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 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
“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.
Fairfax media: No New Zealand forces to Iraq, says Key
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’
Fairfax media: Andrea Vance – Think twice before joining new Iraq war
Previous related blogposts
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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FROM: "f.macskasy" SUBJECT: Letters to the Editor DATE: Sun, 16 Mar 2014 21:10:15 +1300 TO: "Sunday Star Times" firstname.lastname@example.org . The Editor Sunday Star Times . 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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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.
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;
To which our well-heeled Prime Minister responded thusly,
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.
NZ Herald: Meridian boss hails deal with smelter
Australia Mining: Rio Tinto’s New Zealand smelter to axe jobs
Fairfax Media: More jobs to go in smelter revamp
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
Previous related blogposts
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 –
– Wednesday 25 February 2014 –
– 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…
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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As was predicted, Key’s response to voter turnout to the asset sales referendum has been dismissive and derisory,
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?
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.
Wikipedia: 2011 Election results
Fairfax media: PM playing down voter turnout
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