on New Zealand involvement in Iraq and selling state assets (housing stock) has sent Key’s credibility plummeting.

The thing that people look to for Key now is not rock-solid committments – but what excuses/technique he will use to break his promises.

Prior to last year’s election, Key unequivocally promised

(a) Not to send combat troops to Iraq,

(b) not to sell any further state assets after Genesis.

It seems that we can now expect;

(a) New Zealand combat troops in Iraq, under the cover of “training” Iraqi soldiers,

(b) State houses being sold to various groups, which will eventually end up in private ownership.

The man simply cannot be trusted.

If his public popularity was not so unfeasibly high, there would be unrelenting, growing  pressure calling for  his resignation.

John Key has obviously learned the trick how a politician can break promises; tell lies; and yet maintain the public’s confidence and his own popularity. He is either an expert manipulator – or the public have become increasingly dumber/dumbed-down in the last decade.

Considering the state of public television, one could be tempted to opt for the latter.

Interestingly, not one journo seems to have asked Key three simple questions regarding NZ troops in Iraq or the sale of state housing to community organisations and others;

(a) “Will NZ troops  in Iraq – supposedly on ‘training missions’ – be given indemnity from prosecution by the Iraqi government? If so – why?

(b) “How will the transfer of ownership of a house from the State, to another entity, increase the number of houses in the country? And by how many?”

(c) How many people on the Housing NZ waiting-list  will actually be moved into community housing?

The first journo to ask Key those questions will open a can of worms that, for the first time, may attract public attention and scrutiny to Key’s mendacities and National’s barely concealed activities.

The public may not like what they see when they begin to pay attention to the government they elected.

Especially when the Housing NZ waiting list continues to rise.

And the first body bags return to New Zealand.

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References

Fairfax media: No New Zealand forces to Iraq, says Key

TV3: Key rules out sending troops to Iraq

NZ Herald: Key – SAS could join Isis fight on ground

Fairfax media: NZ military personnel headed for Iraq

Radio NZ: Iraq troop decision weeks away

Radio NZ: PM rules out more asset sales

Fairfax media: Government to sell 1000 – 2000 state houses – John Key

Radio NZ: State houses sale ‘financial risk’

Radio NZ: PM surprised by turn of events in Australia

Additional

Fairfax media: Andrea Vance – Think twice before joining new Iraq war

Previous related blogposts

Letter to the editor – Key paints a dirty, great, big bullseye on our country!

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

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

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

The Mendacities of Mr Key #7: What is Dear Leader actually saying here?


 

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housing endangered

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 10 February 2015.

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Witnessing the slow decay of a government past it’s Use-By date

6 February 2015 5 comments

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national-we-will-give-you-honest-government

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There is something unpleasantly familiar about the recent appalling events surrounding the current National government and it’s embattled leader, John Key and his strange relationship with Cameron Slater.

Searching my memory, it dawned on me: I am witnessing a replay of the closing years of the Shipley Administration, before it was eventually turfed out of office in November 1999.

The Shipley-led minority-National government was racked with crises.

One such was the Saatchi Affair, where then-PM, Jenny Shipley, was found to have lied about a dinner engagement with Saatchi & Saatchi boss, Kevin Roberts. Shipley’s recall of that dinner engagement – and the topics of discussion – were at variance with what Roberts had claimed took place.

Shipley had misled public; the media; and the public. The headlines at the time pilloried her;

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shipley-on-the-run-nz-herald-23-february-1999

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Sound familiar?

To call the National government of that time a “decaying government” would be a gross under-statement. As well as beset with scandal after scandal; cuts to the budgets for police, health, education,  etc; deeply unpopular measures such as state house sales, and a crazy, hundred-million-dollar  plan to move/demolish the Beehive (and extend the original Parliament Building); there were other events which drew a rising chorus of criticism and condemnation from a wide sector of society.

On 27 November, 1999, New Zealanders had had a gutsful and threw out the National government.

The recent “txt-gate” scandal is simply the most recent scandal to envelope the current Prime Minister, John Key.

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key-claims-confusion-over-texts-with-slater-fairfax-media-28-november-2014

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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.

Even the distractions of a costly flag referendum; growing ‘softening’ of the public for a New Zealand  presence in Iraq; or another bout of bene-bashing will not work to deflect attention from an increasingly embattled PM. Such distractions will be quickly revealed, and dismissed,  for what they are.

If National’s current problems translate into public odium, the upcoming flag referendum may well become a referendum on Key’s administration – much like the  September 1997 referendum on compulsory retirement savings became a referendum on the National-NZ First Coalition government.

An extraordinary 80.3% of voter turn-out resulted in 91.8% voting “No”. However, the wisdom at the time suggested that the massive “No” vote was more of a reflection on the National-led government of the day, rather than the actual issue of superannuation.

Perhaps the clearest indication that the tide has turned against Key (and his government) is that the most trenchant criticism has come – not from the Left; nor from the Parliamentary Opposition; nor even from Key’s nemesis, Kim Dotcom – but from the Right and a previously compliant media.

On 25 November last year (2014), John Armstrong, from the NZ Herald wrote;

The Key administration has plumbed new depths of arrogance and contempt for the notion of politicians being accountable for their actions in its response to today’s hugely embarrassing report by the independent watchdog who maintains oversight over the Security Intelligence Service.

Rather than take the findings of the report by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Cheryl Gwyn on the chin, National sought to bury the report.

[…]

John Key may have effectively been cleared by Gwyn for having only a “very limited” involvement in the disgraceful release of information by the SIS to Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater.

That gets Key personally off the hook. But that does not absolve him of ministerial responsibility. In fact. he is doubly responsible both as the the minister-in-charge of the intelligence agencies and as the person responsible for the behaviour of his Beehive office.

This morning’s statement by the Prime Minister in reaction to the Gwyn report places all the blame for this shoddy affair on the SIS.

Key’s statement unsurprisingly makes no mention of an email revealed in the report from one of his political advisers, Jason Ede, the man who Hager cites as central to the dirty tricks campaign being run out of Key’s office. In the email to Slater, Ede said that “he might be in the shit” over the way he has used SIS information. Slater replied that he would simply state he had a source within the SIS – a statement Gwyn took to mean that Slater was seeking to protect Ede.

No heads will roll. Most of the participants in this unsavoury episode have since moved on or retired, while Key gives assurances that lessons have been learned and a more effective oversight regime is now in place.

That is not good enough. The public need an assurance that nothing like this will ever happen again…

Four days later, Armstrong offered yet more trenchant criticism of Key’s administration;

The subsequent fibs, half-truths, memory blanks and – worst of all – the misleading of Parliament on the Prime Minister’s part in the wake of the report’s release has so far not seen the electoral ground that Key has so successfully occupied for so long shifting from under him.

Key has been his own worst enemy in seeming to be in denial of Gwyn’s confirmation of the dirty tricks operation run out of his office and first exposed by Nicky Hager in his book Dirty Politics.

[…]

Key then topped that by misleading Parliament by not fessing up to his text conversation when specifically asked whether there had been any such contact.

Such reckless and consequently self-incriminating behaviour left most observers and voters completely gob-smacked. So gob-smacked that the torrent of criticism raining down on Key went into temporary abeyance.

When it came to trashing his credibility, Key seemed to be doing enough on his own without assistance from outside.

Armstrong continued by really putting the boot firmly into Key’s backside;

But the absence – so far – of any public backlash against the Prime Minister bar those who already detest him is a source of of intense frustration for Opposition parties. And more so the more Key’s memory lapses impede on serious matters of state.

What began with a failure to recall whether he was for or against the 1981 Springbok Tour was followed by forgetfulness over how many Tranz Rail shares he owned.

Then there was the inability to remember how he voted on the drinking age, along with the sudden case of amnesia surrounding the identity of the passengers who flew to New Zealand aboard a mystery CIA jet.

Things started to get even more worrying when Key confessed to being unsure if and when he was briefed on Dotcom by the Government Communications Security Bureau.

They got even more dodgy when Key professed he could not remember whether he had phoned the brother of an old school pal urging him to apply to become the director of the GCSB.

This is the power and collective memory of the media at work. Citing past instances which paint a consistently negative picture of a political figure is something usually left to bloggers these days. One of the best examples was a list of lies, half-truths, broken promises, etc made by Key and compiled by a writer-known-only-as “BLiP”.

No doubt that list will be much lengthier, nearly two years later.

It will prove to be a valuable resource for any journalist digging back into Key’s track record since 2008.

Meanwhile, the media are running stories openly questioning Key’s integrity, such as this piece by Hamish Rutherford, in November last year;

Prime Minister John Key is fighting off accusations of lying, claiming confusion about his contact with WhaleOil blogger Cameron Slater stemmed from wanting to give a “general” answer to reporters rather than a specific one.

Yesterday he was forced to admit he had corresponded with Slater on several occasions since Nicky Hager’s book, Dirty Politics, was published.

On Tuesday, Key told reporters that Slater “sent me a text one time, but I can’t remember when that was”.

It later transpired that Key and Slater had corresponded by text message the previous evening, in what Key has now described as a “gossipy” exchange.

The details emerged after Key admitted he had misled Parliament on Wednesday, when he denied having corresponded with Slater about a report by Justice Lester Chisholm into the conduct of former justice minister Judith Collins and the intelligence watchdog report on disclosures of SIS information.

Key claimed he misunderstood the question, citing noise in the debating chamber, leading him to believe Labour MP Megan Woods was referring only to one report.

In fact, Woods asked two consecutive questions about both reports.

This editorial in Rotorua’s Daily Post, was unequivocal;

 You would think that with the stench of Dirty Politics still lingering in the corridors of power after this year’s madcap election build-up, Mr Key would know better than to conduct a text conversation with the figure at the centre of the controversy.

Mr Key, who gave Mr Slater his new cellphone number after he changed it during the election campaign, says he is “fundamentally not” in contact with Mr Slater, and hadn’t rung him or “proactively texted” him.

Though according to at least one report he also said he phoned Mr Slater on Wednesday to confirm his recollection of what they discussed in their text exchange on Monday night as he’d deleted the texts.

On Wednesday night he had to back down on his earlier claims he’d had no contact with Mr Slater ahead of the release of Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Cheryl Gwyn’s report into the SIS’s role in Slater’s 2011 political attack on former Labour leader Phil Goff.

[…]

Earlier news reports say Mr Key refused to answer questions about his contact with Mr Slater, saying it was in his capacity as National Party leader, not as Prime Minister.

That really doesn’t cut it. When you’re Prime Minister, everything, even dropping your kids off at school, is done in your capacity as Prime Minister.

Fran O’Sullivan was equally scathing;

There is considerable angst that Key is continuing to engage with a high-profile blogger at the expense of his own reputation as Prime Minister. The texting bout episode when he responded to a communication from that particular blogger when prudence would have dictated that he should have just blanked Whale Oil is a case in point.

Key’s failure to realise he would be likely to be filleted when it was inevitably leaked defies credibility.

But trying to mask the obvious backtracking was a step too far.

[…]

There are many inconsistencies in the Prime Minister’s response to the inquiry by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security into the release of information by the Security Intelligence Service to a blogger.

A simple apology on behalf of his office for the obvious black ops would have done a great deal to defuse the issue.

But Key has simply resorted to semantics and tried to hold his ground.

NZ Newswire political columnist, Peter Wilson, described Key’s actions as “causing more trouble than the dubious tactic was worth“, and wrote;

Key’s assertion that he was acting in his capacity as leader of the National Party when he spoke to or texted Slater is raising issues as well.

Radio New Zealand pointed out that the High Court has ruled Slater is a journalist.

That being the case, in what capacity does Key interact with press gallery journalists?

Winston Peters is wondering whether Richard Nixon would have been allowed to escape responsibility for Watergate if he’d argued that he was acting in his capacity as leader of the Republican Party.

And Slater suggests Maurice Williamson should ask for his ministerial job back, because surely he was acting in his capacity as an electorate MP when he called the police to ask about a court case.

Brent Edwards, from Radio NZ, injected a large measure of sarcasm into Key’s denials of reality;

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Cheryl Gwyn, apparently wrote two reports into the way the SIS released information embarrassing to former Labour Party leader Phil Goff in 2011.

There is the report Ms Gwyn released publicly on Tuesday which found the Security Intelligence Service had released inaccurate and misleading information leading to unfounded criticism of Mr Goff.

This report also found that staff in Prime Minister John Key’s office had passed on information to right-wing blogger Cameron Slater about briefings the then SIS director, Warren Tucker, had said he had given to Mr Goff about speculation Israeli spies had been caught up in the February 22 earthquake in Christchurch in 2011.

The other report – the one Mr Key apparently received – does not find that his staff played any part in feeding Mr Slater information or in helping the blogger make his Official Information Act request to the SIS.

John Key is adamant the report finds no such thing. It’s a line repeated by his ministers, including the Attorney-General Chris Finlayson.

Yet on page 63 of the report Ms Gwyn states: “I did, however, find that Mr Ede provided the details of relevant documents to Mr Slater and was in fact speaking to Mr Slater by phone at the exact time that Mr Slater submitted his OIA request.”

When not publishing pieces by right-wing columnist, or editorials, all attacking this government that they are supposedly friendly to – there are other stories appearing which also paint a less-than-rosy picture of Key’s administration.

This op-ed by Bruce Bisset, last September in Hawkes Bay Today,  outlined hard facts that have rarely been published in msm papers – and usually more the province of  political blogs. Bisset wrote;

Back when Labour was in power we had constant carping about Clarke’s “nanny state” and how welfare and social reforms were running up debt like there was no tomorrow.

Still we hear that mantra repeated – and surprisingly, most of the time it goes unchallenged.

But it’s pure myth. New Zealand’s national debt was less after nine years of Labour than when they were elected. The Clarke government was fiscally ultra-conservative, because the books really did balance.

Contrast that with debt under Key’s government. Starting at around $18 billion, it has blossomed to a staggering $86 billion today. That’s a five-fold increase, in just six years.

Yes, we’ve had the global financial crisis and Canterbury earthquakes and tax cuts for the wealthy that have to be paid for somehow. We’ve also had record commodity prices, significant departmental cost-cutting, and the sell-off of major state-owned assets. Plus very little new spending.

Yet we’re running up debt at more than $13 billion per year – to merely tread water.

It doesn’t add up. These guys are supposedly the whizz-bang flash moneymen. So how come we’re so indebted it now costs over $4 billion per year just to service the interest?

Truth is, the economic recovery is itself a myth.

Since last year,  the noise surrounding Slater/txt-gate/SIS report  all but died down. They have become largely forgotten by the public who are fed a daily diet of dumbed down “news” on TV1 and TV3; puerile garbage as entertainment, but precious little serious current affairs analysis; and a dazzling, mesmerising, cornucopia of ever-increasing consumer-goods dangled in front of their slack-jawed faces.

Radio NZ temporarily joined the mind-numbing dumbness of commercial radio’s ranks from December 24 to January 19. Insight, analysis, and commentary were on temporary hiatus for nearly a month.

If the last six years have shown us one thing, it is that the next scandal and revelations of dodgy ministerial practices and inept Prime Ministerial behaviour is not too far away.

The media are alerted. The public now have some awareness of dirty politics behind the scenes. And journalists are starting to exercise a form of collective memory.

It is said that the public no longer care about politics, and that Key has “de-politicised” it. But, like the continuing bad stories that finally destroyed Jenny Shipley’s government, continuing negatives stories can have a corrosive effect on this government.

The more times Key is caught out lying or being tricky with the truth or breaking promises – the more that the public will slowly but surely distrust his “brand”.

Even four years ago, a sizeable ‘chunk’ of the public were suspicious of Key’s honesty;
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John Key - Safe hands, forked tongue
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It will only get worse for Key and his cronies. Especially as social issues continue to dog this government.

Housing is fast becoming a real problem in this country as more and more New Zealanders find themselves locked out of the market and forced into a lifetime of renting.

Housing was also a critical issue during the dying days of Shipley’s government, as they enacted an unpopular policy of selling state houses.

New Zealanders may have surrendered their Citizenship in preference to becoming zombified Consumers – but housing is a commodity, and Consumers will not be denied the opportunity to acquire said commodity.

Even if it means a change of government

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References

NZ Herald: Shipley on the run

MKiwi: Beehive Parliament Buildings Wellington

Wikipedia: 1999 General Election

Fairfax media:  Key claims confusion over texts with Slater

NZ Herald: John Key defends cost of flag referendums

Radio NZ: PM spells out IS deployment dangers

Wikipedia: Referendums in NZ

NZ Herald: John Armstrong – National’s response not good enough

NZ Herald: John Armstrong – Outrageous behaviour leaves Key on the edge

The Standard: An Honest Man?

Fairfax media: Key claims confusion over texts with Slater

The Daily Post:  Editorial – Key’s whale of a tale

NZ Herald: Fran O’Sullivan – Key’s choice: bloggers or business community

NZN: Key’s question time tactic goes wrong

Radio NZ: POWER PLAY with Brent Edwards – PM’s over-sight not very intelligent

Hawkes Bay Today: Bruce Bisset – Nats have buried us in debt

Dominion Post: John Key – Safe hands, forked tongue?

NZ History: The state steps in and out – State housing

Previous related blogposts

Are Cameron Slater and Judith Collins bare-faced liars?

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

Teflon Man No More

When the teflon is stripped away

Letter to the editor – Witches, foreign fighters, and other bogeymen

Associated groups

Facebook:  Housing NZ Tenants Forum

Facebook:  Tamaki Housing Group- Defend Glen Innes


 

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Key Moment cartoon memory fade.

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

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Letter to the editor – A “clayton’s” government?

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https://fmacskasy.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/old-paper-with-quill-pen-vector_34-14879.jpg?w=595

 

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: Sun, Feb 1, 2015
subject: letter to the editor
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The editor
Dominion Post

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National’s track record thus far… Key has out-sourced his ministerial responsibilities as Minister in Charge of the SIS and GCSB…

His government tried outsourcing paying teachers to an Aussie company (but that crashed and burned in a spectacular stuff-up)…

He’s now planning to outsource state  housing to charities – a policy that will not add one single extra house for those most in need.

And when things go wrong, Key’s earnest response is it was never his responsibility and instead shifts the blame onto his Prime Minister’s Department, or that he wasn’t acting as the PM at the time.

So much for taking responsibility, which I thought was a central tenet for his party’s beliefs.

One has to wonder what we’re paying him and his cronies for? To appear on Breakfast TV for tame “interviews”? Photo-ops with kittens, puppies, and kiddies?

At least kittens, puppies, and kiddies have a useful function.

-Frank Macskasy

[address and phone number supplied]
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