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Twelve fun facts about National’s failed housing policies for Parmjeet Parmar to consider

15 January 2019 2 comments

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A recent story by Daily Blogger, Martyn Bradbury, raises serious questions about National’s questionable track record around state housing.

National’s List MP, Dr Parmjeet Parmar, has launched a scathing attack on Housing NZ on social media and in a story in the NZ Herald;

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The family was living in a HNZ property that was obviously sub-standard;

The toilet floor had sunk into the ground, making it difficult for Sheraz to use, given his condition.

The shower is also problematic for him as it’s inside a deep bathtub and he needs his wife’s help to use it.

The family has also complained about bugs coming through a hole in the wall of the bathroom.

The hole has been plugged by toilet paper, while a piece of wood was placed to cover the bathroom floor.

Ms Parmar lambasted Housing NZ for “inaction” and called the situation “unbelievable”. Her social media statements were linked to the NZ Herald story,  ensuring maximum exposure gained from the Loun family’s dire circumstances.

But Ms Parmar noticeably glossed over a salient point regarding the state of the NZH property;

Around 8 months of repeated contact and no action.” – Twitter

The Loun family, two parents and three kids, have been complaining to HNZ about rats, fleas, bugs, an unsafe bathroom and an unsuitable shower at the property for eight months.” – NZ Herald

“… they were chasing them for nearly 8 months, yes nearly 8 months and there was no action…” – Facebook

Eight months?

Fun Fact 1: That suggests this problem has been ongoing since before the election of the current government. In essence, the rot set in (literally!) during National’s term in office.

This brings back memories of Emma-Lita Bourne, who was two years old in 2014, when she perished from a brain haemorrhage resulting from a clot. She had been suffering from a pneumonia-like illness. The toddler and her family had also been living in a sub-standard HNZ property that was cold, damp, had mould on the walls and floor, and the roof leaked.

The coroner, Brandt Shortland, said matter-of-factly;

“I am of the view the condition of the house at the time being cold and damp during the winter months was a contributing factor to Emma-Lita’s health status.”

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Fun Fact 2: Ms Parmar was a Member of Parliament at the time of the Coroner’s findings into Emma-Lita’s death.

In October 2015, Labour’s Phil Twyford introduced the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill to Parliament. That Bill  – eventually passed in November 2017 – would create a “warrant of fitness” for rental properties.

Fun Fact 3: Ms Parmar was one of National and ACT Party MPs who voted against the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill. The Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill would have “changed the current law to ensure that every rental home in New Zealand meets minimum standards of heating and insulation“.

Ms Parmar voted against the very thing she was railing against on social media and the Herald.

Fun Fact 4: In 2008, Housing NZ’s state housing stock comprised of  69,000 rental properties.

By 2014 – when Ms Paramar entered Parliament, the number of state houses had dropped to 68,229 – a loss of 771 potential homes for the most needy families and individuals in this country.

By 2016, that number had fallen to 61,600 (with a further 2,700 leased) – a reduction of 7,400 properties.

And by 2017, Housing NZ’s stock of owned or managed properties had fallen to “approximately” 63,000 homes. The 2017 Annual Report  does not differentiate the number of owned rental properties from “managed” assets. However, the number is still 1,300 owned/managed properties fewer than the previous year (see above).

National’s policy of selling state housing was obviously proceeding at pace despite Housing NZ posting a loss on the sale of properties of $10,781,000 for the financial year (Annual Report, p108);

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National’s ideological mania for selling state assets was proceeding unchecked, incurring significant losses for the taxpayer.

By 2018, the new Coalition Government had staunched the loss of properties. According to their 2017/18 Annual Report, Housing NZ owned 61,500 properties, with a further 2,500 leased – 64,000 in total and an increase of about a thousand homes.

This is still a far cry from the 69,000 properties owned by Housing NZ when National took office.

Fun Fact 5: Ms Parmar was part of a government that sold/disposed of 7,500 properties.

Fun Fact 6: During her four year tenure in Parliament, Housing NZ lost 5,229 homes from it’s stock

Fun Fact 7: Whilst the National government – of which Ms Parmar was an eagerly participating member – was busily selling off state housing, the waiting list for people needing a home was steadily rising;

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Fun Fact 8: When Ms Parmar entered Parliament in September 2014, there were 4,189 people on Housing NZ’s waiting list.  By the time voters threw out the National government in late 2017, that number had risen to 6,182.

Alongside a covert mass-sell-off of state housing, National was also raiding Housing NZ’s coffers.

Fun Fact 9: The government department tasked with looking after some of the most vulnerable, poverty-stricken families and individuals was stripped of “dividends” of $532 million from 2010 to 2015 – over half a billion dollars. The dividends did not include gst and interest payments from Housing NZ to central government;

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2010: $71 million

2011: $68 million

2012: $77 million

 2013: $90 million

2014: $108 million

2015: $118 million

Total: $532 million

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At a time when thousands were on a waiting list for a home and entire families were living in over-crowded houses; garages, and cars and vans – National was helping itself to cash that could have alleviated a large measure of homelessness.

(Note: Labour, under the Clark/Cullen leadership, also demanded dividends from Housing NZ. It is nothing to be proud of that Budget surpluses were achieved – in part – off the backs of the poor. At least Labour did not cut taxes, as National did in 2009 and 2010, thereby transferring wealth from the poor/HNZ tenants – to the wealthy/high-income earners.)

Fun Fact 10: Ms Paramar voted for successive National government Budgets  which rapaciously extracted millions from Housing NZ.

The Loun family’s HNZ home could have been properly maintained and ongoing faults repaired with that $532 million.

If Ms Parmar wants to vent her anger, she should direct it at herself and her colleagues. It is National (and it’s minor support parties) that are solely to blame for our growing homeless crisis. At a time when New Zealand most needed state houses, National was disposing of them as fast as they thought they could get away with it, as well as bleeding the corporation of it’s money.

So much for John Key promising no further asset sales in February 2014;

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But former Dear Leader Key was not the only one “flexible” with the truth.

Fun Fact 11: A year after entering Parliament, Ms Parmar was caught out attempting to mis-use taxpayer’s money by exploiting an official government housing “roadshow” to promote her personal political profile in the Mt Roskill electorate. The Mt Roskill electorate would shortly be vacated by then-sitting MP,  Phil Goff, who was planning to run for mayor of Auckland.

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According to documents released under the OIA, NZ Herald  journalists discovered that Housing NZ officials were attempting to cover up for Ms Parmar;

Housing officials tried to hide a National MP’s attempt to use a Government housing roadshow to raise her own public profile, documents show.

The Labour Party said National list MP Parmjeet Parmar was guilty of trying to use taxpayer money for political campaigning, and officials had been caught red-handed trying to cover it up.

Documents released to Labour MP Kris Faafoi revealed Dr Parmar wanted to co-host a meeting for the Government’s HomeStart programme near Mt Roskill, where a by-election will be triggered when current MP Phil Goff runs for the Auckland Mayoralty.

Parmjeet Parmar has … expressed a keen interest in hosting a roadshow as she is keen to raise local profile in Mt Roskill in case of a by-election,” an email from Housing Minister Nick Smith’s private secretary said.

Supposedly “neutral” civil servants were caught out attempting to suppress Ms Parmar’s plans to use the housing roadshow for her own benefit;

There was also a further twist. The key passages which revealed that Dr Parmar wanted to use the roadshow for campaigning were redacted by housing officials in three other versions of the email released to Labour.

The passages were redacted by officials on the grounds that they were “out of scope” and to preserve “the free and frank expression of opinions by or between or to Ministers of the Crown”, their employees, or departments.

Fun Fact 12: Despite protestations, Ms Parmar did indeed contest the 2016 by-election when Phil Goff resigned from Parliament. She came second to Labour’s candidate, Michael Woodhouse – a result Ms Parmar richly deserved.

It is unknown if any of the Housing officials who attempted to cover for Ms Parmar were asked to resign. It would be surprising if there were any ensuing job losses from this scandal.

If  Ms Parmar wants to use her taxpayer-funded time lambasting Housing NZ, that is her prerogative.

But at the very least, it would be helpful for New Zealanders to understand the fullness of National’s woeful under-performance in the state housing sector and the role Ms Parmar played. At the very least she exhibited no moral courage on behalf on HNZ tenants whilst she was in government.

There is something repellent about a previous government that actively sabotaged and crippled a vital state housing service – only for former Finance minister Bill English to lament about that very same service unable to fulfill it’s duty to house the most vulnerable families in our society;

“Housing Corp has done its best with the policy settings governments have given them over the last twenty or thirty years.

But you’ve just got to drive round the countryside, or round the cities and suburbs to see that it hasn’t always had the best results. So we just want to get more people helping us to solve the problem of serious housing need.”

This is the legacy Ms Parmar shares.

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References

The Daily Blog: I’m sorry, National had the audacity to say WHAT about State Housing?

Parliament: Dr Parmjeet Parmar

Twitter: Parmjeet Parmar – Housing NZ – 4 Jan 2019

Facebook: Parmjeet Parmar – Housing NZ – 3 Jan 2019

NZ Herald: National says HNZ failed the Loun family after ignoring repeated requests to fix safety issues

Fairfax media: Damp state house played part in toddler’s death

Parliament: Healthy Homes Bill – Setting new standards for rental homes

The Daily blog: The MPs who voted against Warrants of Fitness for all rental properties

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2008/09

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2013/14

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2015/16

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2016/17

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2017/18

Ministry of Social Development: Housing Register

Scoop media: State rental housing milked for dividends while tenants die

Radio NZ: Housing NZ readied for sale – Labour

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

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

NZ Herald: National MP busted ‘trying to use taxpayer money for political campaigning’

Radio NZ: Govt pushes on with state house sales

Additional

Radio NZ: State housing plan ‘not an asset sale’

Labour Party: Nats still planning to take Housing NZ dividend

Housing NZ: Our statement of performance expectations (deleted from HNZ website)

Previous related blogposts

The housing crisis: NZers deliver their verdict

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

 

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 10 January 2019.

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

11 April 2016 8 comments

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we will give you honest government - yeah right

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National Makes Good on 2008 Threat to Sell Kiwibank

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And again in 2010,

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

Making a Promise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Breaking the Promise

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

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

English promised;

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

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

Key knew in advance!

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

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

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

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

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

Who Pays? Loyal Kiwibank customers do!

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

As David Hargreaves from Interest.co.nz reported;

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which is precisely what Hargreaves reported;

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

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

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

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

The Agenda #1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Agenda #2

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

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

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

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

The Agenda #3

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

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

Labour’s Response?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing of the sort will happen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It only took eight years to accomplish.

 

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References

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

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

TV3 News: National hit by more secret recordings

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

NZ Herald: PM pledges not to sell Kiwibank after all

Faifax Media: Key – Why I should be the PM

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

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

Fairfax Media: Key ‘no GST rise’ video emerges

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

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

Investopedia: Credit Rating

NZ Herald: S&P cuts NZ credit rating

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

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

Additional

Fairfax media: Kiwibank tape catches English

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

Other bloggers

No Right Turn: Plunder

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

The Dim Post: A fascinating precedent

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

Previous related blogposts

Westpac, Peter Dunne, & Edward Snowden

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

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the sale of kiwibank - nz herald cartoon - john key

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

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Letter to the editor – John Key’s broken promises, a habit?

26 July 2015 4 comments

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Sunday Star Times <letters@star-times.co.nz>
date: Thu, Jul 23, 2015
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
Sunday Star Times

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If recent recent comments by Finance Minister, Bill English, are any indication, National appears to be engaging in a “softening up the public” exercise for further asset sales. On 23 July, English announced at a Commerce Commission conference;

“Why do you want us to keep owning broadcast media – it was worth a billion, it’s worth $300 million today, and soon it will be worth nothing. Same with post offices – was worth a billion, worth $300 million today, soon be worth nothing.” (Radio NZ, “No plans to sell SOE ‘relics’ – English”)

Yet, only seven months before last year’s September General Election, our esteemed Prime Minister promised no further asset sales after Genesis Energy was partially privatised;

“The truth is there aren’t a lot of other assets that would fit in the category where they would be either appealing to take to the market or of a size that would warrant a further programme, or they sit in the category that they are very large like Transpower but are monopoly assets so aren’t suited.” (NZ Herald, “PM: no more SOEs to sell after Genesis”

One can only assume that collapsing dairy prices will impact on tax revenue to a greater magnitude than the government has been advised and English is desperate to look at any alternative income revenue.

The sale of State houses was an unmitigated disaster. It seems that other State assets may be on the block soon.

So much for John Key keeping his word.

This is becoming a habit.

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-Frank Macskasy

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[address & phone number supplied]

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References

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

Radio NZ: No plans to sell SOE ‘relics’ – English

 

 


 

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Letter to the editor – softening us up for another broken promise?

23 July 2015 3 comments

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: Thu, Jul 23, 2015
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
Dominion Post

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Recent comments by Finance Minister, Bill English, appear to be an exercise for “softening up” the public to further asset sales. On 23 July, English announced at a Commerce Commission conference;

“Why do you want us to keep owning broadcast media – it was worth a billion, it’s worth $300 million today, and soon it will be worth nothing. Same with post offices – was worth a billion, worth $300 million today, soon be worth nothing.” (Radio NZ, “No plans to sell SOE ‘relics’ – English”)

Is this a prelude to another broken promise from National?

Seven months before the 2014 General Election, our esteemed Prime Minister promised no further asset sales after Genesis Energy was partially privatised;

“The truth is there aren’t a lot of other assets that would fit in the category where they would be either appealing to take to the market or of a size that would warrant a further programme, or they sit in the category that they are very large like Transpower but are monopoly assets so aren’t suited.” (NZ Herald, “PM: no more SOEs to sell after Genesis”

National is facing a greatly reduced tax revenue as collapsing Dairy prices impact on our economy.

If National wants to sell more assets, they should call an early election and seek a mandate. Otherwise they are breaking yet another election promise.

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-Frank Macskasy

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[address and phone number supplied]

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References

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

Radio NZ: No plans to sell SOE ‘relics’ – English


 

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John Key - carpet sale - Dannevirke

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The Flag Referendum – A strategy for Calm Resistance

20 July 2015 9 comments

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eight_col_eNZign-NZ-Flag-Richard-Aslett

Richard Aslett’s “eNZign”

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When John Key referred to a referendum as “… a complete and utter waste of money because it’s just about sending a message”, he was not referring to his much-beloved pet-project, the $29 million flag referendum.

He was, in fact, deriding the $9 million asset sale referendum held two years ago, and which resulted in a decisive 67.2% of 1.3 million New Zealanders voting against the government’s asset sales programme. Key was bluntly dismissive of  the asset sales referendum;

“Overall what it basically shows, it was pretty much a political stunt.”

Charming.

Key’s $29 million dollar white-elephant project receives his personal blessing and whole-hearted endorsement;

“In the end you have to say, what price do you put on democracy where people can genuinely have their say on a matter that is actually important? … This is a cost essentially of one of the values that New Zealanders would want to test.

Yes, it’s a one-off cost, but my view would be that if the flag doesn’t change as a result of this referendum process, then it won’t be changing for a good 50 to 100 years, so this is a cost we have to bear.”

– whereas a preceding referenda on a critical economic/political policy was dismissed as irrelevent in the Prime Minister’s grand scheme of things.

Nothing better illustrates the deep contempt which John Key holds the public and democracy than his inconsistent attitudes on these two referenda.

If New Zealanders want to send our esteemed Dear Leader a definitive message, they might recall the decisive message they sent to  the National-NZ First Coalition government in 1997, where  92% rejected Winston Peters’ superannuation scheme.

I offer the following strategy for those voters who are opposed to this referendum;

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The referendum will be carried out in two parts. The first part will be a referendum held in November-December this year to determine which alternative people might prefer;

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flag referendum stage one

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This is the ballot paper to spoil by writing over it your opposition to this referendum. In a written piece entitled “Winston Flags Referendum For Protest“, fellow blogger Curwen Rolinson suggests writing “I support the current flag” on your ballot paper. Or you can create your own appropriate message.

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The second part of the referendum will be held in March next year. This will be the run-off between our  current ‘Stars’n’Jack‘, and an alternative selected from Step 1.

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flag referendum stage two

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This step must not be spoiled. A clear message can still be sent to our esteemed Dear Leader by voting for the status quo, to keep the current flag.

If the alternative is defeated, and the incumbent flag is maintained as the preferred choice, John Key will have been shown to have engaged in a vanity project, and wasting $29 million dollars of taxpayers money in the process.

By this simple strategy, we, the people,  can show the same scorn to Key’s  pet-project as he did to the asset sales referendum in 2013.

Addendum1

Alternative Option 2: If Richard Aslett’s “eNZign” design (see top of page) is selected as the alternative for the March 2016 referendum (highly, highly unlikely) – vote for it. What better “legacy” for Key’s prime ministership than something that looks like the product of an LSD-induced trip?

So not only will $29 million have been wasted, but a “trippy” flag will have been chosen that takes New Zealand back to the psychedelic 1960s.

What better way to give Key the one-fingered salute?

Addendum2

Meanwhile, John Oliver shared his brilliant insights into the flag debate;

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John oliver new zealand flag referendum

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References

Otago Daily Times: Asset sales referendum ‘waste of money’

Fairfax media: Asset sales programme to continue – Key

NZ Herald: John Key defends cost of flag referendums

NZ Govt: Flag Consideration Panel – The flag consideration process

Youtube: John Oliver – New Zealand’s New Flag

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The Pencilsword Flagpole blues

Acknowledgement: Toby Morris, ‘The Wireless

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on  13 July 2015.

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Letter to the editor – a Tale of Two Referenda

14 July 2015 1 comment

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Listener <letters@listener.co.nz>
date: Sun, Jul 12, 2015
subject: Letter to the editor

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The Editor
The Listener

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I find it ironic that John Key has invested so much of his time, effort, and tax-payer’s money in the up-coming flag referendum.

On 29 October last year, Key defended the $29 million price tag of the referendum;

“In the end you have to say, what price do you put on democracy where people can genuinely have their say on a matter that is actually important? … This is a cost essentially of one of the values that New Zealanders would want to test.

Yes, it’s a one-off cost, but my view would be that if the flag doesn’t change as a result of this referendum process, then it won’t be changing for a good 50 to 100 years, so this is a cost we have to bear.” (NZ Herald, ‘John Key defends cost of flag referendums’)

This is is stark contrast to Key’s dismissive attitude toward the $9 million asset-sales referendum, held in September 2013, which he labelled frivolous;

“It’s a complete and utter waste of money because it’s just about sending a message.” (Otago Daily Times, ‘Asset sales referendum ‘waste of money’)

On 14 December 2014, he was even more blunt about the asset-sales referendum;

“Overall what it basically shows, it was pretty much a political stunt.” (Fairfax media, ‘Asset sales programme to continue: Key’)

Key has staked his political reputation on a referendum which seemingly few New Zealanders want, nor care about. Spending $29 million on the flag referendum will be three times what was spent deciding the future of publicly owned, multi-billion-dollar assets.

Key showed a casual, dismissive arrogance to the asset sales referendum – but now expects the public to take his own pet project seriously?!

No, Prime Minister, that is not how it works.

We will take your silly little flag referendum more seriously when you start to show respect to other public concerns.

Until then, your referendum is little more than an ego-driven joke, and I suspect most New Zealanders will be dismissive toward it.

“Political stunt”, indeed.

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-Frank Macskasy

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[address and phone number supplied]

 

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References

NZ Herald: John Key defends cost of flag referendums

Otago Daily Times: Asset sales referendum ‘waste of money’

Fairfax media: Asset sales programme to continue – Key


 

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Christchurch City Council – Having your asset-cake and eating it

28 March 2015 2 comments

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christchurch city council logo

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Prelude

On 29 January 2013, Prime Minister John Key announced that the rebuild of Christchurch would be a Herculean, multi-billion dollar task;

New Zealand also faces a domestic construction boom. That will be centred, of course, on Christchurch, where the total spend is now estimated to be around $30 billion.”

By 15 May 2014, National’s Finance Minister, Bill English delivered his sixth Budget speech to Parliament. The cost of the Christchurch re-build  had escalated by $10 billion;

The total cost of the rebuild has been estimated at $40 billion and the Government’s share will be significant.

On current estimates, the Government’s contribution to the rebuild is expected to be $15.4 billion, of which $7.3 billion will be incurred by the Earthquake Commission, net of reinsurance proceeds.

Despite central government’s massive re-build bill for Christchurch, in his Budget Conclusion, English was at pains to repeat his new mantra;

The Government’s books are on track to surplus next year and are the envy of most developed countries.”

The surplus English referred to was an Operating balance Before Gains and Losses (OBEGAL),  forecast to be a hair-thin  $86 million for 2014/15.

English’s  Budget document pointed out;

Government is still borrowing a net $78 million a week, and in dollar terms, net debt is expected to peak at $64.5 billion in 2015/16...”

Little wonder that English stated, with blinding obviousness four days earlier;

It means we will need to maintain firm expenditure control beyond our return to surplus...”

Which is why an increasingly nervous Finance Minister, conscious of spiralling re-build costs, came down hard and crushed any suggestion that taxpayer’s money be used to subsidise the proposed SkyCity convention centre;

There’s no contingency for that. If the less preferred option ended up being the option then that money would be part of the Budget process.”

Firm expenditure control in this case meant that the government-purse was firmly shut. And padlocked.

National Government’s Predictable Response

In May 2011, barely three months after Christchurch’s devastating earthquake that killed 185 people, there were already suggestions from Gerry Brownlee that the Christchurch Council would have to sell part of their community-owned assets to fund the re-build.

National’s mis-handling of the economy, with two unaffordable tax-cuts,  as well as the Global Financial Crisis and resultant recession,  had left the government’s books deep in the red.

At first, Brownlee was coy at any suggestion of asset sales;

I don’t foresee the council having to sell any assets, though in the end that will be their choice.

But in the next breath, he added;

I would suspect that Treasury have had a look at the city council’s balance sheet, given that we are going to have to take a whole lot of debt onto our [the Government’s] balance sheet.

It’s only natural we would have a look at what the council can stand [to pay].

Yes, there is provision in this legislation for Cera [Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority] to suggest to council that they might need to sell something.

Brownlee denied that government or Treasury had been scoping CCC assets with a view to partial (or full) privatisation;

The accusation is that Treasury have been looking at council assets with a view to what the council will sell. That is, I think, completely erroneous.

On 9 February 2012, a year after the second earthquake,  Brownlee admitted in Parliament (in response to questioning by the future mayor of Christchurch, Lianne Dalziel);

In the days leading up to that particular injudicious comment from me there were numerous discussions going on with the council—between the senior executives, the mayor, me, and the senior executives of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority—over a number of issues that we want the council to take some responsibility, alongside us, for. Although Treasury officials will have talked to the council, I am unaware of exactly what that discussion would have been about. But let me tell you that when the Government is spending $5.5 billion anywhere we expect the recipients of that to have some plan for how they will participate in what will be a very, very expensive recovery, and that plan has to be a lot better than saying “We’re just going to put up the rates, and we’re going to borrow a lot more money”.”

Brownlee would have us believe that he was “unaware of exactly what that discussion would have been about” between Treasury officials and  Christchurch council?  As Minister of Earthquake Recovery of that devastated city, that proposition is simply not credible.

Brownlee was not being truthful.

The Minister’s denial was further shown to be less than truthful with this evasive response in Parliament on 2 August 2012;

I have received advice from Treasury and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority on a range of funding options for the rebuilding of Greater Christchurch, to which the Government has committed $5.5 billion to date. Alongside the Christchurch City Council, I support the regeneration of our city, which will be enhanced by the development of the central city plan, released on Monday. I have publicly acknowledged the funding challenges for both the city council and the Government. Councillors and I have agreed to discuss, alongside our respective organisations, a sensible and achievable time line and funding programme for the delivery of the blueprint. I approach these discussions in good faith, as the thousands of city residents would expect us to do so. I intend to say no further on this matter.

The full text  of a remarkable, and somewhat ‘testy’ exchange between Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery, Gerry Brownlee, and the then-Speaker of the House, Lockwood Smith, under-scored the sensitivity of any suggestion that central government was putting the “squeeze” on Christchurch to sell community-owned assets and relieve pressure on English’s struggle to balance the books.

By May 2013, all pretences that asset sales were not being discussed were firmly kicked to the side, with John Key entering the political fray (and Gerry Brownlee standing pensively and obediently in the background);

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Christchurch rebuild - Council needs to come to the party - PM

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Key was clear with Christchurch residents in his expectations;

The only other option available to it is that it doesn’t actually embark on some of the projects it might want to embark on. In the end Cantabrians will have to have a say on what they think is the right mix.

I actually personally hold the view that for Canterbury, where you love sport, happen to be pretty darn good at it, and have climatic conditions that argue that a covered stadium might make sense, then actually it could be a really sensible thing to do.

And if it was up to me I would make that choice in a heartbeat if it meant changing the mix of assets, but I understand for lots of other people they might not hold that view.

This is the chance to get it right. I just urge everyone to think that through.  There is the opportunity to have some quite fantastic facilities here.

The Government is quite happy to step up and put $15bn in, and there is a limit as to how much we can put in, and some of it must come from the council.

The threat is obvious; ‘cough up the extra cash by selling some of the family silver, or  no more rugger for you lot’!

Faced with National firmly closing off any options to meet ever-increasing re-build costs, Christchurch was faced with few alternatives and on 1 August last year the Council caved to central government pressure in the form of a report from investment bankers, Cameron Partners. As Mayor Lianne Dalziel admitted;

We’ve got nothing, there isn’t even wriggle room any more, there’s just nothing there, we’re over the line and we have to pull it back before 2017.

Creating financial certainty will attract much needed investment in the rebuild. We want to work alongside the Canterbury earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) to scope the possibilities for a one-stop landing point for both local and foreign investors.”

Note the year Dalziel refers to: 2017. An election year.

Dalziel’s reference to “both local and foreign investors” is an oblique acknowledgement that the Christchurch City Council will have to part-privatise community assets to raise money that will not be forthcoming from Key’s government.

She was more forth-coming here, on the same day;

Releasing capital from our balance sheet alongside the other options, (including increased income, reduced operational expenditure and government assistance), is clearly one of the ways we can address the uncertainty around the city’s finances.

Dalziel also hinted at why Christchurch was forced to undertake asset sales;

The purpose of releasing capital would be to generate funds to assist in solving the identified funding shortfall; provide the level of confidence and certainty required to develop a credible long term financial strategy and get on with the rebuild of our community facilities, infrastructure and housing; allow CCC to buffer Christchurch residents and businesses from the exponential rates increases; and allow CCC to align our vision and strategic objectives for the rebuild with our asset portfolio – that is, what we own and operate.

It is simply untenable – both from a commercial perspective, as well as morally – that citizens in one city should be forced to pay for the rebuild of their infra-structure. This was a disaster not of their making.

Any suggestion that the cost should not be spread more evenly around the country would create a precedent that we are each solely responsible for any disaster that might befall our own region. Do New Zealanders really want to go down that road? They should think long and hard if that is the kind of society they want for themselves and their children.

Earthquake Recovery Minister could not endorse the Cameron Partners report fast enough, releasing this statement on the same day – 1 August;

The Cameron Partners report makes it clear some major areas of financial uncertainty are causing headaches for Christchurch City, including the cost of repairing and replacing the city’s essential horizontal infrastructure [pipes, roads, waterways].

When we signed the cost-sharing agreement with the council in June 2013 we foresaw this and undertook to do a thorough review of where the shared costs of the rebuild lay by 1 December this year.

Once we have this information we can consider if any amendments are required to the cost-sharing agreement.

Officials from CERA and the Treasury are working with the council already to ensure the review provides Christchurch City with the clarity it needs to help make some of the big decisions ahead of it.”

National had won.

Brownlee had successfully forced Christchurch Council to adopt unofficial National Party policy; that Council’s were expected to divest themselves of strategic assets if funding for extraordinary projects was required. This was the same policy that Brownlee had forced on Auckland, to fund it’s rail loop, and which he outlined on TV3’s ‘The Nation‘, on 30 June 2013;

Rachel Smalley:John Key said on Thursday that Auckland should consider selling its assets in order to meet some of these costs. Should the Council consider that?”

Gerry Brownlee: Well I think it’s one of those things that’s inevitably going to be on the table. Remember that we’ve got a programme that is now set out for the next 10 years, and as we come up to the point where you’re getting the business case together for the city rail link and that huge expense that’s involved in that, and recognise that you’ve got a 2016 Local Body Election as well, I’d be very surprised if it wasn’t something that was considered by some people.”

But more was come on 6 December 2014, Brownlee was demanding that Christchurch Council increase the level of asset sales;

So it’s a positive step but it’s not the end yet. I do have some worries that it might be a little timid and particularly if it were to lead to much higher rates there in Christchurch.

Murray Horton, from the lobby group ‘Keep Our Assets Canterbury’, was correct when he warned;

Once a chunk of ownership of those assets, the council’s assets, is gone then it won’t be long before there are calls for more to go.

Horton’s prescience was proved barely three months later.

Costs & Consequences

On 26 February, 2015, four years and four days after the city’s second quake, the Christchurch City Council voted;

“...subject to public consultation, the council will release $750m in capital through the sale or partial sale of assets the council owns through its commercial arm, Christchurch City Holdings, to help plug its $1.2 billion funding shortfall.

By the following day, Brownlee was demanding more asset sales, which he repeated more forthrightly on TVNZ’s Q+A on 

I don’t think you can put a particular price on it. What I think they need to do, and I’m sure that the council will get there. I’ve got to say the council have been edging their way to a position that I think will leave them in a good space progressively. What really is necessary is a sales process that gets you the highest possible price. If you go out and say, ‘Look, I’m just going to sell a little bit of this and a little bit of that,’ then you’re not going to get any premium on it at all. And if you’re going to sell something, you may as well get as much for it as you possibly can. That’s my real point.

[…]

…if you look at something like the airport. It’s essentially a real estate company that just provides parking for planes. You could break it down to being that simple. It’s still going to get used. It’s still going to provide the service the city requires whoever owns it. It is partly price controlled through the Commerce Act, as is Orion. Completely price controlled. So the idea that someone else would buy it and the pricing of your electricity lines are going to become completely out of control is completely wrong. ”

The sale of community assets is a perfect fit with National’s ideological and fiscal needs;

  1. Ideologically, National is as wedded to privatisation as it ever was. It is only held back from a  more radical asset sales programme by public opinion – a point no doubt reinforced through National’s on-going secret polling.
  2. Fiscally, forcing local territorial authorities to finance infra-structure through sales of community-own assets lets central government off the hook, and gives English his desperately needed surplus.

Territorial Authorities have little control over Point 2.

With regards to Point 1, however, Territorial Authorities finding themselves under financial pressure can be more strategic when it comes to finding ways and means to navigate political pressure from the likes of right-wing governments and ministers like Gerry Brownlee.

One such mechanism is found within Christchurch City Council’s own document, “Council decision on proposed Financial Strategy“, where it states;

The sale of 14.3 % of Orion on condition that the shares are only offered to another public entity, such as another TA [Territorial Authority], or an institutional investor such as NZ Super Fund, and that any agreement would be subject to the shares returning to the CCC should the investor wish to sell down its share at a future date.

The same document suggests the sale of 34% of Lyttleton Port Company and 9% of Canterbury International Airport Ltd to “a suitable strategic partner“.

The latter measure opens the proverbial slippery slope to further down-selling of Christchurch Council’s shares in both companies. As such, it would be unacceptable to most Cantabrians (and New Zealanders, who have experienced the down-side of sales of strategic assets).

The NZ Super Fund would be an ideal partner for a Territorial Authoritory such as Christchurch Council. At present the NZSF’s investment in New Zealand amounts to only  13.8% in 2014  (down from 14.2% in 2013).

Not only would the NZSF offer an ideal means by which to keep these assets in New Zealand ownership, but would retain the profits instead of seeing them sent off-shore, worsening our Balance of Payments even further.

It would also fulfil the Super Fund’s  2009 directive from the Minister of Finance “requiring us to, while always investing in a prudent and commercial manner, identify and consider opportunities to increase the allocation to New Zealand assets in the Fund“.

Lastly, the Christchurch Council could eventually re-purchase the shares from the NZSF once the city’s re-build was essentially completed and it’s books were back to some semblance of normality.

The first option should always be that local strategic assets remain in local ownership, so that everyone in the community benefits.

In the face of intransigence from an ideologically-bound, and fiscally inept National Government, the best we can hope for is Plan B.

Plan B: transferring ownership, by temporary sale, to the New Zealand Super Fund. It ticks nearly all the boxes.

Additional – Christchurch City Asset Holdings

  • Christchurch City Holdings Ltd (CCHL) is the commercial/investment arm of the Christchurch City Council.
  • CCHL manages the Council (ratepayers’) investment – worth around $2.6 billion – in these seven fully or partly-owned council-controlled trading organisations.
  • CCHL is forecasting to paying $46 million in dividends for 2015/16 period.
  • CCHL Special dividend for 2015/16 period: $549,300,000
  • “The return on our CCHL investment from cash dividends has averaged 3 per cent in the last three years and 4 per cent in the last 10 years. When the appreciation in the capital value of its investments is taken into account, CCHL has achieved an internal rate of return over the past five years of 8.0per cent a year, or 25.9 per cent a year since its inception in 1996.” (Source)

Trading Organisations

Orion New Zealand Ltd: 89.3% shareholding

Christchurch International Airport Ltd: 75%

Lyttelton Port Company Ltd: 78.9%

Christchurch City Networks Ltd (trading as Enable Networks): 100%

Red Bus Ltd: 100%

City Care Ltd: 100%

Selwyn Plantation Board Ltd: 39.3%

[Acknowledgement Fairfax Media]

 

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References

National Party: Prime Minister’s Statement to Parliament

NZ Treasury: 2014 Budget Speech

NZ Treasury: Rebuilding Christchurch

NZ Treasury: Budget Priorities

Beehive.govt.nz: Budget will confirm track to surplus in 2014/15

Interest.co.nz: Finance Minister prefers not to spend taxpayer cash to avoid Sky City ‘eyesore’; no money in Budget 2015 for it

Fairfax media: Christchurch door open for asset sales

TV3 News: Government accounts show $18.4 billion deficit

Scoop media: Parliamentary Questions And Answers Feb 9 2012

Green Party: Eugenie Sage questions the Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery on Christchurch asset sales

NZ Herald:  Christchurch rebuild – Council needs to come to the party – PM

Fairfax media: Cameron Partners Review – full report

TV One News: Christchurch facing huge financial black hole

Sharechat.co.nz: Christchurch considers selling strategic assets stake to fund rebuild

The Press: Council asset sales mooted to help raise $900m

Scoop media: Brownlee says its up to Len to sell assets for loop

Radio NZ: Asset sales plan ‘may be too timid’

The Press:  Christchurch City Council votes for $750m asset sales

The Press: Gerry Brownlee says Christchurch rate rise as ‘too much’

Scoop media: TV1 Q+A – Govt will protect identities of NZ troops – Brownlee

NZ Super Fund: 2014 Annual Report

NZ Super Fund: 2009 Ministerial Directive

Statistics NZ: Balance of Payments and International Investment Position – December 2014 quarter

Christchurch City Council: Christchurch City Long Term Plan 2015 – 2025

Christchurch City Council: Council decision on proposed Financial Strategy

Additional

Christchurch City Council: Long Term Plan consultation document adopted

Previous related blogposts

Christchurch, choice, and charter schools

Christchurch – Picking the bones clean?

The “Free Market” is a fair-weather friend


 

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This blogpost was submitted to the Christchurch City Council as a submission to the Long Term Plan, on 22 March 2015.
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 23 March 2015.

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

15 February 2015 4 comments

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boots and homes

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Recent Timeline of Events: Iraq

18 June 2014

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

20 September 2014

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

30 September 2014

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

[…]

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

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

5 November 2014

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

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

 20 January 2015

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

[…]

The prime minister said…

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

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

 

Recent Timeline of Events: Housing

24 February 2014

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

[…]

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

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

20 September 2014

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

28 January 2015

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Prior to last year’s election, Key unequivocally promised

(a) Not to send combat troops to Iraq,

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

It seems that we can now expect;

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

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

The man simply cannot be trusted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Especially when the Housing NZ waiting list continues to rise.

And the first body bags return to New Zealand.

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References

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

TV3: Key rules out sending troops to Iraq

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

Fairfax media: NZ military personnel headed for Iraq

Radio NZ: Iraq troop decision weeks away

Radio NZ: PM rules out more asset sales

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

Radio NZ: State houses sale ‘financial risk’

Radio NZ: PM surprised by turn of events in Australia

Additional

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

Previous related blogposts

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

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

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

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

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


 

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housing endangered

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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

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Letter to the Editor: Kiwi style or American style?

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FROM:       "f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT:     Letters to the editor
DATE:        Wed, 14 May 2014 23:59:33 +1200
TO:         "Dominion Post" <letters@dompost.co.nz> 

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The Editor
Dominion Post

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I am dumbfound. Absolutely gobsmacked.

With New Zealand's sovereign debt now around $60 billion (as
at November 2013) and having increased by $27 million a day
since National took office - John Key is kite-flying with
suggestions of further tax cuts?!

Is this how National exercises fiscal responsibility -
bribing voters with yet more unaffordable tax cuts?

Previous tax cuts in 2009 and 2010 were paid for with assets
sales; taxing children on their paper rounds; increasing
prescription charges; as well as unsuccessful  attempts to
tax carparks and cellphones. Currently, National is planning
to sell off 5,000 State houses that were once homes to
low-income families.

Instead of tax cuts, New Zealanders might care to tell the
Prime Minister that we should be funding education so that
parents don't have to fork out  $357 million a year in
so-called "voluntary donations" and spend long hours 
fundraising to pay for  supposedly "free" schooling.

It is patently simple. We can have free education and public
healthcare. Or we can have tax-cuts. But we cannot have
both. 

This is the moment we decide whether we want public services
for all New Zealanders, regardless of their financial
circumstances - or an American-style user-pays.

I hope we choose wisely.


-Frank Macskasy
[address & phone number supplied]

 

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References

NZ Herald:  Parents fundraise $357m for ‘free’ schooling

Fairfax media: Public debt climbs by $27m a day

Radio NZ: PM John Key dangles tax cut carrot


 

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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Letter to the Editor: what is a politician’s promise worth?

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old-paper-with-quill-pen-vector_34-14879

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FROM: 	"f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT: Letters to the Editor
DATE: 	 Sun, 16 Mar 2014 21:10:15 +1300
TO: 	"Sunday Star Times" letters@star-times.co.nz 

.
The Editor
Sunday Star Times

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Winston Peters has pledged that his Party's bottom line is
the re-purchase of all shares in Meridian, Genesis, and
Mighty River Power at "a price no more than that initially
paid for them".

This is stated on NZ First's website, and Peter's reiterated
his pledge on TV3's 'The Nation' on 15/16 March.

I sincerely hope that Mr Peters' promise to buy back the
powerco SOEs fares better than his pledge in 1996, to buy
back Forestry Corp's timber cutting rights. Forestry Corp
was privatised by the Bolger-led National government for
around $1.6 billion to a consortium made up by Fletcher
Challenge Forests, Brierley Investments Ltd,  and Chinese
state-owned company,  Citifor Inc (now known as CITIC
Group).

Peters promised during the 1996 general election;

“I want to tell the Chinese buyers and I want to tell
Brierleys that they had better not make any long-range plans
because the day after the election is over we will be
sending them an emissary to them them exactly what is going
to happen, that is, that we are going to keep out promise,
they can give back the asset and we will give the money
back.”

The buy-back never happened, despite Mr Peters becoming
Treasurer and Deputy PM on 11 December 1996. His pledge
quietly disappeared.

Let's hope the same fate does not befall his pledge to buy
back the powerco shares.

-Frank Macskasy
(address  & phone number supplied)

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Related blogposts

Fool me Once, Shame on you

Winston Peters recycles pledge to “buy back state assets” – where have we heard that before?

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= fs =

Tiwai Point – An exercise in National’s “prudent fiscal management”?

26 February 2014 Leave a comment

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corporate welfare 1

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Timeline

3 October 2007: Meridian and NZAS/Rio Tinto sign agreement for the continuous supply of 572 megawatts of power to the Tiwai Point smelter for 2013 to 2030.

30 October 2011: National government announces partial asset sales, of Genesis, Meridian, Mighty River Power, Solid Energy, and a further sell-down of Air New Zealand.

9 August 2012: Meridian Energy (electricity supplier to Rio Tinto) announces that Rio Tinto/Pacific Aluminium is demanding to renegotiate its electricity supply contract between the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter and Meridian.

10 August 2012: Rio Tinto CEO, Tom Albanese, warns that the smelter will be closed “if they cannot be viable, we have difficult decisions to make”.

7 September 2012:  Rio Tinto/New Zealand Aluminium Smelters  announces it will  make 100 workers redundant by November 2012.

7 August 2013: Rio Tinto/New Zealand Aluminium Smelters  announces 30 maintenance workers to be made redundant at the Tiwai Point smelter.

8 August 2013: National government announces agreement to give cash subsidy of  $30 million  to Rio Tinto, and Meridian Energy to supply the smelter with cheaper (price undisclosed) electricity than agreed in 2007.

9 August 2013: Bill English confirms that he has not sought a guarantee from Rio Tinto that jobs will not be lost at the smelter.

20 August 2013: National government announces details to sell 49% of Meridian Energy.

14/15 February 2014: Rio Tinto announces a   $4.43 billion ($US3.7 billion) annual after-tax profit. Rio Tinto shareholders recieve a 15% increase in dividends.

An exercise in National’s “prudent fiscal management”?

We were conned.

There is no other way to describe events between October 2007 and February this year; we were conned by a multi-national mining/metals giant that exploited National’s core-policies, for their own gain.

How else to describe the above events?

Once National announced their intention to partially-privatise Meridian Energy and float it on the New Zealand  (and Australian) stock exchanges – Rio Tinto realised that the price of Meridian shares would be determined by the income they derived from selling electricity.

As Green Party co-leader, Russel Norman stated,

”Rio Tinto took advantage of Mr Key’s obsession with asset sales by threatening to derail the sale of Meridian by closing the Tiwai smelter, so Mr Key gave them $30 million of public money.”

Rio Tinto was Meridian’s biggest customer, supplying  Tiwai Point  with approximately 15% of New Zealand’s total  electricity output. As such, Rio Tinto had Meridian  (and by proxy, the National Government) by the balls. And on 7 September 2012 and 7 August 2013, Rio Tinto squeezed.

By making  130 workers redundant, it sent National, and it’s compliant  leader, a clear message; “Don’t f**k with us, Johnny-boy. These 130 plebes are an example of what we can do to screw you over“.

Had Rio Tinto followed through on it’s threats (and make no mistake – they were threats), it would have brought down the government. That would have ended Key’s career and his reputation would have been in tatters. No Knighthood or beersies for Johnny-boy!

Key had no choice but to capitulate. Key admitted as such when he said on 14 February,

“At the end of the day I think the Government took a modest step to ensure there was a smooth potential transition there – that we didn’t have a glut of electricity we couldn’t use or that thousands and thousands of Southland jobs are out at risk.”

The resulting loss of 700 jobs at the smelter,  and a further 2,500 downstream throughout Southland, would certainly have been embarrassing for Key and damaging to National .  But this is a government that has overseen the sacking of approximately 3,000 state sector workers (up to August 2012) and 29,472 few jobs in the manufacturing sector, since 2006 (2013 Census results), so unemployment per se is not a problem that overly concerns right-wing government ministers.

What really threatened this government was Key’s reference to a “glut of electricity” – note the words. A glut of electricity would have de-railed the entire asset sales programme. Result; end of National; end of asset sales programme (and the neo-liberal agenda on the whole), and the end of Key’s career.

This shabby, self-serving, politically-expedient exercise, has cost us – the tax-payer – $30 million, plus an even cheaper electricity deal than probably anyone else in this country gets. No wonder the contract price is even more uber secret than the goings-on at the GCSB – the public would erupt in fury if they came to know what our electricity was being sold for, whilst the rest of us have mounting power prices, year after year after year.

Meanwhile, the lowest paid workers in New Zealand’s rest homes are paid just barely above the minimum wage;

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Resthome spy hails saint-like workers

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To which our well-heeled Prime Minister responded thusly,

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PM  No money for aged care workers

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To quote Dear Leader,

“It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash. As the country moves back to surplus it’s one of the areas we can look at but I think most people would accept this isn’t the time we have lots of extra cash.”

Interesting. Key and his Cabinet cronies found $30 million to throw at a multi-national corporation – which only six months later posted a $4.43 billion ($US3.7 billion) annual after-tax profit.

But no money for the lowest paid, hardest-working people (predominantly women) in our community. Key responded to Russell Norman’s criticism of the $30 million welfare handout,

“If Tiwai Point had closed straight away then hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of jobs would have disappeared and the Greens would have said the Government doesn’t care about those workers and is turning their back on them so they really can’t have it both ways.”

If only we could believe Key. But considering that thousands  lost their jobs since the Global Financial Crisis, and National has not bailed out any other company, the Prime Minister’s protestations ring hollow.

In fact, it’s fairly well obvious that the taxpayer-funded payout to Rio Tinto had nothing to do with jobs or the Southland economy – and everything to do with the state assets sales. As David Hargreaves wrote on Interest.co.nz,

“So, it will cost you, I and him and her a combined NZ$30 million of our hard-earned to keep the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter open just long enough so that the Government can flog off 49% of Meridian Energy.

That’s about the size of the deal struck between Meridian and the company controlled by global giant Rio Tinto, with additional sugar coating supplied by the Government, courtesy of us.

From the point the Government first stepped in earlier this year in an attempt to ‘help out’ it was always obvious tax payers were going to be forced to front up with some readies for the pleasure of keeping the always controversial smelter running for a while longer.

I have no doubt that the smelter will be closed in 2017, which is now when the owners get the first chance to pull the plug.”

The most asinine aspect to this deal (and there are many) is that Finance Minister,  Bill English, told Radio New Zealand on 9 August 2013 that “ensuring the safety of those jobs was not part of the deal and no undertakings were sought on the operation of the company”.

No guarantee for preserving jobs?!

Question: So what, precisely, did $30 million buy?

Answer: Rio Tinto not rocking the boat and upsetting National’s asset-sales programme.

This was a most odious, repugnant deal.

Every New Zealander contributed some of their hard-earned cash, which ended up in Rio Tinto’s shareholder’s pockets.

All done to achieve the sale of state assets which we own.

John Key gave away our money; which ended up in shareholder’s pockets; to sell assets we own; to other share investors.

This is the crazy side of National’s economic policy. This is  corporate welfare and crony capitalism rolled into one. Which begs the question to National’s supporters; is this what they see as “prudent fiscal management”?

How “prudent” is it to pay a subsidy to a multi-national corporation, that posted a multi-billion dollar after-tax profit,  that will most likely close the smelter regardless in some near future date (2017?)?

And why was that $30 million not invested in other job creation industries in Southland, so that a multi-national corporation could not hold this country to ransom? After Rio Tinto and Warner Bros – who is next to hold a gun to our collective head demanding a taxpayer subsidy/payout?

This was an odious, repugnant and wasteful deal.

This should not be allowed to be forgotten this election.

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John Key says I'd like to raise wages but I can't

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References

NZ Herald:  Meridian boss hails deal with smelter

Radio NZ: Details of Meridian share offer announced

Radio NZ: National announces plans for asset sale profits

TV3: Rio Tinto seeks new Bluff smelter terms

TV3: Rio Tinto eyeing smelter closures

Australia Mining: Rio Tinto’s New Zealand smelter to axe jobs

Fairfax Media: More jobs to go in smelter revamp

Interest.co.nz: Govt pays NZ$30 mln to smelter owners in a deal that will clear the way for the float of Meridian Energy

Radio NZ: No job guarantees sought in smelter deal

Otago Daily Times: Rio Tinto profit more than $4.4b

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

NZ Statistics: 2013 Census QuickStats about national highlights

Dominion Post: 555 jobs gone from public sector

Fairfax media: Resthome spy hails saint-like workers

Fairfax media: PM – No money for aged care workers

Interest.co.nz:  Opinion: There was a certain inevitability the long-suffering taxpayer would be ‘invited’ to cough up for the pleasure of keeping the Tiwai Point smelter open

Previous related blogposts

John Key’s track record on raising wages – 4. Rest Home Workers

“It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash”

2013 – Ongoing jobless talley

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The Cost of Living

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

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

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Radio NZ: Nine To Noon – Election year interviews – David Cunliffe

26 February 2014 Leave a comment

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– Radio NZ, Nine To Noon –

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– Wednesday 25 February 2014 –

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– Kathryn Ryan –

.

On  Nine To Noon, Kathyrn Ryan interviewed Labour’s leader, David Cunliffe, and asked him about coalition negotiations, policies, polls, and other issues…

 

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Radio NZ logo -  nine to noon

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Click to Listen: Election year interviews (27′ 50″ )

A major policy statement by David Cunliffe;

@ 22.00:  “We will create incentives for private employers to be certified living wage employers, who pay the living wage  to all their employees, by giving them a preference in  Crown contracts.”

This will not only support firms that pay their staff properly – but will de facto give preference to local businesses to supply goods and services!

If this doesn’t motivate Small-Medium Enterprises to switch their allegiances from the Nats to Labour, I don’t know what will!

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= fs =

Has Key just insulted 1,058,638 National voters?

21 December 2013 Leave a comment

As was predicted, Key’s response  to voter turnout to the asset sales referendum has been dismissive and derisory,

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PM playing down voter turnout - 13.12.13

Source

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With “only” 1,297,281 voting papers returned,  Key was obviously unimpressed,

Well the numbers don’t look like they’re that significant. I mean at the moment it’s sitting at around about 40 per cent.

Key added that the number was ” not absolutely amazing, it’s not overwhelmingly opposed“.

Considering that 1,058,638 people voted for National in 2011, does that also mean that Key is dismissive of National’s electoral support in 2011 as “ the numbers don’t look like they’re that significant“; “not absolutely amazing“; and not “overwhelmingly opposed ” to the Labour Party’s anti-asset election campaign?

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electoral result 2011

Source

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Because from where I stand, 238,643 more people participated in the  asset sales referendum  than voted for National, two years ago.

I’m sure 1,058,638 National voters would be unimpressed at the suggestion that they “don’t look like they’re that significant “.

That’s the trouble when a Prime Minister casually describes nearly a quarter of the country’s population as not “significant”. That’s a lot of people to dismiss out of hand.

And a lot of aggrieved voters.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 14 December 2013.

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References

Wikipedia: 2011 Election results

Fairfax media: PM playing down voter turnout

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Radio NZ: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams – 16 December 2013

16 December 2013 2 comments

.

– Politics on Nine To Noon –

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– Monday 16 December 2013 –

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– Kathryn Ryan, with Matthew Hooton & Mike Williams –

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Today on Politics on Nine To Noon,

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

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Click to Listen: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams ( 22′ 37″  )

This week:

  • Len Brown

Listen to Matthew Hooton’s surprising analysis of Len Brown’s hotel room upgrades.

  • Paula Rebstock and the MFAT Inquiry
  • Asset sales referendum
  • Christine Rankin vs Paula Bennett

en Brow.

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= fs =

Letter to the Editor: Key’s arrogance shines through

16 December 2013 2 comments

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old-paper-with-quill-pen-vector_34-14879

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FROM:    "f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT: Letter to the Editor
DATE:    Mon, 16 Dec 2013 08:09:19 +1300
TO:      Dominion Post < .co.nz >

 

The Editor
DOMINION POST

As predicted by many, Prime Minister Key has been busily
dismissing and deriding the results to the recent asset
sales referendum with comments like these;

"Well, the numbers don’t look like they’re that
significant. I mean at the moment it’s sitting at around
about 40 per cent.     That’s not absolutely amazing,
it’s not overwhelmingly opposed. But the people who are
motivated to vote will be those who are going to vote
against." 

And,

"They were expecting a big turnout, they were expecting a
big vote in their favour and they didn't get either of
those. Overall what it basically shows is that it was a
political stunt."

John Key's increasingly strident utterances and arrogant
nature is becoming more public with each passing day and it
has become abundantly clear to New Zealand how casually he
dismisses public opinion.

So be it.

At the next election I hope no National candidate has the
cheek to say that their party listens to public concerns,
because we will know that is a barefaced lie.

-Frank Macskasy
(address & phone number supplied)

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Email address

Dominion Post:   .co.nz (max 200 word limit)

References

NZ Herald: Asset sales proceed in spite of referendum

Fairfax media: PM playing down voter turnout

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Letter to the Editor: Key responds to the asset referendum voter turnout

14 December 2013 3 comments

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old-paper-with-quill-pen-vector_34-14879

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FROM:    "f.macskasy"
SUBJECT: Letters to the editor
DATE:    Saturday, 14 December 2013 12:07:32
TO:      NZ Herald <letters@herald.co.nz> 

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The Editor
NZ Herald

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Predictably, Key has dismissed the asset sale referendum,

    “Well, the numbers don’t look like they’re that
significant. I mean at the moment it’s sitting at around
about 40 per cent.     That’s not absolutely amazing,
it’s not overwhelmingly opposed. But the people who are
motivated to vote will be those who are going to vote
against.” 

Let's be clear here: 1,297,281 voting papers were returned
in the Referendum.

If  1,297,281 referendum votes are not signficant - contrast
that to the 1,058,638 who voted National in 2011. Are they
also not "significant" or "absolutely amazing"?

Not very bright of Dear Leader Key to so casually dismiss
1,058,638 National voters. Come the next election, those
voters may look elsewhere where their support is more
valued. And listened to.

Because one thing seems fairly clear; Key has stopped
listening.

-Frank Macskasy
(address & phone number supplied)

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Reference

Fairfax media: Two-thirds of voters oppose asset sales

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Radio NZ: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams – 9 December 2013

10 December 2013 Leave a comment

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– Politics on Nine To Noon –

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– Monday 9 December 2013 –

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– Kathryn Ryan, with Matthew Hooton & Mike Williams –

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Today on Politics on Nine To Noon,

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

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Click to Listen: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams ( 25′ 53″  )

This week:

  • The political ramifications of Nelson Mandela’s death and the NZ delegation travelling to South Africa,
  • the Green Party’s new policy for the Meridian share float,
  • and leadership changes within New Zealand’s smaller political parties.

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= fs =

I’ve voted – have you?

5 December 2013 3 comments

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no to asset sales 13 feb

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Despite John Key’s open disregard for public opposition to asset sales, the referendum is a vital means by which we, the people, can let him know how we feel.

Public opinion polls have already indicated that the majority of New Zealanders want our state assets kept. This referendum will confirm it.

Key may be dismissive of this CIR, as it is non-binding.

But at the next election, he and his fellow National Party MPs, will not be able to claim that they “listen to the people”. Their contempt for public opinion will remain a bitter memory for too many voters.

This will be the legacy that Key takes into the next election; that he thumbed his nose at the voice of the people.

So is it worthwhile voting in this CIR? You bet it is.

Whichever way Key jumps – whether he ignores the result or not – we win.

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referendum voting paper

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 28 November 2013.

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Radio NZ: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams – 25 November 2013

25 November 2013 1 comment

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– Politics on Nine To Noon –

 

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– Monday 25 November 2013 –

 

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– Kathryn Ryan, with Matthew Hooton & Mike Williams –

 

.

 

Today on Politics on Nine To Noon,

 

.

 

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

 

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Click to Listen: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams ( 23′ 15″  )

 

This week:

  • Electorate boundary reshuffles,
  • new party leaderships,
  • government share sale policy,
  • and offshore drilling.

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= fs =

 

 

Why a Four Year Parliamentary Term is not a Good Idea

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it's time to meet the muppets of the government

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Three years or four?

John Key has made suggestions to  reform certain  aspects of the Parliamentatry electoral cycle,

  • A fixed date for elections, such as our American cuzzies have
  • And extending the Parliamentary term from three to four years

The first suggestion – having a fixed date for elections – is sound. Anything that takes a wee bit of power away from politicians should be welcomed.

On that basis – anything that takes a wee bit of power away from politicians should be welcomed – extending the Parliamentary term from three to four years is one that fills me with disquiet.

I’ve heard the arguments for extending the Parliamentary term,

  1. It’s more efficient
  2. It gives government more time to achieve things
  3. Governments spend the third year of their current term in election mode to win the next election

None of those three arguments convinces me.

1. It’s more efficient

So is the One Party State; an autocratic ruler; or a  Parliamentary term of ten or twenty years . But would we be any better of, in terms of  public participation democracy? (Think: Putin in Russia.)

2. It gives government more time to achieve things…

That statement is never completed. It gives government more time to achieve – what? What incredibly complex, radical reforms are there that require an extra year (or more) for a government to have more time? What does Key have in mind that demands a four year term?

Remember that Select Committees work in unison, not one at a time, and Legislation can be passed in as little as 48 hours – as “The Hobbit Law” showed us (see: Helen Kelly – The Hobbit Dispute) – not that I’m advocating legislative changes conducted at warp speed.

Perhaps governments might have “more time to achieve things” if time wasn’t wasted with petty point-scoring in the Debating Chamber?

3. Governments spend the third year of their current term in election mode to win the next election

Perhaps a government might not have to spend the entire third year in “campaign mode” if, in the preceding two years,  they worked with the people and not against them?

A phrase comes to mind…

By their works ye shall know them.

A good government shouldn’t have to spend the entire third year in “election mode”. A bad government will never have enough time to campaign for re-election.

It’s not the length of time that should matter to a government, but what they achieve with it. If the people approve, a good government will be returned with a decent majority. A good government should have nothing to fear from the electorate.

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beehive

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Looking at the last 30 years, would I be inclined to give politicians (of all hues) an extra year?

Not bloody likely.

And I’m not referring to the scandals; the cronyism; unpopular asset sale programme; rising unemployment; cynical beneficiary bashing; growing child poverty and widening  income/wealth gap.

I’m referring to attitude.

John Key wants us to trust him with an extra year in power.

But has he given us reason to trust him?

If anything, Key’s attitude of dismissive, casual arrogance does not reassure us that he (or his successors) would use additional political power without a corresponding rise in said arrogance.

To remind the reader of what John Key really thinks of us and his critics…

1. Critics

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key stephenson

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In May 2011, journalist journalist Jon Stephenson, wrote a scathing expose of New Zealand’s involvement in Afghanistan and questioned whether they were complicit in torture.

The article outlined two instances last year where SAS forces allegedly captured suspects and handed them to Afghanistan authorities, including the Afghan secret police, the National Directorate of Security, which has a reputation for torturing prisoners.

New Zealand has signed several international conventions outlawing the inhumane detention of prisoners, including torture.

Source: PM attacks journalist over SAS torture claims

When challenged, Stephenson offered,

“I’m happy to put my information before an inquiry. Any fair or impartial inquiry will show that they are the ones misleading the public. Not me.”

Source: IBID

It which point Key jumped in with this derisory response,

I’ve got no reason for NZDF to be lying, and I’ve found [Stephenson] myself personally not to be credible.”

Key then attempted to smear Stephenson’s character by accusing him of making a bogus phone call.

We should not forget John Key dismissal of  Nicky Hager’s book, on CIA involvement in NZ military activities in Afghanistan. Key said,

I don’t have time to read fiction.”

Key claimed  that the book contained “no smoking gun”, just supposition, which, “makes it business as normal for Nicky Hager”. (Despite the book having 1,300-plus footnotes to referencing documentation.)

National ministers also seem to have little hesitation in attacking their critics in quite nasty ways. Remember Natasha Fuller,  Jennifer Johnston,  Bradley Ambrose, and even Bomber Bradbury who fell foul of the system when he dared criticse Dear Leader?

If there are “trust issues” here – they seem well founded.

2.The Poor & Unwise “life” choices

Key’s disdain of those who do not meet his world-view was perhaps best summed up on 17 February, 2011, when he was reported as making these comments,

When Labour’s social development spokeswoman Annette King asked about Salvation Army reports of high demand for food parcels, Mr Key responded by saying it was true that the global recession meant more people were on benefits.

But it is also true that anyone on a benefit actually has a lifestyle choice. If one budgets properly, one can pay one’s bills.  And that is true because the bulk of New Zealanders on a benefit do actually pay for food, their rent and other things. Now some make poor choices and they don’t have money left.

Source: Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key

Well, at least we know the real thoughts of the boy from a subsidised State house, raised by a solo-mum receiving state assistance, and who had the benefit of a free, taxpayer funded University education.

3. Public Opposition

On 4 May 2012,  over five thousand people took part in a peaceful,  anti-asset sales Hikoi to Parliament,

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Aotearoa is not for sale hikoi - anti asset sales march   - wellington - 4 May 2012

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Key’s response was instructive,

How many people did they have? John Key asked reporters. “Where was it? Nope wasn’t aware of it.”

Key says the National Party has a clear mandate to proceed with privatising some state assets.

“Well over a million New Zealanders voted for National in the full knowledge we were going to undertake the mixed ownership model,” he said.

“So look, a few thousand people walking down the streets of Wellington isn’t going to change my mind.”

Source: Key unfazed as protesters descend on Parliament

Nearly a year later, on 12 March, a 392,000-plus signature petition was presented to Parliament. The petition  was  signed by ordinary New Zealanders who wanted nothing more or less than a say in their future.

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12-march-2013-presentation-of-anti-asset-sales-petition-parliament-referendum

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Key’s response?

Key said of the opposition petition you could be as sure as little green apples [that] huge numbers of them are not bona fide names on the list” and would have to be struck off.

“They’ve probably taken over a year to get maybe 300,000 names, we’ve had 285,000 pre-registrations in a matter of days”.

Source: Government to ignore asset sales referendum

And according to Green Party co-leader, Russell Norman, Key further disparaged New Zealanders who signed  the petition by saying,

…that the Prime Minister has said the people who signed this are children and tourists….

Source: IBID

Charming.

Key forgot to add, “let them eat cake”.

Unbridled Power?

Never forget that we are governed by an “elected dictatorship”,

  • There is no Upper House to scrutinise legislation from governments.
  • There is no written constitution to safeguard our interests.
  • Referenda have all the ‘bite’ of a toothless octagenarian (not that I support binding referenda – especially without Constitutional safeguards to protect the rights of minorities).
  • There are no mid-term elections; right-of-recall; Presidential Veto; or any other controls over elected representatives.

Once elected, unless a Member of Parliament is found guilty of a criminal act, we have zero control over them.

The upshot?

Just because this  government  is still (apparently) popular with the aspirationists and middle classes, is not a reason  to trust Key – or any other politician for that matter.

There have been too many broken promises; secret agendas; and bitterness from raised expectations that were soon dashed.

It is a truism that trust has to be earned.

And thus far, the glimpse that we’ve had into our current Prime Minister’s persona, is not one that fills me with confidence or trust.

New Zealanders may wish to reflect carefully before giving politicians any more power. It may be ok when it’s “your man (or woman) in power”. You may feel different if it’s the Other Guy running the country.

The issue simply boils down to one simple question;

How far do you trust the buggers?

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 15 March 2013.

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References

Wikipedia: Election Day (United States)

NZ Herald: Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key (17 Feb 2011)

NZ Herald: PM attacks journalist over SAS torture claims (3 May 2011)

NZ Herald: Charities’ food handouts at record after Govt cuts (18 Oct 2011)

TVNZ: Key unfazed as protesters descend on Parliament (4 May 2012)

Fairfax media: PM John Key Wants Four-Year Term For Parliament (7 Feb 2013)

Fairfax media: Government to ignore asset sales referendum (12 March 2013)

 

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Why a Four Year Parliamentary Term is not a Good Idea – Part Rua

29 March 2013 19 comments

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NZ_001

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On 7 February, Key called for the Parliamentary term to be increased from three to four years.

This issue was canvassed in two previous referenda in 1968 and 1990. More than two-thirds of voters wisely voted to keep it at three years.

According to polling, the public response is narrower this time. Perhaps in part to the same polling method that seems to show National with 50%-plus support amongst the public.

This blogger thoroughly rejects any notion  to increase the Parliamentary term.

As I wrote previously in The Daily Blog, there are compelling reasons to deny politicians an additional year in office;

1. Attacks on Critics

Governments become arrogant over time, and National’s (mis)-treatment over it critics should give us great cause for concern.

The following is a  list of just  some of the people who have criticised this government and been abused or derided in return;

July, 2009

Natasha Fuller &  Jennifer Johnston, solo-mothers

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

May, 2011

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

September, 2011

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

October, 2011

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

November, 2011

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

November, 2011

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

March, 2013

Annette Sykes, lawyer, activist, President of Mana Party

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

There is a degree of  vindictiveness to how National ministers deal with their criticism – and it ain’t pretty, Billy-Bob.

In addition, John Key’s response to  anti-asset sales opposition has revealed glimpses of his arrogance and dismissal of public concerns.

2. Public Opposition

As I wrote in The Daily Daily, on 4 May 2012,  over five thousand people took part in a peaceful,  anti-asset sales Hikoi to Parliament,

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Aotearoa is not for sale hikoi - anti asset sales march   - wellington - 4 May 2012

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Key’s response was instructive,

“How many people did they have? John Key asked reporters. “Where was it? Nope wasn’t aware of it.”

Key says the National Party has a clear mandate to proceed with privatising some state assets.

“Well over a million New Zealanders voted for National in the full knowledge we were going to undertake the mixed ownership model,” he said.

“So look, a few thousand people walking down the streets of Wellington isn’t going to change my mind.”

Source: Key unfazed as protesters descend on Parliament

Nearly a year later, on 12 March, a 392,000-plus signature petition was presented to Parliament. The petition  was  signed by ordinary New Zealanders who wanted nothing more or less than a say in their future.

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12-march-2013-presentation-of-anti-asset-sales-petition-parliament-referendum

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Key’s response?

Key said of the opposition petition you could be as “sure as little green apples [that] huge numbers of them are not bona fide names on the list” and would have to be struck off.

“They’ve probably taken over a year to get maybe 300,000 names, we’ve had 285,000 pre-registrations in a matter of days”.

Source: Government to ignore asset sales referendum

And according to Green Party co-leader, Russell Norman, Key further disparaged New Zealanders who signed  the petition by saying,

“…that the Prime Minister has said the people who signed this are children and tourists….”

Source: IBID

Charming.

We should be under no illusion that National ministers view any form of criticism or opposition with disdain. Key himself is contemptuous of  anyone who dares cross him.

Who in their right minds would want to give politicians an extra year to look down on us, as if we were grubby peasants, not worthy of their time and attention?

3. Unbridled Power?

Never forget that we are governed by an “elected dictatorship”,

  • There is no Upper House to scrutinise legislation from governments.
  • There is no written constitution to safeguard our interests.
  • Referenda have all the ‘bite’ of a toothless octagenarian (not that I support binding referenda – especially without Constitutional safeguards to protect the rights of minorities).
  • There are no mid-term elections; right-of-recall; Presidential Veto; or any other controls over elected representatives.

Once elected, unless a Member of Parliament is found guilty of a lewd act with a sheep, we have zero control over them.

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In conclusion

One of the main arguments in support of a Four Year Term is that three years is not sufficient time  for a government…

To which I respond with this;

That statement is never completed. It gives government more time to achieve – what? What incredibly complex, radical reforms are there that require an extra year (or more) for a government to have more time? What does Key have in mind that demands a four year term?

Remember that Select Committees work in unison, not one at a time, and Legislation can be passed in as little as 48 hours – as “The Hobbit Law” showed us (see: Helen Kelly – The Hobbit Dispute) – not that I’m advocating legislative changes conducted at warp speed.

Perhaps governments might have “more time to achieve things” if time wasn’t wasted with petty point-scoring in the Debating Chamber?  (see: Making Bold With The Speaker’s Chair)

As National-aligned blogger, David Farrar,  said in the NZ Herald on 25 March,

“People do feel three years is not long enough to judge. With a four-year term, more Governments might get chucked out after one term because people would say, ‘It’s been four years, we should have seen some impact.”‘

Really, Mr Farrar?

Funny thing…

National has now been in power for over four years.

What have they achieved in that time?

  • growing child poverty?
  • rising unemployment?
  • large numbers continuing to migrate to Australia?
  • wage cuts for 16-19 year olds?
  • taxpayer funded subsidies for Big Business?
  • taxcuts for the rich?
  • increased GST and other government charges for the poor?
  • lowing environbment standards and more pollution?
  • continuing attacks on the unemployed, solo-mums, etc?
  • no job creation policies?
  • continuing attacks on worker’s rights?
  • no comprehensive training for 85,000+ unemployed youth?
  • importing foreign workers instead of training our own unemployed?
  • state asset sales despite over-whelming opposition?
  • high dollar damanging our export sector?
  • more dodgy deals like pokie-machines for Skycity?
  • increasing foreign debt?
  • closing schools?
  • planned mining in Conservation lands?
  • etc, etc, etc…

As pro-National blogger David Farrar stated,

“It’s been four years, we should have seen some impact.”‘

Damn right, Mr  Farrar, damn right.

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When you stop voting

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Previous related blogpost

Why a Four Year Parliamentary Term is not a Good Idea  (15 March 2013)

References

Wikipedia: Election Day (United States)

NZ Herald: Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key (17 Feb 2011)

NZ Herald: PM attacks journalist over SAS torture claims (3 May 2011)

NZ Herald: Charities’ food handouts at record after Govt cuts (18 Oct 2011)

TVNZ: Key unfazed as protesters descend on Parliament (4 May 2012)

Fairfax media: PM John Key Wants Four-Year Term For Parliament (7 Feb 2013)

Fairfax media: Government to ignore asset sales referendum (12 March 2013)

NZ Herald:  Voters divided on four-year term  (25 March 2013)

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Christchurch – Picking the bones clean?

11 February 2012 3 comments

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It is fast becoming apparent that this government is eyeing up Christchurch’s community-owned assets, to “help” pay for the costs of that city’s re-build.

Gerry Brownlee recently  stated,

“Let me tell you, when the Government is spending $5.5billion anywhere, we expect the recipients of that to have some plan for how they will participate in what will be a very, very expensive recovery. And that plan has to be a lot better than ‘we’re just going to put up the rates and we’re going to borrow a lot more money’.” – Source

Which, strangely enough,  is pretty  much what National has done in the last three-and-a-bit years; raise gst; raise ACC premiums; raise EQC levies; and borrowed $380 million a week until we were (last reported) over $18 billion in debt,

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Full Story

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Full Story

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So it’s ok for Central government to raise taxes/charges/levies and borrow like crazy – but not Christchurch!?

Ok, got it.

So what alternatives are  Gerry Brownlee and John Key expecting of Christchurch City Council?

It appears that Key and Brownlee are indeed pressuring the Christchurch Council to privatise  it’s community-owned assets to raise $1 billion for re-building. Chief amongst these, I suspect would be the Orion Power company – one of few in New Zealand still in public ownership. (Orion is 89.3% owned by the Christchurch City Council and 10.7% owned by the Selwyn District Council.) Red Bus Ltd, Lyttelton Port Company, and Christchurch airport could also be privatised if Brownlee gets his way.

Brownlee stated,

“”We have asked Treasury, obviously, to give us advice about what the capacity is for Christchurch’s rating base to take on the extraordinary expense they have to face in the future,” he said.

”It is a $1billion-plus bill that they have to face and we are very interested, given that we are putting up $5.5b, as to how they might meet that cost.” ” – Source

Which is ‘code’ for “how are you guys going to cough up $1 billion for your re-build”?

It would be crazy  to expect the people of Christchurch to rebuild the second largest city in this country. After enduring so much devastation; the death of 184 loved oved ones; thousands of people leaving the stricken city; losing teaching staff and other skilled workers – expecting the local people to weather such an onerous billion-dollar cost is  patently unjust.

And it would be commercial insanity to privatise Council-owned assets at a time when, due to Christchurch’s current state, would constitute ca “fire sale” and not fetch the best possible prices.

As Gordon Campbell wrote on Scoop.co.nz.,

Please. It would be idiotic to force Christchurch to sell its assets to pay for its rebuild, under present conditions. Given the current state of the city, those assets would earn only fire sale returns. Hocking off the city’s assets dirt cheap is yet another version of the destruction of its legacy – and while it may make sense to Brownlee to sell off that legacy to any of his government’s real estate speculator mates who may be waiting in the wings, it would be a betrayal of the people of Christchurch who as [Lianne] Dalziel says, have been through enough: “What they don’t need are backroom deals being done on the future of their city and their city’s assets.”  – Source

As for the government’s financial problems – these are of John Key’s own making. Cutting taxes (April 2009, October 2010) during a recession, when we most needed to stimulate the economy via encouraging strong infra-structure investment was just irresponsible,

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Bill English may have “expected the “tax switch” to be revenue-neutral” – but his ‘expectations’ are not part of reality. Instead, National has left a gaping hole of several billions of dollars in government revenue. No wonder we’re borrowing $380 million a week – and paying hefty interest amounts on those borrowings!

Refusing to raise   taxes (except gst, which impacts mostly on the poorest) to finance the rebuild  of our second largest city simply defies logic. But then, I, and others, have long since given up trying to figure out this governments plans.

Even the business community said as much,last year,

Business NZ also released the results of its election survey of more than 1300 small to large businesses. While almost all believed it was important for the government to have a co-ordinated plan of action that raised economic performance, little more than a third thought John Key’s Government had one.

Deloitte chief executive Murray Jack said the finding was “disturbing” and the plan Mr Key had earlier in the day confidently spoken to the conference about “was obviously news to most people in this room”.” – Source

It’s fairly obvious that this government is relying on short-term “gains” (asset sales) to achieve long-term results. Applying “free market” policies to rebuild a crippled city is simply more right wing craziness.

A far better option would be the Green Party proposal for an Earthquake Levy. Such a levy would spread the cost of Christchurch’s re-build; take unnecessary financial pressure off Christchurch citizens; preserve Council-owned assets in public ownership; and retain the income stream – $100 million per annum – from these assets.

It’s a win-win-win scenario.

Does this government have the wit to investigate this, and/or other options?

Or does John Key really looking to buy into yet another fight with another community over another sensitive issue?

Your call, Mr Key.

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Additional

The Press: Brownlee turns up heat on council over rebuild

Green Party: How an earthquake levy could look

Scoop: On bank profits, and Gerry Brownlee’s asset sales plans for Christchurch

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Government sprung on SOE sale plan!!

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Full Story

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As well as trying to “quietly” drop all references to Treaty obligations, under Section 9 of the SOE Act 1986 – something guaranteed to buy a fight with their coalition partner, the Maori Party –  there are other  revelatory aspects  of the draft Treasury document that should  also be a matter of considerable concern.

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[1]

The Government’s mixed ownership model

Intitial public offerings (IPOs)

An initial public offering, or share float as they are often called, is a way of selling some or all of a  company to a large number of investors. Shares in the company are offered for sale to retail investors (individuals, sometimes referred to as “mums and dads”) through an advertising campaign to the public and through shareholders.Source

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Intitial public offerings (IPOs)

Once a minority shareholding in each company is sold, the government proposes that the company will be governed in the same way as other listed companies and that they will be subject to the Companies Act 1993 and other relevant legislation, the NZX listing rules and the companies’ constitutions.  The crown will not reserve any special rights  to itself, except that it is still to decide whether it will a have any special power to approve the chairman of the Board, as it has for Air New Zealand.” Source

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With regards to Paragraph 1, above, it is interesting that the Treasury report refers to “retail investors (individuals, sometimes referred to as “mums and dads”)“. In effect, it is a ‘slip’ on Treasury’s part, acknowledging the reality that “mum and dad investors” is simply propaganda “code” (newspeak) for common, garden-variety, investors.

There is nothing “mum and dad-ish” about corporate share-brokers working on behalf of investment companies.

Government uses the term “mum and dad investors” to hide the reality that shares in part-privatised SOEs will be purchased by individuals in dapper suits and silk ties, operating  out of very nice offices, on behalf of Very Big Corporate Clients.

Government myth: busted.

Paragraph 2, above, is even more insidious and refers to, “Once a minority shareholding in each company is sold, the government proposes that the company will be governed in the same way as other listed companies and that they will be subject to the Companies Act 1993 and other relevant legislation…” and furthermoremore, “The crown will not reserve any special rights  to itself…”.

In effect, once partially-privatised, the Government intends that none of  the entire State Owned Enterprise will  be governed by the State Owned Enterprises Act 1986. (Not just the privatised 49% part.)

Specifically, Section 4 of the Act,

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 Principal objective to be successful business
  • (1) The principal objective of every State enterprise shall be to operate as a successful business and, to this end, to be—

    • (a) as profitable and efficient as comparable businesses that are not owned by the Crown; and

    • (b) a good employer; and

    • (c) an organisation that exhibits a sense of social responsibility by having regard to the interests of the community in which it operates and by endeavouring to accommodate or encourage these when able to do so.

    (2) For the purposes of this section, a good employer is an employer who operates a personnel policy containing provisions generally accepted as necessary for the fair and proper treatment of employees in all aspects of their employment, including provisions requiring—

    • (a) good and safe working conditions; and

    • (b) an equal opportunities employment programme; and

    • (c) the impartial selection of suitably qualified persons for appointment; and

    • (d) opportunities for the enhancement of the abilities of individual employees.

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And most specifically, this part of  it’s Principal Objectives,

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“…an organisation that exhibits a sense of social responsibility by having regard to the interests of the community in which it operates and by endeavouring to accommodate or encourage these when able to do so.”

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Any committment to promoting clean, sustainable energy; considering the needs of the community in it’s activities; and other social responsibilities will all vanish if  the SOEs concerned are “ governed in the same way as other listed companies and that they will be subject to the Companies Act 1993 and other relevant legislation… [and] …the crown will not reserve any special rights  to itself…”

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In the case of Genesis Energy, Mighty River Power, and Meridian Energy – their sole objective will be to make greater profits for government and private share-holders.

Those profits will be generated by raising power prices.

Guess who pays those higher power prices? (Clue: look in the mirror.)

Right about now, any person reading this who voted for National last year must be entertaining serious regrets at ticking “National” for the Party Vote. Those folk who voted for National – and conversely, those who failed to go out and vote for an alternative Party opposed to asset sales – must be wondering if they will end up paying for their voting choices.

Of course they will  pay for voting National.

Every month. When their power bill comes in.

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Additional

NZ Herald: Asset sale draft plan internet blunder

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New Year’s Wish List for 2012…

29 December 2011 9 comments

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My New Year’s wish list for 2012. Nothing too extravagant – just a few things that, in my ‘umble opinion, would make New Zealand the egalitarian social democracy we once had – before someone thought that pursuing the Almighty Dollar was more important than building communites.

In no particular order,

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  Stop the asset sales process. This government has no mandate to privatise any of our SOEs. There is also no rationale for any privatisation, as dividends  exceed the cost of borrowing by the State.

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  Halt the Charter Schools programme. There is little evidence that Chart Schools achieve better results  than  non-Charter Schools, and at least one major research project on this issue indicates that Charter Schools are a waste of time.

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  Introduce “civics” into our classroom curriculum. I’ve never considered this a necessity – up until now – but our recent low voter turnout – coupled with peoples’ apalling knowledge of how how political system works – is disturbingly. A modern democracy can only flourish if the public participate; contribute; and take ownership of the system.  Apathy breeds cynicism, frustration, and ultimately disengagement, disempowerment, and a violent response.

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  Implement programmes to assist those in poverty – especially families with children. Meals in schools (breakfasts and/or lunch) would be a great start. Build more state housing. Support programmes that help get young people  into training, upskilling, and  other constructive activities.

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  Stop bene-bashing and tinkering with the welfare system. Our high unemployment is a symptom of the current economic recession – not the cause of it. Instead, government must focus on job creation policies; training and upskilling of unemployed; and spending on infrastructure that maximises new jobs – not reduces them.

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  It’s time to wind back our liberalisation of liquor laws in this country. That particular experiment has been a colossal failure. Split the drinking age to 18/20; ban ALL alcohol advertising; put in place minimum pricing; reduce hours of retailers and bars; give communities greater voice and control of liquor outlets; make public drunkeness an offence; and implement the other recommendations of the Law Commission’s report, ‘Alcohol In Our Lives: Curbing the Harm‘.

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  Increase funding for Pharmac so that sufferers of rare diseases, such as Pompe’s,  can have hope for their future, instead of mortgaging it merely to postpone death for another day. We can do this – we must do this.

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  Release and make public all relevant information regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). Making such deals in secret is hardly the transparency-in-government that John Key says he supports.

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  Maintain and keep funding TVNZ7. The planned closure of this station – and replacement with a shopping channel – would be a blow to decent public television in this country. We can, and must do better, than simply a channel devoted to more mindless consumerism.

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  Cease from further cuts to the civil service. Sacking loyal, conscientious, workers is not the “capping” – it is adding to the unemployment dole queues. It is gutting the system that makes a modern society function and we are losing decades of collective skills and experience for no discernible purpose. We went through this in the late ’80s; early ’90s; and late ’90s – and our services suffered as a result.

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Raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Stat!

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  The Ministerial committee on poverty is set to end homelessness by 2020. This is simply not good enough!!! Bill English was interviewed on Radio NZ  on 16 December, and his responses to Kathryn Ryan’s questions were not reassuring. This excerpt from the interview was most telling,

RYAN: “It’s to report every six months, the committee. What measures will it use?”

ENGLISH: “Well, look, we won’t  spend a lot of time arguing over measures, there’s any number  of measures out there ranging from gini co-efficients  to kind of upper quartile [and] lower quartile incomes. Lot of of that is already reported in the MSD social report that it puts out each year…”Bill English and the new ministerial committee on poverty

If the Committee doesn’t monitor itself, how will it be able to measure it’s success (or fail) rate?

Poverty and unemployment have to be the top priorities of this government. Nothing else is as important.

Like the way in which the Jobs Summit, in early 2009,  sank beneath the waves,  I do not hold out for much success though.

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  Less spent on roads – more on rail and other public transport. Our continuing reliance on imported fossil fuels will not help our economy or environment one iota.

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  No mining on the Denniston Plateau (or any other Conservation lands). This ecologically-sensitive wilderness area needs to be preserved for future generations.  If we want to make money our of our environment – tourism is the way to go, contributing to approximately 10% of this country’s GDP.  John Key. Minister of   Tourism (NZ – not Hawaii), take note.

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  No deep-sea oil drilling. The stranding of the ‘Rena’ and subsequent loss of  of 350 tonnes (out of around 1,700 tonnes) of oil into the sea is the clearest lesson we’ve been taught that NZ is simply not prepared to cope with a massive deep-sea oil spill. An event such as the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, last year in April, by comparison lost 780,000 cubic metres of oil. An event of that magnitude would be catastrophic to our countrry.

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  Free healthcare for all young people up to 18.  And children to have first priority when it comes to our resources and funding. The future of our nation depends on healthy, well-educated, balanced children growing up as productive members of our society. Who knows – if we look after our children properly, they might feel more connected to our country and more motivated to live here instead of leaving for Australia. If we want our children to have committment to New Zealand – we need to be committed to them.

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Those are a few of my New Year’s wish list.  There are probably others that I may add at a later date – but they’ll do for now.

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The Story of Asset Sales – In Very, Very Simple Terms.

16 December 2011 Comments off

National’s plan’s to sell of our state assets – starting with Mighty River Power – doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it’s very simple to explain…

Once upon a time…

… our Dear Leader was being driven through his Kingdom of New Sheepland. He decided to stop and address his loyal serfs  subjects,

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He had a very busy day, but he still found time to do lotsa nice prime ministrary stuff with us. What a luvly Dear Leader he is. He is so kind, he  even gave his empty coffee cup to a nearby serf  subject, to take home for the little subject-children to play with. What a jolly nice Dear Leader he is,

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Once inside the vast ‘Moonbeam’ auditorium, named after Dear Leader’s favourite pet, he  was welcomed by his adoring serfs  subjects, with rapturous applause,

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"Huzzah! Huzzah!"

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Dear Leader greeted them all,  with a gentle smile and wave,

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Dear Leader then told the excited throng that he had an announcement to make,

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"I have an announcement to make!"

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The good, simple serfs folk of New Sheepland waited in anticipation. After so many decades, was the much-promised wealth about to trickle down upon them?

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Dear Leader then said,

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"My loyal serfs, er, I mean subjects! I have decided that the power generators that you have all slaved, er, worked so hard to build, can now be yours!"

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The loyal serfs  subjects erupted with rapturous applause! The wealth they had worked all their lives to build, would now belong to them. Everyone was happy,

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"Hooray!"

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Dear Leader then cheerily added,

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"Yes, for only a week's wages, you'll be able to buy your very own SHARES in Mighty River Power! How cool is that, my Loyal Subjects!"

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The serfs Loyal Subjects paused, stunned, and one brave mud-caked fellow timidly asked,

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"Wha-?!?! But, Dear Leader - "Mighty River Power belongs to us, already! We built it!"

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Dear Leader dismissed the serf’s  loyal subjects concerns with deep, heartfelt, empathy,

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"Shhhh! Now, now, muddy little man! This will be your chance to own it. Otherwise, the Big Bad Ogres from a far away land will come and take it away for themselves!"

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Another serf Loyal Subject spoke up,

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"What 'ogres'?"

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Dear Leader replied (just ever so little crossly, because he had other places to visit and other  muddy serfs  Adoring Loyal Subjects to talk down to) ,

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"The Big Bad Ogres from far away! That's all you need to know! So if you don't buy Mighty River Power, they will!"

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The muddy serf Loyal Subject pressed the point with Dear Leader,

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"Oh really? Well here's an idea, Flash Harry! Don't sell the bloody thing! We already own it!"

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Dear Leader was not amused,

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{"Christ-on-a-stick, why do I bother...?"}

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Another even-more-muddy serf Loyal Subject spoke up,

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"Well, why sell it at all? What'll you do with the money?"

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Dear Leader beamed and replied authoritively to the mud-caked serf Loyal Subject,

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"Tax cuts, my little muddy Subject! Tax cuts!"

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To which, all of Dear Leader’s Loyal Serfs Subjects gave a resounding cheer,

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"Huzzah! Huzzah!!"

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But the Muddy Little Serf Peasant woman Loyal Subject seemed suspicious,

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"What tax cuts? How much do we get?"

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Dear Leader smiled benignly, making a mental note to place this woman on the International Terrorist WatchList. She was just too damn lippy.  He said in a very patient, almost (creepy) uncle-sort of way,

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"Everyone will get a tax cut, Good Lady! Whether you're a serf, er, worker or a Lord! Everyone!

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The Muddied and Quite Smelly Serf Peasant Lady Loyal Subject raised an eye-brow in a very Spock-like fashion, and asked,

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"Oh yeah?! And how much do the Lords get, then, eh?"

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Dear Leader replied, sternly, and hoping that one of his Diplomatic Protection Squad would “accidentally ” taser this woman,

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"The Lords and Ladies of the Manors of the land will recieve 100 bars of gold, and a bushel of emeralds, rubies, diamonds, and sapphires. Also, several million in US dollars, deposited into their Swiss Bank accounts. Anything else, peasant woman?"

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The Peasant Woman’s boyfriend,  Barry, looked up and asked,

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"Yeah? What do we get?"

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Dear Leader replied,

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"If you behave, you'll get a balloon."

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The peasant woman (her name was Susan), demanded,

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"A balloon?! How is that fair???"

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Dear Leader smiled; his special, somewhat menacing shark-smile, and replied slowly,

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"It's not. But you voted for me. Any other questions, Loyal Subject?"

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Clutching at a sod of earth,  Susan said,

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"Yeah. I have one."

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"What is it?"

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"Can I have a yellow balloon?"

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Moral: If you voted National – what did you expect? Just be happy with the balloon you got.

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Additional

Gordon Campbell: Ten Myths About Asset Sales

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