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The Mendacities of Mr Key # 17: The sale of Kiwibank eight years in the planning?

11 April 2016 8 comments

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we will give you honest government - yeah right

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National Makes Good on 2008 Threat to Sell Kiwibank

NZ Post’s, announcement on 6 April that it intends to sell-down  45% of it’s subsidiary, Kiwibank, appears to make good on Bill English’s inadvertent threat in August 2008 that Kiwibank would “eventually be sold”.

English was secretly recorded by an un-named person during a 2008 National Party Conference, and encouraged to talk freely on the prospect of selling Kiwibank;

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English - I didn't choose my words well - NZ Herald - Kiwibank sale

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English subsequently complained; “I did not choose my words well“.

However, it now appears that English expressed his words honestly,  disclosing a secret agenda to sell Kiwibank to someone he believed was a loyal National Party apparatchik.

Another secret recording, this time from National MP Lockwood Smith, also hinted at a secret agenda held by National;

“There’s some bloody dead fish you have to swallow, to get into government to do the kinds of things you want to do. Once we have gained the confidence of the people, we’ve got more chance of doing more things.

We may be able to do some things we believe we need to do, perhaps go through a discussion document process. You wouldn’t be able to do them straight off.”

With the 2008 General Election only three months away, and with a new, untested Leader of the National Party (John Key) facing a seasoned, popular Prime Minister, the secret recordings forced National’s hierarchy to take rapid steps to “kill” the story.

Both English and Key issued public statements  resiling from any intention to sell Kiwibank;

It’s not my view. It’s not my private view. I simply used loose language – I made a statement I shouldn’t have.” – Bill English

We would never make a change to that decision without a mandate.” – John Key

Again in 2008, Key resiled from any sale of Kiwibank;

“I’m ruling out selling Kiwibank at any point in the future.”

And again in 2010,

“National would not sell Kiwibank at any stage, ever. We have ruled it out.”

Making a Promise

On 25 February 2014, our esteemed Dear Leader, John Key, announced to the nation that National’s asset sales programme was over;

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“Just as we did before the last election we’re making our position on share sales clear to New Zealanders before we go to the polls later this year. We’ve achieved what we wanted with the share offers in energy companies and Air NZ. We’re now returning to a business-as-usual approach when it comes to [state-owned enterprises]. The truth is there aren’t a lot of other assets that would fit in the category where they would be either appealing to take to the market or of a size that would warrant a further programme, or they sit in the category that they are very large like Transpower but are monopoly assets so aren’t suited.”

Just as we did before the last election we’re making our position on share sales clear to New Zealanders before we go to the polls later this year. We’ve achieved what we wanted with the share offers in energy companies and Air NZ. We’re now returning to a business-as-usual approach when it comes to [state-owned enterprises]. The truth is there aren’t a lot of other assets that would fit in the category where they would be either appealing to take to the market or of a size that would warrant a further programme, or they sit in the category that they are very large like Transpower but are monopoly assets so aren’t suited.”

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Two years and nearly two months later, and Key’s promise- like so many other committments he has made – appears to have been watered-down to permit a de-facto partial-sale.

The intended purchasers would be two other SOEs,  NZ Superannuation Funds (25%) and ACC Funds (20%);

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NZ Post to sell 45 per cent of Kiwibank for $495m cash injection

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Breaking the Promise

Even as NZ Post’s Directors were announcing the partial sale of their subsidiary, Kiwibank,  Finance Minister Bill English was engaged in some well-rehearsed damage-control.

No doubt with considerable prompting by Party strategists and media-minders, English reassured the public that National would not allow the people’s bank to end up in private ownership, as the former Postbank did February 1989 when it was sold to the ANZ Bank.

English promised;

“Kiwibank will remain 100 per cent government-owned – that is a bottom-line. To ensure this occurs, the proposal includes a right of first refusal for the Government over any future sale of shares – which we would exercise.”

To be blunt, National cannot be trusted to keep it’s word.

Key knew in advance!

Despite  Key’s  committment to end asset sales on  25 February 2014, it appears from Michael Cullen’s own statements that our esteemed Dear Leader was already aware at around the same time, that a partial asset-sale was being planned by NZ Post.

During a video-taped press-briefing by Fairfax media, Cullen admitted that he and Key had discussed the partial-sale of Kiwibank that year (2013/14).

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So Brian [Roche] and I after discussion, and [I] think I remember correctly, I had a brief discussion with the Post Board, went to see the Prime Minister, to see whether there would be a kind of visceral reaction from the government, as our ultimate share holder, to that happening. That was not the case. Mr Key indicated he was very comfortable with that prospect and on that basis therefore we began to proceed...”

So when Key made his public promise on 25 February, 2014, that National’s asset sales programme was over – he was making that committment whilst knowing full well that the partial sale of Kiwibank was already underway.

Broken promises and secret agendas – this story has it all.

Who Pays? Loyal Kiwibank customers do!

There is a hidden cost to the partial-sale of  Kiwibank.

As David Hargreaves from Interest.co.nz reported;

The move could see Kiwibank’s credit rating slip by one notch from the current A+ to A as NZ Post will likely not guarantee Kiwibank’s future obligations once the deal proceeds.

When a financial institution’s credit rating is reduced, it means (generally) that they become a greater risk of lending money to them.  According to Investpedia;

“…While a borrower will strive to have the highest possible credit rating since it has a major impact on interest rates charged by lenders, the rating agencies must take a balanced and objective view of the borrower’s financial situation and capacity to service/repay the debt.

A credit rating not only determines whether or not a borrower will be approved for a loan, but also the interest rate at which the loan will need to be repaid.

… and a high interest rate is much more difficult to pay back.”

It is entirely likely that when a credit down-grade occurs (as happened to New Zealand under National in September 2011), the cost of borrowing funds will increase for the bank.

Which is precisely what Hargreaves reported;

Standard & Poor’s has indicated that following the announcement of the proposed transaction, Kiwibank’s long term issuer credit rating (A+) will be placed on credit watch negative pending the proposed termination of the standing guarantee provided by NZ Post. Should the guarantee be terminated, Standard & Poor’s has indicated it will result in a one notch downgrade to Kiwibank’s long term issuer credit rating (from A+ to A). 

That cost will either have to be absorbed, reducing their profit margins and making it easier for Key and English to justify full privatisation – or will be passed on to the banks customers.

English will most likely not permit Kiwibank’s profit to fall as that would mean lower dividends paid into government coffers.

Which leaves Kiwibank’s Mum & Dad customers  to foot the bill for the partial-sale.

The Agenda #1

The sale to ACC and NZ Super Fund is a clever ploy. On the face of it, Kiwibank remains in wholly State ownership, albeit shifting it’s shareholders around, from one SOE (NZ Post) to three (NZ Post, ACC, NZ Super Fund).A kind of multi-million dollar Musical Chairs.

At the same time,  this would allow a healthy dividend payment (an amount  yet to be disclosed) to be paid to the government. As Cullen said on 6 April;

“The proceeds would allow New Zealand Post to invest in its core parcels, packages and letters business and pay down debt. It is anticipated that a special dividend would also be paid to the Crown…”

This was confirmed a day later by Bill English speaking with Guyon Espiner, on Radio NZ’s Morning Report;

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Guyon Espiner: “Ok, let’s look at what happens to the $495 million that NZ Post gets from this sale. I understand it doesn’t go to generate any extra capital for Kiwibank, it goes to NZpost to pay down debt and invest in it’s parcel and mail business, right?”

Bill English: “That’s right, and then if there’s, subject to negotiations there may be special dividend passed back to this [inaudible] government.”

English said any dividend payable to the government would “likely be several hundred million“. This would prove a godsend to English who otherwise would be struggling to create another Budget surplus in his May budget.

The Agenda #2

National has not only increased it’s revenue, thereby alleviating a major headache for Bill English, but they have pulled the rug out from under the Greens who, three days earlier, had been calling for increased $100 million investment in Kiwibank. As Greens co-leader James Shaw stated in a recent policy announcement;

“Our plan will help Kiwibank lead a change in New Zealand banking, by giving it a clear public purpose that requires it to drive competition to generate better interest rates for New Zealanders.

We’ll help Kiwibank to grow faster by injecting $100 million of capital into the bank and let it retain more of its profits.

Strengthening Kiwibank so it can create competition in the banking sector is the smartest way to ensure all banks pass on the best interest rates to Kiwis.”

The Agenda #3

A deeply cynical person might suspect that after the defeat of John Key’s pet vanity-project  (the recent flag referendum debacle) that National has decided to exact revenge against the many Labour and Green voters who voted to retain the current flag,  by partial privatisation of a favourite state owned enterprise.

Does such  cynicism border on paranoia? In an era of Dirty Politics; tax-havens with trillions hidden away; and increasingly corruption of state leaders, officials, organisations, and institutions –  the demarcation between healthy scepticism and paranoid fantasies blur, merge, and are tomorrow’s headlines waiting to be made public.

Labour’s Response?

Labour and the Green Party both responded to Cullen’s announcement. As Stacy Kirk wrote for Fairfax Media on 6 April;

The response of opposition parties has been mixed, with the Greens calling it a step down the path of privatisation. 

Labour leader Andrew Little said it was important Kiwibank stayed in public ownership.

“And this does that, there are some good conditions around it,” he said. 

“This provides a way to get extra capital from these sovereign wealth funds, and hopefully for NZ Post to use the funds that they raise from the sale, to put more capital into Kiwibank. 

Meanwhile, Labour Party state-owned enterprise spokesman David Parker said Cullen should be congratulated on the idea. 

“Michael Cullen should be congratulated for securing a route to expand KiwiBank and keep it in public ownership, given the refusal of National to provide more capital for NZ Post or KiwiBank.

“Michael Cullen’s solution only works to ensure the bank will remain in public ownership if National promises that if ACC or the Super Fund sells its shares, then the government of the day would exercise its first right of refusal and buy them back.” 

Labour’s response has not only been weak and naive – but it also appears that David Parker is not “up to speed” with the terms of the sale. It is extraordinary that both Labour’s SOE Spokesperson, David Parker,  and Labour’s Leader, Andrew Little, believe that;

“This provides a way to get extra capital from these sovereign wealth funds… to put more capital into Kiwibank” and that “Michael Cullen should be congratulated for securing a route to expand KiwiBank”.

Nothing of the sort will happen.

Both Cullen and Bill English have been crystal-clear and surprisingly honest in stating that;

  1. “The proceeds would allow New Zealand Post to invest in its core parcels, packages and letters business and pay down debt.” “
  2.  “It is anticipated that a special dividend would also be paid to the Crown.”
  3.  Kiwibank will get nothing.

So where Parker and Little get their cozy ideas about “putting more capital into Kiwibank” is unclear.

Instead,  Green Party co-leader, James Shaw, seemed more cognisant to National’s real agenda;

“The fact is the Government forced Kiwibank’s hand and today’s announcement will make it easier than it was before to move Kiwibank into private ownership.”

Labour needs to get it’s act together on this issue.

The future of the people’s bank depends on it.

As for the mainstream media, it is high time they became aware of the many promises made by both Key and English – and their subsequent breaking. Otherwise, they too are failing the public.

National, in the meantime, has carried out the  perfect bank “heist”.

It only took eight years to accomplish.

 

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References

Fairfax Media: NZ Post to sell 45 per cent of Kiwibank for $495m cash injection

NZ Herald: English – I didn’t choose my words well

TV3 News: National hit by more secret recordings

Fairfax Media: Facebook Video – NZ Post to sell 45 per cent of Kiwibank for $495m cash injection

NZ Herald: PM pledges not to sell Kiwibank after all

Faifax Media: Key – Why I should be the PM

Otago Daily Times: Key not ruling out Kiwibank sale in future

NZ Herald: PM – no more SOEs to sell after Genesis

Fairfax Media: Key ‘no GST rise’ video emerges

NZ Treasury: Income from State Asset Sales as at May 2014

Interest.co.nz: NZ Super Fund and ACC proposed as new minority shareholders in Kiwibank

Investopedia: Credit Rating

NZ Herald: S&P cuts NZ credit rating

Radio NZ: Bill English – Kiwibank will stay 100 percent New Zealand-owned

Green Party: Greens will repurpose Kiwibank and save Kiwis hundreds of millions

Additional

Fairfax media: Kiwibank tape catches English

Scoop Media:  Bill English Talks On KiwiBank Being Sold (audio)

Other bloggers

No Right Turn: Plunder

The Daily Blog: KiwiBank another privatisation by stealth – Robbing Fred to bribe Dagg to pay John

The Dim Post: A fascinating precedent

The Standard: Kiwibank sale to NZ Super, ACC privatisation by stealth

Previous related blogposts

Westpac, Peter Dunne, & Edward Snowden

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 12: No More Asset Sales (Kind of)

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the sale of kiwibank - nz herald cartoon - john key

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 11 April 2016.

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“You Break It, We Fix It” – Is That How It Works?

13 January 2014 6 comments

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It all began in 1984…

But first, let’s look at the Governor-General, Sir Jerry Mateparae’s 2014 New Year’s speech,

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"As a nation, and as communities, we need to both celebrate our successes, and examine how we can help those families facing particular difficulties, so every child can grow up in a safe and secure home."

As a nation, and as communities, we need to both celebrate our successes, and examine how we can help those families facing particular difficulties, so every child can grow up in a safe and secure home.”

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My initial reaction upon hearing this statement from the Governor General was, thank god that the issue of deprivation facing children in our country is finally ‘trickling up’  the coridors of The Establishment.

It’s not like we haven’t been banging on for the last few years about the problems confronting us with child poverty; increasing inequality; homelessness; unemployment, under-employment; the growing wage-gap with Australia; etc, etc; etc; etc…

Once upon a time, New Zealand was one of the most equal societies on this planet. And we took great pride in that fact.

But then, something happened. Something disastrous which we were aware of; initially viewed with alarm; and then, like the frog in the pot of water steadily heating up, we got used to it.

We got Rogernomics.

Later followed shortly thereafter by the nastier, “crack-cocaine” version referred to as “Ruthenasia”.

From there, despite all the rhetoric and promises of wealth “tricking down”, things got worse. Much worse.

Sir Jerry’s speech was duly reported in the Otago Daily Times on 1 January;

The release of Children’s Commissioner Russell Wills’ report into child poverty in December found a quarter of Kiwi children were under the standard 60 per cent income poverty line, of which, 10 per cent were in severe and persistent poverty.

The report also highlighted the links between the lack of affordable housing and the preventable diseases spread through overcrowding.

Sir Jerry said while the structure and dynamics of New Zealand families had changed, the desire of parents to raise their children in a caring, loving environment had not.

“I often hear people say that everyone should have a New Zealand childhood.

“The care we provide to our most vulnerable citizens – our children – is a barometer of the wellbeing of our families and our society.”

But not all families could cope with the “inevitable challenges” life threw at them, Sir Jerry said.

IBID

Perhaps families could have coped better had National – not “life” – not thrown these challenges at them;

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English confirms big ACC levy rise likely

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Note how only a month after being elected into office, National was already spinning the public meme that Labour was to blame for the consequences of National’s impending ACC levy-rises? Such would be National’s modus operandi for the following years; everything blamed on the previous Labour government; accept no responsibility whatsoever.

If National wins a third term in office this year (unlikely), will they still attempt to use Labour as a scapegoat for their unsuccessful policies?

In the meantime, National continued their policy of raising government charges and taxes,

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Budget 2010 - Income tax slashed, GST to 15 pc

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English’s promise that income tax cuts would be “more than offset the rise in GST” ended up  hollow when more government charges were further raised;

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Tax hikes disguised as `reinvestment'

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Yet more indirect tax rises were forthcoming;

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Petrol prices creep higher

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And cuts to funding for social services. Again, children were targetted;

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Hundreds march over early childhood cuts

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And hefty user-pays charges implemented and increased;

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Vulnerable children at risk from Family Court fees increase

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With perhaps this, being the most odious and damaging of all to struggling low-income, poor families;

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Prescription fees increase

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Although NZMA chair, Paul Ockelford, asserted that prescription charge increases were “unlikely to be a barrier for most”, that statement appears to be the kind of arrogant, self-delusional nonsense that people out of touch with reality readily express amongst polite company, at well-laden dinner tables, of the tut-tutting affluent classes.

As writer, Herman Melville pointed out,

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well- warmed, and well-fed.”

Reality away from the likes of  Mr Ockelford’s genteel circle  is much different, and grimmer;

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Pharmacies carry debt for prescriptions

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From the above Herald story,

Nikki Turner, who works as a GP in Wellington as well as sitting on the Child Poverty Action Group, said any assumption that the $2 increase was a minor issue was not looking at the bigger picture.

“For a lot of people that’s fine, but for many people there are a lot of barriers to access to primary health care.”

New Zealanders on lower incomes, particularly those with large families or complex medical problems, would find the hike in prescription costs as another barrier.

“We know from the Ministry of Social Development’s own data on severe and significant hardship that many families don’t pick up prescriptions because of costs. If they’ve got a small amount of money left over, then prescriptions will go or they’ll delay picking them up,” she said.

Source

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And remember – National presided over two tax cuts in 2009 and 2010. Cuts which benefitted the highest income earners in the country.

It is abundantly clear that those tax cuts were paid for by massive borrowings; state asset (partial-)sales; raising GST; cuts to funding for  state services; and raising user-pays charges for other State services (often for the most spurious reasons).

In simple, easy-to-understand-terms, low and middle income earners (but especially those on low and fixed incomes) ended up paying for tax cuts for the rich,

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Tax cuts - High earners set to benefit most

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This is what National does.

In the meantime, unemployment is still at 7.1% and – according to the Children’s Commissioner, in his first Child Poverty Monitor – child poverty has dramatically worsened,

The 2013 Monitor shows that one in four Kiwi kids are growing up in income poverty and one in six are going without the basic essentials like fresh fruit and vegetables, a warm house, decent shoes and visits to the doctor. Ten percent of children are at the hardest end of poverty and three out of five kids living in poverty will live this way for much of their childhood.

[…]

Children’s Commissioner Dr Russell Wills says the project is about giving New Zealanders the full picture on child poverty rates and to get Kiwis talking about it.

“265,000 New Zealand children are living in poverty. Is this what we want for our kids?

[…]

The Child Poverty Monitor is funded by the J R McKenzie Trust, an organisation with a long history of involvement in important social issues. The Trust’s Executive Director Iain Hines says they initiated this project because they saw an opportunity to make a difference for children missing out.

“We are concerned that the rate of child poverty in 2013 is twice that of the 1980s. We think this is unacceptable. If New Zealand’s road toll was twice that of the 80s there would be outrage and immediate action taken to reduce it. We need the same momentum and action on child poverty.

It is mind-boggling that we have arrived at a state of affairs where child poverty is increasing each year – and successive governments seem unable/unwilling to tackle it.

To our shame, governments seem more interested in throwing money at multi-national corporations and yacht races rather than the nation’s children – our future.

National, in particular stands guilty of inaction.

This was clearly highlighted when it was revealed that the Children Commissioner’s report was funded by a private organisation, the J R McKenzie TrustKey’s government refused point-blank to fund the investigation and subsequent report. Instead, the cost – $500,000 – was paid by the Trust.

By contrast, National found it easier to hand out corporate welfare such as $30 million to the Rio Tinto private aluminium smelter. Or millions to the Rugby World Cup tournament. Even Southern China Airlines got a $4 million tax-paid hand-out, courtesy, National.

One thing is for certain – Dr Russell Wills should not be expecting to be re-appointed Children’s Commissioner when his term is up. Not if the Nats are still in office by then.

Just to remind the reader, in his speech, Sir Jerry said,

“But not all families could cope with the “inevitable challenges” life threw at them.”

Source

Unsurprisingly, I take great exception to Sir Jerry’s comments. It is not “life” that is throwing “challenges” at New Zealand’s families: it is successive government policies and inaction. And nor are they “inevitable”. The sun rising every day is inevitable – government policies are not.

Polices such as these have been carefully planned for years prior to National winning the 2008 election and  have been methodically and unscrupulously executed with deliberate  intent to further an agenda of gradual “transformation” to a user-pays, low-tax, minimal-State economy.

It is shameful and sickening that Sir Jerry now laments that  “not all families could cope”. Once again, those at the bottom of the socio-economic heap are blamed for their precarious position. Unfortunately Sir Jerry, not all of us can live at the Governor-General’s residence at tax-payers’ expense.

Some families, however, can cope better than others,

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The NBR Rich List 2013 - The Rich Continue to Get Richer

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Perhaps equally galling is that even while our social problems worsen and poverty increases, people like John Key and Bill English continue to insist that things will, eventually, get better.

John Key in January 2008,

“This is a great country.  But it could be so much greater.  It has been so much greater. 

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

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National knows New Zealand has a great future if we embrace good ideas and put them into action. And my sense is that in 2008, New Zealand is ready for those new ideas – ready for a fresh start.

At this election, the National Party has the chance to harness the growing mood for change and march New Zealand towards a better tomorrow.

We know this isn’t as good as it gets.  We know Kiwis deserve better than they are getting.  We are focused on the issues that matter and we have the ideas and the ability to bring this country forward. 

National is ambitious for New Zealand and we want New Zealanders to be ambitious for themselves. “

Five years later, John Key, in December 2013,

“I am passionate about the future of New Zealand, and I’m in politics to make a difference for the better of our society.

By 2038, young people of today will be our leaders – whether it be in politics, business, academia, education, sport or arts.

They will guide the values, principles and direction of the country in years ahead.

One thing I’m sure of is while we will still be a young country, we will be a more confident multicultural country than we are now, a country that was built on a bicultural foundation. And today’s young people will help guide that future.

From the calibre and talent I see in our youth today, there is cause for real optimism about the years ahead.”

According to Key and other right-wing politicians, we just have to keep persevering with their policies.  So that, sometime in the future, things will “get better”.

Even as they get worse.

Getting worse since 1984…

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Hungry kids scavenge pig slops

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

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References

John Key:  A Fresh Start for New Zealand

Otago Daily Times: English confirms big ACC levy rise likely

Scoop media: Government delivers April 1 [2009] tax cuts, SME changes

NZ Herald: Tax cuts: High earners set to benefit most

Dominion Post: Petrol prices creep higher

NZ Herald: Budget 2010: Income tax slashed, GST to 15 pc

Dominion Post: Tax hikes disguised as `reinvestment’

Sunday News: Hundreds march over early childhood cuts

NZ Herald: Govt borrowing $380m a week

Scoop media: Vulnerable children at risk from Family Court fees increase

Statistics NZ: 2013 Census QuickStats about national highlights – Work-Unemployment

NZ Herald: Prescription fees increase

Radio NZ: Pharmacies carry debt for prescriptions

Otago Daily Times: Governor-General urges Kiwis to care for children

Radio NZ: Challenge to help vulnerable families

Fairfax media: Govt pays $30 million to Tiwai Pt

Scoop media: NZ’s first monitor of child poverty released

Scoop media: Wellington philanthropic trust helping with survey of child poverty

Scoop media/NBR: The NBR Rich List 2013: The Rich Continue to Get Richer

NZ Herald/John Key: Kids of today offer bright future for NZ

Fairfax media: Hungry kids scavenge pig slops

Additional

Facebook: Inside Child Poverty New Zealand

Facebook: Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG)

Scoop media: Inequality keeps rising, says UC social research expert

Previous related blogpost

A Blighted Future – the price of an apple

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A tale of contrasts…

19 February 2013 9 comments

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Once upon a time, there was a small nation at the bottom of the world, where the people were proud of their egalitarianism…

Then they f****d it all up.

To he, who has plenty, they gave $100,000. Not because he saved lives or raised families out of poverty. He got it because he was leaving a high-paid job after just nine months in employment,

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ACC pays $100,000 bonus to former chief executive

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From he, who has very little, they took away $3.73 (per week). Not because he did something wrong, but because a government department – supported by aParty in power that looks down on the poor – could.

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Jobless battler takes on Winz for a $3 cause

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$3.73. That buys a ‘budget’ loaf of bread and maybe a small block of cheese or bottle of milk.

$100,000 – buys an upmarket sports car or a good deposit on a nice house.

Who needs the money the most; Mr Stewart or Mr Holmes?

Welcome to New Zealand, circa 2013AD.

Are we proud of what we’ve become?

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National ramps up attack on unemployed and solo-mums (part rua)

24 September 2012 6 comments

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Continued from: National ramps up attack on unemployed and solo-mums

Yesterday (12 September) Welfare Minister Paula Bennett released this piece of spectacular “data” to the media,

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Full story

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It was one of those “Shock! Horror!” stories that the media loves – great headlines, not much critical analysis. When you read the whole “story”, the questions that are not answered scream out at you,

  1. What is full meaning of the statement “An actuarial valuation conducted as part of the Government’s welfare reforms shows the average total cost of those who had received a working-age benefit in the year to June 30, 2011 was $78.1b”?
  2. Why did the Fairfax reporter not cross-reference invalid and sickness beneficiaries to ACC policy of “exiting” clients onto welfare, where ongoing rehabilitation was not available? (ACC staff rewarded for cutting off clients – MP)
  3. How accurate is the report?
  4. How does this report help create 170,000 new jobs, promised by John Key last year?  (See: Budget 2011: Govt predicts 170,000 new jobs)
  5. What was the point of the report, when Bennett herself has admitted on TVNZ’zs Q+A,“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.” – Paula Bennett, 29 April 2012 (See:  http://tvnz.co.nz/q-and-a-news/transcript-paula-bennett-interview-4856860)
  6. Why has National spent $800,000 on this “report”, when previously  Bennett refused to undertake further research to gain information on child poverty,  “of course there is poverty in New Zealand. This has been acknowledged by the Government but it’s not a priority to have another measure on it” ? (See: Combating poverty more important than measuring it.)

It’s interesting that Paula Bennett rejected calls for further research to quantify the levels of child poverty in this country stating that, ” it’s not a priority to have another measure on it” – but feels it necessary to spend nearly a million dollars of our taxes on a study of  “an actuarial valuation” on long-term costings of  welfare.

If this doesn’t raise the hackles and outrage of New Zealanders then they are truly braindead.

Worse still is the timing of the realease of the Taylor Fry report.

The report – designed to paint unemployed and solo-mums in a maximum damning light – was released on 12 September.

A day later, this story became public,

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Full story

Listen: Listen to more from Bill English on Morning Report

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Thus far, that story does not seem to have appeared in any other media.

It has been quietly “buried” under a mountain of negative press releases from National.

This blogger has zero doubt that National was fully aware that Statistics New Zealand was in the process of releasing the data on job losses to the public. That story, plus ongoing redundancies and rising unemployment led National’s taxpayer-funded spin-meisters to pre-empt Statistics New Zealand’s bad news shocker, and instead release their own “Shock, Horror!” story.

Thus far, it seems to have worked.

But for how long?

Meanwhile, the Reserve Bank has released an astonishing report blaming National’s policies for low economic growth,,

Fiscal consolidation is expected to have a substantial dampening influence on demand growth over the projected horizon. This consolidation will, all else equal, lead to a lower OCR (official cash rate) than would otherwise be the case.

See: Govt austerity slows growth, keeps rates low – RBNZ

National fails to create the 170,000 new jobs they promised us last year, and blames beneficiaries for their incompetance? Noice.

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Addendum

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Yesterday, this blogger emailed Paula Minister on National’s recent bout of beneficiary bashing,

Date:   Wednesday, 12 September 2012 2:23 PM
From: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
Reply-To: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
Subject: Recent “welfare reforms” – Some questions for you.
To: “Paula.bennett@parliament.govt.nz” <Paula.bennett@parliament.govt.nz>
Cc: 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 ( DPT)” <joanna.norris@dompost.co.nz>,
    Kim Hill <saturday@radionz.co.nz>,
    “kate.chapman@fairfaxmedia.co.nz” <kate.chapman@fairfaxmedia.co.nz>,
    John Key <john.key@parliament.govt.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>,
    “tariana.turia@parliament.govt.nz” <tariana.turia@parliament.govt.nz>,
    Waikato Times <editor@waikatotimes.co.nz>,
    Wairarapa Times-Age <editor@age.co.nz>
Kia ora Ms Bennett,
 
Regarding your proposals to compel the unemployed, solo-mothers, etc, to undertake various obligations, or face having their welfare payments cut, I have some questions to put to you;
  1. Will recipients of Working for Families – which some call a “welfare benefit – also be expected to compulsorily enroll their children in Early Childhood Education and doctors? If not, why not?
  2. Will superannuitants who are caring for children also be expected to compulsorily enroll their children in Early Childhood Education and doctors? If not, why not?
  3. Will children of all families, regardless of financial and/or employment circumstance also be expected to compulsorily enroll their children in Early Childhood Education and doctors? If not, why not?
If  compulsory early childhood education and doctor’s visits for children of unemployed, solo-mums, and other welfare recipients is such a good idea that National is willing to enact legislation, and financially penalise parents for failing to carry out this policy – why are other parents also not being compelled to enroll their children in Early Childhood Education and medical clinics?
 
Is there a basis upon which only the unemployed who have been made redundant from companies, government departments, and SOEs, are being targetted? What is that basis?
 
If unemployed or low-income families are financially unable to enroll their children in Early Childhood Education, doctors, etc, what steps will National take to offer additional financial assistance?
 
Do you still stand by your comment that you made on TVNZ’s Q+A on 29 April 2012, that, “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”.
 
And lastly; is this propopsal – plus your other so-called “welfare reforms” – simply not an attack on the unemployed and solo-mothers to deflect attention away from your government’s inability to generate the 170,000 new jobs that Prime Minister John Key promised us at the last election?
 
I await any possible answer you might be able to provide to these questions.
 
Regards,
-Frank Macskasy
Blogger
 

PS: This correspondence is not to be regarded as permission, whether actual or implied, to release any personal details about me that the State might hold about me.

Her office has responded today (13 September),

Date: Thursday, 13 September 2012 9:06 AM
From: Natalie Hansen <Natalie.Hansen@parliament.govt.nz>
To: “‘fmacskasy@yahoo.com'” <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
Subject: FW: Recent “welfare reforms” – Some questions for you.

Hello Frank

The Hon Paula Bennett, Minister for Social Development has asked me to thank you for your email. 

Consideration is currently being given to the matters you raise and you may expect a reply at the Minister’s earliest opportunity.

Kind regards

Natalie Hansen

Private Secretary, Office of Hon Paula Bennett Minister for Social Development | Minister of Youth Affairs Executive Wing 5.5, Parliament Buildings| Private Bag 18041 | Wellington 6160

Telephone: +64 4 817 6815 | Fax: +64 4 817 6515 | Email: Natalie.hansen@parliament.govt.nz

Consideration is currently being given to the matters”  I raised?

It will be interesting to see what – if any – rational response Bennett comes up with. This should be good.

* Up-date*

Date:  Monday, 24 September 2012 3.57PM
From: “J Key (MIN)” <J.Key@ministers.govt.nz>
To: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
Subject: RE: Recent “welfare reforms” – Some questions for you.

Dear Mr Macskasy,

On behalf of the Prime Minister, Rt Hon John Key, I acknowledge the copy of your email sent for Mr Key’s information.

Regards,

E Tanga          

Ministerial Assistant/Records Officer           

Office of the Prime Minister

No further response  received from Paula Bennett’s office as at 24 September.

 

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*

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Sources

Scoop.co.nz: Combating poverty more important than measuring it

NZ Herald: Fate of youth gloomiest stat of all

NZ Herald: Benefit tally ‘not an excuse for hard line’

NZ Herald: Andrew Cardow: Bennett out-nannies Labour’s nanny state

NZ Herald: Govt austerity slows growth, keeps rates low – RBNZ

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ACC – A Complete Cock-up

22 June 2012 1 comment

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Revelations unearthed and made public by the Green Party, that ACC paid bonuses to their staff to ‘bump’ long-term clients from their books comes as no surprise. Only the most naive would still believe that everything was hunky-dory at ACC.

See:  ACC bonus pay for claimant cull

Faced with the revelations, ACC Minister, Judith “Hugs’n’Crushes” Collins belatedly admitted that ACC staff are paid bonuses, and tried to justify the payments as  “a good thing” because ‘it gets the clients back to work’.

Yeah, right.

Nice spin, Minister.

Then ACC’s departing chief executive Ralph Stewart chipped in, rejecting accusations that bonuses were made to bump clients of ACC’s books,

No one can leave ACC until they are rehabilitated. There are two clear steps. The rehabilitation step’s first, leaving the scheme second – it’s not the other way around.”

See:  ACC claimants removal motive denied

Let me put this as delicately as I can: bullshit.

This blogger is aware of at least one person in the late 1990s,  who was bumped from ACC’s books and onto a WINZ invalids benefit, after a work-related back-injury.  ACC actually paid for the client to be flown from Dunedin to Auckland, to be  “assessed” by one of ACC’s “independent” consultants.

Result; she was taken off ACC’s books and made a WINZ “client”.

If anyone wonders why the numbers of invalids and sickness beneficiaries have risen in past decade – whilst ACC’s long-term clients have reduced – wonder no more. This is where invalids/sickness beneficiaries have come from.

This is backed up by a  2007 report on ACC clients  removed from ACC’s books,  showing 46% were out of work, with nearly 25% on the unemployment benefit.

See:  Long-term ACC client list pruned

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WINZ Beneficiaries

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Actual MSD figures

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ACC long-term clients

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Source

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The woman in question received no rehabilitation and her back injury persists to this day.  “No one can leave ACC until they are rehabilitated” – therefore rings hollow in this blogger’s mind.

It is a bit rich for Ralph Stewart to be rejecting that bonuses were made to reduce long-term ACC clients – whilst at the same time   admitting,

Mr Stewart said long-term claimants have dropped by about 1200 since November, to about 10,400-10,500, but denied he was put in the job to move on claimants.

He said only 20 percent of staff incentives relate to rehabilitation.”

This is the same man who,

  • oversaw  ACC’s  accusations of extortion levelled against Ms Pullar and laid a complaint with the Police;
  • during the police investigation had listened to Bronwyn Pullar’s taped conversation of a meeting held between ACC staff; Michelle Boag; and herself;
  • and yet stayed silent at a subsequent media conference that the taped conversation actually proved Pullars innocence!

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ACC Chief Executive Ralph Stewart and Chairperson John Judge

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Aside from the very real possibility that ACC’s executives may be guilty of the crime of wasting Police time (see:  The Jackal: ACC’s false police complaint against Bronwyn Pullar), why on Earth should we believe anything that escapes Ralph Stewart’s mouth?

Ralph Stewart is not averse to mis-representing facts when his suits his agenda. He has already demonstrated that his word cannot be taken at face-value.

The evidence is compelling: ACC is mis-using Corporation funds to pay it’s staff bonuses to push long-term clients off its books.

Next question: what is Judith Collins going to do about it?

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Additional

ACC minister put pressure on bosses to make complaint – Labour

TV3 Sixty Minutes:  The Eye of the Storm

Gordon Campbell on the incentive payments at ACC

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= fs =

Citizen A – 14 June 2012 – Online now!

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Citizen A

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– 14 June 2012 –

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– Chris Trotter & Selwyn Manning –

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Issue 1: In light of the Bronwyn Pullar fiasco, is ACC out of control and does a culture of bullying exist to keep NZers needing compensation from accessing it?

Issue 2: As far as the Prime Minister is concerned, the backlash to larger class room sizes was just bad marketing. Should public education be worried?

Issue 3: The Maori Party this week voted for Paula Bennett’s welfare reforms and their leadership are reconsidering retirement – is there a future for the Maori Party?

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Acknowledgement (republished with kind permission)

Tumeke

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Why Judith Collins should be sacked

13 June 2012 4 comments

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In my previous blogpost,  Why Hekia Parata should not be sacked, I outlined three reasons why Minister Parata should not be sacked from her role as Minister of Education.

In essence, though her policy of increasing class size and cutting teacher numbers was unpopular with the country, she had done nothing inappropriate (that we know of) or underhand. Unpopularity, by itself, is a poor reason to sack any elected representative – or else we’d be having elections to fill vacancies on a weekly basis.

The same, however, cannot be said of ACC Minister, Judith Collins.

There has been some very dodgy dealings going on at the very highest levels and Minister Collins has been implicated in events that have yet to be adequately explained,

  1. Who leaked Bronwyn Pullar’s name to the NZ Herald?
  2. Who leaked Ms Pullar’s information to a certain right-wing blogger?
  3. What was right-wing activist, and National Party apparatchik, Simon Lusk’s involvement in this issue?
  4. Did Collins know that the report from ACC contained falsehoods?
  5. If the answer to #4 is in the affirmative, when did she become aware of the falsehoods?
  6. Why has Minister Collins not called for an investigation into the authors of the report?

Instead of acting decisively to get to the bottom of this extraordinary matter, Collins’ reaction has been to… issue demation lawsuits against Labour MPs Andrew Little and Trevor Mallard!? How does suing MPs,  who are asking hard questions, help clear up this murky affair?

It is clear to even the most partisan National supporter that ACC’s management was out of control and engaging in dubious activities. At the very least,  the Police complaint laid by ACC against Bronwyn Pullar appears to constitute an offence of wasting Police time.

Minister Collins appears not only to have done nothing to resolve this unmitigated mess – but appears to have some form degree of involvement, yet to be determined.

John Key has no option. He must stand down Judith Collins immediatly and ensure than any and all investigations include her office as well.

What we are seeing is the tip of the iceberg – and god knows what lies beneath the surface.

Judith Collins must go.

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Additional

Full list of Bronwyn Pullar’s complaints against ACC

Recording reveals public was misled over extortion claims

TV3 60 Minutes:  The Eye of the Storm

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= fs =

The Shining Path according to Dear Leader (Part Tahi)

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After a damning interview on TV3’s ‘60 Minutes‘, Bronwyn Pullar and ex-National Party president, Michelle Boag, left the viewer in little doubt that there were serious concerns surrounding ACC’s management and Judith Collin’s handling of the entire affair.

See: TV3 60 Minutes  -The Eye of the Storm

The following day (11 June) John Key commented on Bronwyn Pullar’s conflict with ACC by stating,

What is clear is that ACC deals with a huge number of complaints, a huge amount of data and there are always people who feel the system hasn’t treated them fairly and that is partly because the big dispute always comes around the definition of a pre-existing condition.

That at one level is at the heart of what sits with this Bronwyn Pullar claim.”

See: PM wades into ACC Pullar debate

Pardon?!

Since when did Dear Leader become privy to Ms Pullar’s personal file to such an extent that he could utter pronouncements that she had a “pre-existing condition ” ?!

Not since Welfare Minister, Paula Bennett, accessed and mis-used the personal files of two women on the domestic purposes benefit has a Minister referred to a private citizens personal details.

See:  Hypocrisy – thy name be National

Dear Leader’s desperation is becoming obvious when he becomes a self-professed expert on medical “pre existing conditions” and attempts to mis-use his position of Ministerial authority to try to dis-credit a critic of his administration.

Rob Muldoon would’ve been proud.

A word to the wise, Dear Leader – keep your nose out of other people’s business and their personal files.

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From “Nanny” State to “Natzi” State?

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Frank Macskasy Blog  Frankly Speaking National Nanny State beneficiary bashing

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National has been working overtime (do they pay their media advisors, strategists, and spin doctors overtime?) to deflect public attention away from their mis-management of the economy, and one scandal after another.

See Blogpost:  The wheels are coming off, and there’s a funny ‘plink-plink’ sound

Whether it’s Nick Smith/Bronwyn Pullar/Judith Collins/ACC; John Banks and Kim Dotcom; John Banks and Sky City; John Key and Sky City; Murray McCully and wasted millions of taxpayer’s money over the aborted MFAT re-structuring –  John Key has had one ministerial scandal after another. It has been  an eye-opening, horrendous (for the Nats)  litany of failure, stuff-ups,  and dodgy dealings.

With a majority of just one seat, Dear Leader cannot afford even one resignation and by-election. It could cost him his second term in government.

On top of scandals, there are the non-stop bad news stories, on the economy and social problems,

* Unemployment continuing to rise – now at 6.7%

* Paula Bennet admitting there were were not enough jobs

* Youth unemployment up from 58,000 last year  to 87,000 this year

* Current account deficit widens to $2.7 billion

* Jobs-driven migration to Oz at high of 53,000

* Wages continue to lag behind Australia

* $12 billion student debt a national liability

* Treasury’s Monthly Economic Indicators – Numbers reveal National disgrace

* Child poverty growing, and children scavenging for food scraps

And adding insult to injury, Australian businesses are coming to New Zealand to set up shop, to exploit our lower wages,

* Aussie firms sending business across ditch

It’s been one failure after another, and people are starting to take notice; National is falling in public opinion polls.

This blogger predicts that the bad news is not about to end any time soon. National’s reliance on the private sector to provide jobs and growth is based on blind adherence to neo-liberal dogma – not on any common sense ideas. Blind adherence to ideology, and wilfully dismissing indicators of continual failure, is a process that is ultimately futile and doomed.

Just ask the Russians. It only took them about seven decades to realise that their experiment in marxist-leninism was dragging the USSR backwards, not forwards. They abandoned it, and that was the end of that particular episode in human history.

Neo-liberalism – the reverse side of the coin of extremist socio-economic systems – is on the same path to doomed failure.  There are those who understand this perfectly.

Rightwing governments, such as National, are political dinosaurs – watching the asteroid of change  rushing towards us – but not understanding the implications of the revolutionary change that is impending and inevitable.

Instead, National’s party strategists, media advisors, and contracted publicity/campaign  strategists have embarked on a time-honoured, proven course, of deflection; beneficiary bashing.

The strategy involved;

  1. Assessing public attitudes towards welfare, beneficiaries, and solo-mothers
  2. Identifying key issues regarding welfare, beneficiaries, and solo-mothers
  3. Putting together a plan, complete with media releases and policy “drafts”
  4. Priming friendly media, NGOs, and political allies
  5. Release, and stand back.

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

The result was a two-pronged “blitzkreig” on the public,

  • “voluntary” contraception for solo-mothers
  • making immunisation mandatory for welfare recipients, by linking it to recieving state benefits

This blogger should point out that National most likely does not, for one moment, believe it’s own propaganda. People like John Key, Paula Bennett, et al, understand the statistics and realise that prejudice surrounding welfare beneficiaries is based largely on misinformation; anecdotes; and a fair measure of misogyny (demonstrated by the fact that attacks on solo-parents are always focused on solo-mothers – never  solo-dads).

They know, for example that the number of young solo-mothers aged 18 to 19 is 2.7% of the total number of welfare recipientsdown from 3.1% in 2007,

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Source

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It is also worthwhile noting the following fact,

Five year trend

 The number of clients receiving a main benefit at the end of March decreased from 266,000 to 256,000 between 2007 and 2008, then rose to reach 332,000 in 2011 before decreasing to 323,000 in 2012.

 Between March 2007 and March 2012, clients receiving a main benefit became slightly more likely to be aged 18–24 years and to be male.

 Changes between 2007 and 2012 which have affected the number of clients receiving a main benefit include demographic changes (eg an ageing population, people having children later in life) and changes in economic conditions.

Source

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Note the relevant points:

1. The number of clients receiving a main benefit at the end of March decreased from 266,000 to 256,000 between 2007 and 2008, then rose to reach 332,000 in 2011 before decreasing to 323,000 in 2012.

 2. Changes between 2007 and 2012 which have affected the number of clients receiving a main benefit include demographic changes (eg an ageing population, people having children later in life) and changes in economic conditions.

Point 1: the increase in welfare recipients  directly correlates to  “changes in economic conditions” – the global banking  crisis in 2008, and the resulting recession.

Point 2: The number of people on the DPB can be affected by “an ageing population”, as this Benefit can be paid to individuals caring for an elderly person, as well as children.

The overall rise in welfare recipients also correlates to,

  • a steadily growing rise in youth unemployment, from 58,000 last year  to 83,000 this year,
  • National’s  policy which calls for job creation by the private sector, and not by central government,
  • failed relationships, leaving the mother (generally) to care for children*, adding to those already on the DPB.

This is not rocket science. This is fairly basic economic facts which everyone understands fairly well.

Which then begs the question; what does contraception and immunisation have to do with an increase in welfare recipients that was caused, mostly, by “changes in economic conditions” ?!

The answer, of course, is nothing.

But then again, National’s proposals to “offer” contraception and “link”  immunisation to welfare payments has been a red herring from Day One, as outlined above.

National cannot announce to the country that ” all beneficiaries are diseased, reckless breeders“. That would be… crass. Not very subtle at all.

The more subtle way to go about vilifying and demonising a group in our society is to do it by innuendo.

Do not call solo mothers (but never solo dads) “reckless breeders”.

Do “offer” them free contraception.

Result: No direct association has been made between solo-mums and “reckless breeding” – but the unspoken  innuendo is there, hanging in the air.

Do not call beneficies “dirty and diseased”.

Do make immunisation compulsory for their children.

Result: No direct association has been made between beneficiaries and calling them “dirty and diseased” – but the unspoken innuendo is there, unsaid.

That is Phase One of National’s deflection strategy.

Phase One, I hear you say? There’s more?!’

Oh yes, this strategy is a two-fer-one deal. The unspoken labelling of beneficiaries as “dirty”, “diseased”, and “reckless breeders” is only the first part.

The second part is the predictable (and justified)  outcry from opposition political parties; NGOs; prominent citizens; bloggers (hullo!); etc, etc. This draws further attention to National’s grand strategy, giving it media ‘oxygen’.  In drawing attention to this vile policy, the public and media attention are drawn away from bad news stories about the economy and social problems.

As Business NZ CEO, Phil O’Reilly, stated on TV3 news tonight (13 May),

“… we have an economy that’s struggling.”

When is the last time we heard a news report on unemployment? The John Banks/Sky City/Dotcom/John Key/Sky City/ACC/BronwynPullar/Judith Collins scandal(s)? A stagnant economy? More New Zealanders fleeing the country to Australia? The worsening poverty crisis? The growing gap between income earners? Asset sales? Poverty-related diseases? Etc, etc, etc, et-bloody-cetera…

The bad-news media reports are there – but now displaced from page 1 of newspapers or lead-stories on TV/radio – and relegated as secondary or tertiary priority stories. Instead, those issues are now replaced with stories about beneficiaries, contraception, and immunisation.

National got it’s money’s-worth I’d say, on this propaganda exercise.

In case anyone still harbours doubts that National is really, truly, whole-heartedly not remotely  interested in the health  of beneficiaries, let me remind the reader of Labour’s attempt to remove fatty food-products from school tuck-shops, from June 2008,

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Full Story

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National’s response to this and other health-related concerns?

This is how much they cared for the well-being our this nation’s children,

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Frank Macskasy Blog  Frankly Speaking National Nanny State beneficiary bashing

Full story

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Frank Macskasy Blog  Frankly Speaking National Nanny State beneficiary bashing

Full story

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Frank Macskasy Blog  Frankly Speaking National Nanny State beneficiary bashing

Full story

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And true to it’s word, when National came to power in November 2008,

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking National Nanny State beneficiary bashing

Full story

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Which kind of proves how much concerns National has toward the health of the nation’s children.

Which is not very much.

In Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, the far right used gypsies and jews as scapegoats. We don’t have gypsies, and if the Nats tried demonising Jews, they’d find an Israeli crack-commando squad  knocking on John Key’s door  and asking, “can we have a quiet word with you, sunshine?”.

I guess beneficiaries are the next best thing.

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* Note

This blogger’s partner’s cousin, “Shannon”,  is now caring for her three young sons after her husband walked out on the family – youngest child was 18 months old at the time. He was having an affair and has  moved in with a female co-worker from his office. “Shannon”  is now a solo-mum, on the DPB.

She did not “breed” whilst on the DPB. “Shannon”  was married when she had her three children, and the family was on a reasonable income.  So what should she do now? According to some right wing nutjobs, should she euthanase her children so they do not become a “burden on the state”?

Whilst “Shannon” is now labelled a “DPB bludger” by National and it’s supporters, her husband is free to start another family with his new partner. If he walks out on her,  and any children they have together,  as he did with “Shannon”, he still avoids responsibility – and his new partner is labelled a “bene bludger”.

Are folks picking up a common theme here?”

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Media

NZ Herald:  Stuck for ideas, Govt preys on powerless

Previous Blogposts

Why did the fat kiwi cross the road?

You’ll have a free market – even if it KILLS you!

Christmas – would you like fries with that?

The wheels are coming off, and there’s a funny ‘plink-plink’ sound

Bennett confirms: there are not enough jobs!

No poverty and food scavenging here

And MORE beneficiary bashing!!!

Other Blogs

Tumeke:  And now, forced vaccination of beneficiaries & never ending detention – this week has been red neck heaven

The Standard:  Teenage dreams

Waitakere News:  Pike River will be Key’s undoing

The Dim Post:  Talkback bait

The Jackal:   Myth-busting rightwing prejudices

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ACC. Skycity. NZ Superannuation. What is the connection?

5 April 2012 3 comments

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ACC. NZ Super. Skycity.

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News tonight that Skycity donated $15,000 to Len Brown’s mayoral electoral fund in 2010, has rightly shocked many people.  John Banks, MP for Epsom, has reportedly received a similar amount  as a donation for his campaign.

See: Banks accused of undeclared donation

Whilst there is no suggestion, implication, or slightest hint at impropriety on either men’s part, it raises questions as to how far Sky City’s ‘tendrils’ reach.

A $15,000 donation to the Mayor of Auckland and to an Auckland MP raises eyebrows and is cause for concern.

This is important as Skycity is negotiating with National to build a new $350 million convention centre – in return for up to 350 to 500 addition gaming tables and pokie machines in Auckland’s casino. We’re talking serious coin here.

See: SkyCity would need at least 350 extra gambling machines for NZ$350 mln convention centre investment to be worth it, Goldman Sachs analyst says

This would require an amendment to existing legislation. It appears that National is seriously considering selling legislative change in return for a convention centre. Comments by Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce and Prime Minister John “Dear Leader” Key confirm suspicions that a deal in in the making,

When we were out announcing that we were doing a deal with Len Brown in Auckland…Len Brown knew as well that it will create 1,000 jobs in its construction, 900 jobs ongoing.” – John Key, 4 April 2012

Of course, no one is really sure what the terms of any “deal”  will involve. The negotiations are all being done in secret. The public is excluded from any possible debate – because we don’t know what is being negotiated by Key & Co.

See: As clear as mud

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Sky City’s involvement in the 2010 mayoral race is not the sole extent of their involvement in New Zealand society and economy.

According to the Companies Office, two government bodies have extensive share-holdings in Sky City,

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Source

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Which raises questions regarding why ACC and NZ Super Fund are investing in a company that, essentially, makes it’s profits from vice and causes considerable social problems and human misery with gambling addiction,

  • ACC works with people who have suffered physical and mental injuries, sexual assaults, and other highly stressful events in their lives. ACC legislation contains an ethical investment clause; Section 272/2/i, that “the Corporation’s investment statement, being a statement of policies, standards, and procedures that must include a statement relating to ethical investment for avoiding prejudice to New Zealand’s reputation as a responsible member of the world community“.
  • NZ Super Fund is also bound by legislation (New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Income Act 2001, Section 61/D) to undertake “ethical investment, including policies, standards, or procedures for avoiding prejudice to New Zealand’s reputation as a responsible member of the world community“.

As well,  ACC is bound by legislation not to engage in activities that might cause injury to people in the community,

Part 7 Accident Compensation Corporation
263 Prevention of personal injury
  • (1) A primary function of the Corporation is to promote measures to reduce the incidence and severity of personal injury, including measures that—

    • (a) create supportive environments that reduce the incidence and severity of personal injury; and
    • (b) strengthen community action to prevent personal injury; and
    • (c) encourage the development of personal skills that prevent personal injury. “

Arguably, gambling addiction  is a considerable social problem in this country. For ACC to be investing in a casino would appear to conflict with both sections 272/2/i and 263/1 of the Act.

There is nothing remotely ethical about investment in gambling. Just as it would be unethical to invest in arms manufacturing, tobacco and alcohol production, or prostitution. Whilst nominally legal, such commercial activities regularly result in death, injury, sickness, abuse, violence, and exploitation.

It seems that New Zealand’s ethical and moral compass is severely skewed when the State – representing ordinary New Zealanders – invests in vice.

The law is being broken, and government is doing nothing about it.

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Acknowledgement for “tip off” on ACC and NZ Super Fund investments in Sky City

‘Spacemonkey’

Previous Blogposts

John Key has another un-named source???

NZ’s 21st Century Growth Industries – Drugs, Gambling, & Prostitution

Drugs & Gambling – NZ’s 21st Century Growth Industries?

References

Accident Compensation Act 2001

New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Income Act 2001

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As clear as mud

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= That Was Then =

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Enter “John Key transparency” as  parameters in a Search Engine field, and you get about 820,000 results from ‘Google’ and 2,360 from ‘Bing’. (Does the latter seems to know something we don’t?)

Transparency was one of Key’s major “buzz words” for his election campaign in 2008 and last year. He mentions it often, as in a speech he gave Local Government NZ on 26 July 2010, where the word was used six times,

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"It’s worth noting here also that the world has changed in terms of the appetite for transparency around the way we spend money...
... Of course, transparency is as important as ever in election year – be it local body elections or central government elections."

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Indeed, Dear Leader, indeed. Transparency is very important.

We’re glad you’re so supportive of transparency in government. Now, let’s check ‘your score-card’…

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= This is Now =

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Regrettably,  National appears to have abandoned all notions of transparency, and has closed down several issues from public scrutiny.

Two issues, in particular have all but been shut down by National. A veil of secrecy has been draped over the Judith Collins/ACC scandal  and National’s negotiations with Skycity to amend legislation so that the casino can expand by increasing it’s pokie machines by an estimated 350 to 500.

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Full Story

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As Economic Development Minister David Carter revealed, on 20 January, National was in negotiation with SkyCity to extend  its licence beyond its current 2021 expiry, and  to increase the number of gaming tables and pokie machines at SkyCity’s Auckland casino.

The deal would go like this; in return for building a $350 million convention centre, National would relax or amend bits of legislation that would allow Skycity to expand it’s gambling operations. Some estimate an extra 350 to 500 pokie machines would be added to the casino.

Skycity chief executive, Nigel Morrison, was quite clear that without government concessions  to their gaming license, the proposed convention centre would be only a “breakeven proposition for Skycity”.

Marcus Curley, equity analyst for Goldman Sachs was somewhat more candid when he told Interest.co.nz,

More recently, media reports (NZ Herald, February 2, 2012) have pointed to a potential increase in machine numbers at Auckland Casino between 350 and 500. Any proposed changes to gambling legislation would be subject to a full public submission process under the usual select committee process. We believe the incremental revenue from additional machines and tables will be critical in achieving an acceptable financial return on the convention centre project. “

Meanwhile, community groups, anti-gambling organisations, Opposition Parties, and even conservative-moral organisations such as Family First have condemned any suggestion for Skycity to expand it’s gambling operations. The results would be obvious except to (a) the most naive (b) the most blind, that more gambling tables and pokie machines would lead to more problem gambling.

(By coincidence, the small minority  who support Skycity’s plans are National MPs and some vociferous right wing/free market extremists/nutcases. As I said, naive and blind.)

Quite rightly, on 12 June 2011, John Key stated categorically,

Any changes to gambling regulations will be subject to a full public submission process. ” – Source

Unfortunately, as we all know by know, what John Key says – and what he eventually ends up doing – are not always the same thing.

All negotiations between National and Skycity are now being conducted in strictest secrecy. Neither John Key nor Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce are publicly disclosing what concessions National is prepared to make to Skycity.

Outgoing Internal Affairs Minister, Amy Adams, has refused to release any information or reports on government negotiations, citing “commercial sensitivity”. This is a common feature of the gambling industry, as Statistics NZ  reports,

The social and economic costs and benefits of gaming are difficult to measure as official statistical information on the industry is limited. Detailed financial information is often hard to access for reasons of commercial sensitivity…” – Source

In December 1997, as public opposition to casinos grew, a moratorium was passed on new casinos opening in New Zealand.

End of story: no more casinos.  (Oh, yeah, right… )

What Skycity is intending – with National’s secret complicity – is to by-pass that moratorium by expanding their existing  casino. No new casino – just 500 more tables and pokie machines. Because gambling is now a multi-billion dollar industry, as this data from Statics NZ sadly shows,

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Source

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This is grossly dishonest. It shows that National is willing to assist a corporation to circumvent the law and public opinion. And John Key is more than willing to allow all this to happen in secrecy, without public scrutiny.

The most absurd aspect of National’s refusal to disclose to the public what is taking place, is their constant buck-passing and referral to “commercial sensitivity”.

What “commercial sensitivity”? Skycity is the only casino in Auckland. It has very little competition as there are no other casinos competing for their clientele.

So why is it “sensitive” for National to disclose it’s negotiations with Skycity?

How can  “any changes to gambling regulations be subject to a full public submission process” if we, the public, don’t know what’s going on?

Why this paranoid need for such secrecy?

What is John Key and National hiding?

In an almost prophetic article written by Gordon Campbell in November 2008, he said,

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The Key government has made it clear that public –private partnerships (PPPs) will be a major part of the country’s planning over the next decade. These projects entail a major commitment of taxpayer funds and public liabilities.

Before we begin down that track, what kind of commitments will the new government provide that ‘commercial sensitivity” will NOT be invoked to conceal from the public the details of these contracts ? Upfront, there needs to be a commitment to utter transparency in the structure and ongoing outcomes of PPP contracts – and the firms bidding for the work need to be told beforehand that their acceptance of such transparency will be a condition of them getting the work. In Canada and in Australia, it has proved extremely difficult for the public to find out just how PPP contracts involving hundreds of millions of dollars of their money are structured, and how the patterns of risk and profit will actually play out, over time.

Why, without a commitment to forego commercial sensitivity on PPPs, we may never know how well or badly the Key government is performing in one of its pet areas. Key has promised “outcomes, results and accountability” from the new Cabinet that is being sworn in today. The media is currently celebrating that kind of talk – without bothering its pretty little head unduly about how, and whether, they will be able to measure the walk. ” – Source

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Full Story

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In a move reminiscent of John Key’s use of the Police as National’s private para-military security force, in the Teapot Tape fiasco, ACC Minister Judith Collins  has laid a complaint with the Privacy Commissioner. She has also, allegedly, issued a defamation lawsuit against Labour MPs Trevor Mallard, Andrew Little, and Radio NZ. It is unclear, at this stage if she has actually carried out her threat of legal action.

It is this blogger’s belief that Collins has little interest in any actual investigation by the Privacy Commissioner, nor lawsuit against the two MPs and Radio NZ.

What we are witnessing is a cunning plan by the Minister. It is a plan so cunning that… she has all but succeeded in closing down one aspect of the ACC/Pullar/Collins/Smith/Boag/Slater/??? scandal.  She has successfully extricated herself from the issue by claiming some sort of “sub judice” principle,

Order Paper and questions

Questions for oral answer

3. Accident Compensation Corporation—Release of Personal Information

[Advance Copy – Subject to minor change before inclusion in Bound Volume.]

3. ANDREW LITTLE (Labour) to the Minister for ACC: When was the email she received between 12 March 2012 and 18 March 2012 from Michelle Boag concerning Bronwyn Pullar and the involvement of both in a meeting over a mass privacy breach first printed by her or a staff member in her office?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister for ACC) : Since this matter is before the Privacy Commissioner, it is not in the public interest for me to answer that.

Andrew Little: Does she stand by her statement in an interview on Radio Live this morning, commencing at 8.22 a.m., that “I know exactly what has happened in terms of my office and myself.”?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I stand by all my statements.

Andrew Little: In whose custody and control was the copy or copies of the email that was made in her office placed?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: That matter is before the Privacy Commissioner, and it is not in the public interest for me to answer that.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I want to hear Andrew Little’s question.

Andrew Little: What instructions did she give to any staff in her office, or any ACC staff member, in relation to the Michelle Boag email or any copy of it?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Since that matter is before the Privacy Commissioner, it is not in the public interest for me to answer that. ” – Source

Collins has been repeating, by rote, “that matter is before the Privacy Commissioner, it is not in the public interest for me to answer that“.

It means every time the media, an Opposition MP,  or anyone else asks Collins to respond to an embarressing question regarding her involvement in the ACC/Pullar/[Collins]/Smith/Boag/Slater/??? scandal – she has a convenient excuse to avoid answering.

In which case, one can only wonder what it is that Collins does not wish to  comment on?

Ignoring an inconvenient question by responding with “No Comment” used to be the stock response of politicians caught in the public spotlight and media glare. It often signified that they were keeping their mouth firmly shut to avoid further implicating themselves in whatever scandal was the order of the day.

But “no comment” became synonymous with “I’m guilty as sin”.

Hence why the spin doctors, media advisors, political strategists, and other sundry Party apparatchiks now have a new means to protect their wage-paying  Parliamentary masters: sub judice.

The process is  ridiculously simple;

  1. Lay a complaint with Police/Courts/Commissioners – or alternatively initiate  an Inquiry
  2. Deflect any questions thereafter by saying “That matter is before the – – – – “
  3. Then shut up.

Easy-peasy.

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So much for Key’s committment to “tranparency”. His government is as transparent as a muddy river.

When a government resorts to this sort of subterfuge, it’s fairly obvious that transparency has given way to furtiveness and secrecy. It indicates a government that is badly on the back-foot; vulnerable to criticism; and in a defensive mode.

It took Labour three terms to achieve such a state of hyper-sensitivity to criticism.

National has achieved it after only one term. Not exactly a position of strength and confidence in which to begin their second term.

It is the first subtle indication of a government on it’s way out.  God knows how they will end this term, if this is how they are starting out.

Not very well, I suspect. In fact, prepare for an early election or change of government.

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Previous Blogposts

Drugs & Gambling – NZ’s 21st Century Growth Industries?

John Key has another un-named source???

Other Blog’s posts

Citizen A online NOW – ACC fratricide, Ports of Auckland legal failure and convention center bribes

Fearfactsexposed: Government’s control of media sends a shiver down democracy’s spine

Additional

Listen to more on Radio NZ’s  Morning Report

Gordon Campbell: 90s Cabinet Gets Key Coat of Varnish

Statistics NZ: Gaming: an economically significant industry

Casinos safer than pubs, Key says

SkyCity would need at least 350 extra gambling machines for NZ$350 mln convention centre investment to be worth it, Goldman Sachs analyst says

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Weak Comments of the Week – 31 March

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This week, two comments by public figures vie for top placing as the Foot in Mouth, Weak Comment of the Week. Both are so unbelievably unconvincing that it speaks volumes about how these people view the public as fools…

Candidate #1: Tony Gibson, CEO of Ports of Auckland Ltd (POAL)

However, Ports of Auckland chief executive Tony Gibson said the back down was an attempt to reduce pressure on the supply chain, where the company was “acutely aware” that customers and businesses were hurting. ” – Source

POAL has listened to the wishes of the Court, as well the views of the Mayor and all other stakeholders”, Gibson said. ” – Ibid

Oh gosh, Tony, you think ?!

The port workers collective employment agreement  expired on 30 September 2011, and formal negotiations had been ongoing since 5 August 2011 – over half a year!

In that time, POAL announced an agenda to casualise the workforce ; contract out jobs;  workers have been forced to resort to strike action to secure their jobs and conditions; and the company  exacerbated the crisis with needless, expensive  lockouts.

Even the Employment Court found that the port workers had an “arguable case“.

In all that time, as weeks turned into months, and the intransigence of POAL Board and management worsened, importers and exporters were bleeding money,

Weekly trade worth around $27 million – and $90,000 to $100,000 a week for the port – will instead be rerouted through the ports of Tauranga and Napier from the end of the month.” – Source

Has it taken six months for Tony Gibson to recognise that ” customers and businesses were hurting “?

Nah, rubbish.

Gibson, Pearson, et al, have endured an embarressing bollicking from the Employment Court decision that their lockout was illegal; they had most likely broken the law (vis-a-viz the Employment Relations Act) in terms of bargaining in good faith; and that the Maritime Union had an “arguable case”.

Claiming to be suddenly concerned for the welfare of Auckland businesses and  that  ” the back down was an attempt to reduce pressure on the supply chain ” is disingenuous.

And just a little bit darkly cheeky.

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Candidate #2: Michelle Boag, ex National Party President

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This one is a ‘classic‘, and I think most folk will understand why I had a tough time trying to determine whether Gibson or Boag’s comments merited the most derision,

One of her advisers, anticipating that a confidential settlement might be reached, said it would be wise to include all the people who were aware of the dispute so that if any of them asked afterwards, Bronwyn would not be accused of breaching confidentiality. ”  – Source

The comment refers to Bronwyn Pullar’s letter to her insurance company Sovereign, seeking $14 million in compensation for a head accident she suffered ten years ago. (I make no judgement on this matter. Personal experience with other individuals has shown me that head injuries can create long-lasting mental and emotional effects.)

However, in Ms Pullar’s letter – which yet again was leaked to the media (TVNZ’s “Close Up” programme) – she listed twentyeight people  as members of her supposed “support/advisory team” including Prime Minister John Key, ex-Prime Minister  Jenny Shipley, National Party fundraiser Selwyn Cushing,  and ex-minister Wayne Mapp.

John Key has steadfastly denied any involvement in being  included in the list.

Wayne Mapp and Selwyn Cushing have admitted involvement.

Now, for Ms Boag to suddenly claim that ” it would be wise to include all the people who were aware of the dispute so that if any of them asked afterwards, Bronwyn would not be accused of breaching confidentiality ” – is simply bizarre. It makes no sense.  It is clutching at straws and offering the most feeble excuse imaginable to explain why Ms Pullar’s letter  required 28 high-powered New Zealanders to have their names included in her letter.

In short; bollicks.

Anyone with two inter-connected, firing, neurons would understand that listing 28 prominent individuals would be done for one reason only; to add weight to Ms Pullar’s claim against Sovereign Insurance. In effect, she’s saying, “Look here! I know all these High Ups! Don’t mess with me or they may do ‘XYZ’ to you! So gimme the cash and I’ll go away.”

That would tie in with allegations (unsubstantiated) that she requested two years’ worth of benefits from ACC “to move forward”.

So, no, Ms Boag. Your rational for why those 28 names were included in Ms Pullar’s letter is nonsense. More than that, it’s an insult to our intelligence.

If you’re going to bullshit us, can you at least make it convincing?

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Born to rule…

29 March 2012 4 comments

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Let’s play a guessing game.

‘ Who Dunnit? ‘

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1. The Story So far…

Bronwyn Pullar was having trouble with ACC – due in no small part to National’s current cutbacks and demands for greater “efficiencies” from state owned enterprises.

Ms Pullar is a National Party apparatchik and acquaintance of  Nick Smith, a National Party MP, and ex-Minister for ACC. She is also close to other National Party high-ups; Michelle Boag , John Key, et al.

Ms Pullar attends a meeting with ACC officials, to push her case. She also has in her possession, files mistakenly emailed to her by ACC. Attending the meeting as a ‘support person’ is one-time National Party President, Michelle Boag.

Who-said-what at that meeting is contentious – each party accusing the other.

Michelle Boag then sends an email to Judith ‘Crusher’ Collins, regarding the issue.

For reasons of her own, Ms Collins forwards the email to ACC board chair John Judge and chief executive Ralph Stewart.

Soon after, the email is leaked to the media,

Things came to a crescendo on Sunday March 18, 2012.  That morning an article by the Herald’s David Fisher confirmed not only that Bronwyn Pullar was the mystery recipient of the information but that at the support meeting where the negotiation occurred she was supported by former National President Michelle Boag.  The source of the information appears to be an email that Boag had sent to Collins.

 
The blogosphere kicked in.  Cameron Slater  had a detailed post up by 8 am, complete with historical emails and links.  He then posted a further two posts on the subject up that day.  I understand that Boag bet Slater’s father for the National Party presidency in 2002.  It is apparent that Slater does not like Boag.  He certainly appeared to be enjoying the difficult predicament that Boag had found herself in.” – Waitakere News

Who leaked the email?

The candidates are;

  •  Michelle Boag – the sender of the email and Bronwyn Pullar’s friend and supporter.
  •  ACC Minister Judith Collins – the recipient of the email who then forwarded it to:
  • ACC chief executive Ralph Stewart and his secretary, and:
  • ACC chairperson John Judge.

There is also an indication that Ms Pullar’s ACC case manager also viewed the email, as well as one of Ms Collins’ staff.

It’s fairly clear that whoever leaked the email did not forward it directly to the Herald. That would have left an  electronic IP-trail*. Instead, it was most likely forwarded to Cameron Slater, who would have ‘stripped’ all IP details with a simply C&P; and then forwarded it to the NZ Herald.

Slater is fairly notorious for being a useful conduit to leak information from National, to the media. Using him as an intermediary removes embarressing electronic IP ‘footprints’.

So – who would have used Slater in this manner?

In playing “Who Dunnit”, it’s worthwhile considering the three componants of any  nefarious activity,

  1. Motive
  2. Means
  3. Opportunity

Obviously, all parties to this affair have #2 and #3; Means and Opportunity.

It is #1 – Motive – that counts the most.

Who stood to gain the most by releasing the email?

Who wanted to protect his/her position the most?

Who was potentially most embarressed by the email?

Who has a relationship with Slater and could count on his discretion?

The following is honest opinion…

The last item is perhaps the most critical; whoever forwarded this email to Slater would have needed to be reassured that he would not betray the sender and land him/her in serious hot water.

Slater is National’s “asset”, doing their  ‘dirty work’ .  When the National hierarchy  does not want to dirty their own hands with mud – but still want to make public damaging information to embarress a political opponant – Slater is their go-to man.

Slater’s role in such nefarious activities is even more useful to National after Paula Bennett’s clumsy mis-handling of private information belonging to two solo-mothers, which she disclosed to the media. There is still a complaint pending against Bennett for abusing her position as Minister for Social Welfare.

Somewhere, sometime, a top National Party apparatchik would have instructed each and every minister and MP not to repeat Bennett’s mistake. S/he would have given firm instructions that releasing damaging information to discredit an opponant had to be done surreptitiously, using a Third Party.

That Third Party would be Slater.

That would give National “plausible deniability” when the sh*t hit the fan and fingers were pointed.

In my opinion, Slater’s role in this increasingly bizarre and sordid affair points to who leaked the email.

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2. Prior ‘form’…

As explained in my previous blogpiece,  Gerry Brownlee – “In the public interest”, this government is probably one of the leakiest in recent history. Leaking to the media and feral bloggers has become a ‘speed dial ‘‘  form of communication with the public.

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3.  Consequential Matters Arising…

Using Third Parties such as Slater, to spread muck has it’s inherent dangers.

Eventually, the entanglements and the copious volumes of information at the hands of  someone like Slater creates it’s own risks for his  “handler(s)”. Slater will have  considerable dirt on those who have leaked information to him. He  will have to be “kept sweet”,  to deny him cause to go rogue and threaten to disclose information  embarressing to those who have fed him material in the past.

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4. A Question…

Isn’t it interesting that John Key acted at near super-sonic speed to lay a police complaint regarding the Teapot Tape. He was only too glad to  allege to Police that his privacy had been breached by Bradley Ambrose.

Shouldn’t the  release of Ms Boag’s email to the NZ Herald on 18 March, disclosing Bronwyn Pullar’s name and details, also count as a serious breach of privacy?

Why haven’t the Police been called in?

The answer, I suspect, is fairly obvious.

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(* The means by which the email was leaked is mostly irrelevant. I offer one method – there are at least two other means by which a transfer of information could easily occur.

-FM)

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Previous Blogposts

Nick Smith

ACC Email Leak – Solved!

Nick Smith – #Rua

Gerry Brownlee – “In the public interest”

Other Blogposts

Waitakerenews: Was Nick Smith shot by friendly fire?

The Political Scientist: The banality of corruption

IDLE THOUGHTS OF AN IDLE FELLOW: Ms Boag points finger: Will Ms Collins resign?

Additional

National’s Boag was in ACC meeting (first media repeat disclosing Ms Pullar’s identity to the public)

ACC denies leaking information

Speculation rife over ACC leak

Boag angrily denies leaking ACC email

Computers focus of ACC privacy inquiry

Political round-up: Leaks and denials

Collins eyes ACC defamation action

ACC worker re-viewed leaked Smith letter (note; article’s Timeline  ‘March 20’  date should read March 18)

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Nick Smith – #Rua

28 March 2012 6 comments

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    “Tens of thousands of New Zealanders have had to wade through ACC claims. A fair chunk of those will have had to fight for one thing or another. They don’t get to email their old pal the minister for help, or take their case to several Cabinet ministers, or get meetings with senior managers, or lobby board members.

    Pullar shouldn’t have received any special assistance or access just because she’s well-connected. And clearly she did. Indeed, I reckon that happens quite a lot in this small country and it’s not good.” – Tim Watkin, ‘Pundit’

Indeed.

One salient point of Ms Pullar having to pull strings with various Ministers of the Crown is that in itself is indicative that matters are seriously amiss with ACC.

If  National supporters like Bronwyn Pullar are finding it tough to deal with ACC, they need to reconsider their ideology and not skirt around the effects of National’s hard-line policies which are affecting the Corporation’s customer-relations and impacting on clients.

One of the hopes of ordinary folk is that those who vote for the government-of-the-day (in this case, National) experience/suffer the consequences  of their Party’s policies. That makes everyone sit up and take notice.

For a National supporter  to attempt to avoid the consequences of National’s policies is not on. They need to “take the hits” like the rest of us.

Perhaps when sufficient numbers of National supporters/voters experience the impact of National’s right-wing policies, they may think twice when next casting their votes on Election Day.

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(Note: I take no pleasure in Smith’s errors of judgement. God knows I’ve made a couple of big mistakes in my past. It would be churlish of  me not to  wish him well for his personal future, and for his family.)

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Other Blogposts

The Standard: Confused? A guide to the letters & leaks in the Nats’ Civil War

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ACC Email Leak – Solved!

28 March 2012 4 comments

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Who leaked Michelle Boag’s email to the media?

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The Suspects

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Was it ACC?

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So, not ACC.

Next suspect,

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Not Ms Boag either.

Next suspect?

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So rule out Judith Collins.

Next?

No one? No other suspects?

In which case, the answer is obvious: the email leaked itself!

Bad, bad email!

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Gerry Brownlee – “In the public interest”

24 March 2012 3 comments

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Full Story

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Are we being treated as children by National’s Gerry Brownlee?

It certainly appears so, when he refuses to release information relating to the Ports of Auckland dispute. It appears that any information Brownlee is witholding is being done because it would be embarressing to National.

Let’s be upfront here; National leaks information when it suits their agenda.

The Nick Smith/Bronwyn Pullar situation is one example. Who leaked Pullar’s name and details to the media?

Who leaked Michelle Boag’s email, that had been sent to ACC Minister Judith Collins (and subsequentlyt forwarded to ACC)?

It could only have been one of two ‘players’ in this politi-drama; ACC or a Minister of the Crown. My money is on the latter.

And now, in the last 24 hours, we have the leaking of pay and conditions of MFAT (Ministry of Foreign Affairs &  Trade) staff to the media. Again, judging by the detailed nature of the information leaked, it could only have emanted from a Ministerial desk.

And in July 2009, we had the open release of  Natasha Fuller and   Jennifer Johnston’s WINZ details to the media, by Welfare Minister, Paula Bennet.

The condemnation of Bennett’s unethical behaviour led to complaints to the Privacy Commissioner (still awaiting resolution).

I suspect that the odium laid upon Bennett’s head over her abuse of Ministerial power served as a warning to other National ministers. Now, instead of releasing information openly, they now do it through  clandestine means, employing third parties such as feral bloggers.

It is obvious that Brownlee has something to hide – that is the only interpretation of his outright refusal to release information to the public. (Information, by the way, which we taxpayers have paid for.)  Brownlee is hiding information that is most like embarressing and could shed some light on the machinations of POAL management, Board, and ministerial involvement.

After all, if the information wasn’t potentially damaging to Brownlee and National – wouldn’t it  have served their purposes to have released it by now?

In fact, wouldn’t they have leaked it already?

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Related Blogposts

Gerry Brownlee – Diplomat

Finland, some thoughts

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Is this where New Zealand is heading?

18 October 2011 3 comments

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SeaFIC says New Zealand-flagged fishing boats cannot get local crews and they now want to import low wage labour as well.

Despite high unemployment it was hard to get New Zealanders to work on fishing boats.

New Zealanders did not like being at sea for weeks at a time, working in uncomfortable conditions and living in an isolated and enforced alcohol and drug free environment.

“It is not seen as an attractive work place for many people.”

SeaFIC says FCVs [Foreign Controlled Vessels] hiring Asian crews was no different to companies going to low wage countries.

“Many New Zealand businesses have exported jobs previously done in New Zealand to other countries with wage rates considerably less than minimum wage rates in New Zealand.”

It named Fisher & Paykel, Fonterra and Icebreaker.

Air New Zealand uses Chinese crew on its China service who are paid less than New Zealanders doing the same jobs.

Without referring to the Rena grounding it said most ships operating on the New Zealand coast are crewed by people from the same low wage countries used by FCVs.

It said New Zealand was seen in other countries as a source of cheap skilled labour and pointed to Qantas hiring New Zealand crews at rates lower than Australians would get. The New Zealand film industry was based on cheap labour, SeaFIC said. 

There were not enough New Zealanders to fill vacancies created if FCVs were ordered out.

The inquiry opened public submissions in Wellington today. It will hold hearings in Auckland, Nelson and Christchurch.

It was set up following a University of Auckland study into FCVs and media reports citing cases of labour abuse and exploitation.

Last year an aged FCV, Oyang 70, sank off the Otago coast, killing six.

The government in setting up the inquiry said they were concerned at the damage to reputation New Zealand was suffering over FCVs and allegations it  was a form of human trafficking.

SeaFIC say there is no evidence that FCV companies are failing to pay their crews according a code of practice which requires crews to receive the New Zealand minimum wage.

New Zealand’s reputation is not a function of compliance by the companies, but the result of public opinion.

“The intensity of comment in the media, whether based on fact or allegation, may present risk to international reputation.”

FCV crews do not pay tax or Accident Compensation levies.

“A tax paying, single New Zealand resident not entitled to any additional tax or welfare assistance would need to earn $37,650 gross ($32,760 net) to be better paid than a crewman on a FCV.”

Through FCVs, the fishing industry was transferring over $65 million annually to citizens of developing countries.

By comparison, it said, the New Zealand Government gave just $31 million to Oxfam and Volunteer Service Aboard to work in such countries.

SeaFIC admitted that their submission was not supported by all its members and amounted only to a majority view of fishing quota owners who use FCVs.

Source

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Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson says reports alleging the failure of some FCVs to comply with proper employment requirements, including crew working conditions, and vessel safety standards imposed by New Zealand had raised the Government’s concern.

We also acknowledge the recent concerns expressed by the Seafood Industry Council (SeaFIC) and others representing the interests of crew members regarding these issues,” says Ms Wilkinson. Source

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It seems that the Seafood Industry Council (SeaFIC ) has a novel solution to  Ms Wilkinson’s concerns:  instead of strengthening monitoring and enforcement of New Zealand’s employment laws and regulations –  SeaFIC wants to eliminate those ‘pesky’ laws for overseas workers, and import more cheap labour.

It’s akin to resolving the drink-driving problem in this country by simply eliminating blood-alcohol laws. Result; no more convictions of drunk drivers.

Sorted.

Yeah, right.

SeaFIC’s plea for importing more cheap labour is perhaps one of the most rotten and bizarre of neo-liberal ideology. It is not just immoral, it is a threat to workers throughout New Zealand.  It is also based on some rather strange ‘facts’ that bear no relation to reality.

The SeaFIC submission states,

“SeaFIC says New Zealand-flagged fishing boats cannot get local crews and they now want to import low wage labour as well.  Despite high unemployment it was hard to get New Zealanders to work on fishing boats.”

But SEEK.co.nz and Careers NZ indicate that this is not the case. SEEK had only two vacancies listed,

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Source

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Careers NZ states,

What are the chances of getting a job?

Job opportunities for fishing deckhands are average.

According to Department of Labour estimates, the number of fishing deckhands declined by about 9% between June 2006 and June 2011 – from 1,856 to 1,694. Despite this, opportunities arise regularly, as people often leave the job after a short time, especially on deep-water vessels.

Regular opportunities on deep-sea fishing boats

Although few new positions are being created, the demanding nature of the work and the long periods spent away from home mean turnover among fishing deckhands on deep-sea fishing boats can be high, and positions regularly become available.

Positions usually become available on a boat at the end of each fishing trip, though these are normally filled by at-sea seafood processors already working on the boat. Starting out as an at-sea seafood processor is a good step towards getting work as a deckhand on a deep-sea vessel.

How to increase your chances of finding work

Most jobs for fishing deckhands become available before the start of each fishing season. The season varies by fish species – for example, the hoki season usually starts in late July, so fishing companies look for deckhands in June and early July. 

Gaining a pre-employment qualification in vessel operations or seafood processing, or having experience processing fish onshore will also help your chances.

Fishing deckhand positions are not always advertised, with employers relying on word of mouth or expressions of interest to find new deckhands. So, a good way to improve your chances of finding work is to approach a fishing company or skipper directly, and give them your CV. Source

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Not only is there no mention of a labour shortage, but it is stated quite clearly that fishing deckhand positions are not always advertised, with employers relying on word of mouth or expressions of interest to find new deckhands.

Businesses that do not advertise for staff usually do so because it is unnecessary.

The website also states, that  “…opportunities arise regularly, as people often leave the job after a short time, especially on deep-water vessels.

A high turn-over does not equate to lack of staff. Other industries such as the fast food/restaurant industry can have up to  90%  turn-over in staffing. New employees are generally easy to find. This “churn” is often the result of staff moving on to better-paid employment elsewhere as well as other influences.

SeaFIC claims,

A tax paying, single New Zealand resident not entitled to any additional tax or welfare assistance would need to earn $37,650 gross ($32,760 net) to be better paid than a crewman on a FCV.”

This is contradicted by both Careers NZ and Talleys,

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Acording to Career NZ, fishing deckhands can earn from $35,000 to $85,000, depending on various factors, including whether the vessel is in-shore or deep-sea fishing. With a potential salary of $90,000,  SeaFIC’s concerns appear to be exagerated.

However, if SeaFIC is concerned that the low-entry salary of $35,000 is insufficient remuneration to attract new staff, the answer seems blindingly obvious: pay more.

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The wages mentioned above seem to refute SeaFIC’s claims.

If it is correct that “FCV crews do not pay tax or Accident Compensation levies ” –  that is a problem that should be addressed without extremist policies that negatively impact on local  jobs and incomes.

Perhaps the most telling aspect of SeaFIC’s comments is this,

SeaFIC says FCVs hiring Asian crews was no different to companies going to low wage countries.

“Many New Zealand businesses have exported jobs previously done in New Zealand to other countries with wage rates considerably less than minimum wage rates in New Zealand.“”

This, then, seems to be the underlying subtext of SeaFIC’s submission to the Ministerial Inquiry: to import low-waged workers to New Zealand.

The implications of such a proposal are stunning in their audacity – and probably the most subversive since Roger Douglas first began neo-liberal “reforms” in this country in the mid-1980s.

Effectively,  the SeaFIC proposal would mean that cheap labour would be imported into NZ and would quickly  replace higher-waged New Zealanders. New Zealand workers would be competing with workers from Fiji, Philippines, China, India,  etc.

The nett effect would be to drive down wages in this country.

Eventually, the SeaFIC proposal could be extended throughout the country. Workers from Third World countries could be employed for all manner of jobs. Once precedent was set by SeaFIC, it would be difficult for other industries not to follow suit.

This would be an attack on workers like no other in the history of this country. It would make the 1951 Waterfront Dispute  and the de-unionisation of New Zealand workers pale into insignificance.

It would be interesting to learn how the SeaFIC proposal could possibly  be contemplated or enacted by a National-led government, given that John Key has made raising wages one of his administration’s prime policies.

If you’re starting to wonder at how an organisation such as SeaFIC could be bold enough to make such a repugnant proposal  – re-read the article above.

There is no name penned to the submission.  Aside from the organisation name given as the source – no individual(s) have put their name to the submission.

I am guessing that none would dare.

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Top 5 companies

  1. Sanford Ltd
  2. Aotearoa Fisheries Ltd
  3. Sealord Ltd
  4. Talley’s Fisheries Ltd
  5. Ngai Tahu Fisheries Settlement Ltd

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Seafood Industry Council – Current Board members

Dave Sharp, Chairman

Eric Barratt, Managing Director, Sanford Ltd

Peter Vitasovich, Chair, Aquaculture New Zealand

Jeremy Fleming, CEO, Aotearoa Fisheries Ltd

Ross Tocker, General Manager Operations, Sealord Group Ltd

Andrew Talley, Director, Talley’s Fisheries Ltd

Daryl Sykes, Executive Director, New Zealand Rock Lobster Industry Council

Tony Threadwell, Director, Pegagus Fishing Ltd

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Related stories

‘Model’ fishers face grim charges

 

 

References

NZ Govt: Ministerial inquiry into Foreign Charter Vessels

Seafood Industry Council

Seafood Industry Council (SeaFIC) Foreign Charter Vessels Submission

Seafood industry fact file

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