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The secret closed trials of Soviet Russia. (And Aotearoa New Zealand)

9 April 2019 1 comment

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History throughout the 20th century is replete with authoritarian regimes using  closed, secret trials to persecute dissidents. Closed, secret trials give a veneer of legal “respectability” to an autocratic regime that wants to do away with its critics, but without giving too much away to the public how they do it.

Or what the defendant might say in his/her defence.

The British conducted secret trials with their “Star Chamber“. From the late 15th century to the mid-17th century, the Star Chamber was a weaponised judicial system to serve the interests of the powerful elite.

Soviet Russia under Stalin perfected the system into an ‘artform’. Trials were secret before public show-trials were made for public consumption.

Often many of these “state enemies” were military officers, party leaders, and functionaries who had fallen “out of favour” with the ruling clique or somehow threatened the status-quo.

Other dissidents – intellectuals, academics, trade unionists, scientists, etc –  engaged in nothing more violent than a ‘ war of words’ and ‘contest of ideas’ with the regime. Autocratic regimes are not noted for tolerating a contest of anything, much less ideas that threaten their legitimacy and monopoly on power.

Thankfully, nothing like closed secret trials happen here in New Zealand, right?

Bad news, folks. We are about to have one. It will involve evidence given in secret, in a closed trial.

And the defendant will not be informed of the evidence against him.

On 28 August 2017, Daily Blog administrator/owner, Martyn Bradbury reported that he has been targetted by a Police search into his banking activities following the release of Nicky Hager’s expose, “Dirty Politics“.

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Martyn stated;

I was applying to extend credit to keep the blog afloat and I kept getting declined.

The extensions of credit weren’t extravagant and the manner in which the declines occurred just seemed odd.

I had followed the Nicky Hager case closely where Police had sent out warrantless requests for information and had obtained that information illegally and had even written a blog myself at the time of how the process of obtaining that information by Police could damage peoples credit rating and had even hypothesised that the Police could abuse this by targeting activists they didn’t like out of spite.

I don’t know why, but I felt suspicious and so wrote to the Banking Ombudsman and asked for access to my banking files to see if there was any 3rd person interaction.

The Banking Ombudsman replied early this year, and to my shock, I found out that the Police had, as part of their 2014 investigation into Nicky Hager, sent every bank in NZ a request for information claiming ‘Computer Fraud’.

The material released showed that before I was declined on my credit applications, each one had been referred in the first instance to the Banks computer fraud unit because the Police request red flagged my account.

Once I had discovered this, I requested information from the NZ Police into why they had secretly included me in the Nicky Hager investigation. They responded that while that had sent the requests, they wouldn’t tell me why.

Following police refusal to disclose why they had been secretly investigating him, the stress took a serious toll on his mental health. Police had effectively convicted Martyn a “computer fraudster” without the usual trial process.

Martyn took matters further;

I sent all the material I had from the Banking Ombudsman including the Police request and response to the Privacy Commission and lodged a compliant regarding the Police actions.

The Privacy Commission have just finished their investigation and found that not only did the Police breach my privacy, they also breached my civil rights by effectively conducting an illegal search.

The Privacy Commissioner found in Martyn’s favour;

Earlier this year, blogger Martyn Bradbury made a complaint to our office about a request from Police to his bank for information about him. We investigated that complaint, and recently sent him our final view on the matter.

Among other things, we concluded that Police had collected his information in an unlawful way by asking for such sensitive information without first putting the matter before a judicial officer. Our view is that this was a breach of Principle 4 of the Privacy Act, which forbids agencies from collecting information in an unfair, unreasonable or unlawful way.

Our investigation, as with all our investigations, only addressed the facts of this case. We concluded that Police action in this case constituted an interference with Mr Bradbury’s privacy.

The “judicial officer” that Privacy Commissioner John Edwards referred to is a Court judge.

In November 2017, Privacy Commissioner John Edwards issued a guidance statement “on releasing personal information to law enforcement agencies”. The Commissioner said,

“A number of different areas of our work have demonstrated the need for better information to be made available to companies and individuals about the circumstances in which personal information can be released and used for law enforcement purposes.”

Martyn took that decision to the Human Rights Review Tribunal (HRRT). He said,  “they will process my complaint against the Police for breaching my privacy and civil rights through unlawful search. It’s not important to like or dislike my work, but I think we can all agree that allowing the Police to conduct secret investigations into activists and political bloggers that then damage their reputation negatively based on spurious grounds isn’t acceptable in a liberal democracy“.

Among the cases taken by the HRRT was a prosecution on behalf of businessman Matthew Blomfield against right-wing blogger Cameron Slater. The hearing for case was completed three years ago. (Blomfield won.)

On 12 June 2018, Police admitted liability in their October 2014 unlawful  search of Nicky Hager’s home. They made an apology and paid “substantial” restitution for considerable  harm caused to the journalist.

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David Fisher from the NZ Herald reported;

Investigative journalist Nicky Hager has accepted a police apology and payment of “substantial damages” after the unlawful search of his home during the investigation into the hacking that led to the Dirty Politics book.

The settlement revealed police had sought information claiming Hager was suspected of criminal behaviour, including fraud.

“Police accept that they had no basis for such allegations,” the settlement document read.

“Police apologise unreservedly for these breaches of his rights and have agreed to pay Mr Hager substantial damages and a contribution towards his legal costs.”

Martyn Bradbury was not so fortunate. Police refused to admit liability for their illegal search of Martyn’s bank accounts. He was forced to pursue his case further;

“…now that (Nickey Hager’s claim] has been finally settled, here is my statement to the NZ Police regarding my case against them for dragging me into this pus pit…

“You shredded my credit rating to every major bank in NZ by claiming I was a computer fraudster, caused me huge personal anguish and seized my banking records all for a case against Nicky Hager that you have now admitted you were wrong in proceeding with in the first place. I had nothing to do with hacking Cameron Slater’s computer and yet my case still sits in front of the Human Rights Review Tribunal despite the Privacy Commissioner recommending my rights have been breached.

It’s time to settle my case now.” 

…once the abuses of power have been settled, and the damages paid, THEN we should start asking how many other people have been caught out by this and who set the Police on this politically influenced investigation in the first place.”

In March this year, despite a massive caseload and under-funding that was hampering their mandated role, the Human Rights Review Tribunal announced they will finally hear Martyn’s case. The hearing is scheduled to take place in July and expected to last three days.

On 31 March, NZ Herald’s David Fisher published a story outlining impending Martyn’s case before the Human Rights Review Tribunal;

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Fisher also reported the extraordinary demand from Police that key evidence be presented in secret;

“Police indicate at this stage that it will seek to invoke the “closed” hearing process in relation to information relevant to this claim.”

According to Martyn, neither he nor his lawyer will be able to hear evidence presented at the HRRT hearing. In  emailed statements, Martyn told this blogger;

…The NZ Police intend to hold part of the trial in secret using secret evidence I am not allowed to see. Part of the trial will be open, part of it closed and held in secret.

My Human Rights Review Tribunal court case into how the police illegally seized my bank records as part of their failed Nicky Hager case  finally was granted a hearing to proceed and the Police announced that they would be demanding part of the trial is closed and held in secret using secret evidence I can’t see or challenge.

As stated above, this is all but unprecedented in Aotearoa New Zealand’s legal history.

A day after David Fisher’s story, Thomas Beagle from the NZ Council on Civil Liberties condemned the use of secret evidence in closed courts;

Let’s be clear about what secret evidence is. It’s not evidence that can’t be reported in the media, and it’s not evidence where the judge clears the court of all people not directly participating in the trial.

Secret evidence is evidence that the defendant, the person accused of the crime, is not allowed to see or hear, and therefore cannot challenge. The use of secret evidence makes a mockery of our justice system.

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How can we trust the people keeping the evidence secret? While the courts may assert their independence from government, to the defendant they’re just another part of the government apparatus that’s going to put them in jail without the chance to defend themselves.

The only other (known) use of secret evidence took place in early 2018 when a secret trial, in unusually strict security,  took place in Wellington’s High Court.

Thomas Beagle was scathing at the time;

The right to a fair trial is a key part of our justice system and this must include the right to see and test the evidence against you. It’s impossible to rebut evidence when you don’t even know what it says. It’s hard to even appeal when the judgement against you omits critical details that the decision relied upon.

Appointing an advocate and letting the judge see the information is all very well, but as far as the defendant is concerned it’s just one part of the state telling her that she can trust other parts of the state. This is no comfort when it’s the state acting against you in the first place.

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We’re told the secrecy is for “security reasons” but secret trials with secret evidence are a much more significant threat to our security and liberty.

We need to stop accepting the use of secret evidence in our courts, it has no place in a free and democratic society.

 

Judge Dobson, who adjudicated the original 2018 secret trial was equally disturbed at the secrecy, calling it “an anathema to the fundamental concepts of fairness“.

In his more recent article, Thomas Beagle listed only four laws in Aotearoa New Zealand that permit the use of secret evidence:

  • Health & Safety at Work Act 2015 has schedule 4 concerning the use of secret evidence in labour disputes with employees of agencies handling classified information.
  • Immigration Act 2009 where sections 33-42 and 240-244 are for the use of secret evidence in immigration decisions.
  • Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act 2013 has sections 101 – 113 for the use of secret evidence in offences concerning intercepting communications for the spy agencies.
  • Terrorism Suppression Act 2002 where section 38 is for the use of secret evidence in offences under this act.

It is unclear how Martyn’s illegal seizure of his personal bank records is permitted under any of those four Acts.

Even worse is the realisation that it is not Martyn who is defending himself against criminal charges. It is the Police who are on trial for mis-using their powers by breaching a person’s privacy without due regard to the laws of this country.

The police over-stepped and mis-used their powers of search and seizure. It was an illegal action, as Privacy Commissioner John Edwards stated with searing clarity, “that Police had collected his information in an unlawful way”.

Against this backdrop of over-zealousness at best and cynical illegality at worst, that Martyn is now expected to trust any evidence that the Police will offer at the HRRT hearing? Evidence that the Police will use to defend themselves? Evidence that Martyn will not be permitted to determine the validity of?

The Police misrepresented their case when they seized Martyn’s bank records. We will have no way of knowing if they will again attempt to misrepresent their case at the HRRT review.

This is absurd. It is also disturbing.

As Judge Dobson pointed out, the use of secret evidence in closed trials is anathema to the concept of a fair trial. As Thomas Beagle stated, “it has no place in a free and democratic society”.

So why are we, as a nation, permitting it?

On 24 March, this blogger wrote on the matter of the alleged Christchurch shooter’s impending trial;

Yet, conducting [his] trial in secret is also not a solution.

Secrecy breeds suspicion. It would give birth to a host of mind-numbingly tedious conspiracy theories. Salient information about his actions would be lost. It would create dangerous legal precedent.

If the alleged terrorist and mass-murderer of fifty innocent people has the right to a fair and open trial – on what grounds is the same right denied to a left-wing blogger who has committed no crime whatsoever? Remember, it is the Police on trial, not Martyn Bradbury.

This blogger will be sending this story to the Minister for Justice and Justice spokespeople from National, Greens, and NZ First.

But especially this story will be brought to Andrew Little’s attention. The secret trial of Martyn Bradbury is being done under the Minister’s watch.

Not a very good look, is it?

Time to put a stop to this Kafkaesque fiasco, Minister Little.

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Postscript

This story emailed to the following:

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References

Wikipedia: Star Chamber

Encyclopaedia Britannica: Purge Trials

Privacy Commissioner: Statement clarifying Martyn Bradbury’s privacy complaint

NZ Law Society: Privacy Commissioner issues guidance on personal information and transparency reporting

Justice Dept: IN THE HUMAN RIGHTS REVIEW TRIBUNAL [2019] NZHRRT 13

NZ Herald: Police pay Nicky Hager ‘substantial damages’ for unlawful search of his home in hunt for Dirty Politics hacker

NZ Herald: Huge delays at Human Rights Tribunal as cases pile up

NZ Herald: ‘Secret’ evidence in closed hearing – how police want to defend access of blogger’s details without a legal warrant

NZ Council for Civil Liberties: Secret evidence is unjust and should be banned

Radio NZ: Hearing shrouded in secrecy at High Court in Wgtn

NZ Council for Civil Liberties: Secret evidence unacceptable

Additional

NZ Herald: Hunt for Rawshark sees police rapped again for ‘unlawful’ search of banking records

Other Blogs

The Standard: Bomber Bradbury wins privacy complaint against Police (28 August 2017)

The Daily Blog: Bryan Bruce – Good Cop. Bad Cop

The Daily Blog: My case against a secret NZ Police investigation that breached my privacy and my civil rights (28 August 2017)

The Daily Blog: My statement to the NZ Police now they have settled the illegal persecution of Nicky Hager (12 June 2018)

The Daily Blog: The Human Rights Review Tribunal FINALLY will hear my case against the NZ Police ( 7 March 2019)

The Daily Blog: Secret police trials using secret evidence in NZ – welcome to my Kafkaesque nightmare (31 March 2019)

Previous related blogposts

The Christchurch Attack: is the stage set for a continuing domino of death?

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 4 April 2019.

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Democracy denied – Labour’s saddest failing

30 November 2018 2 comments

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Labour’s most tragic failing to date has largely flown under the media radar: to reinstate the right of prisoners to vote. Labour’s inaction is made worse in the knowledge that it would have taken little effort and very little cost to undertake.

In 2010, as part of it’s get-tough-on-crime rhetoric, National passed the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Act. It’s intention was clear enough:

The bill proposes to remove the right of a person serving a term of imprisonment of less than three years to register as an elector.

Previously, the Electoral Act 1993 had disqualified prisoners from voting those “detained in a prison under a sentence of imprisonment for life, preventive detention or for a term of three years or more“.

The Act was first proposed by National MP, Paul Quinn. Mr Quinn was one of National’s few Maori MPs at the time, and was struggling to make a name for himself in Parliament. In both the 2008 and 2011 general elections he finished second in the Hutt Electorate to Labour’s Trevor Mallard. By 2011 he had dropped seven places on National’s Party List and did not make it back to Parliament as a List MP.

The irony of Mr Quinn’s sponsoring of the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Bill should not be lost on anyone. As a Maori MP and Treaty negotiator for Ngati Awa, his Bill would target and disenfranchise a predominantly Maori prison population;

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Attorney General Chris Finlayson – one of National’s well-respected moderates and an uncommonly insightful member of Parliament – was scathing of Quinn’s Bill. In a report presented to the House, he attacked the Bill as “unjustifiably inconsistent”, “not rationally linked”, having “irrational inconsistencies”, “irrational and irregular”, and creating “irrational effects of the Bill … disproportionate to its objective”.

He pointed out several examples of irrational inconsistencies;

“The blanket ban on prisoner voting is both under and over inclusive. It is under inclusive because a prisoner convicted of a serious violent offence who serves a two and a half year sentence in prison between general elections will be able to vote. It is over inclusive because someone convicted and given a one-week sentence that coincided with a general election would be unable to vote. The provision does not impair the right to vote as minimally as reasonably possible as it disenfranchises in an irrational and irregular manner.”

Minister Finlayson concluded that “the blanket disenfranchisement of prisoners appears to be inconsistent with s 12 of the Bill of Rights Act and that it cannot be justified under s 5 of that Act“.

Writing in his regular on-line column, Gordon Campbell also pointed out bizarre contradictions inherent in Quinn’s Bill;

Hidden in the majority verdict though, is this gem of illogic : “The Electoral Enrolment Centre has proposed working with the Department of Corrections to develop a national procedure to encourage prisoners to re-enrol upon release from prison.” Got that? The centre-right faction on the select committee wants officialdom to devise a new bureaucratic programme to re-register prisoners all over again, once they’re out of jail. First, they want to treat prisoners as non-persons and deny them the vote – and then want to set up a nationwide programme to re-ignite the same motivation that they’ve just gratuitously chosen to dampen. If there was a prize for political stupidity and bureaucratic proliferation in the first term of the current government, this Bill would have to be a prime contender. Prime Minister John Key clearly needs to take heed of the verdict of his Attorney – General, and advise the National caucus to vote against this measure.

Quinn may have vanished from Parliament (and from most people’s memories), but the chilling legacy he left behind in that one piece of ill-considered legislation has caused on-going social harm.

Despite Minister Finlayson’s warning, National and ACT passed the legislation 63 votes to 58 against. The Maori Party and Peter Dunne – National’s coalition partners – voted with Labour, the Greens, and the Progressive Party (Jim Anderton).

Labour MPs were vociferous in their opposition to Quinn’s Bill.

Lianne Dalziel:

“We know why this bill is being introduced: it is called dog-whistle politics. There is nothing worse in this House than to see matters of substance raised in a debate such as this. I take the strongest possible exception to using an amendment to electoral law to argue this dog-whistle position to attack people who are in prison at a particular time.

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I say that getting marginalised people in our society on to the electoral roll is one of the hardest things that we have to confront when we try to sign up people during the election campaign. Every member of this House will know how much resource we put into the Electoral Commission to make sure that people are on the roll in the lead-up to both the local-body elections, which take place this year, and the general election, which takes place next year.”

Charles Chauvel:

“The Electoral (Disqualification of Convicted Prisoners) Amendment Bill is nothing more than the latest in a long line of dog-whistle attempts to make the Government, the National Party, and its ACT Party fellow traveller over there seem tough on crime. This House should be gravely concerned that some of its members can come in here and propose legislation for those reasons, without any regard for its practical implications. Those members would place political image above fairness, above the value our society places on the civic duty of voting, above the effectiveness of our electoral roll, and above prisoners’ reintegration into society upon release…

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This bill has no intention other than to make the Government look tough on crime.”

Chris Hipkins:

“This bill will disenfranchise them from society even further.

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We spend so much time getting people on to the electoral roll in the first place, and some of the people who are the most difficult to get on to the roll in the first place are the people who are disenfranchised from our community. We struggle to get the people who are more likely to go to prison on to the electoral roll in the first place, yet this bill removes them from the electoral roll. It is not justified. It will further marginalise them from our community.

Tough on crime rhetoric is the easy part. Dealing with the underlying social causes of criminal offending, the disenfranchisement from society, and the total feeling of anger that exists within many of the people in our prisons is something we have to think long and hard about. We do not do a good job of this, because the political rhetoric is too hard on any side of this political debate. It is very difficult to deal with this issue in a way that will look good on the news and will make people likely to vote for us. Yes, there are votes in being seen to be hard on criminals. There are very few votes, unfortunately, in dealing with the root causes of crime and criminal offending, because they are not easy and they do not fit on a bumper sticker.”

Clayton Cosgrove:

“… The truth about this bill, which every person who came before the select committee—including David Farrar, although he supported it—agreed on, is that it will do nothing to help victims. This bill will do nothing to stop recidivism. It will do nothing to stop reoffending, and there is no evidence that it will. This bill will do nothing to change prisoner behaviour. Every submitter bar the member Paul Quinn admitted that this bill was simply a political pamphlet.”

Grant Robertson:

“This kind of legislation is the simple stuff, the meaningless stuff. The hard work of the criminal justice area in trying to make sure that we rehabilitate people and reintegrate them into society is not what we hear from National. 

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The true test of being committed to democracy is to say that even if people have committed some of these crimes, we still fundamentally believe that they have a human right to vote. If we want people to rehabilitate and reintegrate into society, we need to give them a chance to be involved in society. Virtually every person who is covered by the extension of this law, the 2,000 or 3,000 people who are sentenced each year to less than 3 years in prison, will end up back in society. We are not talking here—though with the mistake that National has made, it almost is—about people sentenced to life imprisonment. That is already in the law. Every single one of the people to whom this extension applies will be back in society. What we should be doing is working out how we reintegrate those people into society and how we contribute to rehabilitation. Instead, we have petty, spiteful legislation that does nothing to make our communities safer.”

Carmel Sepuloni:

“I look at the Electoral (Disqualification of Convicted Prisoners) Amendment Bill and think that it is so incredibly trivial and insignificant. The bill will bring about no change, and no positive repercussions, for New Zealand society.

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The one question that I have to ask when I look at this bill, given that it is a law and order bill, which has gone through the Law and Order Committee, is whether this bill will act as a deterrent to crime. I think the answer is actually no. I cannot envisage any person who is incarcerated, or any person who is on the verge of committing a crime, thinking: “Oh, I had better not commit this burglary; otherwise I will go to prison and lose my right to vote!”. The reality is that for all of us in this House to vote is a right, and for many other people around the world it is an absolute privilege to have the right to vote. But I assume that many of the people who are incarcerated may not actually see voting as being one of the priorities in their lives. In fact, I wonder how many of those people who are incarcerated who actually exercise the right to vote have actually felt a sense of loss when they have been incarcerated and lost that right to vote. This bill seems rather insignificant and almost a complete waste of time in regard to what that member, Paul Quinn, was attempting to do.

When we look at whether it could act as a deterrent to crime, we see that obvious common-sense dictates that actually, no, it probably will not.”

Then-Maori Party MP,  Hone Harawira, was no less scathing of the Bill;

“Tēnā koe, Mr Assistant Speaker. Huri rauna kia ora tātou katoa e te Whare. This bill, the Electoral (Disqualification of Convicted Prisoners) Amendment Bill, to remove the right of anyone in jail to vote is a direct attack on the democratic freedoms of people we should be trying to help. It is an assault on the intelligence of ordinary New Zealanders. It is another in a raft of misbegotten, panicked pieces of legislation that are driving this country over the precipice into the mindless depths of right-wing insanity.”

Green MP, David Clendon, seemingly had to remind our elected representatives – especially those in government – that voting was core and fundamental to democracy;

“The right to vote, the commission said, is considered fundamental to representative democracies… It [the Electoral (Disqualification of Convicted Prisoners) Amendment Bill] is at odds with the concept of democracy.”

In 2014, “jailhouse lawyer”, Arthur Taylor, challenged the National government’s law in a Court of Law.

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In July 2015, the High Court found in Taylor’s favour. Justice Heath reasserted Attorney General Finlayson’s determination that banning prisoners from voting was  inconsistent with the Bill of Rights and unjustified;

“The purpose of a formal declaration is to draw to the attention of the New Zealand public that Parliament has enacted legislation inconsistent with a fundamental right.”

In 2017, the Court of Appeal also determined that the law was unfair, unjustified, and inconsistent with the Bill of Rights.

National refused point blank to repeal the law. Said Bill English;

“If they raise significant policy issues we’d look at them, but up until now we haven’t seen a reason to change the law.”

Then came the election last year and the National government was swept away. A Labour-led Coalition could finally undo a bad law.

Or so you would think.

On 9 November, after another victory by Arthur Taylor in the Supreme Court, Coalition Justice Minister, Andrew Little issued a response;

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Minister Little said;

“It’s not that much of a priority.”

It’s. Not. That. Much. Of. A. Priority.

Think about that for a moment: “It’s not that much of a priority.”

According to Minister Little, the very foundation of democracy – voting – is “not that much of a priority.”

Attempting to re-engage a marginalised sector of our society by encouraging civic responsibility is “not that much of a priority.”

In the year that is the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand –

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– voting by a disenfranchised, disengaged section of our society is “not that much of a priority.”

Overturning a bad law “not that much of a priority.”

I sincerely hope that Minister Little did not understand the full implications and that he mis-spoke. Because when an elected representative declares that righting a wrong – such as citizens stripped of their vote – is “not that much of a priority”, they are demonstrating a callous disregard for our democratic traditions that defies understanding.

Clendon, Harawira, and others were correct to describe Quinn’s Bill as a direct attack on the democratic freedoms of people. The right to vote is the most basic cornerstone of a true, participatory democracy. Nothing else comes close to the critical importance of the universal franchise.

Only in countries where a notional facade of democracy exists in name only, is the right to vote regarded with similar cavalier disregard. In both Russia and the United States, vested interests have actively undermined participatory democracy. In China, voting is limited to one party. Britain is still locked in a feudal-era First Past the Post system.

When the National government’s own Attorney General – Chris Finlayson – described the removal of the right for prisoners to vote as “unjustifiably inconsistent with the electoral rights affirmed by s12 of the Bill of Rights Act“, then we are left with only one conclusion: it was bad law from the start.

Minister Little was completely and utterly wrong when he said it was “not that much of a priority.”

It should be the highest priority for any nation professing to be a participatory democracy.

If the former National government could abrogate workers rights by changing their status from employees to “contractors”, with an odious piece of legislation passed in just 48 hour from First Reading to Royal Assent – then it should not be an insurmountable task to abolish the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Act before the house rises this year.

In fact, by next Friday would be good.

Minister Little, tear down this bad law.

Minister Little, do it now.

Make it a priority.

 

 

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References

Legislation: Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Act 2010

Ministry of Justice: Report of the Attorney-General under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 on the Electoral (Disqualification of Convicted Prisoners) Amendment Bill

Parliament: Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Bill

Wikipedia: Paul Quinn

NZ Herald: Cross-claim endangers settlement

Department of Corrections: Prison facts and statistics – September 2011

Parliament: Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Bill — Third Reading

Parliament: Electoral (Disqualification of Convicted Prisoners) Amendment Bill — First Reading

Parliament: Parliament: Electoral (Disqualification of Convicted Prisoners) Amendment Bill — Second Reading

TVNZ: Jailed bush lawyer asks High Court for right to vote

Radio NZ: Prison vote law breaches human rights – judge

Mediaworks/Newshub:  No voting in prison ‘unfair’ – Court of Appeal

Radio NZ: Prisoners’ right to vote currently not a priority for Parliament – Little

Ministry for Culture & Heritage: Suffrage 125

Legislation: Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Act 2010 (aka “Hobbit Law”)

Acknowledgement

Scoop media: Martin Doyle Cartoon – Voting sucks

Additional

Radio NZ: Protest over prison voting ban

Other Blogs

The Daily Blog: Prisoner Rights Blogger wins for Human Rights

Green:  Prisoner voting ban needs to be repealed

The Green Blog: Prisoner voting disqualification and the Bill of Rights Act

Public Address: Fact-checking Parliament – more prisoners can vote than they think

Werewolf: Robbing the Vote

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It’s a measure of the times we live in that neither the media nor New Zealanders in general seem worried that parliament can ‘remove’ rights supposedly guaranteed under our Bill of Rights. Prisoners are themselves victims of a serious constitutional crime. Given our noble history of women’s suffrage, it’s amazing no women have spoken up on behalf of women prisoners.” – Martin Doyle, cartoonist, 29 January 2015

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 November 2018.

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Kelvin Davis – an unforeseen disaster on 23 September?

9 August 2017 2 comments

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August 1 began a new chapter in Labour’s 101 year history: the sudden – though not wholly unexpected – appointment of Jacinda Ardern and Kelvin Davis as Leader and Deputy Leader, respectively, of the NZ Labour Party;

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Jacinda Ardern and Kelvin Davis

(acknowledgement: Fairfax media)

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It marks an end to Andrew Little’s brief reign as Leader. Little’s decision to step down –  the mark of an honourable man who put Party before personal ambition.

The recent TV1, TV3, and Labour’s own internal polling sealed Little’s political doom.

Labour’s new Deputy Leader, Kelvin Davis,  is an Electorate MP for Te Tai Tokerau. The vast Maori electorate stretches from Auckland to Cape Reinga;

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Davis won the seat from Mana Movement leader, Hone Harawira in 2014, after a ‘stitch-updeal between National, Labour, and NZ First;

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The deal was organised to rid Parliament of the one true far-left political party, and it was executed with callous efficiency. Davis won the seat with 743 votes.

But that’s history.

What is pertinent is a point that few people have realised – Kelvin Davis’ precarious position as Labour’s Deputy Leader.

At Number Two on the Labour Party list, Ms Ardern’s chances of returning to Parliament is  all but guaranteed.

The new Deputy Leader – Kelvin Davis – has no such guarantee. His “life boat” – a high placing on the Party List – does not exist.

On 21 March this year, Labour announced that’s its candidates for the seven Maori seats would not have a place on Labour’s Party List;

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The decision to stand candidates in electorates-only was a strategic move by Labour. Labour wanted Maori voters to give their Electorate Vote to Labour candidates and not split their votes between Labour and the Maori Party. (At only 1.3% in the last election, the Maori Party was way below the  5% MMP threshold and the Party Vote was of secondary use to them. They needed to win an Electorate seat to gain representation in Parliament.)

This was a calculated plan to oust the Maori Party from Parliament using Labour’s Maori candidates in an “all-or-nothing” gambit. Interestingly, to this blogger’s knowledge, none of Labour’s pakeha candidates were asked to make a similar decision to stand in an Electorate only.

This “cunning plan” may have backfired if the recent accord between the Mana Movement and the Maori Party  allows Hone Harawira to regain Te Tai Tokerau;

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In 2014, had Maori Party supporters given their electorate vote to Hone Harawira, Davis would have lost by a decisive 1,836 votes;

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Labour could yet end up with another (deputy) leadership vacancy. Embarrassing.

On the positive side, if Andrew Little’s sacrifice for the greater good pays dividends on 23 September, it will signal the end of National’s current reign – and begin the slow unpicking of neo-liberalism. The times, they are a-changin’ and the winds against globalisation/neo-liberalism are gaining strength.

Labour’s up-coming announcement on tertiary education may put the ‘frighteners’ into the neo-libs if it is as bold as I hope it is.

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References

Wikipedia: NZ Labour Party

Radio NZ:  As it happened – Jacinda Ardern takes charge as Labour leader

Wikipedia: Te Tai Tokerau

Maori TV: Key wants Harawira to lose Tai Tokerau seat

NZ Herald: Hone’s call to arms after Winston backs Kelvin

Wikipedia: Te Tai Tokerau – 2014 Election

NZ Labour Party: List

Fairfax media:  Labour’s Maori MPs opt to go ‘electorate only’ and not seek list places

Wikipedia: Maori Party – 2014 Election

Fairfax media:  Hone Harawira gets clear Te Tai Tokerau run for Mana not running against Maori Party in other seats

Additional

NZ Herald:  Andrew Little’s full statement on resignation

Other Blogs

No Right Turn:  The big gamble

The Jackal:  Andrew Little is the devil

The Standard:  Ok, I’m pissed off with the Labour caucus again. Time to switch

The Standard: Thank you Andrew – go well Jacinda!

The Standard: Helen Clark burns Matthew Hooton

The Standard: So NZ Labour wanted the Headlines.

The Standard: Greens and the Māori Party on the new Labour leaders

Werewolf:  Gordon Campbell on the Labour leadership change

Previous related blogposts

No More. The Left Falls.

 

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 2 August 2017.

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= fs =

Rebuilding the Country we grew up in – Little’s Big Task ahead

17 July 2016 1 comment

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1949-state-house-in-taita b

 

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2007: John Key says Housing is in crisis

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On 20 August 2007, National’s new leader, John Key, made a stirring speech to the  Auckland branch of the New Zealand Contractors Federation. In it, he lambasted the then-Clark-led Labour government;

“Over the past few years a consensus has developed in New Zealand. We are facing a severe home affordability and ownership crisis. The crisis has reached dangerous levels in recent years and looks set to get worse.

This is an issue that should concern all New Zealanders. It threatens a fundamental part of our culture, it threatens our communities and, ultimately, it threatens our economy.

The good news is that we can turn the situation around. We can deal with the fundamental issues driving the home affordability crisis. Not just with rinky-dink schemes, but with sound long-term solutions to an issue that has long-term implications for New Zealand’s economy and society.

National has a plan for doing this and we will be resolute in our commitment to the goal of ensuring more young Kiwis can aspire to buy their own home.”

(Hat-tip: Bert)

In 2007, Key described “home affordability and ownership” as a “crisis”.

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2016: John Key says Housing is a more like a “challenge”

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Almost exactly five years, one of my first blogposts involved the looming housing crisis. On 3 August, 2011, I wrote;

The shortage of state housing is a serious matter, though. This critical problem of decent, affordable housing is not helped by the fact that the Fourth National government (1996-1999) sold around 13,000 State Houses in the 1990s.  These properties were supposedly made available to tenants – but actually went mostly to property speculators (who later sold them for tax-free capital gains).

When Labour was elected to power in November 1999, they immediatly placed a moratorium on the sale of state housing. According to HNZ, they currently ” own or manage more than 66,000 properties throughout the country, including about 1,500 homes used by community groups”

This government has re-instated the sale of state houses.  It does not take rocket science to work out that selling of state housing reduces the availability of housing stock.   Housing Minister Phil Heatley said that,

“… about 40,000 of the 69,000 state house stock will be available for sale,”  but then added,  “that the vast majority of tenants do not earn enough to be required to pay market rent means relatively few will be in a position to buy“. (Source.)

There seems to be nothing stopping tenants from buying their state house and immediatly on-selling it to a Third Party.

Is it any wonder that the shortage of state housing is not being addressed in any meaningful way?

That was five years ago.

The housing crisis appears to have only recent dawned on National ministers. As Social Housing Minister, Paula Bennett  said on 25 May this year;

“Certainly what we’ve seen is it has been more acute in the last two years.”

It is most certainly not a recent problem.  It is only “new” if you are a well-paid National minister, living in a tax-payer-funded residence.

In my blogpost five years ago, I offered a solution to the housing crisis confronting this country;

Solution: build more houses.

This may seem like a ‘flippant’ answer to a desperate problem – but it is not.

The building of 10,000 new state houses may seem an outrageously expensive idea.  But it would address at least three pressing problems in our economy and society;

1. Persistantly high unemployment.

2. Low growth.

3. Inadequate housing for the poorest of our fellow New Zealanders.

At an average housing cost of $257,085 (calculated at DBH website @ $1,773/m for a 145 square metre, small house), the cost (excluding land) is $2.57 billion dollars,  including GST (approximate estimate).

By contrast, the October 2010 tax cuts gave $2.5 billion to the top 10% of income earners.

For roughly the cost of last year’s tax cuts, we could have embarked on a crash building-programme to construct ten thousand new dwellings in this country. …]

It would be a boom-time, as two and a half billion dollars was spent on products and services.

Would it actually end up costing taxpayers $2.57 billion dollars? The answer is ‘no’.  Government would actually re-coup much of that initial outlay through;

  • gst
  • paye
  • other taxes
  • reduced spending on welfare for unemployed
  • and investment re-couped by rent paid for new rentals

Would it work?

Yes, it would.  An NZIER survey expects a strong pick-up in 2013 when the rebuilding phase hits full-flight, with 3.9% annual growth predicted from a previous forecast of 2.6%.

[…]

There is no reason why a determined government cannot adopt a bold programme for economic growth.

Instead of borrowing to pay for tax cuts we can ill afford, we should be investing in jobs.  The rest will almost invariably take care of itself.

We have the resources. We have the money. We have the demand for new housing. What else is missing?

The will to do it.

National has been half-hearted in it’s will to address this crisis. It has implemented a few lukewarm, ad hoc measures, but they are five years too late and too little.

Some of National’s announcements have been panic-driven;

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Paula Bennett announces plan to offer $5,000 to homeless Aucklanders - interest

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At other times, National has indulged in it’s favourite past-time of “blame-gaming”;

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housing crisis - national - blame game

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By 2016, under Key’s watch, homelessness has increased; housing affordability has worsened, and home ownership has plummeted. Our esteemed Dear Leader no longer calls it a “crisis“. It is now just a “challenge“;

“I don’t think it’s a crisis, but prices are going up too quickly.”

“There are plenty of challenges in housing, and there have been for quite some time.”

Make no mistake, this is a direct consequence of National’s laissez-faire approach and an opportunistic reliance on mass immigration to keep the economy afloat at a time when dairying is no longer the main driver of economic growth.

By any definition, National’s “hands off” approach to housing – whether social housing for the poor or affordable housing for the Middle Classes – has been an abject failure.

The mood for change has never been as palpable since the dying days of the Shipley-led National government in 1999.

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The Labour Response

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On 10 July, Labour leader Andrew Little congratulated Labour on it’s 100th year birthday. He also put the boot firmly and fairly up National’s backside for it’s hopeless track record on housing.

If the supply of food were in short-supply and expensive as is housing for poor and middle-class New Zealanders, there would be rioting in the streets by now. By morning there would be a revolutionary government sitting in the Ninth Floor of the Beehive and Key and his ministerial cronies would be in hiding, exile, or under arrest.

Little began with a brief, but accurate refresher course in New Zealand history;

“We’re here to celebrate Labour’s creation of the welfare state, the achievements of widespread home ownership and the creation of state housing, a free health system and a free education system.

In short, we celebrate the building of a nation.

We celebrate and we remember the image of Michael Joseph Savage carrying the very first furniture into the very first state house.

Offering hope to people that the years of depression were over and there were brighter days ahead.

We’re here to celebrate the beginning of the reconciliation between Maori and Pakeha and the restoration of the mana of the Treaty of Waitangi.

We’re celebrating the decision to make New Zealand nuclear free. We celebrate the courage shown by thousands of New Zealanders who marched against the Springbok Tour.

We’re celebrating KiwiBank. Kiwisaver. Working for Families. The Cullen Fund.

We celebrate Homosexual Law Reform and we remember the scene of the packed galleries in Parliament rising in song after we passed Marriage Equality.

These are Labour achievements.

This is the legacy of our party.”

Little omitted Labour’s de-railing in the 1980s at the hands of a small cadre of Neo-liberal fifth columnists. They who delivered our country into the hands of  global finance. They who were the  authors of a failed economic experiment that caused generations of misery, and rewarded the top 10% with unearned wealth. They whose names will pass into history and be quietly forgotten.

This was a moment where Little – like his predecessor David Cunliffe –   turned his back on neo-liberalism and announced to the country that the experiment was over. Labour would take back the reigns of responsibility for ensuring housing for all;

“After eight years, this government’s lost touch.

And nowhere, nowhere, is this government more out of touch and out of ideas than on housing.

Housing is at the core of a good life.

It provides security and stability.

It helps families put down roots in their communities and save for retirement

It is one of the most common sources of capital for people setting up their own small business.

The ambition of widespread homeownership sits at the heart of our social contract. It is at the heart of the Kiwi Dream.

The promise that if you work hard and do the right thing, you can earn a place of your own.”

A few salient statistics drove home the worsening crisis to anyone who needed convincing;

“Since 2008, when this government came to office, the average house price in Auckland has nearly doubled.

But over the same period, incomes have increased by only 24%.

In the last year, house prices in Auckland have increased by $2600 a week.

Twenty six hundred dollars a week.

It’s crazy. How on earth do you save enough to keep up with that?

[…]

The proportion of Auckland houses being bought by investors has now reached 46% – around twice the level of first home buyers.”

Little went on to explain how the housing crisis went in tandem with other worsening social indicators;

“And then there is the hard edge of the crisis.

The rising poverty and homelessness that National turns a blind eye to.

We’ve all heard the stories of Kiwi kids admitted to hospitals with respiratory illnesses because the cold damp homes they have to live in are making them sick.

We’ve all seen the awful media reports in the last few weeks about what life is like for those who can’t find any home at all.

Of the 42,000 people living in overcrowded conditions or in garages or in cars.

Of children sleeping under bushes in South Auckland.

We’ve seen the story of the 11 year old girl, whose mother has a job, but whose family spent months living in a van before they were taken in by Te Puea Marae.

She said that the hardest part is actually not being able to read in the van, because you don’t have space. And there’s not much light because it would waste the battery.”

These are matters raised that Labour’s opponants on the Right cannot easily dismiss or explain away. These are real events from real New Zealanders living under the currently all-too-real neo-liberal system.

Increasing child poverty; income/wealth disparity; and a worsening housing crisis – all of which are the spawn of thirty years of neo-liberalism.

Those who maintain that poverty has deepened because the “market” has not been sufficiently de-regulated, nor government reduced, nor taxes sufficiently cut, need to ask themselves; “At what point does an experiment that is showing no signs of positive improvement have to be concluded as an abject failure”?

As Little demanded from the party-faithful;

“When did this become the New Zealand we lived in?”

Little then laid out what he called Labour’s comprehensive plan to take to the  election next year. He said that a Labour government would;

 

  • …urgently address the shortage of emergency housing – with $60 million to provide 1400 new beds in emergency accommodation – enough for 5100 extra people a year. With the existing support that will take the number of people helped each year to over 8,000.

 

  • …reform housing New Zealand – so that instead of being run like a corporation making a profit off the most vulnerable, we can invest hundreds of millions of dollars in building thousands of new, modern, high quality state houses instead.

 

  • …will build 100,000 new affordable homes to be on sold to first home buyers.

 

  • …will set up an Affordable Housing Authority to deliver ambitious new urban development projects, at scale and at pace. We are going to change the face of our towns and cities, and fix this housing crisis. The Authority will have a target to meet: 50% across all of the homes in its developments will have to be affordable. The Authority will look after the Government’s urban land holdings, and will make sure there is a pipeline of land for future needs – for housing, business, schools, parks and hospitals.

 

  • …ban offshore buyers from the market unless they are willing to build a new home and add to the stock..

 

  • …will extend the bright line test so that if you sell an investment property within five years, you’ll pay the full tax on it. That means the short term speculators won’t be able to get away tax free anymore. It means ending the tax incentives to speculate in short term property gains at the expense of families trying to get into a home.

 

  • …will begin consulting on how to end the loop hole of negative gearing.

 

Perhaps Labour’s most audacious plan is to set up a new “Affordable Housing Authority”.

If one reads his speech a certain way, he is planning on reviving a newer, 21st century version of the old Ministry of Works (which was privatised by National in late 1996.) If so, it could be the most direct  way to build houses for people in desperate need.

Considering that most of this country’s infra-structure was built by the old Ministry of Works (or similar state bodies), including the telecommunications systems being used to upload this blogpost onto this website, it would not be a far-stretch of the imagination that it could be done again.

If so, this wasn’t just a speech – it was a Manifesto for the Last Rites of Neo-liberalism.

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Property Investors throw their toys out of the cot

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The reactionary response from the NZ Property Investors Federation was utterly predictable. They were miffed. All of a sudden, their tax-free pot of gold was about to be denied to them

The Federation’s executive officer, Andrew King, bleated like a spoiled brat who had just been told to share his toys;

“In one part of his speech, he said there were homeless people and people living in overcrowded conditions and they wanted to do something about that.  How does making it harder to provide rental homes to these people achieve it? Unbelievable.”

It may have escaped King’s somewhat narrow-attention, but homelessness and over-crowding has worsened during the time that his members have enjoyed spectacular tax-free gains. What were they doing in the last eight years?

He also compared businesses, shares, and farms with housing;

“No other investment is like that. If you do the same with a farm, with shares, with a business, all of those wouldn’t be affected, just rental properties – it’s just wrong.”

Generally speaking, people do not live in “shares”,  “businesses”, or farm paddocks (yet). People live in houses. That is the critical difference.

On top of which, astronomical rents are directly contributing to homelessness and over-crowding;

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High Auckland rents forcing people onto the streets - Sallies

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So to whine that, all of a sudden, Labour’s housing policies will “ make it harder to provide rental homes to these [homeless] people” is contemptible.

His members should be held to account for their part in our housing crisis. The sooner that a capital gains tax is introduced at the same rate as New Zealand’s company tax (28 cents in the dollar), the better.

Mr King’s absurd “pity me” comments have crossed the borderline into territory commonly known as;

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hypocrisy definition

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National discovers Problem & Solution!

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Last year, as stories of homelessness; over-crowding; fewer available  Housing NZ homes; and worsening housing affordability began to make headlines around the country,  National was grabbing money from a government department tasked with caring for the most vulnerable people in our society;

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Housing NZ to pay Crown $118m dividend

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In all, National has raked in over half a billion dollars from Housing NZ;

Housing NZ dividends under National

HNZ Annual Report 2009-10 – $132 million   (p86)

HNZ Annual Report 2010-11 – $71 million   (p66)

HNZ Annual Report 2011-12 – $68 million   (p57)

HNZ Annual Report 2012-13 – $77 million   (p47)

HNZ Annual Report 2013-14 – $90 million –  (p37)

HNZ Annual Report 2014-15 – $108 million –  (p33)

HNZ Statement of Performance Expectations 2015/16 – $118 million – (p12)

Total: $664 million (over seven years)

See more here: National’s blatant lies on Housing NZ dividends – The truth uncovered!

Labour took dividends as well, around a third of National’s figure. The difference between the two is that Labour builds State housing, whilst National continually flogs them off.

This amounts to looting a critical government organisation that is akin to thieving from a charity.

This year’s 2016 Budget indicated that Housing NZ would pay a  dividend  of $38 million  and $54 million next year, for 2017.

Twenty four hours after Andrew Little gave his speech to the country, Housing NZ suddenly announced no dividends would be paid for the next two years;

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RNZ - Housing NZ confirms it will not pay govt dividend

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Labour’s Grant Robertson offered his rationale for National’s policy U-Turn;

“The first we hear from National that they suddenly believe Housing New Zealand needs to retain that money to invest in state houses is the morning after an announcement by the Labour Party that Housing New Zealand will never be required [by Labour] to provide a dividend to the government.

This is not a coincidence, this is a panicked, desperate response from the government.

What we know is that National has extracted dividends from Housing New Zealand over recent years and it’s quite clear that National has seen Housing New Zealand as a cash cow in the past.”

Bill English refuted allegations that National was panicking over Labour’s housing announcement only 24 hours previously;

“It’s nothing to do with Labour and the Greens. This is a $20 billion entity – you don’t come up with capital plans for the next five years because Labour puts out a press release.”

He also denied that National was  looting Housing NZ;

“We don’t accept that taking the dividend is stealing from state housing, because the dividend is not the constraint on what gets built…

…If there was less dividend, we’d just put in more capital – it’s not driven by the availability of the cash.”

National takes money in the form of dividends and taxes  from Housing NZ – whilst non-government charities are tax-free? And he earnestly claims it is not “stealing”?!

English then issued the most ridiculous explanation ever heard, that the figures in this year’s May 26 Budget “appear to be based on older HNZ numbers dating from almost a year ago“.

Yeah, right, Bill.

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flying-pig-clipart-1

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Is the Finance Minister really expecting New Zealanders to believe that the government’s May 2016 budget was full of inaccurate figures?

What is really galling is that Bill English, Steven Joyce, and other National Ministers expect us – the public – to believe this rubbish. It is revealing just how stupid they think we are.

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Who is in charge anyway?!

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Whenever National implements unpopular legislative changes, they often point to Labour having carried out similar policies.

In 2014, National “borrowed” Labour’s policy by implementing free health-care for children under 13.

Last year, National raised benefits by $25 (to take effect this year) for people on welfare.

This year, having their ‘hand forced’ by Labour’s housing policy, the Nats have cancelled dividends from Housing NZ for the next two years.

National seems to be highly influence by Labour.

Which  raises the question; who is actually setting policy and governing the country? Because it appears we almost have a de facto Labour Government pulling the strings.

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A Cautionary Note for Labour

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On TVNZ’s Q+A on 10 July, Corin Dann quizzed Andrew Little on Labour’s policy toward Housing NZ tenants. Corin  Dann specifically asked Little about whether or not tenants should have state houses for life;

Corin Dann: You talk about state houses – an extra thousand state houses. Does Labour believe that someone should have a state house for life?

Andrew Little: I think we think when people are in circumstances where they can’t afford to buy their own home, can’t afford to rent, they’ve got to have a home. They’ve got to have a home, get their life on track, underway.

Corin Dann: Do they have it for life?

Andrew Little: If they’re at a point in their life where their circumstances have changed, and actually, they can afford to buy, my view is I would rather work with them to get them to buy that house so we could then release some funds to build the next state house.

Corin Dann: So you keen National’s policy? They don’t keep them for life?

Andrew Little: Well, I don’t agree with the policy that says we’ll target elderly people on fixed incomes in a state house and see if we can toss them out. That’s not a solution to anything. But what I would say is people who have gone into a state house early, got their lives sorted out,…

Corin Dann: They should move on if they can.

Andrew Little: …the circumstances are right, if we can sell that house to them, why wouldn’t we? And use the funds then to build the next state house for the next vulnerable person.

Selling State houses to tenants is text-book privatisation policy for National, and was a prime plank for the Bolger and  Shipley-led governments in the  1990s.

It is a dangerous road for a Labour government to go down.

Selling a state house to a tenant may seem a kindly gesture from a  benevolent left-wing government.

But eventually a National-led government will be elected back into power. Their track record on selling State houses is evident and they would have no hesitation in taking a Labour policy of selling State housing to tenants and expanding on it.

This is thin-edge-of-the-wedge, slippery-slope stuff.

This is mis-guided to the extreme, and will provide a future right-wing government a ready-made policy to act upon. And not in a nice way.

If Labour is serious in returning to it’s social democratic roots, it would do well to think carefully before embarking on such a naive policy.

Instead, it should consider the following;

[1] Transience

Transience is one of the greatest problems affecting low-income, poverty-stricken families. Moving from one house to another is debilitating to such families – especially for children.

A government report states that transience for children can have extreme, negative impact on  their learning;

Nearly 3,700 students were recognised as transient during the 2014 year. Māori students were more likely to be transient than students in other ethnic groups.

[…]

Students need stability in their schooling in order to experience continuity, belonging and support so that they stay interested and engaged in learning.

All schools face the constant challenge of ensuring that students feel they belong and are encouraged to participate at school. When students arrive at a school part-way through a term or school year, having been at another school with different routines, this challenge may become greater.

Students have better outcomes if they do not move school regularly. There is good evidence that student transience has a negative impact on student outcomes, both in New Zealand and overseas. Research suggests that students who move home or school frequently are more likely to underachieve in formal education when compared with students that have a more stable school life. A recent study found that school movement had an even stronger effect on educational success than residential movement.

There is also evidence that transience can have negative effects on student behaviour, and on short term social and health experience

Encouraging families to stay long-term in State housing not only creates a sense of community amongst tenants; stability for fragile, vulnerable families,  but assists in the long-term stability and education of children.

Not only is a state house “for-life” fair, it provides real, tangible, long-term benefits.

[2] Guaranteed Tenancy

Low-income, vulnerable families in State housing must be given guaranteed, protected security-of-tenure.

Currently, tenants are exposed to the winds-of-change whenever there is a change in government. Their tenure is at the pleasure of right-wing governments, and mass-evictions have been commonplace under John Key’s administration;

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state housing insecurity

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A progressive government must do all within it’s power to protect such vulnerable families. Otherwise what is the point of throwing out right-wing regimes when their ideologically-driven policies no longer palatable, and well past their Use-By date?

Tenancies must be secured. Either by the use of long-term contracts, enforceable in Courts of law, or by some other means such as entrenched legislation.

Labour-led governments come and go.

But tenancies for our most vulnerable must be protected from the whims of others.

[3] State Housing Protected

As well as protection for tenants of state housing, state houses themselves must be entrenched and protected from the rapaciousness of right-wing governments.

In modern, First World societies, the power of contract is supposedly sacrosanct.

It should not be beyond a progressive government to use some means of contract-law to safe-guard state housing. Once this is accomplished, it should make it near-impossible for a right-wing regime to wreak havoc with the lives of the poor.

Perhaps it is time to look at how we can make the concept of contract-law work in the favour of those who have least wealth to lose.

There is much more work to be done.

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References

Scoop media: Key – Speech to New Zealand Contractors Federation

theyworkforyou.co.nz: State Houses—Sale and Disposal

NZ History: Construction and sale of state houses, 1938-2002

Housing NZ Corporation: Rent, Buy or Own – overview (archived page)

Beehive: State houses available to buy from today

TV1 News: First home buyers set to be disappointed with Budget

Department of Building & Housing: Estimated building costs (archived page)

Dominion Post: Inequality report ignores tax cuts for rich – Goff

NZIER: Home

TVNZ News: NZ economic outlook grim until 2013 – NZIER (archived page)

Interest.co.nz: Paula Bennett announces plan to offer $5,000 to homeless Aucklanders

Hive News: Hive News Tuesday – Key blames ‘Dirty Politics’ for lack of state house sale debate

Reuters: NZ Prime Minister says central bank should get on with housing measures

Parliament Today: Housing NZ’s Woes Blamed on Labour

TV3 News: Housing blame game flares up in Parliament

NewstalkZB: Govt accused of blaming Auckland Council for its own failings on housing

Sharechat: Key blames Labour for barrier to foreign buyer ban

Youtube: Bill English Blames Greens for Housing Crisis

Otago Daily Times: Homelessness increasing in NZ

NZ Herald: Auckland has the fifth least-affordable houses in the world

Fairfax media: NZ home ownership at lowest level in more than 60 years

TV3 News: Key – No housing crisis, foreign buyers’ influence ‘minor’

Labour Party: Andrew Little’s Centenary policy speech

Treasury: Income from State Asset Sales as at May 2014

Fairfax media: Labour’s plan to tax property investors slammed as ‘attack’ on rental property providers

Radio NZ: High Auckland rents forcing people onto the streets – Sallies

IRD: Company Tax Rate

Radio NZ: Housing NZ to pay Crown $118m dividend

Radio NZ: Housing NZ confirms it will not pay govt dividend

Fairfax media: Bill English denies U-turn after Steven Joyce reveals Housing NZ won’t pay dividend

National Business Review:  Govt blames outdated Budget figures for Housing NZ dividend U-turn

Metro mag: Opinion – Is John Key the finest actor of his generation?

NZDoctor.co.nz: Free care for the under-13s features in growth Budget

Radio NZ: Welfare increases – what $25 buys you

TVNZ: Q+A – Corin Dann and Andrew Little (video)

TVNZ: Q+A – Corin Dann and Andrew Little (transcript)

Te Ara NZ Encyclopedia: Housing and government – Total Housing Stock

Education Counts: Transient students

Dominion Post: Housing policy will destabilise life for children

Fairfax media: State tenants face ‘high need’ review

NZ Herald: Elderly, disabled included in state house review

NZ Herald: State tenants to make way for workers

Previous related blogposts

Can we do it? Bloody oath we can!

Budget 2013: State Housing and the War on Poor

National recycles Housing Policy and produces good manure!

Our growing housing problem

National Housing propaganda – McGehan Close Revisited

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

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

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

Another ‘Claytons’ Solution to our Housing Problem? When will NZers ever learn?

Government Minister sees history repeat – responsible for death

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

Letter to the Editor – How many more children must die, Mr Key?!

National under attack – defaults to Deflection #1

National’s blatant lies on Housing NZ dividends – The truth uncovered!

State house sell-off in Tauranga unravelling?

Upper Hutt residents mobilise to fight State House sell-off

Park-up in Wellington – People speaking against the scourge of homelessness

National and the Reserve Bank – at War!

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wheel estate

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 12 July 2016.

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= fs =

Andrew Little’s “dangerous” speech – a cunning plan for the Middle and the Left

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Labour Party - Andrew Little - pre-budget speech (24)

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Wellington, NZ, 22 May – Speaking to a fully packed downtown conference centre in Wellington, on a cold, gloomy rainy afternoon, Labour-leader, Andrew Little launched into a fiery attack on the current National Government focusing  on it’s inarguably lack-lustre track record for the past eight years.

With a heavy media presence, Rimutaka MP, and Labour spokesperson for Education, Chris Hipkins, was tasked with making the introduction;

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Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com Labour Party - Andrew Little - pre-budget speech

 

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Hipkins said;

“Certainly there is a mood for change around the country now and that mood for change is increasing.  But the question that everybody has been asking us, is is Labour ready? And that’s a fair question to ask.”

“They say that being the leader of the Opposition is the toughest job in politics. Well I can tell to tell you that Andrew has taken to that tough job in politics like a duck to water.”

“In all of that time that he has been doing that job, and all the hours he has put in, he has never forgotten why is there; for people. And that is why the Labour Party is here.”

The short  introduction over, the audience of committed Labour members clapped enthusiastically as Little mounted the podium;

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Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com Labour Party - Andrew Little - pre-budget speech

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To say that Little had plenty of material to work with would be an understatement as the growing crisis for both affordable housing; skyrocketing rentals; and shortage of state houses have been well publicised in the media and by bloggers.

From just one day in Wellington’s Dominion Post Monday 23 May edition;

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dominion post - housing crisis

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Jane Bowron’s piece especially – Marae shows up Government with haere mai to homeless  – is a must-read, head-on assault on the warped ‘values’ which currently afflict our government and some peoples’ thinking.   Yet, the Dominion Post is hardly known as a bastion for marxist agitation.

Little wasted no time as  he launched into a recitation of National’s failures after eight years in government;

“It’s becoming harder for many people to get ahead.  Harder to find a good job or get a pay rise. Harder to find a home, put some savings aside, or get the health care you need. Parents are paying more for their childrens’ education, but our schools aren’t performing as well.

[…]

Look at the headlines from the last couple of weeks: Children sleeping in cars or forced to lives in houses that make them sick; plummeting home ownership; rising unemployment, [and] stalled wages for many people.

[…]

And while the few at the very top got to enjoy special rules that meant they didn’t have to pay their fair share – everyone else is paying the cost.

We’ve seen increases in unemployment. There are now 144,000 people out of work in New Zealand, 40,000 more than when National took office.”

Little is correct on those stats. According to the convenient graphs and data from US website, Trading Economics, the increase in unemployment in New Zealand has remained stubbornly high;

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unemployed persons 2008 - 2016

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Little explained that the unemployment problem was worse than just sheer numbers;

“And it’s not just that more people are out of work – it’s that many more are out of work for longer.  Under this government the number of people unemployed for more than a year has tripled – up over 11,000 since they took office.

The situation is especially tough for our young people. Under this government the number of young people who aren’t in work, education or training has risen by more than 26,000.

The truth is those are the young people this government has given up on – the ones they label as ‘pretty damn hopeless’.”

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Bill English describes some Kiwis looking for work as 'pretty damned hopeless'

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Little pointed out the numbers who had not gotten any wage increase in the last year, and more importantly that workers were missing out on the benefits of economic growth;

For those in work, getting a pay rise has become harder. 43% of New Zealanders saw no increase in their incomes at all in the last 12 months.

[…]

Under the last Labour government, the share of economic growth going to wage and salary earners was over 50%.

Today, it’s 37%.

The slice of the economy going to workers has fallen each year under National.

This year, that lost income works out to be fifty bucks a week for the average family.

His comments will most likely resonate with those workers who feel they are working harder and longer hours – and yet do not seem to be progressing. The back-stories of mega-rich tax-evaders hoarding their wealth in tax havens will fuel feelings of resentment by those who work and pay their  taxes so we can have roads, hospitals, schools, etc;

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Panama Papers investigation 'NZ absolutely, conclusively is a tax haven'

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Little then hit the big story of the last few weeks – growing homelessness in New Zealand. Coupled with a fall in home ownership rates since 1991 (from 74% in 1991 to 64% in 2015), and we get a clear picture how “free” market economics has impacted on our society.

National’s response was to deny that a problem existed in New Zealand at all. According to Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett;

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"I certainly wouldn't call it a crisis. I think that we've always had people in need."

“I certainly wouldn’t call it a crisis. I think that we’ve always had people in need.” – Paula Bennett, 20 May 2016

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Andrew Little’s response was less dismissive of the challenges facing 21st century New Zealand families;

“When kids are sleeping in cars. That’s a crisis.

When families are crowded into garages. That’s a crisis.

When an entire generation is locked out of ever owning their own home, that is a crisis.”

He firmly sheeted home blame for our current predicament, in no uncertain terms;

“Instead of owning up to that and fixing it, the government is siding with property speculators and land bankers, while everyone else misses out.

Every initiative our bumbling housing minister Nick Smith has tried on housing has failed. Rather than go after the causes of the problems, he’s flailed around with gimmicks.

Remember special housing areas? Fewer than 1000 homes actually built.

Remember his gimmick from the last Budget? Releasing crown land? It turned out to include substations, cemeteries and even the back yard of Government House.

While the government’s been tinkering, the problem’s gotten so much worse.

In March, the average house price in Auckland rose by over $2,200 a day.”

For maximum effect, Little repeated that startling factoid to the audience and media;

“Let me say that figure again. Over twenty two hundred dollars a day.”

On Radio NZ’s political panel on Monday, 23 May, former Labour Party President, Mike Williams complimented Andrew Little’s speech, referring to it as “dangerous”;

“Middle New Zealand is concerned about health, education, housing, and the economy. And I think, as far as John Key is concerned, this is the most dangerous speech a Labour leader has given since Helen Clark resigned.”

Williams also made an interesting observation regarding how Middle New Zealand felt about their rising house values;

“I think there’s a bit of schizophrenia going on in Middle New Zealand which is showing up in the UMR numbers. If you own a house you are feeling pretty good because the value of your asset has been going through the roof. However, if you’ve got kids, you’re worried about their schooling; you’re worried about will they get a house; and  you’re worried about will they get a job that pays enough  to pay for a house. So I think, that, yes,  home-owning New Zealanders [are]  feeling ok, but parents are not.”

Little then addressed the growing under-funding of  public healthcare;

According to Infometrics, we’ve had $1.7 billion dollars cut in real terms from our health budget over 6 years.

That’s meant that 160,000 people in the last 5 years have been unable to get the appointment they need with a specialist.”

Which seems to be a replay of National’s cuts to the Health budget in the late 1990s;

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acute-heart-surgery-list-nearly-400-otago-daily-times-5-february-1998

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In response, Little promised;

“Under Labour, Kiwis will know that if they get sick, the public healthcare system will be there for them.  That’s why we are committed to meeting the cost pressures that are depriving people of the care they need…

…Budgets are about priorities, and under Labour, health will be a priority again. We shouldn’t be spending money on $3 billion of unaffordable tax cuts when we could be fixing our health system instead.”

Which, if the previous Clark-led Labour government’s actions are anything to go by, can be counted as a solid committment;

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1-5b-injection-for-health-9-dec-2001

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Little was also scathing at National’s taxpayer subsidies being thrown at Charter Schools;

“At the same time as National has poured millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money into privately run charter schools, our public education system is struggling.

In the last year alone, National has cut funding for pupils by $150 each.

And so schools load more costs on to parents in order to fill the gaps.

Ask any parent and they’ll tell you the cost of uniforms, class activities, camps and of course ‘voluntary donations’ just keep on rising.”

For all of National’s much-vaunted “reforms” in our education system, the results are less than impressive. Little rattled off a list of stats that should raise concern with all New Zealanders;

But here’s the thing: while costs are rising, standards are falling.

In 2006, we were ranked 5th in the world for reading.

Now we’re 13th.

We were 7th in science.

Today? 18th.

And in maths? We’ve fallen from 11th to 23rd.

So much for National Standards. And so much for the neo-liberal ideology that has not only not delivered on promises of excellence in our education system – but has seemingly damaged it. Our fall in international rankings are stark evidence that National’s policies in education have failed spectacularly.

Little then offered what can only be  described as Labour’s manifesto for the 2017 General Election;

  • We’ll crack down on the offshore speculators who are driving up house prices and locking families out of the market.
  • Labour will launch a mass home building programme to deliver new, affordable homes in Auckland and around the country.
  • That’s why we are committed to three years’ free post-school education so that Kiwis can train and retrain across their working lives, without having to take on huge debt. That’s how we support our people and its how we tackle the challenge of the future of work.
  • We’ll introduce a dole for apprenticeships scheme to give young people the opportunity to get into paid work.
  • We’ll raise the number of hours people can work without having their benefit cut.
  • We will feed hungry kids in schools…

In six, short, sentences, Andrew Little has put the boot into neo-liberal so-called “reforms”. If elected, and if Labour does not water-down it’s promises, we will be witnessing the dismantling of thirtythree years of the neo-liberal paradigm in New Zealand.

No wonder right-wing commentator, Matthew Hooton, seemed perturbed by Little’s speech during his regular ‘slot’ on Radio NZ’s Nine to Noon programme on 23 May.

Perhaps the most revolutionary aspect to Little’s promises is that of  “three years’ free post-school education“. This is, in effect, partially undoing user-pays in our tertiary institutions.

But the most clever aspect to Little’s speech is that it is “talking” to two different parts of New Zealand.

His reference to “that lost income works out to be fifty bucks a week for the average family” is a direct pitch to Middle New Zealand that feels it is not progressing whilst the mega-rich rort the tax system.

But his reference to abandoning part of user-pays in tertiary education is directed at the Left who are demanding that the Labour Party make a public commitment to renouncing it’s Rogernomics past.

The trick for Labour’s hierarchy and strategists is to achieve both – appealing to Middle New Zealand and the Left – but without spooking the former, or further alienating the latter.

In effect, Labour has taken a firm step-to-the-left – and the public have not noticed.

Mike Williams was right: this was a “dangerous” speech from Andrew Little.

And a damned clever one.

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Addendum

Full text of Andrew Little’s speech here.

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Labour victory

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References

Fairfax: Jane Bowron – Marae shows up Government with haere mai to homeless

Trading economics: New Zealand Unemployed Persons 

Fairfax media: Bill English describes some Kiwis looking for work as ‘pretty damned hopeless’

TV1 News: Panama Papers investigation – ‘NZ absolutely, conclusively is a tax haven’

Interest.co.nz: Collapse in home-ownership rates among families formed since 1991 is an unfolding disaster for NZ’s economy

Radio NZ: No housing crisis in NZ – Paula Bennett

Radio NZ: Nine to Noon – Political commentators Mike Williams and Matthew Hooton

Scoop media: Andrew Little: Pre-Budget Speech 2016

Related

Pundit: Have We a Housing Policy?

Other bloggers

Chris Trotter: Left Unsaid: What Andrew Little Didn’t Say In His Pre-Budget Speech

Kiwipolitico: Not Quite But Getting There

No Right Turn: National should give us our $13,000 back

The Standard: Little’s $50 a week message getting through

Copyright (c) Notice

All images stamped ‘fmacskasy.wordpress.com’ are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

» Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
» Where purpose of use is commercial, a donation to Child Poverty Action Group is requested.
» At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals or groups.
» Acknowledgement of source is requested.

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capitalism taking from those who work

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 May 2016.

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= fs =

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

11 February 2016 9 comments

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student-loans-debt

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Prologue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some Recent History: 1972 – 1992

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Acknowledgement of image: NZ Herald

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

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

Some Recent History: 1986 – 2010

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

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

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

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

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

1 October 1986 – Labour

1 October 1988 – Labour

1 July 1996 – National

1 July 1998 – National

1 October 2008 – Labour

1 April 2009 – National

1 October 2010 – National

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Source

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Progressive Response

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

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

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Labour's announcement welcomed and slammed

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Little proposed;

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

[…]

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

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

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

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

The Neo-Libs Strike Back

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

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

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Steven joyce - tertiary education - hypocrite

Source

Source

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The question could equally be put;

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

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

But the main question should be;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Steven Joyce, born: 1963.

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

  3. Student Loan system is started: 1992.

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

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

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

Key and Joyce never paid for their free University tuition.

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

Or face arrest.

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

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

Postscript

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

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Steven joyce - tertiary education - hypocrite - achieving nothing

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

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References

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

Ministry of Education: Student Loan Scheme Annual Report 2014

Beehive.govt.nz: Celebrating student support under Labour

Ministry of Education: Student Loan Scheme Annual Report 2015

The Wireless: Getting by on a student budget

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

Fairfax media: Joyce defends student loan crackdown

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

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

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

Statistics NZ: Annual unemployment rate has increased from 1987

Ruth Richardson NZ Ltd: Ruth Richardson CV

Ruth Richardson NZ Ltd: Home page

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

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

Fairfax media: ‘Painful wait’ for surgery

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

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

Statistics NZ: 2013 Census Usually Resident Population Counts

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

Radio NZ: Labour’s announcement welcomed and slammed

Andrew Little: State of the Nation speech

Twitter: Steven Joyce

Twitter: Steven Joyce

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

NZ Herald: Govt backtracks on limo statements

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

Radio NZ: Saudi abattoir deal will proceed – PM

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

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

Otago Daily Times: Smelter gets Meridian, Govt lifeline

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

NZ Herald: GST rise will hurt poor the most

Fairfax media: Time to pay some tax, Facebook?

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

Kiwiblog: Disclosure Statement

Sunday Star Times: Politics – John Key – A snapshot

Wikipedia: Steven Joyce

National Party: Steven Joyce

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

Additional

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

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

Other bloggers

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

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

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

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

2 February 2016 7 comments

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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

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Labour's announcement welcomed and slammed

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

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

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Steven joyce - tertiary education - hypocrite

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Image courtesy of The Daily Blog

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

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

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The editor
Dominion Post

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

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

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

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

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

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-Frank Macskasy

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

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

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

Which is astounding, for two reasons;

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

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

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

The man’s hypocrisy is boundless.

Education was wasted on him.

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-Frank Macskasy

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[address and phone number supplied]

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References

Radio NZ: Labour’s announcement welcomed and slammed

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

Previous Prize Hypocrites

Identifying a hypocrite in three easy steps.

Judith Collins – Hypocrite of the Week

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

Steven Joyce – Hypocrite of the Week

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