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Keyword: ‘Hekia Parata’

The Rise and Fall of John Key – who will be the next Leader of the National Party?

26 August 2014 7 comments

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It was all set to go: Teamkey would be the cult of personality that would do Stalin, Mao, Reagan, Thatcher, or any of the Nth Korean Kim Dynasty, proud.  National and it’s “Teamkey” propaganda strategy  would cash-in Big Time on Key’s immense public popularity.

It was a popularity that seemed impervious to all the scandals, stuff-ups, and questionable economic and social policies enacted by this government over the years. Every time a minister stuffed up,  Key’s popularity remained unblemished.

People couldn’t work out how it was being achieved. Despite shitstorms surrounding so many National ministers – many of which resulted in sackings/resignations – Key walked through it, much like Superman might walk through an atomic bomb-blast, barely feeling a tickle.

But Key is no extra-terrestrial super-powered being (despite accusations to the contrary). His seeming talent for invulnerability wasn’t a preternatural super-power. It was wholly manufactured by mere mortals, working in back-rooms, funded by tax-payers, and played out with ruthless efficiency.

The plan, as outlined in Nicky Hager’s expose, “Dirty Politics“, and based on leaked emails, was that Key would be kept “above politics”. Others would do the dirty work, and he would maintain an “apolitical”, almost Presidential style. It was a form of fake neutrality.

When  Key said in January 2011,

“I don’t think it suits me as a person. I’m not a negative person and a lot of Opposition is negative.”

– he wasn’t talking about his own persona, he was reciting a pre-prepared script.

Nicky Hager’s book has stripped away the secrecy to this plan and Key’s closeness to the players in dirty politics has been exposed to public scrutiny.

Russell Norman once pointed out that there is a great deal of similarity between John Key and Robert Muldoon. Russell was half-way correct. Key’s politics was every bit as destructive as Muldoons, attacking, destabilising, and under-mining critics of the government.

The only difference is that Muldoon did his own dirty politics. He never hid behind others.

Dirty Politics” has achieved more than simply revealing  unwholesome machinations between National party apparatchiks, ministers, and halfway-insane right-wing bloggers. The book has explained the nature of Key’s seemingly “Teflon” nature. The secret is revealed; the mystery is stripped away; and now, when Key is confronted by a media pack, the brown smelly stuff is sticking to him.

Result? Key is just another self-serving politician and his bloody-mindedness in continuing to shield Judith Collins is corroding his reputation and public standing. I am guessing this will be reflected in coming polls. It’s game over for this government.

If National loses this election, Key has already made it abundantly clear what his intentions will be;

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Key says he'll quit politics if National loses election

 

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Which then begs the question – who would replace Key?

Of the options available to National, I offer these insights;

Steven Joyce

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Style: loud, abrasive, intolerant of dissenting views.

Low points: his “debate” on TV3’s “The Nation“, with Labour’s Grant Robertson, where he continually shouted over his opponant and almost hijacked the show.  Or his veiled threats against protesting tertiary students in September 2011.

Leadership chances: 5/10

Electoral saleability: 3/10

Comment: Joyce alienates people by shouting them down. It is bullying and as a political strategy makes him a liability. His pugnacity is more openly Muldoonesque than any other politician.

Judith Collins

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Style: abrasive, intolerant of dissenting views, 100% Pure vindictiveness in high-heels.

Low points: her relationship with National’s black-ops team headed by Jason Ede and Cameron Slater; lying about journalist Katie Bradford; dodgy dealings with Oravida; mis-use of ministerial power; etc, etc, etc, etc, etc.

Leadership chances: 2/10

Electoral saleability: 0/10 (nil)

Comment: Collins would be a gift for the Left if she were elected Leader of the National Party. She brings back memories of Jenny Shipley – and didn’t that end ‘well’? The Nats would be unelectable with her as Leader. (In simple terms, her political career is over.)

Bill English

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Style: inoffensive.

Low points: rorting the ministerial accomodation allowance (double dipping) in 2009. A silly thing to do for minimal gain. Mostly forgotten by the general public.

Leadership chances: 7/10

Electoral saleability: 7/10

Comment: English has been mostly untainted by all the scandals swirling around Richard Worth, Phil Heatley, Pansy Wong, Nick Smith, Aaron Gilmore, John Banks, Hekia Parata, Judith Collins, et al. In fact, he distanced himself from Collins’ actions in leaking a civil servant’s personal information to far-right blogger, Cameron Slater, by saying,

“I certainly wouldn’t condone an attack by a blogger on a public servant doing their job.”

If  English is positioning himself for a future leadership bid, it was a good move.

English was Leader of the National Party from 2001 to 2003, and was dumped after the Nat’s worst electoral result in decades. During that time, he’s kept his head down; focused on economic issues; and avoided public controversies.

He comes across as likeable, and the public might be persuaded to give him another shot as a Leader.

Conclusion

The political dramas will only be beginning on 20 September.

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References

NZ Herald: Key says he’ll quit politics if National loses election

Fairfax media:  Key’s staff can’t disprove reptilian theory

NZ Herald:  Norman – Key ‘acting like Muldoon’

TV3:  The Nation – Debate: Grant Robertson and Steven Joyce on the wealth of the nation

NZ Herald: Bill English to pay back part of allowance

Wikipedia: Bill English – Leader of the Opposition

Wikipedia: 2002 General Election

Radio NZ: Key, English distance themselves from Collins

Previous related blogposts

Dear Leader loves you!

It’s official: Political Dissent Discouraged in NZ!


 

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20 september 2014 VOTE

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 21 August 2014

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National MPs – giving us the finger in election year

18 July 2014 2 comments

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noddy

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National MPs and ministers have been busy this year with more botch-ups, scandals, an attempted smear campaign, and spinning bullshit to cover their arses with multiple policy failures in health, education, the environment, child poverty, etc, etc, etc…

The fact that National still appears to be riding high in political polls speaks more for a population heavily sedated by trivia and superficial “news” reporting, and for mind-numbingly inane mass-entertainment – rather than any actual success.

Some of the more mind-blowing comments that have recently been made by National ministers have flown below the radar.

Amy Adams

Our so-called “Environment” Minister, Amy Adams, recently dismissed Dr Mike Joy’s criticisms of National’s new water standards.

Dr Joy stated;

But Dr Mike Joy, an environmental ecologist at Massey university, says the new standards are a “backwards step for fresh water”.

“You could just drive a truck through it,” he told TVNZ’s Breakfast programme.

“There’s so many gaps, so many things we’ve been measuring up until now that they’ve dropped.”

The changes put limits on the amount of toxins and bacteria that can be present in water, which the Government says will require some communities and farms to improve their waste-disposal systems.

But the weakening of other limits were essentially a “licence to pollute,” Joy said, and would allow for a big increase in the amount of pollution in rivers.

“We’ve got a decline going on,” he said.

“Rivers are getting worse, lakes are getting worse. This should be something that puts the brakes on, but instead it’s an opening-up. It’s like lifting the speed limit from 50kmh to 500kmh – that’s the kind of level of change around nitrate pollution.”

Joy said more than 90 per cent of rivers in lowland areas – those coming from urban areas and farms – were already too dangerous to swim in.

To which Adams responded;

Ms Adams also corrected the Green Party’s and Dr Joy’s comparison of nitrogen levels in New Zealand’s lakes and rivers to those in the Yangtzee River.

“Although the Yangtze River indeed has serious pollution issues, nitrogen is not the core pollutant there.

In fact, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature, the primary issue for the Yangtze River is industrial and sewage waste and the management of sediments, rather than nitrogen.”

What the World Wide Fund for Nature (which Adams mis-quoted) really stated was;

“The major pollutants in the Yangtze mainstem are suspended substances, oxidizing organic and inorganic compounds, and ammonia nitrogen. This has severely reduced drinking water quality and contributed to dramatic eutrophication.”

And from the Science Daily;

For the first time, a team including foreign scientists was authorized by the Chinese government to study water quality on the lower reaches of the Yangtze River…

[…]

For example, nitrogen concentrations have approximately doubled over the past 20 years. In Shanghai, concentrations of dissolved nitrogen were twice as high as at the Three Gorges Dam, reflecting the increasing use of mineral fertilizers in agriculture…

[…]

However, where the river enters the East China Sea, the huge pollutant loads are expected to have devastating effects: each day, 1500 tonnes of nitrogen is discharged, causing eutrophication and growth of blue-green algae in the coastal waters…

[…]

In the Yangtze, concentrations of nitrogen, metals and organic compounds are increasing, as shown by comparisons with earlier measurements in the literature.

As usual with right-wingers, it pays to check their “facts”. They’re usually bullshit. (As well as batshit crazy.)

Dr Mike Joy – 1

Amy Adams – 0

Paula Bennett

Bennett seems not to know where she stands on the problem of New Zealand’s hidden rape culture.

On 10 July, on TV3’s Third Degree, Bennett accepted the reality of our rape culture;

And you can see it in the language that is used by some people. You can certainly see it in pretty much a pub or a nightclub in New Zealand on most weekends to be quite frank. So we have a lot of education to do there, I think.”

Two days later, she changed her mind, this time on TV3’s The Nation;

I wouldn’t say that we’ve got a rape culture or a sexual violence culture in New Zealand…

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I think what we do in New Zealand is we report more [sexual violence] than any other country. So actually some of those that are being reported are incidences that haven’t even led to violence.”

On 10 July, on Third Degree,  Bennett accepted that her government had failed Tania Billingsley;

Could things have been handled differently? We’re the first ones that have said yes it should have been. But for her I feel incredibly sad that the incident has happened in the beginning. And that’s where most of her hurt and anger is.”

Again, after two days, Bennett’s views seemed to have changed, as this exchange on The Nation showed;

Lisa Owen: “Ok, so how do you think that your male colleagues handled the alleged assault on Tania Billingsley and the departure of the Malaysian diplomat? Did they lose sight of the victim? Did they trivialise that?

Paula Bennett: “Well look I’m not prepared to go into what has happened in that case.  But my short answer to that would be no.”

How can a politician not keep her story straight within only a 48 hour period?!

Then again, this is the same politician who made full use of the Training Incentive Allowance to gain a free University education for herself – and then promptly dumped it in 2009.

Paula Bennett (2.0)

On TV’s The Nation, Lisa Owen took Paula Bennett to task on our growing endemic rate of child poverty. Owen pointed out to Bennett;

“…people like Jonathan Boston say that eradicating poverty is a political choice. Is it just that you’re not making a big enough political choice? A billion dollars, an extra billion dollars a year he said will make an enormous dent in this.”

To which Bennett replied with the stock-standard come-back from right-wing witless politicians;

I don’t think it’s throwing more money at it across the board if you like…

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It is not going to be throwing more money at those on welfare...”

Because, as we all know, “throwing money” at the poorest in our society apparently doesn’t work to pull children out of poverty.

But “throwing money” at corporations such as Rio Tinto, Warner Bros, Charter Schools,  et al, to “create jobs” or give “choice for better education” to parents, does work.

Or “throwing money” at people by way of tax cuts works to “stimulate the economy“.

Strangely, “throwing money” at welfare beneficiaries –  by way of a Training Incentive Allowance –  helped former solo-mother,  Paula Bennett, obtain a free tertiary education and she is currently (until 20 September) a  highly-remunerated Minister of the Crown.

So why is “throwing money” by way of corporate welfare; tax-cuts; Charter school subsidies, etc, a ‘good‘ thing – but “throwing money” at poverty to eliminate this scourge from 21st century New Zealand – is a ‘bad‘ thing?!

National ministers have yet to answer this question.

God knows we “throw enough money” at them with their generous salaries.

Simon Bridges

This was one of National’s  election platforms in 2011;

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National Party staying strong on crime

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Staying strong on crime“.

Except when National decides that a particular law is “inconvenient”. Then it will instruct it’s ministeries not to prosecute offenders. As Minister Simon Bridges recently instructed the Labour Inspectorate;

 

Radio New Zealand has obtained documents under the Official Information Act which show the Labour Inspectorate has moved away from the proactive approach to enforcement and has redistributed its efforts to crack down on illegial migrant workers.

Traditionally labour inspectors have been out on the streets at Easter, catching out shop owners who open illegally, but will now wait for members of the public to complain about shops being open and will follow those up with warning letters.

Special briefing notes from the Labour Inspectorate General Manager George Mason to the minister show the inspectorate has questioned the effectiveness of the shop trading act, which allows for a $1,000 penalty for breaches of the law.

In many cases the judicial system was reluctant to impose the maximum fine, Mr Mason told the minister.

He said in recent years not many complaints from the public were received and this year not a single shop was prosecuted for opening at Easter.

[…]

But Simon Bridges said shops can still be prosecuted and will be if the Inspectorate felt it was necessary.

The law will be upheld – if the Inspectorate felt it was necessary?!

When a government will not uphold the law because it conflicts with their own ideological stance – then why have laws at all?

And can the rest of us pick and choose which laws are convenient to uphold, and which we can break?

It appears so…

Mr Bridges is showing us the way.

Murray McCully

After the debacle of the Malaysian diplomat, accused of burglary and attempted rape, and the question over why Minister of Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully failed to keep track over events in his own ministry, an inquiry was launched on 11 July.

McCully stated;

A thorough and transparent inquiry is important, as those managing diplomatic immunity issues for the Government need to enjoy the full, unfettered confidence of the New Zealand public.”

Although one wonders just how “ thorough and transparent” any inquiry will be when,

  1. The terms of reference do not include Murray  McCully’s actions. This effectively gives the minister an ‘escape clause’ from the fiasco.
  2. John Key has already pre-determined who the guilty party is, within the Ministry,  when he stated on 4 July; “If that person doesn’t have clarity about that position then they need to think very strongly about whether they’re in the right job.”
  3. Rob Hosking from the National Business Review suggested that the Inquiry will “not likely to be [completed] before the September 20 election”. How ‘convenient’.

Hekia Parata

On 8 June 2012, as National’s planned to increase class-room sizes blew up in their faces with a combined teacher-parent revolt, I wrote;

Parata’s Plan to cut teaching staff and increase classroom sizes was dressed up as “improving teaching quality and professional leadership” – which was exposed as patent bollocks when she stated,

  “The changes to teacher:student funding ratios were to have saved the Government around $174 million over four years, of which $60 million was going to be invested in improving teaching quality and professional leadership.”

Sacking Parata for policies that every other Minister has been implementing seems pointless. Especially when National’s essential policy of cutting expenditure and services would remain unchanged.

That is the real crux of the matter; an ongoing programme of  reduction in  social services because of two tax cuts we could ill afford, and which National was irresponsible in making.

Two years later: On 7 July, Radio NZ’s Morning Report co-presenter, Susie Ferguson, spoke to National’s  accident-prone Hekia Parata and put it to her that Labour’s plans  to reduce class-room sizes by 2018 were proving very popular with parents. Ferguson pointed out that Labour’s policy was in direct opposition with Parata’s  humiliating failure to increase class-room sizes.

At 3.05 into the interview, Parata replied,

And at the time we were in a different fiscal environment and we were focusing right then on how did we find the money to invest in quality. And now we’re in a better fiscal environment, we can do both,both more teachers and more quality...”

Which is confirmation, if any was needed, that National’s plans to reduce teacher numbers and increase class-room sizes was nothing more than an outrageous cost-cutting exercise. Happily, it failed as New Zealanders stood up, en masse, and told National,

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New Zealanders were not prepared to sacrifice their children’s learning and future on the alter to National’s cost-cutting. If Key and his cronies were foolish enough to cut taxes as part of their 2008 election bribes, it was most certainly not going to be paid for by the children of the middle classes.

So far, #Teamkey seems to be going ‘swimmingly’ well.

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References

Fairfax media: Water rule changes seen as ‘licence to pollute’

World Wildlife Fund: Threat of Pollution in the Yangtze

Science Daily: First-ever Precise Data On Yangtze Water Quality

TV3: Minister agrees with diplomat’s alleged victim

TV3: The Nation Interview – Paula Bennett (transcript)

NBR: Bennett cutting a benefit that helped her – Labour

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

Scoop media: Warner Brothers Hobbit Deal a $67 Milllion Farce

NZ Herald: Editorial – Charter schools will give poorer parents choice

Beehive.govt.nz: Government delivers April 1 tax cuts, SME changes

Radio NZ: Govt defends trading law enforcement

Dominion Post: Malaysian diplomat case inquiry head named

NZ Herald: Diplomat case: Court file released

TV3: Ministerial inquiry launched into diplomat case

Interest.co.nz: Key suggests mid-level MFAT diplomat “considers career options”

NBR: McCully announces inquiry into MFAT’s handling of Malaysian diplomat allegations

Scoop media:  Teacher funding ratios to remain the same

Radio NZ:  Listen Hekia Parata on Morning Report

Radio NZ:  Labour pledges to reduce class sizes

Previous related blogposts

Why Hekia Parata should not be sacked

Hypocrisy – thy name be National

Hon. Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy


 

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Kirk

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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

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Review: TV3′s The Nation – When current affairs gets it right

20 June 2014 1 comment

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After my uncompromising critique of an episode of TV’s The Nation, broadcast on 24 May, I was gratified and relieved that the producers and hosts of the programme had returned to a degree of journalistic/media professionalism that we should expect as the norm for current affairs in this country (and which is too often lacking).

The Nation, broadcast on 14 June, was good, solid, current affairs which left the viewer better informed after watching it. Hosts Lisa Owen and Patrick Gower, and reporter Torben Akel,  were on form with their respective interviews.

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Hosts for TV3's "The Nation", Lisa Owen and Patrick Gower

Hosts for TV3’s “The Nation”, Lisa Owen and Patrick Gower

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First up; Hekia Parata, on what is rapidly devolving into another of National’s disastrous, ill-considered attempts to insert neo-liberal “reforms” into our education sector. National’s $359 million  so-called “Teaching & leadership career pathways” has been roundly condemned by the  primary school staff union, NZEI, and the Principals Federation asserting that it is unacceptable and unworkable.

Parata responded to questioning from Patrick Gower;

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The Nation - Patrick Gower - Hekia Parata - TV3 - National - education

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[FULL TRANSCRIPT: Hekia Parata]

A decidedly ‘robotic’ performance from an automaton-like Hekia Parata. (Have National Party strategists and contract scientists actually built a look-a-like android  replacement replacement for Parata, to minimise potential stuff-ups from the mishap-prone education minister? And how did they make the android more realistic than the original?!)

Whether she actually convinced teachers and parents watching her performance is doubtful. When politicians avoid giving direct answers to questions, the inescapable conclusion is that they’re hiding something.

What is Parata hiding?

Perhaps the very real likelihood that the so-called “Teaching & leadership career pathways” policy is National attempt to introduce performance-pay-by-stealth?

In fact, my money is precisely on that call: performance-pay-by-stealth.

At any rate, she stayed on-message, and it was fairly obvious that Parata had been well-schooled by her tax-payer funded media-minders. She passed National’s Standard for evasiveness to questions.

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Next up, a serious look at one of this country’s worst pressing social problems – child poverty. The Right can bleat on about “SkyTV aerials”; ill-informed moralists who lead ‘saintly lives’ can pass judgement on “poor parenting”, and  the middle classes can turn a blind eye – but none of that will diminish a growing social crisis in our midst.

Prior to the introduction of neo-liberalism; the “free” market; de-regulation; and “more choices”, the term “child poverty” was unknown. Food banks barely existed, as this 2005 Child Poverty Action Group report pointed out;

There have always been foodbanks in Auckland, but until recently these were small- scale operations and, like the soup kitchens, were there to deal with emergencies and the requirements of the handful of indigents that have always been present in the urban areas of New Zealand. Data from the Presbyterian Support Services Foodlink Directory5 shows there were 16 foodbanks in Auckland in 1989. By 1994 this had mushroomed to over 130 (Mackay, 1995).

Nationally, the number of foodbanks exploded following the 1991 benefit cuts, and the passage of the Employment Contracts Act (ECA). For those in already low-paid and casual jobs, the ECA resulted in even lower wages (McLaughlin, 1998), a situation exacerbated by the high unemployment of the early 1990s (11% in 1991). The benefit cuts left many with debts, and little money to buy food (Downtown Community Ministry, 1999). In 1992 the introduction of market rents for state houses dealt another blow to state tenants on low incomes. By 1994 it was estimated that there were about 365 foodbanks nationally, one-fifth of which had been set up in the previous year (Downtown Community Ministry, 1999). This figure was an estimate, based on information from the 1994 foodbank conference. There were no nationally collated figures, a weakness that persists in the sector today.

Regarding what in some cases was a quadrupling of demand for food parcels after 1991, Mackay cautiously hypothesizes that “it is likely that much of it was driven by the benefit cuts of April 1991” (Mackay, 1995). Foodbank workers themselves were unequivocal that the 1991 benefit cuts were the key driver of increased foodbank use. Reflecting those most likely to be unemployed or on low wages, up to 90% of foodbank users were dependent upon some form of income support, and Maori and Pacific Island families were over- represented among those seeking assistance (Mackay, 1995).

Lisa Owen interviewed Jonathan Boston (Professor of Public Policy at Vic, co-chair of Child Poverty Expert Advisory Group), who has written New Zealand’s first book on Child Poverty in this country. That interview was followed up by Commissioner for Children, Dr Russell Wills.

 

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TV3 - The Nation - Lisa Owen - Interview Dr Russell Wills

L-R: Lisa Owen & Dr Wills; Lisa Owen and Jonathan Boston

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[FULL TRANSCRIPT: Jonathan Boston & Russell Wills]

Both interviews made for compelling, informative viewing.

Dr Wills  and Prof Boston are professionals; academics;  with a deep understanding of problems and issues confronting our society. Neither men have a political agenda – theirs is simply to inform anyone who will listen that child poverty is a problem we can no longer afford to ignore.

Dr Wills made this simple statement in a level, calm tone – but which was nevertheless dramatic for it’s content;

“My weekend will be full of poor mostly Maori and Pacific preschool children with infectious diseases that our English registrars often haven’t even seen before. Now we see acute rheumatic fever. We see tuberculosis.  We have admissions to intensive care with children with illnesses that should have been treated in primary care but they couldn’t afford to go. We just don’t see those kinds of issues in our elderly people and I think that’s a great shame.”

I wonder, though,  if the inquisatorial approach taken by Lisa Owen to interview Messrs Wills and Boston was applicable in this instance? The inquisatorial style works well for political or activist public figures who may not always be forthcoming in disclosing facts.
But when it comes to academics and professionals such as Professor Boston and Dr Wills, I submit that such people will usually always  be forthcoming, even when academics are often loathe to talk in terms of absolutes, or provide simplistic answers to complex questions.
For example, Lisa Owen asked Dr Wills;

OWEN: But these are tight financial times as you would appreciate; you have said previously the questions is: are we prepared to give up something for the vulnerable. So who is the ‘we’ that has to give up something?

WILLS: It’s people like us Lisa. The fact is that we have large numbers of poor children in New Zealand who are missing out on things that our kids take for granted. So the kids that I see on the children’s ward often live in cold, damp, crowded houses. They often can’t afford to go to the GP. They commonly don’t have their own bed. They frequently all crowd around together in the living room to sleep.

OWEN: I appreciate what you’re saying there but when you say it’s people like us, that’s a nebulous concept. Don’t we need to pin down where this money is going to come from? Isn’t super or capping or raising the age, isn’t that a place where we can get a certain lot of money?
There was something a little  disturbing about the suggestion that “when you say it’s people like us, that’s a nebulous concept“.

It’s almost as if Lisa Owen had taken Margaret Thatcher’s dogma (“there is no such thing as society“)  and applied the notion to the question. Has New Zealand society become so individualised; so fragmented – that it is now a “nebulous concept“?

Sometimes we learn more from the interviewers than from  the people they are charged with interviewing.
Both men had a wealth of insights and knowledge to share with the audience. Their interviews could easily have been doubled in length to facilitate deeper under-standing of the issues involved. Perhaps canning Hekia Parata’s drivel would have provided extra time?
The audience would certainly have ended up better informed. (We already understand the fact that politicians often spout rubbish; talking a lot, but saying nothing.)

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Next up; the one and only (some might breath a sigh of relief at that), Colin Craig. Perhaps one of the oddest political aspirants to hit our political stage in recent times, Colin Craig had some very strange things to say in his interview;
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The Nation - Patrick Gower - Colin Craig - Conservative Party - TV3 - National - election 2014

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[FULL TRANSCRIPT: Colin Craig]

Gower started the interview with this bizarre exchange – almost reminiscent of a school Head Master dressing down an errant pupil;

Patrick Gower: I want to start with this extraordinary political cry for help that you made this week, effectively asking the Prime Minister to pull a candidate out of a seat for you.

Colin Craig: I didn’t do that.

Gower: Yes you did.

Craig: No, I didn’t.

I was expecting an impatient, testy, Gower to stand, pick up a nearby cane, and instruct  Craig,

Gower: Right boy, that’ll be enough fibbing! Bend over for six of the best!

Craig, of course, supports beating children, so this scenario would not be entirely implausible. And no one would have blamed Gower in the least.

Gower then asked Craig this salient question;

Gower: So which one of those could you beat? Which one of those three candidates could you beat? And tell the truth.

To which Craig responded;

Craig: Well look, I don’t think I could beat any of them unless we run a fantastic local campaign and people get behind us. Last time I –

Interesting.

Interesting because of what was not said, rather than what was.  No outrage over “dirty deals” in this interview, as Mr Gower expressed recently regarding the Mana-Internet alliance;

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Patrick gower - twitter - laila harre - mana internet party alliance

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And…

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Patrick gower - twitter - laila harre - mana internet party alliance (2)

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I suspect, however, that the difference in style in Gower’s critiquing the deals between the Right – and that between Mana and Internet (no deals in recent times  have been proven between Labour and other parties on the Left, despite claims) –  is not so much a matter of bias, rather one of common acceptance.

In short, we are used to an ex-trader Prime Minister doing behind-the-scenes deals so it is the ‘norm‘ when the Right does it.

But not the ‘norm’ for the Left because, to date, such deal-making has been rare.

Unfair?

Yes, of course it is.

But nothing will ever change because (a) the public have more or less accepted such political wheeling-and-dealing as par-for-course amongst right-leaning politicians and their parties;  (b) it serves the interests of the Right, and (c) the media can get stuffed (in the eyes of the Right) because in the end, what matters is political power – not  chest-thumping from a few media talking-heads.

That’s the way it is.

The Left can (a) adapt and engage in their own deal-making or (b) remain “above it all”;  maintain a holier-than-thou attitude; and hope the voting public notice and duly reward them with their votes. Option ‘B’ is like going to a gunfight armed with a knife and hoping the gun misfires. There is no Option ‘C’.

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The last interview, by Torben Akel,  with Todd Barclay – the National candidate replacing outgoing MP, Bill English in Southland – was perhaps the most curious.

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The Nation - Torben Akel - Todd Barclay - Southland electorate TV3 - National - election 2014

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At only 24, Todd  Barclay is one of Parliament’s youngest MPs. In itself, this not a negative factor, as we need representation from and for young people in our House of Representatives.

What was at issue was Barclay’s relative lack of life experience.

As Torben Akel asked in a introduction voice-over,

“But age aside, does Barclay have the real world experience to be an MP. Or does he represent the rise of an insulated careerist political class?”

National’s own website highlights Barclay’s limited life-experience;

Working in Wellington and then Auckland, Todd worked for Bill English and cabinet ministers Hekia Parata and Gerry Brownlee. He left Parliament to work for one of New Zealand’s leading public relations consultancies, before taking on a role as Corporate Affairs Manager for Philip Morris.

To be fair, one has to wonder just how much life experience a person can achieve by age 24. Though Barclay’s experience, thus far seems constrained to working for various ministers in Parliament and for a tobacco company that peddles products that kill people.

Not exactly a CV to be proud of.

In fact, it could be said that politics and public relations revolve around manipulating reality rather than living in it.

All up, a good interview; low-key and yet illuminating. Torben Akel did a good job presenting the person and his record, and then let the viewer decide for him/herself what to make of this young man.

Now it’s up to Southlanders if this is who they want as their representative.

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Postscript #1

The parameters “child poverty” nz  on Google returns 178,000 results;

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child poverty - google results - Google - search engine - new zealand - nz

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Not exactly something to be proud of, eh, New Zealand?

Postscript #2

It is has been said before and it is worth repeating again; the greatest disservice that TVNZ and TV3 programming managers have done to the viewing public; their own staff; and to their entire network is to ‘ghettoise’  “The Nation” and “Q+A” on early morning and late night time-slots in the weekends.

Maori TV schedules “Native Affairs” on Monday evenings  at  8.30pm.  This suggests that the management at Maori TV have sufficient faith in their ‘product’ that they are willing to give it a prime time viewing slot.

Sadly, the same cannot be said for TVNZ and TV3.

(And no, we will not settle for “Seven Sharp” or “The Paul Henry Show“.)

Postscript #3

National’s media release on it’s “Teaching & leadership career pathways” was published on it’s on party website; the Beehive website; and on Scoop Media. There’s a slight ‘risk’ in publishing an official party policy communique on an independent website – you never quite know what else is going to appear alongside the text;

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scoop media - internet party - 359m for teaching  leadership career pathways - national party - government - education (1)

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scoop media - internet party - 359m for teaching  leadership career pathways - national party - government - education (2)

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scoop media - internet party - 359m for teaching  leadership career pathways - national party - government - education (3)

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scoop media - internet party - 359m for teaching  leadership career pathways - national party - government - education (4)

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I’m sure Parata, Key, et al in the National Party would be “delirious with joy” at having a political advert for Kim Dotcom’s Internet Party nested within their pride and joy educational policy statement release…

… Not!

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References

Beehive: $359m for teaching & leadership career pathways

Radio NZ: NZEI, principals unite against policy

TV3 The Nation: Interview – Education Minister Hekia Parata

TV3 The Nation: Interview transcript – Education Minister Hekia Parata

Salvation Army: Hard to swallow – Child Poverty Action Group

BWB Books: Child Poverty in New Zealand

TV3 The Nation: Interview – Jonathan Boston & Russell Wills

Wikiquote:  Margaret Thatcher

TV3 The Nation: Interview – Conservative Party leader Colin Craig

Twitter: Patrick Gower

TV3 The Nation: The new breed of career MPs

National Party: National Selects Todd Barclay For Clutha-Southland

National Party: $359m for teaching & leadership career pathways

Beehive: $359m for teaching & leadership career pathways

Scoop Media: $359m for teaching & leadership career pathways

Previous related blogposts

Review: TV3′s The Nation – “Let them eat ice cream!”

Patrick Gower – losing his rag and the plot

Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How

Additional

Facebook: Inside Child Poverty

Bryan Bruce: How to vote strategically improves children’s lives

Child Poverty Action Group

 

Events

Tuesday 17 June, 5.30pm
Panel discussion with Jonathan Boston,
Damon Salesa, Susan St John and Russell Wills. Chaired by Tracey McIntosh.
Fale Pasifika, University of Auckland
26 Wynyard St, Auckland

Thursday 19 June, 8.00am – 4.00pm
Inequality: Causes and Consequences
Student Union Memorial Lecture Theatre
Victoria University of Wellington

Friday 20 June, 5.30pm
Lecture and book launch
Speakers include: Justine Cornwall, Jonathan Boston, and Cathy Wylie
Royal Society of New Zealand
11 Turnbull St, Thorndon, Wellington


 

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20 september 2014 VOTE

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 16 June 2014.

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ACT Party candidate David Seymour – revealed

13 June 2014 2 comments

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On TV3’s  ‘The Nation‘, host Lisa Owen set about discussing the Epsom-ACT-John Banks issue with Green candidate, Julie-Anne Genter; Labour candidate Michael Wood; ACT’s David Seymour, and a bag of flour standing in for National’s, Paul Goldsmith (the actual difference between the bag of flour and Goldsmith is still a matter for debate).

At first glance, Lisa Owen seemed hopelessly unable to extract straight answers from ACT’s David Seymour.

My mistake. She was allowing Seymour plenty of rope by which to hang himself, as he burbled on and on and on and… about how fricken marvelous he was, going from door to door. Evidently Seymour has knocked on 7,000 doors thus far? (Doesn’t he have a regular day job?)

The most illuminating aspect of the panel-discussion was that we gained insight into the three candidates.

Michael Wood – Labour

Never heard of him.

Even his Wikipedia entry has less content than a list of ingredients for vegemite.

Julie-Anne Genter – Greens

This woman oozes class, intellect, wit, and confidence. She ran rings around Seymour, giving Lisa Owen flanking support to handle the young ‘up-myself’ whippersnapper.

Ms Genter is the kind of politician New Zealand desperately needs – but doesn’t deserve.

Paul Goldsmith/Flour – National

Goldsmith refused to take part in the debate because, evidently, he was “out campaigning for the Party vote”.

Really? So appearing on a current affairs programme to promote your Party’s policies is not considered “campaigning”? Never mind. His stand-in – a bag of flour – made more sense than Goldsmith himself.

David Seymour – ACT

Arrogant.

Unwilling/unable to answer a direct question.

Yelled over others who happened to be speaking.

Did not listen.

In short, a perfect Tory politician.

If this is what he’s like now – outside Parliament what the devil will he be like as an actual MP?! Another Aaron Gilmore?

Listen to the panel yourself;

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david seymour - 7 june 2014 - TV3 - The Nation - ACT

David Seymour – avoiding answering questions on behalf of his electorate.

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Listen at 3:01 into the interview. The big *sigh* you can hear, as Seymour drones onnnn and onnnn and onnnn,  is probably Lisa Owen. If she’s thinking “My brain-cells are dying. God almighty, I don’t get paid enough to listen to this self-indulgent verbal diarrhea” – then I wholly sympathise. It was like listening to a blander, vanilla-version of Winston Peters. But at least Peters is entertaining. And often has a point to make.

Seymour could win Epsom outright by  anaesthetising the entire electorate with one of his interminable, monotone speeches, and then winning with just one vote cast. His own. Cunning bunch, these Tories.

At 6:30, Seymour attempted to deflect attention from ACT and John Banks by referring to Green Party co-leader, Russell Norman’s meeting with Kim Dotcom. It was a pathetic attempt, and he was shot down when  Julie Anne Genter pointed out the vain attempt at distraction. As she quite rightly pointed out, there is nothing illegal or untoward about elected representatives talking to New Zealand residents.

In fact, it is what MPs are paid to do.

Does Seymour plan not to talk with anyone should he be elected to Parliament? What kind of elected representative would that make him?

That attempt at evading the issue made Seymour look… dodgy. And god knows ACT has had plenty of dodgy characters within it’s ranks over the years.

At 7:50. Michael Wood refered to the dirty deal being done between National and ACT. At which point Wood brought out the bag of flour.

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goldsmith - flour - The Nation - Epsom

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A bit tacky.

John Campbell did it with much more style last year when he used a cardboard cutout of Hekia Parata when the Minister (often) refused interviews;

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Campbell Live - 5 February 2013 - Hekia Parata - No show - novopay

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But note Julie Anne Genter at 8:28. She all but took over as the host of the show by pointing out  some salient facts about Paul Goldsmith’s strange absence.

Poor Seymour. His response was to try to “stay on message”as he burbled on about “low taxes and stable centre-right government”. He was hopelessly outclassed by a Green MP who has been battle-hardened in Parliament’s debating chamber since 2011.

His inexperience showed when he made a major faux pas at 8:55, stating,

“And they do not want their neighbourhoods intensified with eight story towers next to their homes…”

That was almost too easy, and again, Genter jumped in, highlighting the policy contradiction between Seymour’s ranting against  “neighbourhoods intensified with eight story towers next to their homes” – and ACT’s new leader, Jamie Whyte, railing against the Resource Management Act;

There are far too many powers currently being given to various times of groups and bureaucrats around the country to interfere with people and the use of their property.” – Jamie Whyte, 28 February 2014

So we want to repeal the RMA and replace it with a law that addresses only real market failures, not fantastical injuries to Gaia or the sensitivities of people with no real interest in your land. It will be a very small law.” – Jamie Whyte, 1 March 2014

Perhaps Seymour hasn’t looked close enough at his own party’s policies – but allowing neighbourhoods to be intensified with multi-storey dwellings is precisely what would be allowed under ACT Party policy to do away with the RMA.

This ill-considered remark may come back to haunt him in the next three months of the election campaign. Epsom residents may be very interested to learn if ACT supports or rejects property rights when it comes to developing established urban land and neighbourhoods.

At 9:49, Lisa Owen asked the NZ$64,000 question;

I’m wondering if National and ACT are going to buddy up, why don’t you guys [Labour and Greens] buddy up.”

Wood replied;

We’re running a principled campaign [shouted interuption by Seymour]… We’re running a principled campaign. We want this to be a straight out contest of ideas and of parties. But we have a situation in which the National Party and the ACT Party are manipulating the system. And of course Labour voters and Green voters in the electorate will think about their options as the campaign goes on [shouted interuption by Seymour]…”

Seymour attempted to deflect focus from the National-ACT Epsom deal by demanding to know from both Genter and Wood if they would be encouraging their supporters to vote for Paul Goldsmith, to lock out ACT from winning Epsom.

Genter attempted to remind Seymour that since 2002, the Green Party has always only campaigned for  the Party Vote, not Electorate Votes. But Seymour was obviously not interested in listening and instead was more focused on deflecting focus from his own “arrangement” with National.

Wood responded with something less clear.

Several  interesting points emerged from the panel discussion;

  1. Seymour is nowhere as clever as he thinks he is and Julie Anne Genter ran rings around the baby-faced Tory Toff.
  2. Who is Michael Wood?!
  3. Who makes better pancakes – an absent Paul Goldsmith or a bag of flour?
  4. No matter how much Labour tries to rise above “dirty deals” and  “want this to be a straight out contest of ideas and of parties” – National/ACT will persist in tarring them with the same brush that has tarred Right as “dirty deal makers”.

With regards to #4 – it serves National/ACT’s purpose to throw as much mud around as possible – thereby increasing public cynicism and de-motivating voters to consider voting for a Left alternative. After all, what is the point of voters considering a Labour-led alternative if Labour, et al, are no different to the National-led bloc?

National does deal-making (whether one sees it as “dirty” or not) very well.

National wants to prevent similar deal-making between  Labour; the Greens; and Mana-Internet.

National therefore has engaged in a  covert strategy to paint all deal-making as dirty – even though they have no hesitation in doing it themselves in Epsom, Ohariu, and soon with the Conservatives. If the media questions this – they will deflect to Labour Greens, Mana, and the Internet Party doing the same thing. (Even though thus far only Mana-Internet have done any deals – two parties barely registering 2% between them in any given poll.)

National wants Labour to play by FPP rules –  which certain Labour MPs have obliged (see:  The secret of National’s success – revealed).

Meanwhile, National builds and supports deals with other parties as coalition partners for a post-2014 Third Term National-led government.

Meanwhile, the media focuses on perceived “dirty deals” by the Left, including Mana-Internet.

No wonder David Seymour kept banging on about alleged deal-making between the Greens and Labour in Epsom. That is the script he has been handed to read and speak.

The media dutifully oblige by repeating.

Just ask Patrick Gower.

 

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References

Wikipedia: Michael Wood

TV3: The Nation

NZ Herald: Act wants Resource Management Act dumped

ACT: Leader’s Speech to ACT New Zealand Conference – Saturday 1st March 2014

Previous related blogpost

Patrick Gower – losing his rag and the plot

The secret of National’s success – revealed.

 

 

 

 


 

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Key Banks - party anyone

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 8 June 2014.

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The slow disintegration of a government; 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5…

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The Nationalmobile

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Where does one start…?

¶  Growing numbers of injuries and fatalities in various industries, caused by health and safety de-regulation in the early 1990s, by a previous National government?

¶  National passing legislation last year, increasing the powers of the surveillance state by enabling legislation for the GCSB to spy on all New Zealanders?

¶  Permitting dangerous drilling practices in our deep coastal waters?

¶ Hekia Parata on education?

¶ The gutting and collapse of Solid Energy?

¶ John Banks/Kim Dotcom/SkyCity/dodgy donations?

¶  Peter Dunne’s  unmitigated mess over “legal highs”?

¶  Maurice Williamson’s attempt to influence/query a police investigation surrounding a wealthy immigrant?

¶  National’s unhealthy relationship with immigrants; big business; and corporate donors-for-favours?

¶  Corporate cronyism for aluminium smelters, film companies, et al?

¶  Judith Collins’ lies over her dinner at Oravida and a mysterious, un-named Chinese official?

 

Let’s start with the last, and most recent; Judith Collins.

It appears that there are three serious grounds for which John Key  has no choice but to dismiss Collins from her ministerial rolls;

1.

Collins lied

On 5 March, Collins stated that she went to the Oravida offices;

To actually have a cup of tea on the way to the airport“.

On  18 March, Collins repeated this statement in Parliament;

“I was being driven around and I was assured by the ambassador that we could pop into Oravida on the way to the airport, or else I could have gone to the airport and I could have sat in the lounge for an extra long time.”

But this excuse was shown to be demonstrably false when then Labour’s Grant Robertson revealed in Parliament;

“Is she aware that Oravida’s headquarters are 30km in the opposite direction from where her hotel and business meetings were held and not on the way to Pudong airport at all?”

On 2 May, documents released to the media under an Official Information Act (OIA) request revealed this email from Minister Collins’ office;
“On Sunday, October 20 [2013], the minister will be having a dinner that will include (redacted name). He has agreed to meet with the minister arranged by Mr Stone Shi, Oravida. The minister would like ambassador Carl Worker and his wife to attend this dinner. A briefing from Mfat will be required.”

The meeting with her husband’s company (Oravida) was pre-planned as far back as 15 October 2013 – the date of the above email.

In fact,  as Vernon Small reported on 2 May, for Fairfax media, there is no way that Collins could have made an unplanned stopover at Oravida, nor anywhere else;

Mfat’s China unit policy officer, Nicholas Clutterbuck, advised that “while the dinner can be regarded as private, the minister cannot make unplanned/uncommunicated travel movements around Beijing during her stay”.
Therefore, Collins told a baldfaced lie when she said she had stopped off at Oravida on her way to the airport  “to actually have a cup of tea on the way to the airport“. (By the way, this is not the first time a “cup of tea” has landed a National politician in dire trouble.)

2.

Collins is avoiding responsibility/shifting blame

Whilst avoiding taking responsibility is by no means unique to Judith Collins, and is commonly practiced by other National ministers, attempting to shift blame on to her staff is nothing short of the desperate act of a politician whose career is on intensive life support.

How else to explain Collins’ eyebrow-raising comment on 4 May, when she said,
“My office is full of control freaks who want to have all the information they possibly can, and when I found out they’d asked for a briefing I said, ‘Don’t do that; it’s a private dinner. You’ll waste MFAT’s time”.”
Any Minister who is not in control of her own office must be questioned as whether they are fit to hold a ministerial warrant. Either her staff are out of control – or else Collins has lied again. (See #1 above)

3.

Collins visit to Oravida was a Business Meeting – grounds for dismissal

 

The meeting at Oravida – a company where Judith Collins’s husband is a Director – and the subsequent dinner with a Chinese official, was not a “business meeting” said Judith Collins.

However, subsequent to the non-business dinner, Oravida acquired a quarantine clearance from the Chinese government, and Oravida made a $30,000 donation to National, days later.

But more critical, as revealed on Polity, is an email dated 23 October 2013, which clearly refers to Collins’ meeting at Oravida;

Purpose / objective
To increase the profile of a successful importer and distributor of New Zealand products into China

The email is reproduced here in it’s entirety (courtesy from Polity);

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collins oravida email

 

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That email clinches Collins’ guilt. It is the “smoking gun” that proves Collins’ intent for visiting her husband’s business. The words are there in black and white; To increase the profile of a successful importer and distributor of New Zealand products into China.

This was  the same breach of Cabinet rules that caused  National Cabinet Minister, Pansy Wong, to resign,

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Judith Collins

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Mrs Wong resigned as a Cabinet minister last month after it was revealed her husband Sammy could have conducted private business while on a taxpayer-subsidised overseas trip.

Rules around the perk which pays up to 90 per cent of MPs’ and their spouses international travel, prohibit any private business activities during trips funded by it.

A Parliamentary Services inquiry ordered by Speaker Lockwood Smith cleared Mrs Wong and her husband of any serious misuse of taxpayer-funded travel perks.

The report by former public servant Hugh McPhail found the Wongs breached rules on use of the perk just once by conducting private business during a trip to China in 2008.

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The case against Judith Collins is clear-cut;

1. She lied.

2. She refuses to take responsibility.

3. It is clear that her trip to Oravida’s offices and factory were indeed business-related.

Her position as Minister is no longer tenable. She must go.

 

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Postscript #1

This is the woman who recently took joy at exhibiting an “Iron Lady” affectation by making personal attacks on a fellow Parliamentarian;

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Ministers accused of bullying Turei

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Dear Leader John Key has given Collins “time out”,  lamely explaining,

“She’ll be back by the Budget but I think she should take four or five days.  We work in a stressful environment. There’s no question that Judith made some inappropriate comments and over-reached…”

To which, I reply quoting Ms Collins herself, when she attacked  Metiria Turei;

“…Oh my goodness isn’t she a sensitive little sausage.”

Karma.  In spades.

 

Postscript #2

Judith Collin’s vindictive attack on journalist Katie Bradford (for which Collins has since apologised) is not the first instance of  critics of this government coming under attack by either politicians, or those connected with the government;

July, 2009

Natasha Fuller &  Jennifer Johnston, solo-mothers

Personal WINZ details released to the media by Social Welfare Minister, Paula Bennett, to discredit both women after they criticised National for canning the Training Incentive Allowance (which Bennett herself used to pay her way through University).

May, 2011

Jon Stephenson, journalist
John Key derides Stephenson’s research into NZ activities in Afghanistan: “I’ve got no reason for NZDF to be lying, and I’ve found [Stephenson] myself personally not to be credible.”

September, 2011

Nicky Hager, writer, researcher
John Key dismisses Hager’s book, on CIA involvement in NZ military activities in Afghanistan:  “I don’t have time to read fiction,” quipped the Prime Minister, adding that the book contained “no smoking gun”, just supposition, which, “makes it business as normal for Nicky Hager”. (Despite the book having 1300 footnotes to referencing documentation.)

October, 2011

Martyn “Bomber” Bradbury, broadcaster, blogger
Criticised John Key on Radio NZ. Subsequently banned/ “uninvited”  from returning to Radio NZ as a panellist for the Afternoons with Jim Mora segment.

November, 2011

Robyn Malcolm, actor
Criticises the John Key led National government for it’s failures at a Green Party campaign launch, and is, in turn, vilified by the ‘NZ Herald’, and by one-time National Party aspiring-candidate, Cameron Brewer.

November, 2011

Bradley Ambrose, journalist/photographer
Investigated by police after complaint laid by the Prime Minister, over the “Teapot Tape” affair. Ambrose investigated and interviewed by Police. Media office raided. Property seized. Eventually, no charges laid. Government considered seeking costs of $13,669.45 from Ambrose – but eventually decided not to.

March 2012

ACC Claimant, Bronwyn’s Pullar’s personal details are leaked to the media and to a right wing blogger, who has been given her full files, emails, etc. ACC Minister, Judith Collins, and her office are implicated.

November 2012

Dr Mike Joy, environmentalist, scientist, academic. Attacked by both John Key and right wing “media relations/publicist”, Mark Unsworth, for daring to tell the public the truth about New Zealand’s polluted waterways.  On 21 November, Unsworth sent a vicious email to Dr Joy that showed the state of mind of Unsworth to be bordering on unhinged.

March, 2013

Annette Sykes, lawyer, activist, President of Mana Party

When Annette Sykes criticised the appointment of sportswoman Susan Devoy to the role of Race Relations Commissioner, Minister Judith Collins responded with “Annette Sykes is a stupid person”. That’s how National views critics.

May, 2014

Katie Bradford, Parliamentary Press Gallery, and TV1 journalist.  Judith Collins makes allegations to a TV3 journalist, that  Ms Bradford asked the Minister to intervene on behalf of her (Bradford’s) husband to join the police force. This is refuted by Ms Bradford as untrue. Collins later apologises.

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References

TV3: Collins says Oravida visit not conflict of interest

Parliament: Justice, Minister—Statements

Fairfax media: MFAT briefing requested before Oravida dinner

Otago Daily Times: Peters reveals details of tea tape

TV3: Judith Collins takes swing at Press Gallery journalist

TVNZ: Judith Collins to take time off amid Oravida storm

NZ Herald: Oravida gave another $30,000 to National

Polity:  Even more new, damning evidence on Collins

NZ Herald:  Pansy Wong resigns as MP

Radio NZ: Ministers accused of bullying Turei

RadioNZ: Judith Collins to take ‘refresher’ break

Additional

TV3:  Timeline – Judith Collins and Oravida

Cabinet Manual:  Interests of family, whānau, and close associates

Previous related blogposts

Taking responsibility, National-style

 


 

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Judith Collins

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 6 May 2014.

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

25 April 2014 7 comments

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Taxpayers Union website banner

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

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

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John Bishop_taxpayers Union_21 march 2014_dominion post

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This group is simply no longer credible.

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

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References

Taxpayers Union: Who we are

Finda.co.nz: John Bishop Communicator

ACT Party: Confidence and Supply Agreement with ACT New Zealand

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

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

Taxpayers Union: John Bishop on Judith Collins

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

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

Previous Related Blogposts

A Query to the Taxpayers Union

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

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

Other Blogs

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

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

 

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Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

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

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Radio NZ: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams – 24 March 2014

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– Politics on Nine To Noon –

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– Monday 24 March 2014 –

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– Kathryn Ryan, with Matthew Hooton & Mike Williams –

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Today on Politics on Nine To Noon,

Will The Mana party and The Internet party form an alliance?

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radio-nz-logo-politics-on-nine-to-noon

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Click to Listen: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams (25′ 54″ )

  • Mana Party
  • Internet Party
  • Hone Harawira
  • Kim Dotcom
  • The Alliance
  • Sue Bradford
  • Roy Morgan Poll
  • Shane Jones, Winston Peters, NZ First, The Green Parrot Restaurant
  • Hekia Parata, Kohanga Reo National Trust, performance pay for teachers
  • Ernst Young, Serious Fraud Office, PISA Education Ratings
  • Judith Collins, Oravida
  • John Key, China, Fran O’Sullivan, Rod Oram
  • Labour Party, Forestry policy, Red Stag Timber, government procurement

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Radio NZ: Focus on Politics for 21 March 2014

23 March 2014 2 comments

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– Focus on Politics –

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– Friday 21 March 2014  –

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– Jane Patterson –

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A weekly analysis of significant political issues.

Friday after 6:30pm and Saturday at 5:10pm

The Education Minister has once again found herself at the centre of a political storm, after allegations relating to the Kohanga Trust Board’s commercial arm, have ended up with the Serious Fraud Office.

The question is; when does public money cease to be public?

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Radio NZ logo - Focus on Politics

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Click to listen: Focus on Politics for 21 March 2014 ( 17′  28″ )

  • Hekia Parata, Pita Sharples
  • Kōhanga Reo National Trust Board, Te Pataka Ohanga
  • Ernst & Young report
  • Serious Fraud Office
  • Derek Fox

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Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

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Radio NZ: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams – 17 March 2014

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– Politics on Nine To Noon –

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– Monday 17 March 2014 –

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– Kathryn Ryan, with Matthew Hooton & Mike Williams –

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Today on Politics on Nine To Noon,

Winston Peters and the possible make-up of the next government. Moves to link school funding to performance.

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radio-nz-logo-politics-on-nine-to-noon

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Click to Listen: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams (23′ 51″ )

  • Winston Peters, NZ First
  • Judith Collins, Orivida,
  • Helen Clark
  • Green Party transport policy
  • Hekia Parata, education policy, school fundsing system

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Pita Sharples, Spooks, Maggie Barry, and Bully-boy Brownlee

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Pita Sharples – gone

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Pita Sharples quits Maori Party leadership

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ – Pita Sharples quits Maori Party leadership

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Pita Sharples has effectively taken responsibility for the Maori Party’s poor showing (third place) at the  recent Ikaroa-Rāwhiti by-election.  That result was an indictment on the Maori Party’s decision to support an increasingly shakey government that is losing support in more accurate polling.

The internal leadership struggles between himself and Te Ururoa Flavell has also taken it’s toll on the 71 year old,

“It’s clear that the leadership issue…has taken a toll on the Maori Party and our people deserve a united Maori Party.”

Acknowledgement: Domninion Post – Sharples quits Maori Party leadership

It’s also something that is focusing closer scrutiny upon an increasingly unstable government. The toll thus far;

  • Hekia Parata – lost part of her port-folio. In essence, a partial sacking.
  • Aaron Gilmore – forced to resign from Parliament.
  • John Banks – facing charges in Court. If found guilty, he will hve to resign.
  • Peter Dunne – Party de-registered; lost his ministerial portfolios; and becoming increasingly oppositional to National’s policies.
  • Pita Sharples – standing down as Maori-Party co-leader

An early election this year (or early next year) is becoming more likely with each passing crisis.

Not a good time for National.

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The spooks have a new Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security…

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On 1 July, John Key announced that Paul Neazor would be replaced in his role as  Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (for the SIS and GCSB) by former-Judge  Andrew McGechan.

Key says that McGechan’s role will be on an  “interim” basis, instead of the usual three years, as the  GCSB and Related Legislation Amendment Bill is currently being considered  by a Parliament Select Committee.

However, with Peter Dunne wavering on this issue; with mounting public opposition; and god-only-knows which way Winston Peters will jump; the passing of the GCSB and Related Legislation Amendment Bill is by no means guaranteed.

In which case, National has two options remaining,

1.

The office of the Inspector-General must be expanded; properly staffed;  and appropriately funded. At present, the  Inspector-General’s role is a part-time position, with no permanent staffing. Our Inspector General is faced with oversight of two intelligence agencies with a combined staff of around 520. In effect he is out-numbered, out-resourced, and consequently, out-manouvered.

By contrast, our Aussie cuzzy’s  version of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security has approximately 20 people working full time for the Inspectorate (see IGIS Annual Report 2011-12  Part three: Management and accountability )

This, I believe is the real problem surrounding our security-intelligence agencies – not the legislation needing “tightening up”.  The legislation is tight enough as it is.

It just needs to be obeyed.

2.

The Labour Party’s call for a full public commission of inquiry on this matter cannot be ignored any longer.  If Key wants cross-party support and public buy-in to secuirity/intelligence issues, then it must be open to all political parties and the public to contribute to the debate.

As matters stand now, if National forces through  unpopular, undemocratic,  and ultimately counter-productive laws – an incoming government will be bound to amend or repeal it entirely. This is grossly wasteful use of the Parliamentary process and taxpayer’s money.

This blogger hopes that the  GCSB and Related Legislation Amendment Bill is set aside.  Aside from National ministers and a few misguided rightwing bloggers, there is very little support for this proposed legislation.

Additional

Parliament: External oversight of intelligence agencies: a comparison

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Egg; Face; Maggie Barry

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Ex-radio host-come-National politician – known for her acerbic and often nasty tongue in Parliament’s debating chamber – has copious amounts of egg on her face.

Ever the loyal, obedient National Party foot-soldier for towing the OPL (Official Party Line), she loudly parroted her party’s opposition to the Auckland rail link. She expressed her “well wishes” to  Len Brown after he won the 2010 Mayoralty race with this graceless message,

The morning after National’s resounding victory she sent a strong message to Auckland mayor Len Brown, saying there would be a CBD rail link before a second harbour crossing “over our dead bodies”.

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Maggie Barry’s line in sand

Charming.

But political Karma being what it is,  National’s change of heart on this issue had made her look foolish. Her senior fellow politicians have now endorsed Len Brown and Auckland Council’s plans for the Auckland rail link,

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Auckland Mayor celebrates Government's agreement to support rail loop

Acknowledgement: Interest.co.nz – Auckland Mayor celebrates Government’s agreement to support rail loop

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Ms Barry, not quite bringing herself able to tow the new OPL, endorsed only certain  aspects of Auckland Council’s transport plans,

North Shore National MP Maggie Barry said there was a “flurry of excitement” about the suggestion the North Shore could get another link to the city.

“It is essential and long overdue, and it would make a phenomenal difference to the North Shore.”

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Key to give Auckland a crossing

I suspect there’s enough egg on Ms Barry’s face to cook up a decent size omelette.

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Bully-boy Brownlee

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Not content with creating the Auckland super city without first putting it to Auckland ratepayers through a referendum

Not content with pushing more laws through Parliament under “Urgency” than probably any other government in New Zealand’s history…

Not content with dis-establishing Environment Canterbury in March 2010; replacing it with un-elected Commissioners; whose decisions cannot be appealed to the Environment Court…

Not content with usurping the authority of the Christchurch City Council with the creation of CERA…

Not content with being given sweeping political power in the Christchurch re-build, via the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act which  effectively gives unbridled power to National Ministers  for five years…

Not content with expanding the surveillance powers of the GCSB, where no one will be safe from being spied upon by the State…

Not content with moving to take control of Christchurch

Gerry Brownlee is now putting none-too-subtle pressure on Auckland City to sell its assets to help pay for the Auckland rail loop,

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City's shares eyed for rail

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – City’s shares eyed for rail

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Acting more reminiscent of a feudal Baron ruling over his fiefdom, Brownlee is treating Mayor Len Brown as a vassal, forcing Auckland City to obey National’s diktats.

I wonder what Aucklanders think of this kind of high-handed Ministerial control being exerted over their city – all the way from Wellington?

It must be demeaning for Aucklanders to realise that their elected local representatives are being treated like puppets, and that real power is being exerted from the Beehive?

So much for the quaint notion of democracy.

So much for Aucklanders being in charge of their own destiny.

So much for the  “partnership” that our mendacious Prime Minister promised, three years ago,

The Government will work in partnership with the new Auckland council to improve the city’s transport systems, Prime Minister John Key says.

He said today the Government shared Mayor Len Brown’s vision of getting Auckland moving and it was a government priority as well.

“The Government will work in partnership with the new Auckland City Council on what comes next, and contribute its fair share to the continuing goal of improving transport,” Mr Key said at his post-cabinet press conference.

Acknowledgement : NZ Herald – Govt will work with council on Auckland’s transport

Having a Minister of the Crown attempting to bully Auckland to sell it’s assets in not a “partnership”.  And just because National has engaged in an act of wilful economic sabotage by it’s agenda of partial asset-sales – is no reason to expect others to follow that lunatic policy.

Gerry Brownlee should take note. He is playing with political fire, and a million votes in Auckland may come raining down on his (and other National MPs’) head.

If I know Kiwis as well as I think I do, they will not take kindly to being bossed around. (The Americans found this out, to their cost, when the Lange-led Labour government passed our nuclear-free legislation.)

How much does Brownlee really want to piss that many voters off?

Tread carefully, bully-boy.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 3 July 2013.

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Why Salisbury School was right to be wary of this government

24 June 2013 3 comments

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salisbury school logo

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Background

It was on 31 October last year that  Education Minister, Hekia Parata, announced her decision to close both  Salisbury School in Nelson and McKenzie Residential School in Christchurch. Both were schools specialising in support high-needs children with varying degrees of disabilities. Parata said,

After carefully considering all the information provided to me, including the responses from the schools, and information provided at my meetings with the Boards of the schools, I have decided to close the two schools. 

At the very heart of this difficult decision lies the opportunity to provide services and support for more children with complex needs in their local community. We can link local services with the remaining residential provision to achieve a more personalised and high quality approach for children and their families.

I am satisfied that this combination of services will make sufficient provision for all children with special education needs both locally and nationally.”

Acknowledgment – Beehive – Final decision on residential special schools announced

In an attempt to alleviate shock and disbelief throughout the country, Parata offered an alternative – a so-call “Intensive Wraparound Service“,

The Intensive Wraparound Service will be extended to support students with complex needs to remain in their community and attend their local school. The service will be based in every region with a trained facilitator, usually a psychologist

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Funding from closing the two residential schools will be redirected into the Intensive Wraparound Service. The net result will be better support for more students and keeping communities together.”

Acknowledgment – IBID

The parents and staff of Salisbury students would have none of it. Parata’s decision to close the school and merge with co-ed Halswell Residential School in Christchurch. Female students would be relocated to mix with male students.

The implications of such a move did not escape parents and teaches. They realised that mixing highly vulnerable girls – many with considerable mental disabilities – with boys and adolecent young teenagers, was a potential  for disaster. There was grave risk of sexual abuse, amongst other problems (I refuse to call them “issues”.)

Salisbury school and parents rejected the planned closure.

On 26 November last year, Salisbury school mounted a legal challenge to Parata’s decision.

By 11 December, a Court decision ruled that National’s move to close the  school was unlawful. Justice Robert Dobson condemned Parata’s descision because of  “the prospect of greater risk of sexual or physical abuse“.

On 22 May, this year, Parata had fully backed down and announced that her Ministry would not be appealing the Court decision. Parata gave this gobbledegook statement to the media,

‘‘The arguments that we were making at the time were valid and remain valid, but a different decision has now been made, and I am pleased for Salisbury that that is the case, and keen now to resume normal transmission.’’

Acknowledgment – Nelson Mail –  U-turn stuns, delights Salisbury

Salisbury School won the battle, with Courts accepting that  female students would be put at risk by attending a co-ed school.

One also had to question the reality of  any so-called “Intensive Wraparound Service” that Parata had promised.

Intensive Wraparound Service

In a May 2012 Ministry of Education report (Development of a new intensive wraparound special education), the author wrote,

Two Residential Special Schools also provide an outreach service4. Salisbury’s service caters for a minimum of 30 students, while Halswell School caters to a maximum of 36 students.

Figures from 2010 show the Government invested approximately $84,200 in each student who attended a Residential Special School in the year.

This figure contrasts with an annual investment of approximately $7,700 in each student who attends a state and integrated (or non-residential) school or approximately $29,000 for each student who meets the criteria to receive support through an intensive wrap-around service.

Note the figures mentioned;

Residential School Student: $84,200 per student

State/Integrated School Student: $7,700 per student

Intensive wrap-around service Student: $29,000 per student

So by relocating special needs students from Salisbury to a mainstream school, with so-called “Intensive wrap-around” support, there was a saving to the State of $55,200 per student.

It is not beyond suspicion that the attempted closure of Salisbury School; with attendent risk to female students; was a particularly nasty attempt at cost-cutting by this bottom-line focused government.

Indeed, more than a suspicion, the report clearly stated,

It is important to note the new service:

– provides an opportunity to use existing funding in new ways, achieving better value for money and more efficient use of resources

This government appears to be content to play with peoples’ lives to save a few bucks.

Current Issues

Later  in  May this year, there were revelations that several Whangarei schools were unable to cope with severely disturbed – and violent – young students. Radio NZ reported,

A Whangarei school principal says a system designed to improve support for at-risk children appears to be bogged down in paperwork.

The Gateway programme began two years ago to co-ordinate the roles of Child, Youth and Family, doctors, schools and mental health services for children in care.

But Horahora primary school principal Pat Newman said from what he has seen, the gateway is blocked.

He said he has been trying since March to get an assessment for a young pupil with serious anger problems who hurts other children on a daily basis.

Mr Newman said various agencies have filed their observations about the boy and though he clearly needs specialist help, there has been no action. Now his classmates are afraid of him and have begun to exclude him.

Child, Youth and Family said it understood the boy was doing well at school, but if his Gateway assessment throws up other issues it will address them.

The head of another school, who has asked not be named to protect the identity of children, said disturbed new entrants are increasingly common, and he has had a teacher close to leaving because of their appalling behaviour.

In the worst case, he said a boy was not only violent to teachers and children, his behaviours were also sexualised.

The principal said the boy would leave the school whenever he felt like it and had to be watched and tracked constantly to keep him safe.

Acknowledgment – Radio NZ – Paper-work seen as blocking support for children

A further Radio NZ report stated,

Northland primary school principals say they are seeing growing numbers of violent new entrants and getting less support to deal with them.

Three Whangarei primary school principals have complained about a lack of support for new entrants with serious psychological problems.

Another principal in Northland says research is urgently needed on the growing numbers of violent and unmanageable children entering the school system.

Principals said they are having to beg for specialist help and teacher aides while the Government spends $60 million on a behavioural management programme for teachers.

Tai Tokerau Principals’ Association vice-president Marilyn Dunn said there has been an influx of new entrants to Northland schools raised in homes where they have seen violence, methamphetamine and alcohol abuse since they were born.

Ms Dunn said such children are often aggressive and need the help of a teacher aide for prolonged periods to keep them and others safe.

She said the Government’s new Positive Behaviour for Learning programme for teachers does not provide for this and schools need far more specialised help.

Acknowledgment – Radio NZ  –  Teachers having to cope with more violent new entrants

The same report added,

But the Ministry of Education on Monday defended the level of support available to schools dealing with violent or disturbed children.

The ministry said its special education teams are working with between 3000 and 4000 pupils throughout New Zealand who exhibit particularly challenging behaviour. It said the teacher aide budget in Northland is unchanged.

However principals say in practice, that amounts to a funding cut – because they are dealing with growing numbers of damaged children and there is now less funding to go around.

Acknowledgment – IBID

And as usual, Key  admitted  he didn’t  know if there been an increase in violent cases in Whangarei.

Another report also questioned how much community support was being given to vulnerable people with psychiatric conditions,

The brother of a man killed by a mentally ill former flatmate says not enough is being done to care for mental health patients living in the community – often with tragic results.

Cambridge man Graeme Moyle’s older brother, Colin Moyle, was bludgeoned to death in his Auckland home by psychiatric patient Matthew Ahlquist in May 2007.

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“I believe not enough resources are available to care for mental health patients in the community, especially at the higher end. The reason many are on the street is because there’s not enough beds for them and there’s nowhere to put them.”

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“Whilst we endeavour to provide the best possible care to service users, we are mindful that despite our best intentions, in any organisation as large and complex as ours, there will be times where things don’t go to plan,” Ms Jenkin said. “In such situations we will generally formally report serious incidents and undertake a service review to understand what went wrong, and why, in order to improve the services that we provide to those that need them.”

In the 1990s, New Zealand went through a period of de-instutionalisation.  Patients from mental health hospitals  and other institutions were relocated back into the community. The  Bolger-led National government of the day assured the public that as institutions were emptied,  resourcing and funding would follow.

The opposite seemed to happen and many ex-patients ended up in living in squalor or out on the streets. One well known case in the 1990s involved a female ex-psychiatric patient who slept in public toilets; gathered cigarettes butts from gutters; and was at considerable personal  risk. She seemed to have no support or safety network whatsoever.

The plaintive cries from Whangarei principals for more support suggests that funding for high needs students is severely lacking.

Promises of support for disturbed students are not materialising into actual funding.

This blogger is personally aware of one solo-mother who has a son with high-functioning autism. The young lad, 12, has recently come to the attention of emergency services (police and fire brigades) with his extreme behaviour.

He requires full-time support from a teacher aid – but is receiving only half the hours that should be allocated to him.

I know this kid. He’s a good sort. With full support he could become a stable, productive member of society.

Without support, and allowed to go “off the rails”, he will end up in prison.

Cost to tax-payer: $95,000+ per annum.

The staff, management, and parents of Salisbury school students were correct to fight this government. Their fears that Parata and other National Ministers were offering hollow reassurances of  “Intensive wrap-around” services was well-founded.

If we’ve learned anything these last five years it is this; What National  giveth; National taketh.

The parents of Salisbury School students were not about to put this matter to the test, nor put the well-being of their daughters into the ‘caring’ hands of Hekia Parata, Bill English, et al.

“Wraparound”?

I don’t think so.

Not this Weetbix government.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 31 May 2013.

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References

Ministry of Education: Development of a new intensive wraparound special education (PDF) (May 2012)

Beehive: Final decision on residential special schools announced (31 Oct 2012)

Nelson Mail: Salisbury School mounts legal bid  (26 Nov 2012)

TVNZ:   Special needs school closure declared unlawful  (11 Dec 2012)

Nelson Mail: U-turn stuns, delights Salisbury  (22 May 2013)

Radio NZ: Paper-work seen as blocking support for children (27 May 2013)

Radio NZ: Principals frustrated with ‘gateway’ programme (audio – 27 May 2013)

Radio NZ: Childrens’ charities struggle to secure funding (audio – 27 May 2013)

Radio NZ: Teachers having to cope with more violent new entrants (27 May 2013)

Fairfax Media:  ‘Too little resourcing’ for mentally unwell (29 May 2013)

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Media Review for 26 May: Q+A, Susan Wood, & some casual racism

21 June 2013 3 comments

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painting the media

Sunday morning TV current affairs yielded a wide range of issues discussed; Len Brown and the Auckland Unitary Plan; Hekia Parata’s political career; US-NZ relations; New Zealand Universities; the high incidence of asthma in Maori; the Living Wage campaign; the rising careers of Dayna Grant and Maisey Rika; and the recently released findings of the Independent Police Complaints Authority. Plus the obligatory ‘plug’ for TV3′s “X Factor” on TV3′s  “The Nation“.

On the issue of the IPCA’s report, “Q+A” host, Susan Wood introduced the issue with this segment;

SUSAN WOOD: “And the police conduct authority delivering it’s findings on the Urewera raid. Some road blocks and searches found  to be unlawful. Some on the receiving end thinking about compensation.”

[cut to:]

RUATOKI CITIZEN: “Because you know, stress and all that kind of stuff. Cleaning the house. Because it took quite a while. That tear gas is quite hard to get rid of. I had to paint the ceiling.”

SUSAN WOOD:  (smiling) “Who’d have known?”

Time Stamp: 1.05 – 1.20

TVNZ – Q+A – Series 2013, Episode 12

A screen-shot captures the moment when Wood made light of the young man’s experience, with her flippant, dismissive remark,

 

Q+A 26.5.2013 - Susan Wood on tear gas - who'd have know

“Who’d have known?”

 

Yes, Susan. Who’d have known that a white pakeha could so openly lack empathy with fellow New Zealanders, in our own country, that had been terrorised by a para-military exercise that our own IPCA labelled as unlawful, unjustifiable and unreasonable?

Who would have thought, Susan, that women and  young children could be locked up in a garage for nine hours under guard,  without food, and a supposedly reputable journo like you could make light of it?

Who’d have thought, Susan, that an entire small town could be locked down and sealed off from the rest of the country in a scene straight out of C.K. Stead’s “Smith’s Dream/Sleeping Dogs” – and it would be an object of mirth for you?

When something like this – perhaps one of the most shameful events in our recent history – is so casually dismissed by  you, then perhaps you should reconsider if you’re in the right job.

Your flippancy might be suitable on the cyber-sewer that is Whalesoil or  David Farrar’s marginally less odious Kiwiblog,  like this insensitive clod, anonymously revelling in his racism,

 

ruatoki raids_kiwiblog_rightwing halfwit post

Kiwiblog – Greens see racism everywhere

 

Is that the kind of racist moron you’re lining up with, Susan?

Sorry, but  one expects better from a supposedly experienced,  professional in our media. Just because they were brown folk and poor, and not like your refined middle-class neighbours in your fine, leafy suburb – a bit of empathy mightn’t go astray here.

Or  has the mask slipped, revealing the true attitudes of white mainstream media in this country?

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Robert Kennedy

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 26 May 2013.

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Four schools to close in Aranui, Christchurch

19 June 2013 3 comments

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Hekia Parata has announced the closure (“merger”) of four schools in Aranui, Christurch,

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Four Christchurch schools to close

Acknowledgment:  NZ Herald – Four Christchurch schools to close

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By sheer coincidence (?), all four schools happen to  be situated in the electorate of Christchurch East.

Christchurch East is a Labour seat, currently held by Labour  MP,  Lianne Dalziel,

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Christchurch East Electorate

Acknowledgment: Elections NZ – Official Count Results — Christchurch East

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As National’s electoral support continues to drop  in the polls, closing schools in National held seats (Christchurch Central, Ilam, Waimakariri, and Selwyn) would not do the government any favours.

So when this right-wing government – which has demonstrated an unerring ability to act ruthlessly when it suits their interests – is going to close schools, causing more misery for the locals, they target a Labour electorate.

Or maybe it’s just a sheer coincidence that all four schools are in Ms Dalziel’s electorate and none are in a National held seat?

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yeah-right

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 23 May 2013.

 

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12 June – Issues of Interest

12 June 2013 4 comments

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Looking at the pieces

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Nigel Latta on National Standards

On Facebook, child psychologist and TV host, Nigel Latta, had this to say about the recent National Standards “results”;

‘National Standards’ aren’t.

The latest national standards ‘results’ being reported in the media are utter nonsense. Pure and simple. Even if we ignore the large inconsistencies between the way that the ‘standards’ are measured (and we can’t because the inconsistencies make comparisons all but impossible), and the fact that it assumes all children of a given age are maturing at the same rate (which they don’t), and we ignore the impact of little things like child poverty (which some politicians like to do much to their shame), it’s still impossible to say anything at all about a change in the numbers when you only have two data points.

They can’t say that a difference of 1.2-2% on the various measures between last year and this year is an ‘improvement’, because we simply don’t know.

If you had assessed all of those very same children again the day after they were assessed for these numbers, in the exact same conditions with the exact same measures, then you would also get a different number. That’s because in the real world we have this little thing called statistical variation–things never work out exactly the same. To make any meaningful statements about ‘improvements’ you need meaningful measures (which national standards aren’t anyway) over several different data points (i.e. over several years).

I wish the media would get that very simple, but very important point. Politicians will spin it as a gain, but it isn’t. It’s simply meaningless statistical ‘noise’.

The government went with national standards because they thought voters would like it, not because it’s the best thing for making progress on education. If we really wanted to lift our ‘national standards’ then, perhaps as a beginning, we’d take more care of the large numbers of our kids living in poverty.

When they produce their ‘rankings’ of schools I’m pretty sure it’s going to show a trend whereby higher decile schools meet/exceed the ‘standards’ much more than lower decile schools. I wonder why that might be? And who do we blame for that? Teachers?

Don’t be sucked in by all this political positioning. My advice is to ignore the national standards tables because they don’t mean anything. There’s a reason teachers were so opposed to the way these ‘national standards’ are being used… fundamentally because it’s nonsense!

Nigel Latta, Facebook, 12 June 2013

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100% Pure brand busted!

New Zealand’s distance from it’s major trading partners (except Australia) has always been a major impediment to our trading. Our point-of-difference has  been the quality of our food products, and has made them desirable commodities on that basis.  Branding ourselves as “100% Pure” and  “Clean and Green” were marketing tools that created a multi-billion dollar export industry.

But that is coming to an end.

We are not “100% Pure” and nor are we “Clean and Green”. Anything but.

National has paid lip service to being green.

Pollution has been allowed to increase.

It’s focus on “reforming” the RMA to allow for exploitation mof sensitive environmental areas; more and more chemicals ion our farms; allowing dangerous deep sea drilling of our coastline; mining in Conservation lands; and ditching our committment to the Kyoto Protocol – have not gone unnoticed by our trading partners.

And those trading partners  are starting to react accordingly,

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Sri Lanka demands DCD testing on NZ milk powder

Acknowledgment: Radio NZ – Sri Lanka demands DCD testing on NZ milk powder

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An over-reaction?

Not when National has appointed a  board to over-see a resource consent application to allow an increase of nitrogen pollution  in the Tukituki River  by a staggering 250% !

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Nitrate proposal seen as death knell for river

Acknowledgment: Radio NZ – Nitrate proposal seen as death knell for river

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This will not doubt be ratchetted back to “only” 50% or 100%, and National will claim that they are “listening” to public concerns. It’s an old political trick when a deeply unpopular policy is put forward. Make a number unfeasibly large; then offer a lower number, and claim that government has listened to the public. In reality it was the lower number all along that was the preferred option.

National has consistently undermined environmental protections in this country, as well as knee-capped DoC by sacking staff and under-funding it’s operations.

We are now starting to pay the price of right-wing policies that pursue business and profit ahead of  preserving our environment.

What National and it’s one-eyed supporters don’t seem to comprehend is that business and profits are dependendent on our clean and green environment. Mess up the environment and expect to lose customers and profits.

Just ask the Sri Lankans.

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User-pays healthcare?

For those neo-liberals and naive National supporters who advocate replacing our socialised healthcare system with privatised healthcare insurance, I present the reality,

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NZ private health insurance uptake hits 6-yr low

Acknowledgment: NZ Herald – NZ private health insurance uptake hits 6-yr low

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Private health-privider,  Wakefield chairman Alan Isaac said,

“The total number of New Zealanders with private health insurance (is) decreasing.”

Acknowledgment: IBID

Well, no wonder!

Even as private healthcare companies like Wakefield are complaining about losing customers, they are hiking premiums and still making a 27% increase in full-year earnings. Twentyseven percent! Compare that to other investments, and you begin to realise that these companies aren’t doing too bad.

That’s 27% that could have been re-invested in healthcare – but is instead going into the pockets of shareholders.

What would happen, I wonder, if New Zealand’s healthcare system was fully privatised and  went totally “free market”, as ACT policy demands?

This OECD chart suggests the result, if we were ever foolish enough to go down that road,

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OECD - private - public - healthcare expenditure -2007

Source: OECD – Total health expenditure per capita, public and private, 2007

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At 7,290, the United States spends nearly three times as much on healthcare as we do. Their private/public health costs are vastly greater than the entire public/private expenditure we have here in New Zealand with our “socialised” system.

And ACT wants to emulate our American cuzzies?!

The only thing the USA has demonstrated is that a privatised healthcare system will result in a massive blow-out in costs and rapacious profits for shareholders.

The argument from the neo-liberal Right is that private enterprise is “more efficient” and better for consumers. This is absolute bollocks.

If anything, private health insurance is highly ineffective at delivering  universal healthcare for it’s clients,

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Ongoing jumps in health insurance costs

Acknowledgment: Fairfax Media – Ongoing jumps in health insurance costs

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As has been observed by others in the past, private health insurance is relatively cheap when you are young, healthy, and make few demands for medical intervention.

But with old age; increased infirmity; and heightened vulnerabilty comes increased premium payments for policy-holders. Just when they most require increased medical services.

This is the fatal flaw in private medical insurance; those who most require it, will pay the highest premiums. And pay, and pay, and pay…

Just ask the Americans.

See also: NZ Herald – Jack Tame: Sickness is too expensive in the land of the free

Other blogs:  Canadian and U.S. healthcare – a debate

Canadian and U.S. healthcare – a debate
Canadian and U.S. healthcare – a debate
Canadian and U.S. healthcare – a debate

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Some good news at last…

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It has been a stain on our reputation that despite our anti-nuclear legislation, our Superannuation Fund was still investing in overseas companies engaged in producing atomic bombs and cluster munitions. This was a problem (I refuse to call it an “issue”)  that I highlighted  in December, last year.

Previous related blogposts:  New Zealand’s OTHER secret shame

Previous related blogposts:  New Zealand’s OTHER secret shame – *Update*

The Superannuation Fund has done the right thing by no longer continuing to invest in Babcock & Wilcox, Fluor Corporation, Huntington Ingalls Industries, Jacobs Engineering Group, Serco Group and URS Corporation;

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Super Fund sells nuclear investments

Acknowledgment: Fairfax Media – Super Fund sells nuclear investments

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The other weapons we are no longer investing in is the manufacture of cluster-munitions. These vile things are the weapons-of-choice for vicious dictators and other repressive regimes which they use against their civilian population.

They have been used in Syria, against unarmed civilians. Children have been killed by these monstrous devices.  (see: Syrian children ‘killed by cluster bombs’)

Cluster munitions have been outlawed by  nearly 100 nations which signed a  treaty to ban cluster bombs.  In 2009, to their credit, the current National-led government  passed legislation banning these obscene weapons from our country. This included the possession, retaining, stockpiling, assistance, encouragement, or even inducement to deal with them.

NZ Parliament: Cluster Munitions Prohibition Act 2009 (17 Dec 2009)

It would take a ruthless person to discount this human suffering and advocate for our continued investment in their manufacture.

The Superannuation Fund was effectively breaking the law with it’s investments in General Dynamics, L-3 Communications, Raytheon, and the Goodrich Corp.

It’s good to see that our fingers are no longer bloodied by such  investments.

As for right-wingers who dismiss investment in atomic bombs or cluster munition – go play with a cluster bomb.  Come back to me after it’s detonated in your hands. Then we’ll talk.

Just ask the Syrians.

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The bucks stops with me over there, somewhere…

I guess it was inevitable, really…

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Deputy Secretary resigns over Novopay

Acknowledgment: Radio NZ – Deputy Secretary resigns over Novopay

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Did we really, really expect any one of the three Ministers who signed off on Novopay to put their hand up and admit responsibility?!

No less than three ministers signed off on Novopay, to allow it to “go live”;

  • Education Minisrer Hekia Parata
  • Associate Education Minister Craig Foss
  • Finance Minister Bill English

Because doesn’t it strike people as  indicative that Minister for Everything, aka, Mr Fixit, Steven Joyce was appointed Minister in charge of Novopay – thereby taking responsibility for this ongoing balls-up away from Parata?! (see: ODT – Joyce to take on handling of Novopay)

Despite the so-call “ministerial inquiry”, Joyce had a very interesting point to make on 31 January;

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Government sticking with Novopay - for now

Acknowledgement – Radio NZ – Government sticking with Novopay for now

Steven Joyce revealed that Education Minister Hekia Parata, Finance Minister Bill English and former education minister Craig Foss approved the use of Novopay despite being told that it had bugs.”

So… how can  Joyce’s statement be reconciled with his statement, five months later,

Reporting to Ministers was inconsistent, unduly optimistic and sometimes misrepresented the situation.”

Source: Beehive.govt.nz: Ministerial Inquiry report into Novopay released

Either Ministers were “told that it had bugs” or  reporting wasunduly optimistic and sometimes misrepresented the situation“. Which is it?!

By the way, the Ministerial Inquiry was undertaken by Maarten Wevers and Chairman of Deloitte New Zealand Murray Jack.

Mr Weavers was former head of the Department of the Prime Minister (John Key) and Cabinet.

Connect the dots.

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WhiteWash

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Other blogposts: Gordon Campbell on the latest Novopay revelations

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11 June – Issues of Interest

11 June 2013 7 comments

A look at issues that’ve hit the headlines (or not)…

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Looking at the pieces

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Hekia Parata – grasping at straws

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National standards pass rates rise

Acknowledgment: Radio NZ – National standards pass rates rise

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So let me get this straight. After only one year of National Standards – which is supposedly nothing more than  a means of measurement – Parata is claiming that ” new figures show students are doing better at reading, writing and maths”?!?!

Even die-hard National sycophants would look askance at the claim.

Parata is so desperate for good news that she’s willing to invent it. Some call it “political spin”. In the Real World, we refer to it as bullshitting.

However, the above Radio NZ report is sadly lacking in detail.

The NZ Herald headline was far more realistic and damning;  Parata: Concerning trends in National Standards data.  In the Herald piece, Parata concedes the reason for a slight increase in increased achievement,

We have a range of support in place to help children including Reading Recovery, Reading Together and targeted programmes to accelerate progress in reading, writing and mathematics.”

Acknowledgment: IBID

So it wasn’t ‘National Standards’ that have increased achievement. It’s the hard work of teachers in classrooms slogging their guts out and implementing “Reading Recovery, Reading Together and targeted programmes to accelerate progress in reading, writing and mathematics”.

Well, that’s nice to know.

Even Parata acknowledgment the role of teachers in raising achievement;

It’s a credit to our teaching profession to see progress being made child by child and school by school.”

So, nothing to do with National Standards then, Hekia? As usual, it’s the professional’s quietly working away in the background, while you trot out unworkable policies and spin bullshit to make it look good?

Got it.

Acknowledgment: IBID

Time for some Frankly Speaking Standards Report  Card:

Teachers: A+

Parata’s spin: F – fail

Radio NZ’s reporting: C – can do better

Winston Peters and those emails

Up until the weekend, Winston Peters has been straight-forward in his responses to media questions on the Dunne-Kitteridge Report-Vance Affair. Peters claims to have possession/access of Peter Dunne’s incriminating emails.

Since the weekend, however, his “yes” and “no” answers have given way to evasiveness and obfuscation. No more straight “yes” or “no” answers.

Peters ‘performance’ on Campbell Live yesterday (10 June) was a frustrating exercise in typical Peters evasiveness to straight forward questions. At one point, John Campbell brought up Peters sharply when the wily old politician tried to pull a ‘swiftie’,

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TV3 - Campbell Live 10 June 2013 (at  7.50)

Acknowledgment: TV3 – Campbell Live 10 June 2013 (at  7.50)

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This morning (11 June), Peters was no better on Radio NZ’s Morning Report, giving Simon Mercep the royal runaround. Listen: Radion NZ – Morning Report –  Winston Peters bats away PM’s suggestion of a bluff

Conclusion? Peters does not have the emails in his possession. If he had them;

  1. His answers would be more decisive (you can tell when Peters is bending the truth)
  2. He would be drip-feeding them to the media by now

As our American cuzzies so poetically put it, he ain’t got nuthin‘,

 

Kim Hill on Morning Report

Listening to Kim Hill interviewing political figures on Radio NZ’s Morning Report is simply electrifying. The woman has more  journalistic talent than those on Q+A, The Nation, Third Degree, et al, combined. She holds nothing back.

Check out her interview with John Key on  10 June on Morning ReportJohn Key responds to claims from Winston Peters

Powerful stuff. Excellent interviewing.

John Armstrong; the NZ Herald,Greens, and media voice for the Nats

Ever wondered what a state-sponsored media voice would be like?

Check out John Armstrong’s pro-National spin on the recent Green Party conference and his petty bagging of Russell Norman. More here, on The Daily Blog;  Sparks fly with yet more shocking right wing nuttery

Armstrong hasn’t got a leg to stand on to criticise The Greens, so he focuses on the most trivial, pointless, and childish issues to pick on. This isn’t  media independence – this is being a mouth-piece for the National Party. It’s Soviet-era Pravda and Izveztia, right here in New Zealand.

 

Demeaning rubbish.

John Key, GCSB, Prism, and denials

As reported in the NZ Herald today, Key denied using the “Prism” system to circumvent New  Zealand law to gather information on New Zealanders,

“I can’t tell you how the United States gather all of their information, what techniques they use, I just simply don’t know. But if the question is do we use the United States or one of our other partners to circumvent New Zealand law then the answer is categorically no.”

Acknowledgment: NZ Herald – Key: No GCSB legal loophole

Whut?

And remind us all, Mr Key, why we should believe you?

Especially when we already know that the GCSB has spied on 88 New Zealanders, despite  Section 14 of the Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003 distinctly prohibiting such activities on New Zealand citizens and permanent residents. (See related blogpost: The GCSB law – Oh FFS!!!)

As well, John Key’s reputation for  brain-fades, mis-representing facts, and outright lying,  is now legendary.

I wouldn’t believe a word that comes out of his mouth.

And finishing on a positive note…

Bryan Bruce on his Facebook page, Inside Child Poverty New Zealand, today wrote,

I don’t know about you but I ‘m getting really tired of people who say “Yes … but.” They agree something is a good idea … but find a reason for justifying their inactivity.

Yes.. paid parental leave is a good idea… but we can’t afford it.

Yes feeding our kids healthy meals at school is a good idea … but.. it’s too expensive….

No it’s not. It’s about priorities.

Do you want mothers to be able to look after their babies or force them to earn a few dollars so that strangers can look after them?

Do you want Roads of National Significance or Children of National significance?

No more Yes… buts.

If it’s YES..if it’s morally right… if it’s sensible… then let’s just do it.

And Yes we can find the money for these things … we could put Company tax back up to 30%, we could make more effort catching tax cheats who rob us of up to 5 Billion dollars a year ( any idea how that happened Mr Dunne?) we could put a tax on all non-personal Bank transactions and get companies run by Charitable Trusts to pay tax on their profits and apply for rebates on the good works the ACTUALLY do.

Just say Yes… no more buts please.

Acknowledgment: Inside Child Poverty New Zealand

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National Party Corporate welfare vs real welfare

People welfare, bad!

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It’s fairly obvious what National thinks of New Zealanders who find themselves on the welfare safety net. Especially when those on welfare are there because of a global financial crisis brought on by unfettered,  laissez-faire capitalism (aka naked greed)  hitting a wall, and sending economies worldwide deep into recession.

But never mind. National has an answer for such dire events.

It’s called,

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Corporate welfare, good!

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Even as National continues to persecute, demonise, and blame the unemployed, solo-mothers (but never solo-dads), invalids, widows, etc, for their lot in life (because as we all know, the unemployed, solo-mothers (but never solo-dads), invalids, widows, etc, were directly responsible for the Global Financial Crisis that began in Wall Street’s boardrooms) – John Key and his cronies continue to lavish truck-loads of tax-payers’ money on corporate welfare.

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1. ETS Subsidies for farmers

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In June 2012, Business NZ CEO, Phil O’Reilly, wrote in the NZ Herald,

There has been a lot of redesign and tinkering with the ETS.  Established in 2008, reviewed and amended in 2009, reviewed again last year and about to be amended again – it’s no wonder that businesses involved in the scheme have review fatigue.”

See:  Phil O’Reilly: Emissions trading scheme must bring investors certainty

Mr O’Reilly may well complain. But he is unfortunately too late. On the morning of  3 July, Dear Leader John Key announced that  the 2015 postponement (of elements of the ETS) had formally become an “indefinite postponement” (ie;  gone by lunchtime on that day).

Key stated,

We’re not prepared to sacrifice jobs in a weak international environment when other countries are moving very slowly.”

See:  Slow economy puts ETS plans on hold

Yet that hasn’t stopped National from levying ETS on the public. No fears there, evidently, of  impacting on the pockets of ordinary Kiwis, and in effect, susidising farmers to the tune of  $400 million per year since 2009.

In effect, this is a transfer of wealth from  ordinary taxpayers to polluters [edited]. After all, what else can it be called when the public have to pay for an ETS – but farmers, industries, coal & oil companies, etc, – the very groups that produce CO2 and methane –  are exempt?

See:  Public to pay tab for polluters

So much for Tim Groser – Minister for Climate Change Issues and International Trade – insisting,

The National-led Government remains committed to doing its part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but it is worth noting that we are the only country outside Europe with a comprehensive ETS.”

National’s “committment” to reducing greenhouse gas emissions  has gone up in smoke and carbon dioxide.

As the Sustainability Council NZ reported in November 2009,

  •  Households would bear half the total costs under the amended ETS
    during its first five years (52%),
    while accounting for just a fifth of all
    emissions (19%). Together with small-medium industry, commerce and
    services, and transport operators, they would pay 90% of the costs resulting
    from the ETS during CP1 while being responsible for 30% of total emissions.
  •  Pastoral farmers would gain a $1.1 billion subsidy and pay an amount equal
    to 2% of their fair share of the Kyoto bill during CP1, while large industrial
    emitters would gain a $488 million subsidy (at a carbon price of $30/t).

See:   ETS – Bill to a Future Generation

On top of that, National appears unwilling to release actual financial data when it comes to the ETS.  Critical data has been withheld, as the Sustainability Council discovered last year,

Governments are legally required to provide an update of the nation’s financial position just before elections but those accounts do not recognise carbon obligations until they are in an international agreement, hence there is nothing concrete on the books until after 2012.

See:   Simon Terry: Carbon books reveal shocking gaps

And the Council report goes on to state,

The Sustainability Council requested a copy of those projections eleven weeks ago.
After various delays, the Treasury delivered its projections the day before the election
– late in the afternoon and with much of the key material blanked out.
What arrived is the carbon equivalent of a finance minister presenting a budget and
saying:

“Here is the estimated tax take for the next 40 years, and here is the total
spending. But we are not going to tell you how much tax is coming from any sector,
and we are certainly not going to tell you how tens of billions of dollars worth of
carbon subsidies and other payments are expected to be distributed. And no, we are
not giving you the figures for the past four years of the ETS either”.

It looks to be the closest thing in the public domain to New Zealand’s carbon books
and yet: future agricultural emissions are a state secret; future deforestation rates are a
state secret; even projected fossil fuel emissions are a state secret – all blanked out. “

See:  Show Me the Carbon Money

So what do we have here?

  1. Ongoing subsidies to polluting industries, with said subsidies paid by you and me, the taxpayer.
  2. Secrecy surrounding future  ETS  agricultural, deforestation, and fossil fuel emissions.
  3. Constant deferring of including polluters in a scheme that was designed specifically for dirty industries and farming practices.
  4. Importation of  unlimited, cheap,  foreign carbon credits.

Final point:

It seems a crying shame (as well as a fair degree of sheer madness) that we are paying subsidies to industry – whilst  not offering the same deals to  the  generation of renewable energy  and further research into renewable energy options (wind, solar, tidal, etc).

Ironically, the one subsidy that might have helped our economy and environment was scrapped in 2011, making Solid Energy’s biofuel programme uneconomic.  (See: Biodiesel loses subsidy, prices to rise)

Instead, the taxpayer continues to subsidise polluters. On 27 August 2012, National finally ditched agriculture’s involvement in the ETS, giving farmers, horticulturalists, etc, a permanent “free ride”  from paying for their polluting activities. (See: Farmers’ ETS exemption progresses )

This is the inevitable  result of electing a corporate-friendly political party into government.

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2. Subsidies to Private schools and Tertiary Providers

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Subsidies to private tertiary education providers continues to increase,

The Government is investing a further $29.503 million in the Private Training Establishment (PTE) sector over four years. This increases the funding rates for private training providers in line with the Government’s promise to treat them more equitably with public providers. The resulting funding difference is now half of what it was previously. “

See: Tertiary Education Commission – Private Training Establishments

So, if you’re a private company offering to train someone a course in “xyz” – expect a hand-out from a corporate-friendly National.

In the meantime,

  • Student allowances are removed for post-graduate study the parental threshold for accessing allowances is frozen for the next four years.  The Government says the changes will save $240 million in the first year and up to $70 million a year thereafter.  The Budget cuts all funding for adult and community education in universities, saving $5.4 million over four years.

See: Radio  NZ –  Benefits for research, science and engineering

  • It also saves $22.4 million over four years by ending funding used to help tertiary education providers include literacy and numeracy teaching in low-level tertiary education courses...”

See: Radio  NZ –  Benefits for research, science and engineering

  • Sunday Star-Times recently reported one in five young people left school without basic numeracy and literacy skills, despite the future workforce depending on advanced expertise. “

See:  Not adding up on Easy Street

  • Early childhood education subsidy cuts worth tens of millions of dollars are likely to be passed on to some parents through increased fees.

Education Minister Hekia Parata has kicked a total revamp of ECE funding into a future Budget, opting instead to stop cost increases to the Crown by cancelling the annual upward inflationary adjustment in rates.

The subsidy freeze takes effect on the next funding round, stripping about $40 million out of ECE payments to 5258 ECE centres. About 1427 of those centres are eligible for “equity funding,” however, and will get a boost through $49m extra directed to them over four years in a bid to enrol more children from the lowest socio-economic parts of the country.

But the scrapping of an annual inflationadjustment for other centres will be an effective funding cut as inflation pushes the cost of running ECE centres up. “

See:  Parents face burden of preschool squeeze

National’s most recent hand-out went to private school, Whanganui Collegiate,

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Govt ignored advice before private school's integration

See: Govt ignored advice before private school’s integration

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For a Party that advocates the “free market”, it certainly seems odd that they’re willing to throw bucketloads of our taxes at businesses such as private schools.  After all, what is a private school, if not a profit-making business?

And don’t forget Charter Schools – which is the State paying private enterprise/institutions to run schools – whilst making a profit (at taxpayer’s expense) in the process. Why don’t exporters get this kind of support?

That was certainly Gerry Brownlee’s attitude when Christchurch’s post-earthquake housing crisis became apparent,

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Christchurch rent crisis 'best left to market'

See: Christchurch rent crisis ‘best left to market’

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3. Media Works subsidy

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In 2011, this extraordinary story broke,

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Prime Minister defends loan to MediaWorks

Published: 8:28PM Friday April 08, 2011 Source: ONE News

The Prime Minister is defending his decision to loan $43 million of taxpayer money to private media companies.

John Key claims the loan scheme was designed to help the whole radio industry.

But a ONE News investigation has revealed MediaWorks was the big winner after some hard lobbying.

Key is known for being media friendly, but he’s facing criticism from Labour that he’s become too cosy with MediaWorks which owns TV3 and half of New Zealand’s radio stations.

It has been revealed the government deferred $43 million in radio licensing fees for MediaWorks after some serious lobbying.

Key and the former head of MediaWorks, Brent Impey, talked at a TV3 Telethon event.

“I just raised it as an issue but we’d been looking at it for sometime. My view was it made sense. It’s a commercial loan, it’s a secured contract,” Key said.

It’s believed the loan is being made at 11% interest.

But in answer to parliamentary written questions, the Prime Minister said he had “no meetings” with representatives of MediaWorks to discuss the deal.

Two days later that answer was corrected, saying he “ran into” Brent Impey at a “social event” in Auckland where the issue was “briefly raised” and he “passed his comments on” to the responsible minister.

See: Prime Minister defends loan to MediaWorks

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Aside from another example of Key’s mendacity, when he originally claimed to have had no contact with Mediaworks,

… in answer to parliamentary written questions, the Prime Minister said he had “no meetings” with representatives of MediaWorks to discuss the deal.

Two days later that answer was corrected, saying he “ran into” Brent Impey at a “social event” in Auckland where the issue was “briefly raised” and he “passed his comments on” to the responsible minister.

See: IBID

… this affair was another example of selective subsidies being offered to some business – whilst others are left to their own devices to survive,

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The axe falls - Industry boss blames cuts on Govt

Source

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We’ve lost 41,000 jobs in the manufacturing and construction sectors over the last five years. To which National’s Minister-Of-Everything, Steven Joyce’s response was,

Nobody’s arguing that being a manufacturer isn’t challenging. In fact, in my history in business, every time you’re in business it’s challenging.

“But going around and trying to talk down the New Zealand economy and talk about a crisis in manufacturing, I don’t think is particularly helpful.

See: Exporters tell inquiry of threat from high dollar

There is no doubt that economic conditions in the post GFC- world are challenging for some firms. The role of Government is to do things that help make firms more competitive and that is what our Business Growth Agenda is all about.”

See: Opposition parties determined to manufacture a crisis

Or Minister for Primary Industries, Nathan Guy saying,

Our trading disadvantage has meant that we need to do more with less, and to work smarter.”

See: Innovation in New Zealand’s Agribusiness sector

To which exporters responded with this,

We’re told to get smarter and I find that irritating and insulting. I’m about as smart as they get in my little field. How the hell do these people get smarter? For a politician to tell somebody else to get smarter – he’s risking his life.”

See: Exporters tell inquiry of threat from high dollar

Not very helpful, Mr Joyce.  Though Opposition Parties may appreciate that you are pushing your core constituents into their waiting arms.

That’s how you alienate your voter-base.

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4. Sporting subsidies

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The Rugby World Cup

  • Prime Minister John Key today announced a $15 million grant for an upgrade of Christchurch’s AMI Stadium for the Rugby World Cup in 2011.

See: Govt announces $15m for AMI Stadium (30 April 2009)

  • Dunedin Mayor Peter Chin says he is “chuffed” the Government will contribute up to $15 million to cover shortfalls in private sector funding for the $198 million Otago Stadium project.

See: Chin ‘chuffed’ at $15m for stadium

  • The Government blew out a $10 million budget to host VIPs at the Rugby World Cup – even though just a handful of foreign leaders attended.

See: $5 million overspend on World Cup VIP budget

  • An extra $5.5 million will be spent on the Rugby World Cup to make sure there’s not a repeat of the chaos that unfolded on the evening of the tournament’s opening ceremony.
  • Including the $350m spent to upgrade stadiums and provide IRB-approved facilities around the country and millions more pumped into infrastructure and preparations, the bill for the tournament has easily surpassed the $400m mark.

See: World Cup ‘absolutely worth’ price tag

Yacht Races

The Major Events Development Fund will invest $1.5 million on each of two Volvo Ocean Race Auckland stopovers to be held in 2015 and 2018 following an announcement today by Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce

See: Govt to support 2015 & 2018 Volvo Ocean Race Auckland stopovers

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Meanwhile, Health Minister Tony Ryall refuses to provide additional funding for specialised medicines for patients with rare disorders. See: Letter from Tony Ryall, 5 December 2012

The message is crystal clear; National will subsidise rugby games and yacht races. But don’t expect help if you discover you have a rare disease.

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5. Warner Bros subsidy

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After Jackson made public noises in October 2010 that ‘The Hobbit’ could be taken offshore, there was a kind of mass-hysteria that pervaded the country.

Warner Bros wide-boys jetted down to meet Dear Leader, who kindly supplied a taxpayer-funded chauffeured limousine to bring the Holloywood execs to Parliament.

Dear Leader said “no more subsidies”.

Nek minit; Warner Bros demanded, and got, an extra $15 million. (see: Govt defends Hobbit jobs claim)

All up, the New Zealand taxpayer coughed up $67 million to give to Warner Bros. (Who sez crime doesn’t pay? Gangsterism obviously turns a healthy profit now and then.)

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Government defends Hobbit subsidies

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The film obviously didn’t do too badly at the Box Office – $1 billion is not too shabby by anyone’s standards,

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The Hobbit hits $1billion mark

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Can we have our money back now, please?

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6.  Broadband subsidy

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Funny isn’t it.   Pro-business lobby groups always complain about State intrusion into the market place… Except when subsidies are being handing out.

One wonders why, if the Free Market” is more efficient than the State, that $1.5 billion in taxes has to be paid to private telcos to do what that they should already be doing.

Perhaps this is why it took the State to build this country’s infra-structure over the last hundred years. Infra-structure such as electricity generation. (See related blogpost: Greed is good?)

Which National is now preparing to part-privatise.

Private companies will soon be owning what taxpayers built up over decades, and which private enterprise was loathe to build in the first place. (If you’re wondering whether I’m referring to state power companies or broadband – there doesn’t seem to be much difference.)

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Meanwhile, back in the Real World!

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Full story

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Dear Leader says,

Some argue that people on a benefit can’t work. But that’s not correct.”

Correct.

Because as Welfare Minister Paula Bennett stated candidly on Q+A on 29 April,

There’s not a job for everyone that would want one right now, or else we wouldn’t have the unemployment figures that we do. “

See:  TVNZ  Q+A: Transcript of Paula Bennett interview

Correct.

Which means that National’s  “reforms” to push 46,000 of  welfare is not just a meaningless exercise (the jobs simply aren’t there) – but is actually a political smokescreen to hide their own incompetance at forming constructive policies for job creation.

Unfortunately, there are too many right wing halfwits and Middle Class low-information voters who readily buy into National’s smokescreen. It’s called prejudice, and means not having to think too deeply on issues,

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Fortunately, it is the job of those on the Left to dispel these unpleasant notions for the Middle Classes. (National’s right wing groupies are a lost cause.)

Let’s start by posing the question; why is welfare for  corporations supposedly a good thing – but welfare for someone who has just lost their job, supposedly bad?

That’s what we need to keep asking the Middle Classes.

Eventually, they’ll start paying attention.

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Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking Blog

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 8 March 2013.

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Additional

Scoop: Where’s National’s ‘corporate welfare’ reform?

Fairfax media: Doubt stalls biofuels growth (14 March 2011)

The Press: Solid Energy ‘wasted millions’ on biofuels (31 Aug 2012)

Southland Times: Biodiesel loses subsidy, prices to rise (30 May 2012)

TVNZ: Prime Minister defends loan to MediaWorks (8 April 2011)

Radio NZ: Data reveals drop in manufacturing, building jobs (22 Feb 2013)

Previous related blogpost

Once upon a time there was a solo-mum

Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How

Acknowledgements

Tim Jones of  Coal Action Network Aotearoa

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Devoy as Race Relations Commissioner?! (revised)

22 March 2013 4 comments

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Susan Devoy, commenting on her appointment as our new Race Relations Commissioner,  said,

“There is no denying that this is a huge challenge in my life. I’m under no illusions how difficult it might be but maybe I didn’t realise how difficult it might be starting.”

Acknowledgement: Fairfax – Squashed in court of public opinion

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Dame Susan first woman in race post

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Dame Susan first woman in race post

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That has to be one of the  two worst Under-statements of the Year. (The other being John Key’s now infamous line that Hekia Parata was one of  National’s “smoothest communicators”. See:  Parata safe in her job – Key)

Ms Devoy’s appointment  has been heavily  criticised, mostly along the lines that she had zero experience in any field even remotely approaching race relations.  And some of her comments in the column she used to write for the  Bay of Plenty Times probably didn’t help much.

Comments like this,

“We deserve a day of true celebration and pride. We need a day that doesn’t necessarily replace Waitangi Day but complements it . . . This would leave Waitangi Day to be the day that recognises the importance of Maori, but the door open for a day that we don’t feel ashamed to be a New Zealander.”

Acknowledgement: Fairfax – Squashed in court of public opinion

Oh… so Maori can have Waitangi Day? That’s big of her.

No wonder that Annette Sykes condemned her appointment.

Judith Collins – famous for promising to crush all resistance (or was that Boy Racers’ cars?) – gave a measured, thoughtful, and insightful response to Ms Sykes. Collins called Sykes “stupid”. Wow, that rapier-sharp wit of Collins…

I must admit, when I first heard of Ms Devoy’s appointment, that I raised an eye-brow. I’m not totally familiar with her background, but from what I  knew, she seemed to have no social, practical,  or academic experiences that might give her insights into race relations.

Simply claiming to have “common sense” is not sufficient. What might be “common sense” for one individual might be offensive to someone else.

For example, referring to  “political shenanigans” on Waitangi Day, last year.

Ms Devoy and others of a like-mind might believe that was a straight forward, “common sense”,  assessment of events at Waitangi. It was not. It was inflammatory

On the other side of the coin, those who express themselves at Waitangi are doing so from a long history of broken promises; land theft; destruction of their culture; and a Treaty – signed between Maori and the Queen’s representatives here in New Zealand – that for well over a century had been observed more in the breach than reality – and then forgotten altogether.

If we’d been defeated in WW2 and colonised by a victorious Axis power, I think we would begin to understand how Maori felt.

Furthermore, when Ms Devoy said on 21 March,

“One of my strengths is that I’m pretty forthright and not afraid to have an opinion, but at the same time I have a very strong moral compass and I have a desire to do the right thing.”

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Dame Susan first woman in race post

– that really raised alarm bells with me. Her job is not to express “forthright… opinions” nor to “have a very strong moral compass”.   She is not there to tell people what to do nor to impress her “very strong moral compass” on others. If she doesn’t get to grips with that, the next few years will be a rough ride for Ms Devoy and others around her.

Judith Collins responded to criticisms of Ms Devoy’s comments by saying, that her opinions were hers alone, and she would be able to divorce them from her professional appointment,

Mrs Collins said the comments were made before Dame Susan became commissioner, and she would not be as free to express her personal views in her new role.

She added: “The Far Left does not have a monopoly on caring about race relations and Dame Susan Devoy is a very sensible and balanced person.

“We’re allowed in this country to have views that have not been politically sanitised and what’s wrong with that?”

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Minister defends Dame Susan Devoy’s new role

It’s not very reassuring when Minister Collins asserts that Ms Devoy, “would not be as free to express her personal views in her new role”. The underlying message is that Ms Devoy’s personal viewsare somehow  unpalatable and inimical to the role of  Race Relations Commissioner.

Worse still is when Collins says,

“We’re allowed in this country to have views that have not been politically sanitised and what’s wrong with that?”

Is the Minister suggesting that  Race Relations Commissioners in the past have had “ views that have … been politically sanitised”?

I would suggest that there is a vast gulf of difference between “ politically sanitised ”  and “ politically sensitive “. Unfortunately, National ministers seem not to know the difference.

And really, if Collins is serious about appointing people whose views have not been “ politically sanitised ” – perhaps she could hire the leader of a local White Supremicist group to the role? There’d be nothing sanitary about the political views of a white supremacist racist.

Whatever  inspired Collins to make this appointment, I believe, will come back and haunt National. Perhaps not this year. Maybe next year.

Does John Key really need another political fire to deal with? One would have thought that Hekia Parata and her Bigger Classroom Sizes foul-up would have been sufficient warning how events can rapidly spiral out of control?

Unless Ms Devoy has some hidden talent for this most-complex of jobs – her appointment will be like a quietly ticking political time-bomb.

Personally, I bear no animosity toward Ms Devoy and certainly harbour no desire to see her fail. With New Zealand being such a multi-cultural society, the office of the Race Relations Commissioner is important – this is where frictions can be quickly addressed and parties brought together to talk over differences.

I hope Ms Devoy succeeds.

But I can still hear a quiet ticking in the background.

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Christchurch will cost National the Election

20 February 2013 19 comments

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cartoon - parata - I will do my homework

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There are three things that will cost National the election in 2014 (or earlier).

The first is jobs. The Market is simply not creating new jobs as neo-liberal dogma dictates it should. And with National’s Hands Off policy in the economic, their 2011 promise to create 170,000 new jobs (see: “Budget 2011: Govt predicts 170,000 new jobs” ) is something that will be used to beat them over the head more and more as Election Day looms.

The economy. A Hands Off policy in good times, when unemployment is low and growth is reasonably good, can be expected and understood.

In bad times though, taking your hands of the economic tiller poses one question; if government doesn’t act proactively (as other governments are doing around the world) – then what is the point of having a government?

And lastly, events with education-related problems will remain an open, painful sore for the Nats. Whether it’s the quasi-privatisation of education through dodgy “Charter Schools”; the unrelenting Novopay cock-up; or proposed closures/amalgamations of 19 schools in Christchurch – this will be an on-going sign for the public (and voters) that National does not have the co-operation of the community and can ride rough-shod over people’s concerns.

As Colin Espiner wroter in Christchurch’s “The Press” on 19 January,
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“The secret to great comedy, they say, is timing, and if “they” are right, then this Government is not very funny.

With Friday looming as the second anniversary of the most devastating of the Christchurch earthquakes, Education Minister Hekia Parata’s school closures announcement could not have come at a worse time.

I don’t think anyone who wasn’t in the city on that day can truly appreciate the impact it had on the people of Christchurch, and continues to have to this day. Certainly Hekia Parata doesn’t.

I accept that in the wake of the quakes some decisions about the future of schooling in Christchurch needed to be made. Actually I think everyone accepts that.

I also accept that some of those decisions won’t be popular, but needed to be made. As John Key said yesterday, “the Government needs to address this issue for the long-term good of the community”.

But there are ways and means of doing something that isn’t going to be pleasant. Dentists use anaesthetic before drilling a hole in your tooth. And they warn you beforehand.

The manner in which this Government has approached the issue of Christchurch’s post-quake schooling has been woeful. Actually, that’s being too kind. It’s been careless, haphazard, unfeeling and downright incompetent.”

Source:  Timing of school closures couldn’t be worse

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After a while “strong government” becomes arrogant, uncaring government. And that’s when voters rebel.

A recent IPSOS/Fairfax poll, which showed a drop in support for the Nats  at 44.9% (1.3% points down on their previous poll in December) made this interesting obserservation;

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” With the election probably still at least 18 months away, the big battleground will be for undecided voters, who made up 11.1 per cent of those surveyed.

Pollster Duncan Stuart said a breakdown of undecided voters suggested many were “soft” National supporters, who had started looking around. “

Source: National no longer a sure winner – poll

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In other words, we are seeing a re-play of the final two years of the Shipley-led National administration, in 1998 and 1999, when public odium because so strong that voters couldn’t stampede fast enough to the Ballot Booths to vote for Labour and the Alliance. There is only so much “hands off” government the Middle Classes  will tolerate before their ‘comfort zone’ is breeched.

In the late ’90s, the ‘touch paper’ was health.

This time it will be jobs and education.

After two major earthquakes; a loss of 185 lives; thousands of homes and businesses damaged or destroyed; upheavals in peoples’ lives; increasing numbers of homeless living rough; slow processing of insurance claims; and many who have simply quit the quake-ravaged city – the current agenda from National, and implemented by Hekia Parata, is like a rolling, political slow-quake, of additional stress on the city.

Cantabrians must be looking skyward and beseeching the Heavens, “What have we done wrong to earn all this?”

That stress is leading to desperation and behaviour that in other, saner times, good people might never think of doing,

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Dark side of opposition to school mergers

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Source: Dark side of opposition to school mergers

The stress on families, teachers, and others in areas targetted for school closures/amalgamations must be phenomenal.

New Zealanders watching all this, up and down the country, must be secretly sighing relief that they aren’t the one’s in the firing line of  Christchurch’s twin curses of natural disaster and political upheaval.

Yesterday (19 February) National electorate-MP, Nicky Wagner stated on Radio New Zealand,
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“The National MP for Christchurch Central, Nicky Wagner, accepts she may lose votes as a result of the education overhaul. But she says she believes the right decisions are being made. The MP won her seat with a majority of just 47 votes.  
She said,  
‘‘ We need to make really good decisions for Christchurch. We need to make good decisions in education but in all other ones and to make the most of every opportunity, and personally if it’s a matter between a good decision and being voted in again I’d take the good decision any day.’’   “

Source: Radio NZ, 10pm news bulletin, 19 Feb 2013

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Ms Wagner’s  nonchalence in losing her seat in favour of  taking a “good decision any day” may come true sooner than she anticipated.

Cantabrians will be happy to assist.

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Additional

Fairfax media: 71pc want Parata gone – poll

Fairfax media: Parata’s ‘lie-telling’ infuriates principals

 

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Amazing events this last month!!!

19 February 2013 5 comments

Three amazing events that’ve taken place this last months, and which serves to remind us how unpredictable and weird the Universe can really be…

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Sensational!!!

Richard III’s skeleton discovered!

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The grave of Richard III was discovered on 4 February, under a carpark in Leicester (fitting, being the 21st Century), and caused a worldwide sensation as this 528 year old King was prominent in British history as well as the subject of a play by William Shakespeare…

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Richard III king's face recreated from skull discovered under car park

Source

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Astounding!!!

Meteor shower over Russia!

Straight out of a science fiction movie, a huge meteor entered the atmosphere and exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk, three days ago. Luckily, it exploded into fragments high up in the atmosphere.

Had it impacted the ground intact, the devastation and loss of life would’ve been far more severe.

It was a small taste of what our dino cuzzies must’ve experienced, 65 million years ago…

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Russian meteor fragments 'discovered at lake'

Source

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Unbelievable!!!

Hekia Parata fronts on Campbell Live – Sceptics Society shocked!

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campbell live - hekia parata - christchurch schools -  18 february 2013

Source

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Yeah, I couldn’t believe it either…

After sending her ‘flunkies’ (see previous blogopost:  Parata, Bennett, and Collins – what have they been up to?) to front for her and take media heat for Christchurch schools closures, the Novopay debacle, and other foul-ups – Education Minister, Hekia Parata finally fronted for an interview with TV3’s John Campbell.

The media training that Parata has been given seems to have worked. Her demented grin…

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hekia parata - 30 september 2012 - Q+A

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hekia parata - 30 september 2012 - TVNZ Q+A

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– was gone.

Meanwhile, in ‘quake ravaged Christchurch, where increased stress is causing children to have nightmares and instances of bedwetting has skyrocketed (see:  Quakes traumatise kids), Parata has decided not to close or amalgamate 31 schools.

She’s only going to close/amalgamate 13 schools (see:  Minister announces fate of Canterbury schools).

Well, that’s that’s f*****g big of her, isn’t it?!

Why not further gut the heart out of a community that has lost 185 of it’s people to a violent,  natural disaster; thousands of homes damages or destroyed; businesses closed; insurance companies and EQC dicking people around; and entire neighbourhoods written off.

In case anyone needed proof that National has no heart, well, look no further.

And for all you National supporters out there who don’t give a rats because it hasn’t happened to you… well, Karma is working over-time at present.

Your turn will come.

To the people of Christchurch, and for those shocked by today’s announcements, I just want to say that a whole lot of your fellow New Zealanders are with you, in spirit at least. I just hope there’s a change of government before Parata can implement her rotten-to-the-core, penny-pinching, policies.

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= fs =

John Key – am I detecting a seismic shift in public attitude?

10 February 2013 22 comments

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5923658

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Is Dear Leader  losing his touch? He doesn’t seem quite so “dear” to some people any more…

  • The Novopay foul-up just gets worse and worse and worserer with each passing pay cycle. Wouldn’t it have been cheaper to just delegate the pay-system into the hands of Lotto? The results would’ve been about the same.

 

  • Education Minister, Hekia Parata, screws up on a semi-regular basis. Does Key hand her the ceremonial sword and with a smile tell her, “you know what to do with this”. Nah, he annoints her as National’s “most effective communicator. Has anyone ever seen 4.4 million people do a collective face-palm?! Meanwhile, Joyce is the new de facto Minister of Education and Parata is given duct-tape to put over her mouth. This, for National, is seen as a “solution”.

 

  • Unemployment keeps going up and up and up and up… And when the stats cannot get any worse, they do a massive West Auckland-style u-turn and wheelie burn-out… Unemployment is no longer up – people have given up banging their heads against a brick wall. So the stats are now a mess. What they do indicate is that people are turning off from looking for work.  It must be depressing getting knocked back time after time after time after… And if you think it’s bad now, in bright sunny summer – wait till the gloom and shortened days of Winter really kick in with mass-depression.

 

  • Manufacturing and exporters are screeching like banshees that the high Kiwi Dollar is sending them to the wall… and Steven Joyce smiles benignly and sez, “things are challenging”. Not helpful, Mr Joyce. Not one bit.

 

  • The country’s third biggest construction company goes to the wall and the Nats do… nothing. Question: at a time when we have to rebuild the second (or third) largest city in the country – how does a fricken construction company manage to go into receivership?!?! Someone explain this to me. Wouldn’t that be like a water-tanker truck in the Saharan desert unable to sell water???

 

  • We have a critical housing shortage in the country… A shortage of housing?! But, but, but… isn’t the free market supposed to prevent these shortages??? What goes on here?

 

  • We have a shortage of skilled tradespeople, IT specialists;  healthcare professionals… whilst on the other hand, we have 175,000 unemployed. Hmmmm… shortage of skilled staff… 175,000 unemployed… shortage of skilled staff… 175,000 unemployed… shortage of skilled staff… 175,000 unemployed… why don’t we-? Nah. What a silly idea. For a moment there I had this ridiculous thought in my mind about re-training 175,000 unemployed to meet our skills shortages… Bugger me, where do I get these daft notions from.

 

  • National doesn’t want to build housing for New Zealanders. They say it’s up to the Free Market to do this. Government, sez Joyce, Brownlee, Key, et al, say that it’s not the role of government to offer subsidies or state housing. Unless you’re a private school. Or farmers wanting irrigation systems. Or Rugby World Cup. Or investors in a finance company. Or insurance companies. Or a movie producer – especially a foreign one. Then there’s plenty of money. Whoopie – lolly scramble!

 

  • But just don’t get silly over housing.

 

  • Steven Joyce wants to put the bulldozers and excavators into our conversation lands and have deep-sea drilling off our coast, in deep waters… because, you know, we don’t mind if the remaining few native forests in New Zealand are destroyed for the benefit of foreign investors. Or that we run a risk similar to the horrendous disaster in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico which spewed millions of barrels of oil into the Caribbean. After all, the oil companies will look after us… *snort!*

 

  • Because National is not a hands-on government to create jobs and support local businesses. But if you’re a private school or Warner Bros, then the question becomes, “How much did you want me to make that cheque out for?”

 

  • Tony Ryall wants $30 million shaved from the Health budget (where else will we get the cash to subsidise those lovely furry Hobbit movies?!). So  grommett operations for kids may be cut. Hey who needs a pesky grommett anyway – and did I say how cool Hobbits are…? And of course those seven New Zealanders who are suffering from the terminal Pompe disease… they aren’t as cool as Hobbits.

 

There’s more.

But I think you, the reader, get’s the point. (Unless you’re a dedicated National/ACT supporter – in which case don’t you just lerrrve those cute Hobbits?)

But it seems that the bad news and continuing incompetance and just sheer lack of bright ideas from National is becoming too much for even National’s traditional cheer leaders…

Fran O’Sullivan wasn’t impressed. Not by a long shot. In fact, she seemed a bit ‘put out’ by Key’s inaction (as if it had suddenly dawned on her),

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Time for Key to call an economic summit

Full story

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For Fran O’Sullivan – who is widely noted as a bit of a Nationalphile – to be chiding her beloved Dear Leader indicates that even his adoring legion of glassy-eyed admirers are starting to feel frustration. When O’Sullivan criticises Key for “waffling” and then berates Key for “simply shrugging his shoulders” – then we know that not only is the honeymoon well and truly in the past, but the ‘marriage’ is verging on a trial separation.

O’Sullivan didn’t mince words when she bluntly stated that “faith is no excuse for a failure to act” and demanded that  “it’s time, surely, for Key to call an economic summit to address the issues New Zealand faces“.

Good call, Fran.

A few years too late, but hey, some of us are a bit slower than others.

Meanwhile…

Right wing/all-over-the-place  media “personality” and talkback host, Kerre Woodham wrote an extraordinary column on 23 December, last year. Had it been written at any other time than two days before Christmas – when 99% of the populace is bleary eyed with the so-called “Festive Season” (said through gritted teeth, I might add) – her words would have had far more clout.

In fact, I could just barely recall her column piece and retrieve it from my Bookmarks (filed under WTF?). For the reader’s edification – read and enjoy (if you’re a National/ACT supporter you may want to put down your deluxe, Jackson-autographed, mink-lined Hobbit and read this bit),

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Kerre Woodham - Nats run out of petrol

Full story

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If Kerre Woodham speaks closer for the Middle Classes, then National should be in high-gear panic mode by now. Her attitude was summed up thusly,

I thought John Key said that by cutting income tax rates we would be able to stimulate the economy. Guess that didn’t work. I thought Key said that he would be able to stem the flow of New Zealanders to Australia by building a competitive economy and offering after-tax earnings on a par with those across the ditch. Well, that hasn’t worked, either.

 There are now more people moving to Oz under National than there were under Labour. But instead of ‘fessing up and conceding nothing the Government has come up with has worked, the Prime Minister has produced a classic example of Orwellian double-speak.

Akshally, says Key, moving to Australia is a GOOD thing for New Zealanders to do. They’ll see the world, gain experience – no, just like everything else, Key is comfortable with the numbers of Kiwis farewelling this country.”

Source: IBID

That, readers, was the sound of a Middle Class person coming to the realisation that our esteemed Dear Leader; dodgy Party; and worthless policies – are a fraud.

That, readers, was the realisation by a Middle Class person that National was not about to meet their aspirations.

It is the same sound of  National’s ‘House of Cards’ crashing that we heard in the late 1990s. A crash which culminated in National’s election defeat on 27 November 1999.

When bene-baiting right-wing talk-back hosts like Woodham can make statements like,

Well, they may know how to make money for themselves but they don’t seem to have any answers when it comes to making the country richer.

If, after four years of government, the best strategy they can come up with to produce a surplus is to raise the fuel tax, they are devoid of initiative and bereft of imagination.”

Source: IBID

– then we know that the Middle Classes are starting to wake up. And they’re noticing that the Emporer is naked and it ain’t a pretty sight.

Next…

Businesspeople are running as fast as their feet can carry them – to a joint inquiry run by the Opposition Parties in Parliament – and it’s a brave/stupid/both National Government that ignores the signals,

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Exporters tell inquiry of threat from high dollar

Full story

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When a businessman – in this case managing director Gordon Sutherland –  says,

We know that – we’ve known that for a very, very long time. Of course we get efficient, of course we try and work as hard as we can to be efficient – it’s the only way we can exist. It drives me insane when people say, ‘Get efficient’. What do you think we are – idiots? We’re not.”

– then the Nats are treading on very thin ice to ignore such messages.

National is supposed to the the Party for business. So when business people begin to turn on the Nats – that’s a pretty bloody big signal that it’s the beginning of the end for this government. And considering Key has stated he will not lead National from the Opposition benches (see:  Key says he’ll quit politics if National loses election) – it’s ‘bye-bye’ Dear Leader.

Once he’s gone, the Nats will have left in their wake a poorly performing economy; high unemployment; growing income divide; higher child poverty; businesses about to collapse (Mainzeal already gone); and a raft of other tragic consequences.

The 2011-14 Key-led  administration will be remembered in the same way many New Zealanders view with derision the Bolger/Shipley-led National government from 1996-99.

Going by the next story, however, Key is already despised by a wide sector of the community.

But more to the point, that hostility is no longer held in check and is being voiced out loud,

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Mixed reception for Key at Big Gay Out

Full story

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What we are seeing now seems to be a  seismic shift in public opinion on Key and National. But more importantly,  where only a year ago people were reluctant to voice their dissatisfaction or hostility in public – now that shyness is disappearing. People are pissed off and they know who to vent at,

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200204-3x2-340x227

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In 2008, Key raised levels of expectation to new heights (see: A fresh start for New Zealand).

With promises of higher wages and other warm-fuzzy, populist nonsense, people voted for him in droves. Their expectations were raised as Key’s supreme self-confidence;  personal rags-to-riches story; and plausible rhetoric made them line up and put their trust in him.

The trouble with raised expectations, though, is that failing to deliver “the goods” results in an inevitable backlash. Not just at the ballot box, but in terms of vitriol. We tend to pull people of a pedestal mighty quick, if they stuff up.

National’s failure to meet those expectations may already be a foregone conclusion, as NZ Herald columnist, John Armstrong wrote on 22 December last year,

A slight sense of desperation was evident in National’s reaction to this week’s release of the Treasury’s latest forecasts.

National is not going to let anything stand between itself and its Holy Grail of a return to Budget surpluses within the next three years.

What was once merely a target now seems to be an obsession. The reason is straightforward. Some major economic indicators are starting to confirm anecdotal impressions of an economy close to tipping into recession,

National is therefore clinging ever tighter to the increasingly vain hope of balancing the books by its target date of the 2014-15 financial year.

Meeting the target is all part of National’s branding as the party of sound economic management. Failure on that front would be a major blow to its credibility.”

See: Gloom sets scene for tumultuous 2013

If meeting an accounting target is all that National has left – Shearer better start packing up now. He’ll be in the Prime Minister’s residence at the next election.

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References

Interest.co.nz: Stats NZ reports 23,000 jobs lost

NZ Herald: Time for Key to call an economic summit

NZ Herald: Kerre Woodham: Nats run out of petrol

Fairfax media: Mixed reception for Key at Big Gay Out

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Did we just hear Steven Joyce sh*t all over his colleagues?!?!

31 January 2013 14 comments

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Government sticking with Novopay - for now

Acknowledgment: Radio NZ – Government sticking with Novopay – for now

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Steven Joyce,

Steven Joyce revealed that Education Minister Hekia Parata, Finance Minister Bill English and former education minister Craig Foss approved the use of Novopay despite being told that it had bugs.”

See: IBID

In colloquial terms, that is what is known as ‘dropping someone in it’ – “it” being brown, smelly, and heading for waste-treament ponds.

Is there a civil war going on within National, comprising two factions with one led by technocrat Steven Joyce and the other by neo-liberal Bill English?

Or is there something even more disquieting going on within National’s ranks.

Joyce added,

There was definitely knowledge there were bugs at the outset of going live. But the advice of all involved was that the thing should proceed. I doubt they’d give the same advice today.

Noticeably, when queried by media, all three Ministers had similar responses – obviously coached by the same tax-payer funded Party spin-doctors and media-minders,

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Mr Fix-It has Novopay plan

See: Mr Fix-It has Novopay plan

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Hekia Parata

I think hindsight’s a wonderful thing....

Bill English

In hindsight....

And the tongue-tied Craig Foss,

Well in hindsight… is a benefit of hindsight...

See: IBID

You can always tell when a politician has been coached; they use the same words and phrases over and over again. Spin doctors/media-minders develop a mantra, and their clients are expected to learn and parrot it, by rote. It takes a skilful journalist/interviewer to peel away the carefully-crafted coaching and get to the truth.

This indicates that Parata, English, and Foss had been pre-warned of Joyce’s press conference and admission of the three Minister’s actions.

So is this some sort of carefully managed internecine warfare?

Or a very subtle, clever strategy to neutralise possible Opposition disclosures in Parliament?

Joyce’s statements that there will be on-going problems with Novopay could be seen as an attempt to minimise future media reports on Novopay errors.After all, if National admits that there will be ongoing problems – does that make it news when it happens?

Whichever is the case, this is Steven Joyce at his most cunning, and the Opposition will need to be on their toes. As will the media, if they are not to be out-manouvered by National’s “Mr Fix It”.

“Mr Fix It” does not apply to sorting out computerised pay systems. “Mr Fix It” fixes political messes.

This certainly qualifies as the Mother of all Messes.

Addendum

As is common with National, Joyce attempted to shift blame onto advisors/bureacrats/Uncle Tom Cobbly, when he stated,

There was definitely knowledge there were bugs at the outset of going live. But the advice of all involved was that the thing should proceed…

My bet is that we will never, ever see this “advice”.

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= fs =

Karma for Key?

30 January 2013 9 comments

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John Key, on Hekia Pata, nearly a fortnight ago,

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“I actually think she’s a very effective communicator; in fact if you look at her history in politics, she’s been one of the smoothest communicators we’ve actually had.” – John Key, 18 January 2013

“I actually think she’s a very effective communicator; in fact if you look at her history in politics, she’s been one of the smoothest communicators we’ve actually had.” – John Key, 18 January 2013

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Hekia Parata, confirming Dear Leader’s assertion that she is  “one of the smoothest communicators we’ve actually had”,

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'Karma' strikes unpaid Education Ministry staff

Full story

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It takes a profound and deeply  callous indifference to make light of the ongoing Novopay fiasco and the resulting stresses on teachers and school admninistrators.

Parata may have been ‘joking’ when she made  her  “Karma” quip.

The joke, though, is on her and on John Key. I suspect that the moment this story hit the headlines, that Key was on the phone quick-smart and gave her a simple message; “shut the  – up!”.

As pundits have reasonable postulated, Key has evaded demands that Parata be despatched as Education Minister. (After all, only eight days ago he fired two other Ministers  who were nowhere as masterful in the  incompetance stakes  as Ms Parata.)

The difference, as the pundits have most likely correctly guessed, is that sacking Parata would’ve been seen as caving in to teacher’s unions, school boards, parents, and anyone else that she has pissed off in the last year or so. It would’ve been a major coup for the Opposition, who are now only 22 months away from becoming the next government.

So instead of sacking Parata, Key went for Plan B; side-line her so she is Minister of Education in name only, and assigned  National’s “hatchetman” – Stephen Joyce – as the real Power-behind-the-Ministerial-Leather-Throne,

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Joyce to take on handling of Novopay

Full story

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In the meantime, Key’s message to Parata would’ve been simple,

Sit there.

Smile vacantly.

Shut up.

And do nothing.”

As I wrote in my previous blogpost (see: National and the Cult of Buck-Passing )  on 22 Decemberlast year,

As  for Hekia Parata, this blogger is ambivalent about her resigning her portfolio.

A new Minister would simply take up the reins and pursue current National Party policies. Perhaps with a new vigour. That would be of no help to this country whatsoever.

Parata’s presence as Minister of Education has an ongoing “benefit” of focusing on the ideological nuttiness of National’s education “reforms”.

National’s education portfolio is a mess because National’s policies are, in themselves, a mess.

Why take away a constant reminder of National’s failings, by sacking one of it’s most inept Ministers?

Why put a fresh, new, clean face on a cesspit of problematic policies?

Why let the Nats off the hook?

Let Parata stay. It will give voters something to think about in 2014 (if not earlier).

It seems that two of my “predictions” have come  to pass,

  1. A new Minister would simply take up the reins and pursue current National Party policies.” Enter: Stephen Joyce.
  2. Let Parata stay. It will give voters something to think about in 2014 (if not earlier).” With her bizarre comments, she certainly is giving voters something to think about.

When Hekia Parata referred to Karma today, I think she was missing the Big Picture. See the bite marks on Key’s $50 million arse?

That’s  karma.

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References

Otago Daily Times: Joyce to take on handling of Novopay

NZ Herald: Parata safe in her job – Key

Dominion Post: No pay for Education Ministry staff

NZ Herald: ‘Karma’ strikes unpaid Education Ministry staff

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= fs =

John Key’s State of the Nation speech – post mortem

25 January 2013 28 comments

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John Key today delivered his State of the Nation speech. This is my appraisal of the contents of his address to the people of New Zealand…

Whether it’s welfare reform, law and order, education, the rebuild of Christchurch, or continuing our improvements in public services, it’s full steam ahead.

But no mention of jobs?

We’ve made a huge turnaround in the government’s books, we’ve brought in the biggest changes to the tax system in a generation, and we’re making significant changes to reform the welfare system and strengthen work obligations.”

Still no mention of jobs!

Among other things, we’ve introduced 90-day trials; set time limits for the consenting of large projects under the RMA; introduced a competitive new system for awarding oil and gas exploration permits; got ACC back into good financial shape; and kick-started a multi-billion dollar programme of infrastructure investment.”

Where are the jobs?

” …an economy that was left unbalanced, and in poor shape, by the previous government.

Bullshit. Aside from being National’s “Big Lie“, Labour posted several Budget Surpluses, and payed down debt.  How long can National keep blaming Labour for non-existant ‘mis-management’?

“…  the impact of the Global Financial Crisis

That was FOUR years ago – what has National been doing in the meantime – aside from banging on about welfare “reforms” and adding to unemployment by cutting back on the State sector and under-mining the export sector by not addressing the high Dollar?!

Since the bottom of the recession, in mid-2009, the economy has grown at an average of just under 2 per cent a year, and economists are expecting that to strengthen further.”

Yeah? Reallllly???

Which economists? These ones; Rodney Dickens finds economists consistently over-estimated growth?

And how can it be ‘strengthening’ when unemployment is rising; the export sector is being knackered by our high dollar; and government austerity is dampening growth?

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Govt austerity slows growth, keeps rates low - RBNZ

Source

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Key is practicing more of his “vacant optimism”, and bugger all else.

Our employment rate is very high in comparison to other countries, with over three-quarters of all New Zealanders aged 20 to 64 in work. There are still too many people looking for work who can’t find it.  But forecasts show employment continuing to increase and unemployment falling.

Bullshit. Unemployment has risen in the last four Quarters,

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New Zealand Unemployment Rate jan 2012 - dec 2012

Source: Trading Economics – Unemployment

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By what stretch of his money-addled brain is he expecting it to fall? Especially when the 170,000 new jobs predicted in 2011 by a vacantly optimistic Key, have yet to materialise.

Interest rates are at 50-year lows.

Oh, puh-leeese.

Interest rates are not determined by government. They are set by the Reserve Bank. And current interest rates are low only because the economy is weak.

Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollard said: “New Zealand’s economic outlook has weakened a little since the March Monetary Policy Statement.

“Political and economic stresses in Europe, along with a run of weaker-than-expected data, have seen New Zealand’s trading partner outlook worsen. Furthermore, there is a small but growing risk that conditions in the euro area deteriorate more markedly than is projected in the June Statement.

The Bank is monitoring euro-area developments carefully given the potential for rapid change.“Increased agricultural production and the weakened global outlook have driven New Zealand’s export commodity prices lower.

The resulting moderation in export incomes, although partially offset by depreciation in the exchange rate, will weigh on economic activity in New Zealand. Fiscal consolidation is also likely to constrain demand growth going forward.

See: Reserve Bank Monetary Policy Statement June  2012

Is Key taking credit for a weak economy?! Go on, Dear Leader, I dare you to do it!

Prices for primary exports are holding up, and our terms of trade remain high.

Say whut? Has Key been caught out fibbing – again?  Terms of  trade are not “remaining high”. Quite the opposite,

New Zealand’s terms of trade fell to a three-year low in the September quarter as the country’s strong currency ate into returns from an increasing volume of dairy exports.

The terms of trade, which measures how much imports can be bought with a fixed quantity of exports, fell 3.2 per cent in the three months ended September 30, according to Statistics New Zealand. That’s more than the 1.8 per cent forecast in a Reuters survey of economists. Export prices sank 6.3 per cent, ahead of the 3.6 per cent expected, while import prices declined 3.3 per cent versus an anticipated 2 per cent fall.

See: New Zealand Herald – Terms of trade hit three-year low

Primary export prices are not “holding up”. They are falling,

Dairy, which accounts for about a quarter of New Zealand’s exports, was the biggest contributor to the falling export prices and rising volumes, with volumes surging 32 per cent in the quarter, even as prices sank 13 per cent.

See: IBID

This isn’t a “State of the Nation” report – it’s a work of goddamn  fiction.

That will be centred, of course, on Christchurch, where the spend is now estimated to be around $30 billion. But construction is also expected to pick up in other areas, and manufacturers across the country will be gearing up to supply materials.”

Again, more vacant optimism from Key.

If two major earthquakes had not trashed Christchurch, where would the “growth”  come from? What would be driving economic growth and employment? Faith in the Free Market?!

Volumes

Total manufacturing rose 2.6 percent.
Excluding meat and dairy product manufacturing, sales fell 1.4 percent.
Meat and dairy product manufacturing rose 13 percent.

Values

Total manufacturing rose 1.6 percent.
Excluding meat and dairy product manufacturing, sales fell 1.1 percent.
Meat and dairy product manufacturing rose 9.3 percent.

See: Statistics NZ Economic Survey of Manufacturing: September 2012 quarter

In any three-month period in New Zealand, between 100,000 and 200,000 jobs disappear, and between 100,000 and 200,000 new jobs are created, as businesses start up, expand, contract and close altogether.”

Is Key suggesting that there are “100,000 to 200,000 new jobs” created within a three month period?!

The man is in la-la land.

Statistics NZ revealed that for the Setember 2012 Quarter,

The number of people unemployed increased by 13,000 people.
The employment rate fell 0.4 percentage points, to 63.4 percent.
The number of people employed decreased by 8,000.
The labour force participation rate remained unchanged, at 68.4 percent.

See: Household Labour Force Survey: September 2012 quarter

I see no evidence of 100,000 or 200,000 new jobs anywhere. Unemployment, however, rose from 6.8% in the June 2012 Quarter  to 7.3% in the September 2012 Quarter.

Key’s speech mentions none of this, and is as vacantly optimistic as he was last year, or 2011, or 2010, or 2009…

Because the truth is, you only get jobs and growth in the economy when people invest money, at their own risk, in setting up a business or expanding an existing business.

[…]

But the only way net new jobs can be created is by private investors putting their money into businesses in New Zealand.”

Which brings us to the matter of Market failure. We simply are not seeing the number of new jobs required to soak up any of the 175,000 unemployed.

Since 2009, a net total of 114,200 Kiwis left for Australia and elsewhere (see: Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment y/e 2012: migration ). One could only imagine the staggering level  of  unemployment if Australia  wasn’t an economic “safety-valve” just across the ditch.

” Governments can encourage investment but they can also discourage investment.

A government can load up big costs and uncertainties onto business.

It can make people unwelcome because they are considered to be the wrong nationality to invest here, or in the wrong industry.

And it can lock up the resources of the country.

That would certainly discourage investment.

But as I said, we have to be a magnet for investment.

That’s why my Government is working hard to reduce costs and uncertainties for business.

That’s why we welcome investment that benefits New Zealand.

That’s why we are keeping our own costs down.

That’s why we are ensuring people have the right skills to contribute to the workforce.

That’s why we are ensuring the country has the infrastructure it needs to grow.

And that’s why we’re focused on opportunities to use our natural resources productively and sustainably.”

Ok. So again – where are the jobs?!

After four years of National’s “working hard to reduce costs and uncertainties for business”, “welcoming investment that benefits New Zealand”, “keeping our own costs down”, “ensuring people have the right skills to contribute to the workforce”, “ensuring the country has the infrastructure it needs to grow”, and “focused on opportunities to use our natural resources productively and sustainably” – why are we not seeing this translated into more jobs?

Instead we are seeing unemployment GROWING – not reducing.

Something is terribly wrong here.

” This year we are launching five new vocational pathways that clearly signpost the subjects young people should take to prepare for vocational careers in construction, manufacturing, the primary sector, the service sector and social services.

This year there will be over 4000 places available in trades and services academies, allowing young people to explore vocational career opportunities while still at school.

And there will be around 8700 Youth Guarantee places for young people to study fees-free outside the school environment.”

Two years after the earthquakes that levelled Christchurch?! National has belatedly realised that Market failure is not delivering the number of skilled tradespeople required, and government intervention is needed?

Oh well, better late than never. At least they didn’t wait till after the 2014 elections… Or the turn of the next century… Or the Second Coming…

“Under Labour’s wasteful management, up to 100,000 people a year listed as being in industry training were in fact “phantom trainees” who achieved no credits and in some cases were no longer alive.”

Oh, how original – more Labour-blaming!!

I suspect that figure of  “100,000” is pure Key bullshit. But regardless, how long is National going to use Labour as a scapegoat?! Especially since, I suspect, that had National kept Labour’s apprenticeships scheme, we’d have the necessary numbers of tradespeople to help re-build Christchurch.

But I guess it’s easier for the Nats to do nothing; wait for the Market to deliver results – and then blame Labour when that nutty idea crashes and burns.

I hope Key realises that the finger-pointing of Labour-blaming is wearing rather thin? People are wondering when the Nats will start taking responsibility for their actions. Especially since National is the Party of personal responsibility,

We also need to remember the enduring principles on which the National Party is based – individual responsibility, support for families and communities, and a belief that the State can’t and shouldn’t do everything.” – John Key, 30 January 2007

Source: National Party

“That has freed up some very significant funding to re-invest in expanding apprenticeships.”

Oh? How much?

Is this “new” money?

Or money stolen from other budgets such as Vote  Health, eg;   for grommet operations for kids with glue ear? (see:   Grommet cuts fear )

One will excuse my cynicism, but with National’s current maniacal obsession with balancing their books, they are constantly robbing Peter to pay Pauline. The net result is that state services are being cut back and no  part of our community is safe from National’s cost-cutting slash-and-burn activities.

One thing is for sure – some other part of the community may find their services wound back to pay for National’s “expanding apprenticeships”.

” So today I am announcing a new initiative to expand and improve apprenticeship training.

This has a number of parts to it:

1. From 1 January next year, we are…”

“Next year”?!?!

Well, never let it be said that National moves with decisive speed when confronted with critical economic and social problems.

Initiating their “new” apprenticeships scheme will mean another year that Christchurch suffers a shortage of trained workers; another year we could have been training some of the 85,000 unemployed youth in this country. Another year – wasted.

This isn’t a government “on top of things”. This is procrastination by deliberate design. Perhaps Key is hoping that the Market will do the job in the next twelve months, giving National an excuse to quietly forget and drop this scheme?

“…we estimate that around 14,000 new apprentices will start training over the next five years, over and above the number previously forecast.”

This sounds remarkably familiar… Didn’t we get a similar promise in 2011,

Treasury say in the Budget, as a result of this platform on what we’ve delivered, 170,000 jobs created and 4% wage growth over the next three to four years.” – John Key, 19 May 2011

See: Budget 2011: Govt predicts 170,000 new jobs

Which was backed up on their 2011 election flyer,

“National’s Brighter Future Plan will help businesses create 170,000 new jobs over the next four years.”

Source: National Party

That one didn’t work out very well either.

Key went on to say,

“The whole idea is to kick-start new apprenticeship opportunities ahead of the curve, so that thousands of New Zealanders get to learn a new trade that will last them a lifetime.”

I have a simple question for our smile and wave Dear Leader; why didn’t they do this immediatly after the 2008 election? Why didn’t this come out of the Jobs Summit in 2009?

And why, as he’s said above, are they now leaving this critical problem to be addressed next year???

All in all – there is little here to create new jobs, now, when we need it the most. Even his comments regarding infrastructure are just so much ‘fluff’,

“Moving on to infrastructure, the Government will this year continue its significant programme of investment, which supports thousands of jobs across the country.”

Well that “support for thousands of jobs across the country” hasn’t worked out so well. Unemployment has risen four quarters in a row. Redundancies were happening across the board, up and down the country. 175,000 New Zealanders are now out of work. Three months prior, that number was 162,000.Before that, 160,000. (see previous blogpost: Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment y/e 2012: employment/unemployment ) The numbers are going the wrong way.

“In terms of housing, the Government is itself planning to build more than 2000 houses over the next two financial years…”

Two thousand?

That number is derisable and falls woefully short of the 20,000 new houses  required to be built each year to keep up with demand. As Warwick Quinn, from the Registered Master Builders Federation, said last October,

New Zealand had fallen way behind the required build rates of 20,000 homes a year, hit by the global financial downturn that began in 2008...”

See:  20,000 houses for Chch in next five years

Two thousand new houses over the next TWO years?

That doesn’t cut it, Mr Key. Not even close. In effect, what Dear Leader has done is acknowledge that a critical housing problem exists – but that National is unable/unwilling to address it in any meaningful way.  Their ideological attachment to free market dogma binds their actions at every turn.

Two thousand new houses over two years is a joke. Not a particularly funny one at that.

” We need more houses built in New Zealand, at a lower cost. That means we need more land available for building, more streamlined processes and less costly red tape.”

Now THAT comment worries me.

Didn’t we go through a de-regulation of the building industry in 1991? And didn’t we end up with billions of dollars of poorly built homes that leaked and rotted?

And wasn’t the end result of that disaster a situation where  liability ended up with local body councils paying 25% for repairs; central government 25%; and  home owners were lumped with 50%?! Oh indeed that IS the case!

Up to 89,000 home owners were affected by the “red tape” de-regulation of the early 1990s – and Key appears to be staggering drunkenly  down the same route. (see: Leaky home payouts start tomorrow )

Will this be a  repeat of the same errors of history all over again?!

Key went on,

” It’s ridiculous that we allow councils to demand almost anything as a condition for the consent.

And it’s ridiculous that we allow them to charge whatever fees they want.”

Why not? After all, National demands whatever taxes and government fees they want. Eg; rising petrol taxes; increased early childhood costs; increased ACC fees; raised GST, etc.

But when backed into a corner, default to Strategy #1 – blame Labour. As Key then said,

” Labour’s so-called ‘plan’ to build 100,000 houses doesn’t do anything to fix the actual cost of building – so will either fail miserably, deliver dwellings that people don’t want to live in, or require massive taxpayer subsidies. It’s dishonest and it doesn’t stack up.”

Well, Key would know about dishonesty: John Banks. Raising GST when promising not to. Mystery email regarding Standard & Poors. Clandestine meetings with Skycity executives. Pledging meals in schools, then recanting.

Key derides Labour’s plans to build 100,000 new houses, proclaiming it will “fail miserably”.

This from the smile and wave man who lives in a multi-million dollar mansion; has a holiday home in Hawaii; and god knows what other property – while young New Zealanders are desperate to buy their own homes. (See: Frustrated home buyers want investors to be discouraged)

This from the same smile and wave man who offers New Zealanders 2,000 new homes over TWO YEARS.

It beggars belief how anyone can take John Key seriously these days. The man is a joke.

Key then took the stick to local body councils,

“But if councils aren’t able to change their planning processes, then the Government would have to get a lot more proactive, because we are very serious about resolving this issue.”

Oh really? “Very serious”, eh? So serious that in four years National has done nothing about our housing shortage?

Moving from blaming Labour, Key now seems to be beating up on  local body councils.

Does National ever take responsibility for anything?!

On the environment…

” New Zealand is rich, for example, in minerals. The Greens and Labour oppose it, but we are going to continue to encourage development of our country’s oil, gas and mineral resources.

Looking across our resource base as a whole, what’s clear is that we need a much better system of planning and resource management – one that enables growth and provides strong environmental outcomes, and does so in a timely and cost-effective way.”

National’s ‘devotion’ to “strong environmental outcomes” is amply illustrated by their abandonment of the Kyoto Protocol; watering down the ETS,  and scrapping the five yearly State of the Environment Reports, despite John Key having endorsed it in September 2008 as one of National’s own policies. (See: National scraps crucial environmental report , Government shuns second Kyoto committment )

Anything Key, or one of his ministerial muppets, utters about environmental concerns can be safely dismissed as empty platitudes.

On the TPPA,

“The Greens and their fellow travellers say the TPP is anti-democratic. That is nonsense.”

Interestingly, Key does not say why claims that  the “TPP is anti-democratic” are “nonsense”.

Nor does he acknowledge that the TPPA negotiations are currently held in secret. The public and media are excluded from proceedings. Eventually, the TPPA presented to Parliament will  be a done deal, with no chance for media analysis and public oversight. If that’s not anti-democratic then I fear that Dear Leader has no concept of the principles of democractic participation.

Considering Key’s penchant for secretiveness when it comes to deals with corporates such as Mediaworks, Skycity, et al, It’s not clear to me why we should take him at his word.

On asset sales…

” Subject to the Supreme Court’s decision, this will start in the first half of the year with our offer of up to 49 per cent of the shares in Mighty River Power.

We also want to proceed with another IPO later this year.

The whole share offer programme will be a shot in the arm for New Zealand’s capital markets.”

Really? So National is flogging of half of Meridian, Genersis, Mighty River Power, Solid Energy, and further down-selling Air New Zealand… to satisfy “New Zealand’s capital markets”?!

Key’s background as a money-trader appears to have besotted him. The Big Sell-off has begun, and he’s positively salivating at the prospect.

Meanwhile, over 75% of New Zealanders don’t want a bar of state asset sales. But hey, so what? Anyone would think this was a democracy?

“At the same time, the Government will maintain majority ownership of the companies, and will use the proceeds to invest in other public assets, like schools and hospitals.”

Rubbish. National will use the proceeds to balance their books. Any other suggestion to the contrary is patent nonsense.

“That’s because overseas investment in New Zealand adds to what New Zealanders can invest on their own.”

?!?!

That makes no sense… Typo? Brain-fade? A drunk speech writer?

“It creates jobs, boosts incomes, and helps the economy grow.”

*sighs*

So much bullshit…

Let’s remind ourselves  for the zillionth time that,

  • unemployment is up
  • the income gaps between New Zealand and Australia continues to widen
  • the economy is “growing” at a snail’s pace and as it does, our Current Account deficit grows. Why? Because increasing economic activity boosts profits for foreign owned companies, which means more  profits remitted overseas, which results in a worsening Current Account deficit. That, in turn, impacts on the interest rate we pay for our own capital (borrowings for mortgages, etc),

John Key knows all this – but he ain’t sayin, Billy-Bob boy.

And businesses aren’t so happy either,

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The axe falls - Industry boss blames cuts on Govt

Source
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On Science & Innovation…

” Finally, despite tight times, the Government is continuing to put a real priority on science and innovation. Research funding will be greater this year than it ever has been, because new ideas are a key driver for a modern economy.”

Didn’t National remove the 15% R&D tax credit soon after winning the 2008 election? If that’s putting “a real priority on science and innovation” – I’d hate to see the Nats in full-flight when they positively hate something. (Oh yeah, kinda like beneficiary bashing.)

So back to default Strategy #1,

“But I can guarantee you one thing – Labour will oppose almost all of it.”

Yeah. Piss poor of Labour not to support National when Key demands absolute fealty. In fact, Labour, Greens, and NZ First should just bugger off and leave National to govern on it’s own… and we know what that’s called, don’t we?
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dancing cossacks
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Perhaps  New Zealand would be better served if – instead of constantly deriding and blaming Labour, the Greens, NZ First, local body councils, and Uncle Tom Cobbly – that National focused on the problems confronting our nation; our economy; and our society.  Fixating  on  Opposition Parties for eighteen  paragraphs is not a good look. Defensive, much, Mr Key?

John Key’s constant reference to Labour makes him look fearful – and perhaps so he should be.

By 2014, National will have been in office for six years, with very little to show for it. If Key goes to the election with nothing more except playing a bitter blame-game against Labour, voters will desert him in droves. Voters want results; something reassuring to make them feel better –  not excuses. Certainly not high unemployment, a stagnant economy, growing child poverty, lagging wages, more and more people taking flight to Australia, etc.

” As for the National-led Government, our plan will encourage investment, strengthen the economy and boost jobs.

People know what that plan is, we have stuck to it and we will continue to stick to it.”

Well, I’m happy-as-larry that National has a plan. Because most people haven’t got a clue what Dear Leader and his Nat mates are up to. Aside from cutting state and social services,  asset sales, and subsidising multi-billion dollar film companies, most New Zealanders are scratching their heads wondering precisely what this wonderful “Plan” is.

In 2011, business leaders were asking precisely the same thing,

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Business NZ sees no economic plan

See: Business NZ sees no economic plan

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Key’s speech can be summed up threefold;

1. Consisting mainly of wishful fantasy – with facts and the last four years disproving almost everything he claimed as a “success”,

2. Constantly blaming others for his own Party’s policy-failings. Grow a pair, Mr Key; man up and own your failings.

3. National’s faith in the ability of the Market to produce economic growth, jobs, and higher wages has been sadly misplaced. His announcement on 2,000 new homes over two years is an insult, and National’s new apprenticeship scheme is two years too late, and too little.

National’s neo-liberal policies are more faith-based dogma than anything rooted in Real Life – and the chooks are coming home to roost.

This wasn’t a State of the Nation speech – it was a Statement of  National failure. A Hekia Parata-style own-goal.

If this is National’s idea of a “bright new future”, they’ve just sent Labour and the Greens a very long concession speech for the next election.

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References

NZ Herald: Full text: John Key’s state of the nation speech

Other blogs

Pundit: Mom, apple pie, apprenticeships & not much else

Idle thoughts of an Idle Fellow: The Ruminations of Robert Winter: The Negative Mr Key

The Dim Post: All part of the service

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Children’s Health: not a high priority for Health Minister Tony Ryall

11 January 2013 30 comments

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There was a time in New Zealand when health professionals like the legendary Doctor Smith created the first health system in the Hokianga without a single bureaucrat in sight. Until health management was corporatised under National 20 years ago the Coast had some outstanding no-nonsense characters in the public system but the intervening period has seen such people increasingly undermined by irrelevant bureaucracy and absurd political agendas.” – David Tranter, 9 January 2013

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After the spectacular cock-ups by Education Minister, Hekia Parata, it seems that the Health sector is next in line for the “National Treatment”.

Tony Ryall has demanded that the Health Budget be cut by $30 million this financial year (see:  Govt eyes cuts to elective surgery) Cuts to elective procedures that National’s spin-meisters “deemed to be of little benefit” are being planned – and details released to the media during the new season/holiday period when the public’s attention is focused on relaxation, barbecues, beaches, and “sinking a few coldies“.

Most of the mainstream media is also still “on holiday”, with minimal current affairs and investigative reporting being carried out by Radio NZ, TV3, and TV1. Only print media is reporting National’s covert cost-cutting programme – and even then, the Herald seems to be printing comments such as,

The National Health Committee has to find savings of $30 million this financial year from elective procedures deemed to be of little benefit.

The money would be used for smarter investment in other parts of the health system.

See: Govt eyes cuts to elective surgery

Note no quotation marks anywhere through those two paragraphs. The statements are presented as reported fact – not as government media  statement reflecting National Party policy.

This appears to be a re-run of National’s disastrous  “health reforms”  of the late 1990s,

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[National] Govt refuses extra ENT funding - ODT - 27 March 1997

Govt refuses extra ENT funding – ODT – 27 March 1997

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Call for funds  - ODT - 1 April 1997

Call for funds – ODT – 1 April 1997

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Wait for grommets a worry - ODT - 16 April 1997

Wait for grommets a worry – ODT – 16 April 1997

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Child health-care 'neglected' - ODT - 22 May 1997

Child health-care ‘neglected’ – ODT – 22 May 1997

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Sick children wait 2 years for surgery - ODT - 28 July 1997

Sick children wait 2 years for surgery – ODT – 28 July 1997

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Grommet 'blitz' clears backlog - ODT 19 November 1998

Grommet ‘blitz’ clears backlog – ODT 19 November 1998

Grommet 'blitz' clears backlog - ODT 19 November 1998

Grommet ‘blitz’ clears backlog – ODT 19 November 1998

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By the time Labour came to power in late 1999, the public Health system was a mess. National had gutted healthcare through funding cuts; increased management-bureacracy; closures; low salaries for front-line staff; and a slavish adherence to right wing dogma over the needs of communities and people.

The new incoming Labour-led government had much to re-build,

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$1.5b injection for health - 9 December 2001

$1.5b injection for health – 9 December 2001

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(When National supporters talk of Labour “wasting money” during their nine years in government – this is what they are actually referring to: the re-building of our public services.)

Note the weasel-words from Roger Sowry, National’s health spokesperson, in the above article,

Roger Sowry dismissed the announcement as a cynical, political move to hose down hotspots in health, including angst over waiting lists, DHB debts and health workers striking for higher  pay.

[…]

“It’s about politics. It’s not about the patient. It’s about saying we’ve got a problem with health, we can get a story out that there’s   a big lot of money coming down the barrel – it’s  about buying a comfort level for the next election.”

Roger Sowry should know about “hosing down hotspots in health, including angst over waiting lists, DHB debts and health workers striking for higher  pay” –  that is precisely the mess that National  left this country up until they were booted out in 1999.

The above stories are just a tiny few of the headlines from the 1990s.

Here are a few more that Mr Sowry might recognise – or should recognise. They all happened on his watch,

Claim many burned out by health sector reforms – 21 December 1996

Minister asked to halt job cuts  – 24 December 1996

Retiring GP pleased to escape growing bureacracy – 3 January 1997

$1m of health funds spent to date on rent for empty office space – 25 January 1997

More health changes tipped – 8 March 1997

Health reforms ‘harebrained’ – 15 March 1997

Rural abdication mockery of health system –  22 May 1997

Must pay for ‘wants’  – 19 July 1997

Cuts to hospital services expected – 8 August  1997

Move for sick to pay more  – 12 October 1997

English gives surgery pledge –  12 October 1997

Death The Northland Way – The Star – 15 October 1997

CHE announces cuts to public nursing hours – 15 October 1997

The Nation’s Health – 1 November 1997

‘Serious flaws’ in Govt’s health funding formula  – 31 January 1998

Privatising the public health system  – 2 February 1998

GP hits out at health reforms – 3 February 1998

Acute heart surgery list nearly 400  – 5 February 1998

Funding for Dunedin eye clinic slashed –  26 February 1998

Anger on heart op delay – 12 April 1998

Poorer patients put off doctors’ visits –  29 March 1998

Shipley, Bolger sorry for deaths of patients – 3 April 1998

Booking systems risky process, surgeon says  – 8 April 1998

Deaths hangs over boost in health funds – 9 April – 1998

Life on the waiting list uncertain – 9 April 1998

English may review waiting list funding –  11 April 1998

Health cuts spell doom for services – 30 April 1998

English agrees system flawed – 19 May 1998

Hospitals now owe $1.3 billion – 4 June 1998

100 drop off surgery lists  – 10 October 1998

Health sector needs stability, minister says – 28 January 1999

Four forced off waiting list die  – 15 March 1999

Patients ‘no better off’ – 29 March 1999

Widow says little improvement seem – 3 April 1999

Hospital waiting lists nudge 200,000 – 4 April 1999

Staff shortages could hit patient care, say nurses  – 4 May 1999

NZ heart attack victims likelier to die – 7 August 1999

Public hospital ills blamed on funding – 20 August 1999

Health spending rates poorly – 24 August 1999

Home Invasion – 24 June 2000

etc, etc…

That was the way we were in the 1990s; hospital budgets slashed resulting in chronic under-funding; growing privatisation of  healthcare; medical staff leaving New Zealand; bureacratic management growing; and people like Rau Williams, Colin Morrison, and others dying on waiting lists… all while a National-led government blundered on.

Things became so bad that even medical professions like the Royal Australasian College of Opthalmologists took to placing advertisements in newspapers, absolving  themselves of all blame and responsibility for the country’s chaotic and collapsing health system,

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Cataract surgery fact & fiction - advertisement - 6 October 1998

Cataract surgery fact & fiction – advertisement – 6 October 1998

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And while medical professions around the country distanced themselves from National’s non-stop bungling, others were jumping in, keen to exploit people’s fears and uncertainties for profit,

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Heartwatch Insurance Cover - advertisement - Otago Daily Times - 21 February 1998

Heartwatch Insurance Cover – advertisement – Otago Daily Times – 21 February 1998

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If you feel uncertain about the future…”

Talk about manipulating people’s fears.

What sort of society were we becoming that the callous exploitation of people’s   misery was somehow acceptable behaviour?! Was this the path that New Zealand had taken?

Or was our collective disgust finally being voiced with this statement,

I get a sense that the public is saying in quite a specific way, enough’s enough, we can’t take any more, you’ve got to stop, you’ve gone to far.” – Ian Powell,  Association for Salaried Medical Specialists, on Health cuts by the National-led government, 1 November 1997

The Minister of Health at the time, Bill English, and his colleagues – many of whom are still in Parliament (like Tony Ryall) – have much  to answer for.  For this was their legacy.

It now appears that they have not learned the lessons of that dark decade.

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Govt eyes cuts to elective surgery

Full story

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Govt's proposed health cuts could affect children - Labour

Full story

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Doubt over savings from restricting ear treatment

Full story

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Oh dear lord, not again!!

It appears that National may be hell-bent of repeating it’s ghastly performance of the 1990s – especially the late ’90s, where people died as a result of the then-National-government’s ineptitude.

And didn’t we go through a similar exercise in reducing grommet operations for our children in 1997 and 1998?!?! Oh yes, we did.

The three Herald articles above repeat the same mantra over and over again,

The National Health Committee, which is responsible to Health Minister Tony Ryall, is trying to find $30 million of savings in the public health system for reinvestment in more effective or better-targeted treatments.

See: IBID

What  investment could possibly be “more effective or better-targeted “ than  treating glue ear in children???

What “investment” could be better than removing a potential barrier for children to learn at school – a barrier called deafness, caused by glue-ear?!

The so-called “National Health Committee” are not new to this kind of narrow, anti-social thinking. They’ve been around for quite a few years and were involved in National’s blundering healthcare “reforms” – policies which led to the needless deaths of Colin Morrison, Rau Williams, and others.

This media report in the “Sunday Star Times”, on 12 October 1997, illustrates the sort of repulsive “philosophy” which this nasty little ‘Quango’ comes up with, from time to time.

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Move for sick to pay more - Sunday Star Times - 12 October 1997

Source: Sunday Star Times

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Note the comments high-lighted in red,

Patient charges could be increased to pay for more health care, according to a draft report by the high-powered Government adviser the National Health Committee.

[…]

If user part-charges were high enough, the report said people’s ability and willingness to pay them would be a way of deciding which demands for publicly-funded services should be met.

Make no mistake. What these invisible, faceless, nameless bureacrats were suggesting to the then-National government was that raising “user part-charges” would deter certain classes of people from accessing the health service.

For example, if you were poor.  Or unemployed. Or a solo-parent. Or a pensioner. Perhaps Samoan or Maori. This was the power of the State being used to determine who lives and who dies – not on clinical grounds – but on your ability to pay.

The article goes on to state,

The report said funding for health and disability services should be directed at services which:

  • Showed good effectiveness or benefit with those standing to gain the most receiving services first.
  • Are the best value for public money.
  • Are a fair use of resources

[…]

It said people must be prepared to made trade-offs to achieve  a sensible mix of proven, cost-effective services.

I don’t know about the reader, but these remarks chill me to the bone. These are bean-counters giving advice to the Minister of Health; advice which measures outcomes according to “ the best value for public money” and if  “user part-charges were high enough…  people’s ability and willingness to pay them would be a way of deciding” who has access to life-giving medical care.

The only thing missing here is what do they advise we do with the corpses of people who did not have the  “ability and willingness to pay”  for “ high enough user part-charges“.

Perhaps ovens…? User-pays of course. With the bill for incineration being forwarded to next-of-kin…

Which leads us to the next question;

The “National Health Committee” – Who Are They?

Who are the so-called “National Health Committee” and what are their qualifications to be making recommendations on our healthcare system?

The Committee comprises of these kindly-looking folk,

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NHC members

Source

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Mrs Anne Kolbe

Chair

– specialist paediatric surgeon and an Associate Professor at the University of Auckland’s School of Medicine.

Dr Mark O’Carroll

– is a Respiratory Physician at Auckland City Hospital with subspecialty interests in Cystic Fibrosis, Lung Transplantation and Interventional Pulmonology.

Mr Craig Climo

– management.

Mr Ross Laidlaw

– retired corporate lawyer.

Ms Sharon Mariu

–  consultancy  in strategic and business development.

Mr Alex Price

– Chief Executive of Fertility Associates […] He holds a chemical engineering degree, an MBA from IMD, Switzerland and a graduate certificate in reproductive medicine from the University of New South Wales.

Source

Of the six committee members, only two have medical qualifications  as practititioners. The rest are ex-lawyers, bean-counters, pricey consultants, and business-types.

These are the bean-counters – faceless and nameless no more – who are now suggesting that savings in the country’s Health budget could be made by effectively stealing $30 million away from our children who need grommets for their ears.

The committee members – with their usual euphemisms – called the cost-cutting, “disinvestment“. I kid you not. See: Govt eyes cuts to elective surgery

So taking away a surgical procedure which gives our children a better chance at school – because they can actually hear what is being said in the classroom – is “disinvestment“?!

I call it naked selfishness and thieving from the vulnerable. So this is what the term “stealing candy from a baby” means.

I think every one of these “kindly-looking folk” should hang their heads in shame and resign their arses from this odious little quango. We have enough child poverty and poverty-related disease in this country without people like this lot, funded by us the taxpayer, adding to it with revolting policy-advice.

The New Year is just barely over a week old, and already we are reading stories of National’s intentions toward us and our children.

How many will suffer and/or die this time?

Addendum

Date:   Fri, 11 Jan 2013 at 1:45
From: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
Subject:Children’s Health: not a high priority for Health Minister Tony Ryall?
To: “Tony.Ryall@parliament.govt.nz” <Tony.Ryall@parliament.govt.nz>
Bcc: Chris Laidlaw RNZ <sunday@radionz.co.nz>,
“campbelllive@tv3.co.nz” <campbelllive@tv3.co.nz>,
Dominion Post <editor@dompost.co.nz>,
Daily News <editor@dailynews.co.nz>, Daily Post <editor@dailypost.co.nz>,
Hutt News <editor@huttnews.co.nz>, Jim Mora <afternoons@radionz.co.nz>,
“joanna.norris@dompost.co.nz” <joanna.norris@dompost.co.nz>,
Kim Hill <saturday@radionz.co.nz>,
“kate.chapman@fairfaxmedia.co.nz” <kate.chapman@fairfaxmedia.co.nz>,
Listener <editor@listener.co.nz>,
Morning Report <morningreport@radionz.co.nz>,
NZ Herald <editor@herald.co.nz>,
Nine To Noon RNZ <ninetonoon@radionz.co.nz>,
“news@dompost.co.nz” <news@dompost.co.nz>,
“news@radionz.co.nz” <news@radionz.co.nz>,
Otago Daily Times <odt.editor@alliedpress.co.nz>,
“primenews@skytv.co.nz” <primenews@skytv.co.nz>, Q+A <Q+A@tvnz.co.nz>,
Southland Times <editor@stl.co.nz>, TVNZ News <news@tvnz.co.nz>,
The Press <letters@press.co.nz>,
The Wellingtonian <editor@thewellingtonian.co.nz>,
“tracy.watkins@fairfaxmedia.co.nz” <tracy.watkins@fairfaxmedia.co.nz>,
Waikato Times <editor@waikatotimes.co.nz>,
Wairarapa Times-Age <editor@age.co.nz>,
“wellington.news@tv3.co.nz” <wellington.news@tv3.co.nz>

For the Health Reporter:

Children’s Health: not a high priority for Health Minister Tony Ryall?

https://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2013/01/10/childrens-health-not-a-high-priority-for-health-minister-tony-ryall/

The “National Health Committee” recently recommended stripping $30 million from the Health budget by cutting back on grommet operations for our children. According to the NHC,  the insertion of grommets is the only elective procedure specifically targeted for “disinvestment”.

Question: Who are the “National Health Committee” ?

Question: What advice did they give to the National government in the late 1990s, which effectively would have meant high “part charges” for medical care, and more people dying needlessly?

Question: Did National try cutting back on grommet operations in the 1990s? What were the consequences?

Question: Why is the “National Health Committee” – an unelected quango that comprises of four business/consultant/lawyer-types and two actual medicos – giving advice to a government that might result in suffering and poor education outcomes for our children?

Question: why has a blogger demanded that the entire “National Health Committee” resign their arses out of that quango?

It’s surprising what one can uncover with a bit of digging around.

-Frank

Blogger

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Cartoonconsult

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References

Scoop: Tony Ryall – Reduction in State agencies confirmed

NZ Herald: Govt eyes cuts to elective surgery

NZ Herald: Doubt over savings from restricting ear treatment

NZ Herald: Govt’s proposed health cuts could affect children – Labour

NZ Herald: The Hobbit: should we have paid?

Dominion Post:  Children need changes now – commissioner

National Health Committee

Previous related blogposts

Priorities?

Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key

Health Minister circumvents law to fulfill 2008 election bribe?

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment – Compassion

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National and the Cult of Buck-Passing

22 December 2012 12 comments

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said no teacher ever 2

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Successive National governments have had a problem.

New Zealanders, like all other human beings, don’t like paying taxes.  National, like all other right wing political parties, are only too happy to oblige  and try to cut taxes at every opportunity. They did this in 2009 and a  year later in 2010. (Though recently they have been sneakily raising indirect taxes wherever possible. See: Parents face burden of preschool squeezeTax hikes disguised as reinvestment’,   Petrol, road charges hikes are ‘bad news‘)

But at the same time, New Zealanders love their tax-payer funded social services. Whether it be free hospitals; highly-subsidised medicines, nearly-free education; free roading, etc. Quite simply, we like the “goodies” that are expected of a developed, First World nation.

What we don’t like are governments that attempt to tinker with, and cut-back, on our state-provided social services.

Which is where Miniaster of Education, Hekia Parata, has gone disastrously wrong.

Her first “crime” was the announced – discovered, more like – policy just after the Budget was released on 24 May. It did not take long before a cunning plan for teacher cuts and larger class sizes, buried deep within the Budget, was uncovered,

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Schools face teacher cuts threat

Full story

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The uproar from parents, teachers, principals, school boards, and others throughout the community was such that the policy was literally ‘gone by lunchtime, two weeks later,

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Backlash forces Government class size U-turn

Full story

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Parents and sector workers were no fools. They knew precisely what this cash-strapped “government” was trying to do.  National had already reached into the pockets of paper-delivery children, to extract taxes from them. (See:  Budget 2012: ‘Paper boy tax’ on small earnings stuns Labour)

National had previously blown billions in it’s 2009/2010 tax cuts (see:  Government’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting) and they were now gearing up to recoup those losses by cutting back on State services.

This was pure, unadulterated, and re-cycled National Party policy from the 1990s. Who remembers National’s attempt in 1991, to implement a User-Pays charge of $50 per day in hospitals, up to a maximum of ten days? (See: Teara – Funding public hospitals) The policy was hugely unpopular and failed because New Zealanders simply refused to pay it.

The classroom-teacher debacle was the first of several major crises (I refuse to call them “issues”) to confront Hekia Parata and her Ministry.

Others included,

  • the ongoing Novopay fiasco
  • the enforced amalgamation/closures of 30+ Christchurch schools, using data that was discovered to be hopelessly wrong,
  • the attempt to force closure of Salisbury School, which would have placed special-needs female students in a male school, and making them potential victims of sexual abuse (See:  Parata did not heed warning over closure),
  • Ministry of Education suggestions that misleading information be given in respect to Official Information Act requests about Christchurch school closures. (See: Education ministry criticism ‘serious‘)

It seems fairly clear that Parata has wilfully ignored the advice of her own officials and failed to consult with parents, teachers, and others in local communities. The result has been a growing dillusionment and enmity between Parata and her constituents.

The problems became so great; coming one after another in over-lapping succession; and seemingly increasing in intensity, that Parata eventually ceased to front up to the media.

Instead, it was left to bureacrat, Education Secretary Lesley Longstone, to answer for the Education Minister,

Education Minister Hekia Parata declined an interview with Campbell Live last night. Instead, the ministry’s chief executive Lesley Longstone fronted, and admitted mistakes had been made – though defended the ministry’s processes.

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Lesley Longstone - John Campbell - TV3 - Ministry for Education - Campbell Live - Hekia Parata

Full story

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Hekia Parata could no longer answer to the public without appearing to be hopelessly ineffective in her own portfolio.

As a Minister, she seemed utterly out of her depth and this blogger strongly suspects that she has been given instructions from on high (Steven Joyce?) to steer clear of the media.

The untreated human effluent finally hit the fan when Ms Longstone became the “patsy”, falling on Parata’s sword as a political sacrificial ewe.   Only about thirteen months into a five year contract, Ms Longstone is leaving New Zealand with her tail firmly between her legs. (See:  Education Secretary Lesley Longstone resigns )

One doubts she will be in a hurry to return, even to savour the delights of the  touristy-destination of  “Middle Earth New Zealand”.

During this crisis, Parata was again nowhere to be seen. The resignation and resultant media conference was handled by State Services Commissioner, Iain Rennie (along with a blond “Minder”, wearing copious quantities of red lippy, standing anxiously in the background),

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State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie announces Longstone's resignation

Full story

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So to re-cap,

  1. Parata has stuffed up at least half a dozen critical problems impacting on her ministerial portfolio,
  2. She has succeeded in alienating almost all her constituents,
  3. When she could no longer function effectively as a Minister, nor field media queries, she dumped the whole stinking mess into Longstone’s lap,
  4. The  entangled mess of problems were such that Ms Longstone was unable to cope. Her overseas background and lack of knowledge of New Zealand society and politics was probably one of her greatest handicaps,
  5. Longstone finally had a gutsful and bailed. (And who on Earth could possibly blame her?!)
  6. And Parata was still nowhere to be seen – instead dumping the mess into yet another lap; Iain Rennie.

Talk about dodging responsibility and passing the buck!

So what was our Esteemed Dear Leader doing during this crisis?

Apparently, he was busy,

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See also: Key puts dancing ahead of explaining

Buck-passing – best done as a group National thing.

Considering that Ms Longstone’s resignation was known in advance – with State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie confirming Longstone resignation was made two to three weeks ago – it defies belief that Key was goofing around on radio stations that morning.

It occurs to this blogger that John Key no longer wants the highest job in the land. We saw a hint of this earlier in the year, in May, when he told children at Holy Family School in Porirua East,

Frankly, the way it’s going at the moment you can have the job“.

See: John Key’s midterm blues?

I’m sure there are many people in this country who would love to see someone else take Key’s job.

As  for Hekia Parata, this blogger is ambivalent about her resigning her portfolio.

A new Minister would simply take up the reins and pursue current National Party policies. Perhaps with a new vigour. That would be of no help to this country whatsoever.

Parata’s presence as Minister of Education has an ongoing “benefit” of focusing on the ideological nuttiness of National’s education “reforms”.

National’s education portfolio is a mess because National’s policies are, in themselves, a mess.

Why take away a constant reminder of National’s failings, by sacking one of it’s most inept Ministers?

Why put a fresh, new, clean face on a cesspit of problematic policies?

Why let the Nats off the hook?

Let Parata stay. It will give voters something to think about in 2014 (if not earlier).

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Addendum

National seems to have a dodgy track-record when it comes to losing highly skilled, talented, managerial staff,

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Work and Income boss quits

Full story

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And of course we had the recent extraordinary spectacle of Canadian ex-Supreme Court Judge, Ian Binnie, being publicly derided and humiliated by Justice Minister Judith Collins – despite Justice Binnie being invited by National to oversee an indepent review of the Bain case   (See:  Bain could have an enemy in the Beehive).

At this rate, the most highly skilled and experienced professionals and civil servants will think twice before coming to New Zealand to take up government contracts. Like some evil Master Mind in a James Bond story,

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Dr Evil John Key

“National does not tolerate failure, Ms Longstone. Would you like a Speights or water with your Professional Cyanide Pill?”

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References

Dominion Post: Schools face teacher cuts threat

Fairfax media: Backlash forces Government class size U-turn

Radio NZ: Education ministry criticism ‘serious

NZ herald: Work and Income boss quits

Radio NZ: Education Ministry head resigns

Dominion Post: Key puts dancing ahead of explaining

NZ Herald: Is Parata next?

Fairfax media: Education secretary quits

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= fs =