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Posts Tagged ‘David Seymour’

One thousand dead New Zealanders per year?

19 September 2021 4 comments

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The “Plan Bers” – including assorted right-wing politicians, privileged media commentators, faux “experts”, business lobbyists, et al – have a new argument they’re recently taken to trotting out, to justify opening up Aotearoa New Zealand to covid-19:

“We already have 500 New Zealanders dying each year from influenza.”

Overseas “experts” have been just as keen to join the But What About Influenza Club, like this character from the United States, Dr Amesh Adalja, from the Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Health Security:

“We don’t want anybody to die from Covid. Covid is a vaccine preventable illness, now is a vaccine preventable death, but I think there are many tools that you can use short of a lockdown to achieve that goal and I think what we eventually want to see is decoupling of cases from hospitalisations and death. But there’s going to be some level of deaths that occur, and I think it’s interesting because in New Zealand you had around 26 or so deaths.

But in the last flu season you had 500 deaths and I just worry about that precedent, because what is New Zealand going to do for the next flu season? How do you kind of square what you’ve done for Covid for flu? When the flu deaths are 20 times higher because of those actions you’ve taken and I think this is going to be something that your society has to to think about and debate, and I think it’s an important debate to have.”

So there we have it: allowing people to die from preventable disease is worthy of “debate”.

When do we get to debate if Dr Adalja should live or die. Or his family?

In the same “debate”, hosted by Nathan Rarere on RNZ’s “First Up“, Dr Adalja called our lockdowns  “as a last resort when nothing else works, and as a policy failure“.

He acknowledged that our current covid death rate was “around 26 or so deaths” (It’s currently at 27.)

Dr Adalja didn’t mention that the covid death toll of the United States – his home country – currently stands at 691,562. The US is currently experiencing 148,000 cases and 1,991 deaths reported per day.

Nor did Dr Adalja mention that the US is currently experiencing a massive resurgence of Delta Covid, with hospitals being over-whelmed.  Hospital care is being rationed as staff can no longer cope:

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Dr Adalja mentions none of these inconvenient truths. Out-of-control Delta surge. Hospitals forced to rational care. Rising death toll. 

Not. One. Word.

But he is happy to  lecture us that lockdowns are “a policy failure“.

On a recent episode of TV3’s The Nation, political report Tova O’Brien asked National’s covid spokesperson, Chris Bishop, and ACT Leader, David Seymour what number of covid-related deaths would be acceptable to open up Aotearoa New Zealand.

Chris Bishop suggested that “he would like us to get to around 85% before we start to open up“. David Seymour offered no vaccination target.

According to one report from The Lancet, at 90% vaccination rate (including under 15s), our death toll was estimated at around 1,030 per year – twice the influenza rate.

Neither had the courage nor stomach to offer an acceptable death rate.

Mr Seymour, however,  did respond with a bit of Grim Reaperish ‘whataboutism’:

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“Well, 30,000 people die in New Zealand every year.

The truth is that we cannot prevent all deaths. The important question here is how much more are we prepared to spend to prevent a COVID death than deaths from car crashes, deaths from cancer? Because at the moment, the money we’re spending on COVID, we can’t spend on preventing those other kinds of deaths.”

David Seymour has established a new benchmark by casually accepting the annual influenza death toll as an acceptable figure. If 500 covid-related deaths per year are also acceptable, we should look at other causal factors of death in this country, and apply the new benchmark:

David Seymour’s 500 Deaths Rule

Road toll for 2020: 320 + 180 more acceptable deaths = 500

Work Related Deaths for 2020: 66 + 434 more acceptable deaths = 500

Drownings for 2020: 74 + 426 more acceptable deaths = 500

Homicides for 2020: 142 + 358 more acceptable deaths = 500

There are probably many more categories that could have the 500 Deaths Rule applied.

If Mr Seymour can justify an increased covid death toll by pointing and demanding, “What about ‘flu?” then anything can be justified and made acceptable.

This is the benchmark set by David Seymour.  Let’s call it “Seymour’s Death Rule”.

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References

RNZ: Covid-19 debate – When should New Zealand open up its borders?

Worldometer:  Coronavirus Cases – United States

RNZ: US hospitals ration care amid shortages and Covid-19 surge

Reuters: Some U.S. hospitals forced to ration care amid staffing shortages, COVID-19 surge

NPR: A COVID Surge Is Overwhelming U.S. Hospitals, Raising Fears Of Rationed Care

Vox: Americans are dying because no hospital will take them

New York Times: Idaho allows overwhelmed hospitals across the state to ration care if necessary.

Forbes: In Idaho And Other States, The Delta Covid-19 Surge Is Forcing Hospitals To Ration ICU Beds

CNN: As Covid-19 hospitalizations spike, some overwhelmed hospitals are rationing care

Newshub: Coronavirus – David Seymour says Govt ‘cannot prevent all deaths’, says money spent on COVID can’t be spent preventing deaths from other causes

The Lancet – Western Pacific:  COVID-19 vaccine strategies for Aotearoa New Zealand: a mathematical modelling study

Otago University magazine: Flu a major killer

Police: 2020 road deaths down on 2019

Worksafe: Fatalities

Water Safety: Water Safety Reports 2020

Police: Daily Occurrences of Crime and Family Violence Investigations

Previous related blogposts

Judith Collins and National: It’s a trust thing

The freezing cold invisible hand of neo-liberalism

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 4 – Caretaker Leader Collins, another rare mis-step

The Microbiologist, the Caretaker Leader, and some Nasty Germs

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Acknowledgement: Chris Slane

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Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 15 (@L3)

2 September 2021 5 comments

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1 September: Day 15 of living in lock-down…

Day’s beginning.

Current covid19 cases: 612

Cases in ICU: 8

Number of deaths: –

Day 15 of Level four lockdown in Auckland and Northland. For the rest of Aotearoa New Zealand, the first day of moving down to Level 3 – or Level 4 with takeaways, as others describe this alert level.

It’s a beautiful spring day outside. There are few clouds in our over-carbonised, clear blue sky.  According to 9AM news bulletin on RNZ, traffic around Wellington is “near normal”.

As I leave for work around mid-day (Wednesdays at the moment are short work-days for me) for my one and only client, I drive past the local railway pak & ride. A lot more cars today, around ten or a dozen.

Out on the motorway and the level of traffic stuns me. It is almost as heavy as pre-L4 lockdown. And… roadworks are back. Damn.

Though I notice that road-working crews are all masked up. It’s a warm, sunny day, and these guys are klitted up with work clothes, safety boots; flouro-jackets, and face-masks. They must be bloody hot with all that kit.

These guys are heroic. I hope their employers slip them a little “something extra” in their Christmas pay-packet.

On the Hutt River-bank, a few people are strolling or lying in the sun.

In Wellington I took a slight detour around Oriental Bay. My suspicions are confirmed: the footpaths are busy with strollers and joggers. And the beach has attracted a few families and others:

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Oriental Bay – northward

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Oriental Bay-Freyberg beach

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Only around half or two-thirds maximum were masked up. (Note: the photos do not do justice to the actual numbers that were present.)

So much for staying home during Alert Level Three. Some folk must have missed that memo.

This blogger wasn’t the only one who noticed the apparent, unannounced drop down to Level Alert 2, seemingly skipping L3 altogether:

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No wonder the government was so cautious before moving to Level 3. They had to make absolutely certain that there was no community transmission outside of Auckland before dropping a Level.

Government and Ministry officials understood that human behaviour being what it is, moving out of L4 would signal to people that there was no further imminent danger. To all intents and purposes, Level 3 and Level 2 are one-and-the-same for a significant portion of the population.

Danger over.

Slip back into complacency mode.

Time for fish and chips.

The Mystery of the Delta Strain

Yesterday, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield admitted that government and ministry officials had no clear understanding of the source of the current outbreak:

Contact tracers have hit a brick wall in their efforts to find the source of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Earlier, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield explained all while evidence points to Auckland Crowne Plaza hotel managed isolation facility, the virus’ exact path remained a mystery.

“We’ve gone down a number of roads and they’ve all turned out to be dead ends so far,” Dr Bloomfield told a news briefing. “We may never find the exact way that the virus got from the facility into the community but we are very confident that’s the place where it came from.”

All that is known for certainty is that the Delta strain emanated from Sydney (or somewhere in New South Wales). The virus entered through a Returnee from Sydney (“Index Case”) in early August soon after the Trans Tasman bubble – originally strongly supported by the National Party – was closed on 23 July.

But the Ministry of Health has been unable to ascertain how the Returnee transmitted the virus to others.

There is one possibility that has not been publicly discussed: that the Returnee infected a member of the flight crew. This is a real option, as flight crews are not required to isolate for fourteen days at MIQs like everyone else.

They are provided with separate facilities at Heartland Hotel situated at 14 Airpark Drive, Māngere, some 3.5kms from Auckland International Airport; at Grand Windsor in down Auckland’s Queen Street, and Ramada Hotels at Auckland CBD and Manukau.

For more information, I refer the reader to two previous stories on this issue:

If the outbreak was caused by the “Index Case” transmitting the virus to a flight attendant, it will not be the first time an Air New Zealand cabin-crew member has been infected and transmitted the virus to others.

Whilst flight crews are not required to isolate in MIQ for the full fourteen days, that are required to provide a negative nasal-swab test before allowed to leave their facility:

Air NZ crew returning to Aotearoa have to enter managed isolation, just like the passengers they are transporting, but are allowed to leave if they return a negative test after 48 hours.

However, as the most recent Delta case in Wellington showed, negative results are not always accurate. Not even two negative tests. Or three negative tests!

All but one of the cases reported on Wednesday were in Auckland, the other is a household contact of a Wellington case who had returned three negative tests and remains asymptomatic.

If that Wellington person had been an Air New Zealand flight crew member, they would have left their isolation facility after their first negative test.

For reasons that can only be guessed at – but may involve strong financial incentivess – Air New Zealand flight crews continue to be exempt from isolation rules that are strictly enforced for others.

Private Enterprise, a pandemic, and consequences

ACT Leader David Seymour is not short of ideas. Most of them impractical, to put it politely.

One such very dim “light bulb” moment – which government has thankfully dismissed as downright dangerous – is to allow private MIQ facilities to operate:

ACT’s plan for managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) – were it to be in Government – would be to allow private hotels to provide MIQ services under contract to the government as a way to relieve the shortage of MIQ beds. Governed under strict rules, both workers and guests in these facilities would have to be vaccinated.

“ACT has a plan to expand MIQ places and make it safer than what the Government is doing now. Under ACT’s plan, owners of currently mothballed hotels could seek a licence to operate MIQ according to strict criteria,” ACT leaders David said in a statement accompanying the release.

How successful would it be?

Who knows. But if two recent incidences are any indication: not very good:

Two students have now been caught breaching lockdown rules by flying out of Auckland, receiving fines for breaking the rules.

Over recent days, a Victoria University student flew from Auckland to Wellington without an exemption.

An Otago University student flew from Auckland to Dunedin.

Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said this was “disappointing”.

“These people should not be travelling, there will potentially be consequences for them, for breaking the rules.”

But more critically still, Minister Hipkins made it clear these students had breached critical security protocols to board their flights:

“They should be being checked even before they get into the airport terminal. Previous level four restrictions, and I just want to check to make sure this has absolutely operating as it has previously, have had people at the door at the airport terminal checking why people are entering the terminal, before they can even get anywhere near the plane.”

So the Auckland airport terminal – a private company – had such poor security that two students were able to breach the facility and board their flights, without being detected?

If those two had been carrying the Delta Strain, Aotearoa New Zealand would now be facing new clusters of the virus in Wellington and Dunedin. It would cost the country billions more.

Would Auckland airport pay the bill for the economic damage that would result?

And if private MIQ facilities failed, allowing Delta (or a worse strain) into the community – would David Seymour take responsibility?

Did National take responsibility for the failed Trans Tasman bubble they pressured the government to open up?

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The answer to all three questions is a resounding “no”.

As the sign on the wall states quite clearly:

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Wiping the Debating Chamber Floor with ACT

National and ACT got their wish: Parliament sat yesterday. Though going by Hansard and video, National’s Caretaker Leader Collins and  ACT Leader David Seymour may be ruing that it happened at all.

A series of questions from Mr Seymour to Minister Hipkins resulted in hard answers that the former was perhaps not expecting. Minister Hipkins wiped the floor with the hapless ACT Leader.

But matters took a dark turn when Mr Seymour asked:

“Has he, his officials, or anybody in the Ministry of Health at all—or the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, for that matter—offered to pay additional money to Pfizer, as Canada has done, to get additional doses faster?”

Minister Hipkins made his response crystal clear; Aotearoa New Zealand would not be bribing its way to vaccinating the population ahead of other countries:

“Pfizer have been very clear: their production, the production that they have of the vaccine, is fully committed around the globe and they are not willing to offer rich countries the opportunity to pay more in order to displace countries who cannot afford to do that—which suggests that big pharma has a higher ethical and moral standard than the ACT Party does.”

Mr Seymour quickly changed his line of questioning.

For good reason. Various cranks around the country have been pushing the line that we should outbid other nations for the vaccine.

Former minister; ACT politician; and relic from a by-gone age, Richard Prebble made the same disturbing demand in a NZ Herald article*:

“The government is innumerate. They are willing to spend $685 million on a harbour cycleway with negative cost/benefit but not $40 million for an early vaccine rollout to save billions of dollars and possibly many lives.”

As did NewstalkZB ‘host’ and right-wing fellow-traveller, Heather du Plessis-Allan who said on 7 July:

“Why did we agree to $56 and then baulk at another $10 to get it earlier? Why would we say ‘nah we’d rather be right the back of the queue thanks, literally last in the developed world’?

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I do not buy the government’s argument that it’s unethical to pay more to vaccines ahead of others

We didn’t elect them to prioritise citizens of other countries, they’re elected to look after us

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But isn’t it an insight into the lack of urgency behind the scenes. For a mere $10 a person, we might’ve actually been front of the queue, instead of dead last in the developed world”

A free marketeer Twitter-user also called for jumping the queue by paying a “premium” (a polite way of calling an outright bribe):

“Of course you can. By drug companies selling to the highest bidder, they increase their resources to ramp up production. ECON 101 which this government, and its defenders don’t understand”

The only people who do not understand “econ 101” are neo-liberals who are so blinded by their simplistic ideology that they cannot see the consequences of their reckons.

Let me oblige them.

Assume that pharmaceutical companies auction of their vaccines to the highest bidder(s). What would be the consequences (because free-marketeers/neo-libs must accept that everything has consequences, whether intended or not)?

As I pointed out to the ACT-supporting Twitter user:

Firstly, it is just plain wrong. It is neo-liberal, hyper-individualist self-interest taken to it’s deadly conclusion. Even if we could, is that the soul of Aotearoa New Zealand?

Bidding for what’s already available just pushes up the price & we WILL lose out every time to richer nations. There is no avoiding that reality. 

There are 49 other countries richer (GDP, 2017 figures) than us. Calculated per capita, there are thirtyone wealthier nations ahead of us. Imagine entering a bidding war with the US, China, UK, France, etc. This would be the scenario confronting us if certain foolish people had their way. We would end up with nothing.

Bidding for vaccines creates a law-of-the-jungle instead of international co-operation. Again, there is no way small nations would benefit from a tooth-and-claw struggle with richer economies.

To assume otherwise demonstrates a childlike lack of understanding of international affairs and human nature.

Pharmaceutical companies are already producing at full capacity. A bidding war would not create more supply; just push up prices. (Our electricity supply has similarities.)

How would out-bidding poorer, developing nations to grab vaccines  benefit us? It wouldn’t. It would simply create vast breeding grounds of new mutant strains of covid. These mutations would likely end up with strains more infectious; more deadly, and more critically, more resistant to current vaccines.

In effect, bidding and grabbing vaccines would end up with covid spreading and evolving, becoming vaccine-resistant, and we would end up back at Square 1.

It is obviously from the witterings of the likes of Mr Seymour, Mr Prebble, Ms du Plessis-Allan, Mr Wrathall, et al, that none of them have thought this through. Their shallow thinking would doom us all to repeating cycles of vaccination; new mutations; new vaccines; new mutations; new vaccines, etc.

With a lot of dead people in body-bags along the way. But then, Mr Seymour is prepared for that eventuality:

“If vaccination doesn’t work, then we’re isolated forever. Clearly, we have to have a plan B from vaccination being the endgame. And if we’re not prepared to do it at the start of next year, then when are we prepared to do it?

That could mean living with Covid-19, even if that led to large outbreaks, more hospitalisations and even fatalities because the level of population is not high enough to keep health services from being overwhelmed.”

By Day’s End.

Current covid19 cases: 687

Cases in ICU: 8 (3 on ventilation)

Number of deaths: –

So ended the fifteenth day of our journey to beat this thing.

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* This blogger will not be linking directly to Mr Prebbes or Ms du Plessis-Allan’s articles. To do so would reward them and their media platform with “clicks” this blogger is not prepared to encourage.

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References

RNZ: Covid-19 update on 31 August – 49 new cases in the community

Twitter: @FranklNZwe missed the L2 announcement – 1.9.21

Newshub:  Coronavirus – Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak – Tuesday, August 31

Newsroom: Sydney returnee likely source of Covid outbreak

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus – Bluff wedding cluster – Air New Zealand flight attendant is possible origin

Newshub: Air New Zealand crew claim they’re being ‘forced’ to work on COVID-19 quarantine flights

Stuff media: Covid-19 – 75 new cases in Delta community outbreak, but curve is ‘gradually bending’

Stuff media: ACT proposes private MIQ and ending ‘the four horsemen of bad regulation’

RNZ: Uni student who flew from Auckland to Wellington didn’t understand guidelines

Twitter: National Party – Sign the Trans Tasman bubble petition

Hansard: Seymour, David; Hipkins, Chris; Mallard, Trevor

RNZ: Week in Politics – Learning to live with the virus – or not

Twitter – @SteveHWrathalldrug companies selling to the highest bidder – 31/8/21

Twitter: @fmacskasy – Bidding for what’s already available – 1/9/2021

Worldometer: GDP by Country

Worldometer: GDP per Capita

NZ Herald: Covid 19 coronavirus – David Seymour -Open the borders next year regardless of vaccination levels

RNZ:  Covid-19 update – 75 new community cases in NZ today

Previous related blogposts

Is Air NZ the Covid re-infection problem? Possible evidence points to national airline

Does OIA evidence confirm possible Air NZ link to recent covid outbreaks?

Team 5 million vs Covid: Aotearoa on Three Strikes

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 1

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 2

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 3

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 4 – Caretaker Leader Collins, another rare mis-step

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 5 & 6

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 7 & 8

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 9 & 10

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 10 (cont’d) & 11

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 12

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 13 & 14

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Acknowledgement: Jeff Bell

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Team 5 million vs Covid: Aotearoa on Three Strikes

18 August 2021 15 comments

[Blogger’s Note: Events from 1.30PM, 17 August have overtaken this story.]

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covid 19

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Prologue

16 June, NSW: A Sydney limousine driver ferrying airline flight crews is found to be infected with covid19. Analysis confirms it is the Delta variant.Two days later, community transmission is reported where a Sydney woman had only fleeting contact with the limousine driver.

22 June, NSW: The “Bondi cluster” increases to 21 cases.

22 June, Wellington: Aotearoa New Zealand’s government announces a “travel pause” with New South Wales, effective 11.59PM. As reported;

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covid australia trans tasman bubble

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Strike 1

23 June, Wellington: The news shocked the entire country: a traveller from Sydney to Wellington had tested positive for covid19:

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The male traveller had spent the weekend of 19/21 June in Wellington. After only a fleeting two day visit, the country was thrown into an urgency not seen since last year’s covid outbreak and lockdown.

The response was immediate. Wellington’s Level Alert was raised to Two. It was quickly determined that the traveller had mixed with  thousands of other people as he visited popular tourist spots; retailers; a bar; cafe; hotel, etc:

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Authorities only knew of his precise movements because he – unless most New Zealanders  – was scanning the QR code wherever he went. It was this meticulousness that allowed the Ministry of Health to ascertain not just where he had been, but who might have been in close contact with him.

We owe this person a great deal.

Four days after the first announcement, and upon his return to Sydney, the traveller’s partner tested positive for covid19. It was announced at around the same time that – unsurprisingly – the traveller’s covid variant was indeed the highly infectious Delta strain.

It was the same strain that was rapidly spreading through Sydney from where the traveller had come from. By a miracle, as days passed, there were no reports of community transmission in Wellington. None of his 2,609 close contacts tested positive for the virus. Neither were there any traces of the virus in the city’s wastewater.

We had dodged the bullet. Strike 1.

Strike 2

5/6 July, Auckland-New Plymouth: The country was stunned to learn that relieving foreign ship crews were landing in Aotearoa, without the full 14 day MIQ. One crew was transported to their vessel, the Spanish-owned Viking Bay:

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covid 19 playa zahara

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Alarmingly, the MoH disclosed:

A Ministry spokesperson says they entered into the country under an exemption so they did not have to quarantine.

“These mariners entered into New Zealand under an exemption contained within the maritime border order.

“It’s important to note that all people such as mariners who this exemption applies to are still required to comply with full infection prevention controls.”

It is as if  leading Ministry of Health officials are oblivious as to the vastly more infectious nature of the Delta variant. Remember that the Sydney limousine driver infected a 70 year old woman at a local cafe with only the briefest of interactions. As New South Wales’ Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerry Chant, pointed out:

“This indicates that the initial case was highly infectious, as transmission must have occurred through fleeting exposure, noting that the woman who caught the infection at the café was actually seated outside and there was no known contact with the initial case.”

The van driver who transported the nine seafarers was put into isolation, as were two other Ports of Auckland workers.

The Ministry’s insistence that there was “minimal additional risk to any of the contacts during the transfer process” rings dangerously hollow when we realise that the current crisis facing NSW started of with one highly infectious person.

At last two Ports of Auckland workers and the van driver were put at risk of infection; potential serious illness, and possibly worse.

The drive from Auckland to Port Taranaki is a five hour journey.  During that journey, the travellersstopped to use the toilets at a Hamilton isolation facility”.

It is difficult to accept they made only one “pit stop”.  With nine individual seafarers and a van driver, is it credible they all needed to use the toilets simultaneously? And as Maritime Workers Union national secretary, Craig Harrison, added:

“It’s a fair old drive from Auckland to New Plymouth when you think about it. If the driver’s coming back from New Plymouth, if it’s down and back in one day, he must be refuelling somewhere.”

It is unclear where else the van may have stopped for food, toilet visit, or to re-fuel. And if the van had broken down, with two infectious seafarers onboard; had they interacted with passers-by or professional road-side assistance, the scenario for community transmission would have been set.

12 July, Wellington: A week after the five-hour drive from Auckland to Port Taranaki, the Viking Bay docked in Wellington.

13 July, Wellington: According to the MoH, fifteen of the Viking Bay’s 20 crew were transferred to an on-shore MIQ facility at the Grand Mercure Hotel. Including the original two from the Auckland-to-New Plymouth drive, all fifteen were now infected with the Delta variant.

The following day, another crewmember – one of the remaining five aboard the Viking Bay – became unwell and joined his comrades in MIQ. This despite the fact that same seafarer had recently returned a ‘negative’ covid test.

We had apparently (?) dodged another bullet. Strike 2.

Strike 3

18 July, Lyttelton Port: Another ship, the Spanish-flagged Playa Zahara docked at the port. The Delta variant had spread easily throughout the ship, infecting three crewmembers. A further thirteen crew also tested positive for covid, most likely Delta as well.

Again the relieving crew for the fishing vessel landed in Auckland on 18 June and spent only two days in MIQ. According to MoH,  they were tested before their arrival in Aotearoa New Zealand and again prior to boarding their ship. It is unclear when the second testing took place.

4 August, Port of Tauranga: Matters took a dangerous turn when the Singapore registered container ship, Rio De La Plata, docked at the port to unload its cargo.

Initially, 72 Tauranga port workers boarded the Rio De La Plata.

Eleven of the 21 crew aboard the ship tested positive for covid. According to the MoH, “Officials have worked with employers to identify 94 port workers who had contact with the ship, unloading cargo in shifts over the four-day period it was berthed at Port of Tauranga from 6pm on Wednesday 4 August to 2pm on Saturday 7 August.”

The number was subsequently increased to 98.

Writing for Stuff media, was able to reveal that no one at Port of Tauranga or Bay of Plenty District Health Board was keeping track of who was or was not vaccinated at the port.

Worse was to come.

It was also revealed that port workers were needlessly exposed to infected crew aboard the Rio De La Plata  a second time:

The Rio de la Plata was initially given the okay to berth in Tauranga on Wednesday. Then it was suddenly shut down that same night. Then it was given the all clear again the next morning. And now, half of its crew have tested positive for Covid-19.

Ports of Tauranga management put their side  of events:

The ship was tied up at Port of Tauranga from 6pm on Wednesday 4 August to 2pm on Saturday 7 August…

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… A Port of Tauranga pilot boarded the vessel at approximately 5pm on Wednesday and brought the ship in to the Tauranga Container Terminal. At about 9pm, Customs NZ unexpectedly shut down operations on the ship and the local Public Health Unit advised Port of Tauranga that our pilot and the stevedores unloading the ship should go home and isolate while awaiting further instructions.

On Thursday morning, Government agencies have clarified the situation and the Public Health Unit advised us that operations can resume on the vessel and there was no need for workers to isolate.

This despite Port of Tauranga admitted that they had been advised the day before the Rio de la Plata had been boarded by an Australian Queensland pilot who later tested positive for the virus:

On Tuesday, 3 August, Port of Tauranga received an alert from Maritime NZ that the ship had been boarded two weeks ago by an Australian pilot, who had tested positive for Covid-19. Maritime NZ subsequently cleared the ship for pilot boarding. The ship was also cleared to berth by the Medical Officer of Health at the local Public Health Unit as part of the normal free pratique process.

11 August: the Rio de la Plata  departed Port of Tauranga. All port workers and two pilots tested negative for covid.

The Australian pilot who became infected was not so lucky:

The ship is linked to a COVID case in an Australian pilot who was onboard the vessel July in Queensland and who later developed symptoms and then tested positive for COVID-19 nine days after being aboard the vessel. The Australian pilot is confirmed to have the Delta variant and has not been linked to any other Queensland cases.

Yet again, bullet dodged. Strike 3.

Out!

[This part written after 1.30pm, 17 August. However, it largely follows the original ]

The high-transmission rate of Delta Covid was starkly illustrated in Australia, as described above, when a woman at a cafe came into brief, passing contact with a limousine driver.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, the insanely high degree of transmissability of Delta Covid was reinforced at Auckland’s Jet Park quarantine facility:

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covid - jet park

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Every aspect of the increased dangerous nature of Delta Covid, combined with Aotearoa New Zealand’s policies toward foreign ship crews avoiding full fourteen-day MIQ; and haphazard protocols followed by port workers with visiting ships – does not bode well for us.

Little wonder that the Prime Minister was also uneasy about our vulnerability when it came to maritime traffic:

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Delta covid is unforgiving.  We are tempting Fate with our complacency. Someone at the Ministry of Health has not been paying attention.

We must do better.

Meanwhile, from the Death Cult Capitalists

For ACT leader David Seymour, opening up Aotearoa New Zealand couldn’t come fast enough:

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And to drive home the point, he added:

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That could mean living with Covid-19, even if that led to large outbreaks, more hospitalisations and even deaths…” – Mr Seymour can be very casual with other peoples’ lives. Almost sociopathic.

To be clear what Mr Seymour is calling for:

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“We couldn’t afford a situation in New Zealand to have it out of control in the community because it would risk collapsing or compromising our health system.”

It is not often a politician calls for the planned exposure of a deadly virus on to our country; casually dismisses the inevitable deaths (and not just from unvaccinated); and doesn’t comprehend the damage it would cause our health system.

Not only would opening up and “living with covid” kill – our hospital wards would quickly fill with hundreds of covid patients. This would take beds normally occupied by others with injuries and illnesses. Hip operations would be cancelled: no beds. Injuries from a natural disaster would not be treated: no beds. Life-saving transplants could not go ahead: no beds.

That is the nightmare scenario ACT leader David Seymour would visit upon his fellow Kiwis.

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twitter - covid

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References

ABC News: How the potentially ‘inexcusable’ actions of a limo driver put Sydney on COVID-19 alert

Sky News: Woman in 70s contracted COVID from ‘fleeting exposure’ to Bondi limo driver

NSW Government:  COVID-19 (Coronavirus) statistics – 22 June 2021

Otago Daily Times: NZ pauses travel bubble with New South Wales

Ministry of Health: Australian traveller tests positive for COVID-19

RNZ: Sydney Covid-19 case flew to Wellington last weekend

Stuff media: Covid19 NZ – Wellington enters alert level 2

Stuff media: Covid19 – If Aussie tourist who visited Wellington has Delta variant, alert level shift may be needed

TVNZ: Partner of Sydney man who visited Wellington tests positive for Covid-19

Otago Daily Times: Sydney man who visited Wellington had Delta variant

The Conversation: New Zealand has managed to dodge the COVID-19 bullet, again. Here’s why

RNZ: Australian traveller who visited Wellington has Delta variant

RNZ: Two mariners who were in Auckland test positive for Covid-19

RNZ: Covid-19 – Mariners driven from Auckland to Taranaki pose ‘very low risk’

RNZ: Fishing vessel with two Covid-19 cases will dock in Wellington

MoH: Update on Viking Bay fishing vessel

RNZ: Public at risk, confine infected mariners to MIQ rooms – Des Gorman

RNZ: Another Viking Bay crew member moved to Wellington MIQ facility

MoH: No community cases; 2 new cases in managed isolation; 2 historical cases; Taranaki wastewater update

MoH: Update on Whole Genome Sequencing for Playa Zahara

NZ Herald: Covid 19 coronavirus – Most of infected Playa Zahara crew to go to Christchurch MIQ

Stuff media: Explainer – How a Covid-19 carrying ship docked in NZ, and why workers were let aboard

MoH: More than 20,000 daily vaccine doses; no community cases; two cases of COVID-19, two historical cases in managed isolation; Rio De La Plata update

Otago Daily Times: No community cases in NZ, port workers all negative

MoH: Container Ship at Sea off Tauranga tests positive for COVID-19

Stuff media: Who, exactly, is monitoring vaccination numbers at the port in Tauranga?

Port of Tauranga: Rio de la Plata Update – Tuesday 10 August

RNZ: Covid-19 transmission at Jet Park when doors opened for seconds

Stuff media: PM wants to stop foreign fishing boats from changing crews in New Zealand

Otago Daily Times/NZ Herald: Seymour – Open borders next year regardless of vaccination levels

RNZ: Covid-19 – Delta in NZ community would ‘risk collapsing or compromising our health system’

The Conversation: Most COVID deaths in England now are in the vaccinated – here’s why that shouldn’t alarm you

Twitter: @GrumpyYetAmusin8.1AM – deadly virus – eugenicist – 8.11AM  Aug 12, 2021

Additional

NZ Herald: Covid 19 coronavirus – Viking Bay mariners broke MIQ rules in Wellington

Previous related blogposts

Life in Level 1: Reinfection – No, Dr Bloomfield!

Life in Level 1: Reinfection – Labour’s kryptonite

Is Air NZ the Covid re-infection problem? Possible evidence points to national airline

Does OIA evidence confirm possible Air NZ link to recent covid outbreaks?

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Acknowledgement: Shaun Yeo

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Liked what you read? Feel free to share.

Have your own thoughts? Leave a comment. (Trolls need not bother.)

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Life in Lock Down: Day 23

18 April 2020 3 comments

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April 17: Day 23 of living in lock-down…

It’s a gray, cool, overcast Autumn day. Dead leaves are starting to cover my paths and lawns. Pretty much another ordinary Autumn day, like so many through my years, and years to come. Except it’s anything but ordinary as humanity experiences an event that will be a marker for the early part of the 21st Century.

It’s another work day. Same routine; drive past the Park N Ride; two cars. Along the main road to SH2 – and what do I see…?

A few days ago;

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This afternoon;

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One missing motorhome. Obviously the owner didn’t get the memo that it’s not Alert Level 2 just yet. It’ll be interesting to see if it’s back tonight, on my way home.

On the motorway, traffic seems marginally busier  than last week. Of course, it’s a subjective assessment based on observation, memory, and a bit of guesswork. Sighted; police car parked up on the side of the highway; Fulton Hogan roadworks truck; “ZAP” pest control van; “New World” heavy truck; “Toll” heavy truck and a “Toll” medium sized truck; a bin-hire truck with a skip-bin; a “Geeves” scaffolding truck; “Al’s Litta bins” flat deck truck; “Budget” rental light truck; “Precision” glazing van; “Packaging Products” truck; “Ministry of Plumbing” plumbers van; “Morepork” gravel-hauling truck; 2 “L.G. Anderson” container trucks; a gravel-hauling truck towing a small front-end loader; “Low Cost Bins” ute; “Beaurepairs” truck; an empty flat deck hi-ab truck; patient transfer ambulance SUV; “Downer” ute; “Westward” truck hauling various building materials; “Linfox” fuel tanker; “Central Group” forklifts and trucks branded truck; “Laser Plumbing” van; “Canon Hygiene” van; “Countdown” food delivery van; “MGI” van; “TIMG” van; “Allied Security” car; “ATMS” road works truck in Vivian Street, outside of Terrace Tunnel; “Spotless Catering” van; 2 police cars in Vivian Street; 2 “Cory’s” utes; Salvation Army Family Store truck; “ATMS” road works truck in Mt Victoria Tunnel; “Toll” truck in tunnel, “Owens” truck…

Traffic did seem a little heavier than previous weeks. Especially travelling through the Mt Vic tunnel, activity is on the increase, without doubt.

As I drove along Vivian Street headed toward the Eastern Subsurbs, I noticed how overgrown the green park was in front of the School of Architecture and Design building was starting to become. As in most post-apocalypse movies, urban scapes are soon reclaimed by nature’s relentless growth;

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Not quite the scene from the 2007 movie, I Am Legend

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— but given enough time…

This afternoon, more good news mixed with tragedy. New cases are the lowest since mid-March: eight. If this is accurate; if there are no asymptomatic cases floating around the country; and if the downward trend continues, Aotearoa New Zealand will have achieved what no other nation has: eliminating the virus from our borders.

This puts foolish, harping critics like  National’s Paul Goldsmith and ACT’s David Seymour in their proper place; as whining ‘Cassandras’ who are hell-bent on putting this country on a collision course with a virus outbreak along the lines of Italy, Spain, UK, USA, et al.

David Seymour made the astounding  suggestion that Australia was achieving “better results” than Aotearoa;

“Australia appears to be having its cake and eating it too, as it gets achieves better COVID-19 health outcomes than New Zealand with fewer restrictions on economic activity.”

Even the Mediaworks-Newshub article was misleading in its headline;

MPs question New Zealand’s COVID-19 lockdown as Australia’s lighter approach produces similar results

Misleading because it is not true. Australia has five times our population, but seven times our covid19 death toll;

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On 16 April, Australia had 6,447 cases of covid19.  As of 17 April, a day later, the figure had jumped to 6,523.

Australia’s death is also rising. On 16 April it stood at 63. As of today (18 April) covid19 has claimed 65 victims.

Yesterday, as our government was announcing plans to reduce our Alert Level from 4 to 3, Australia was announcing it was extending its lock-down by another four weeks. The UK was extending its lockdown by three weeks whilst Japan had declared a national state of emergency.

Mediaworks-Newshub reported;

National MP Paul Goldsmith is now questioning New Zealand’s approach, pointing out that the two nations have had similar results per capita.

Again, not true. The above infographic shows Australia’s death toll worse than Aotearoa’s. Mr Goldsmith is either ignorant of the facts; being mischievous for National’s political agenda, or is trying to use sheer will-power to magic-up his own version of reality.

Meanwhile, David Seymour continues to tout on behalf of business interests, picking away at lock-down-mandated closure of most retailers;

“It is not clear why a dairy with a one-in one-out policy can open, but other types of retail cannot and that will be damaging and in some cases devastating for those businesses for no clear public health gain.”

He says it’s “not clear”?!

Well, let me make it abundantly clear for Mr Goldsmith and Mr Seymour in simple, easy-to-comprehend terms;

“Germy bad. Make people sick. Germy make people die. Not good. People sad. Put people in ground. Other people cry.”

And here is a pretty crayon picture for Little David and Little Paul;

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There is very good reasoning behind the lock-down. The more people are out, the greater the risk of transmission. Spain, UK, Italy, and New York City have demonstrated with great clarity how transmission of this virus can explode out of control.

More retailers open means more people moving about in retail areas. The more people there are, the closer they get to each other. Social distancing is impossible when limited areas become crowded. (I have witnessed this on fine, sunny days around Oriental Bay when people flock to the wide footpaths to stroll, jog, and ride bikes. Social distancing quickly becomes unrealistic. And some just don’t care.)

Even supermarket’s can become become congested, as I discovered this afternoon (17 April) when shopping for groceries for an immuno-suppressed client.

This was the scene at the Kilbirnie Pak N Save Meats Section this afternoon at 2.30pm. No social distancing whatsoever;

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Worst still, this was the scene in just one aisle at Kilbirnie Pak N Save;

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Any notion of a 2 metre distancing (or even 1 metre!) became utterly unrealistic as clusters of people crowded the aisles. If one person in those aisles was carrying  covid19 and coughed or sneezed, it is likely several dozen shoppers would likely have been infected.

Ironically, there were staff at all entrances to the supermarket “controlling” entry. Yet, the aisles were crowded.

If Mr Goldsmith and Mr Seymour get their way, scenes like above will be repeated throughout the country, in every city, and every popular retailer. We cannot – must not – permit agenda-driven fools like Mr Goldsmith and Mr Seymour to have any influence with the government.

Or people will get sick.

And people will die.

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Current covid19 cases: 1,409

Cases in ICU: 3 (2 critical)

Number of deaths: 11

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References

Mediaworks/Newshub:  MPs question New Zealand’s COVID-19 lockdown as Australia’s lighter approach produces similar results

ABC:  Charting the COVID-19 spread in Australia

Sky News:  Australia in lockdown for another four weeks – PM

RNZ:  UK lockdown extended while Japan declares national emergency

RNZ:  Act Party leader David Seymour gives govt dressing down over retail sector restrictions

RNZ:  Covid-19 – Coronavirus developments in New Zealand on 17 April

Must Read

Democracy Now:  Madrid’s Ice Rink Turned to Morgue as Spain Exceeds China in Coronavirus Deaths

The Independent:  Is Sweden having second thoughts on lockdown?

Elemental: Hold the Line

Other Blogs

Will New Zealand Be Right?

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 1

Life in Lock Down: Day 2

Life in Lock Down: Day 3

Life in Lock Down: Day 4

Life in Lock Down: Day 5

Life in Lock Down: Day 6

Life in Lock Down: Day 7

Life in Lock Down: Day 7 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 8

Life in Lock Down: Day 8 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 9

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

Life in Lock Down: Day 12

Life in Lock Down: Day 13

Life in Lock Down: Day 14

Life in Lock Down: Day 15

Life in Lock Down: Day 16 – Bad Friday

Life in Lock Down: Day 17

Life in Lock Down: Day 18

Life in Lock Down: Day 19

Life in Lock Down: Day 20

Life in Lock Down: Day 21

Life in Lock Down: Day 22 – Is that a light at the end of a four week long tunnel?!

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Acknowledgement: Steve Ditko (?)

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 18 April 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 13

8 April 2020 3 comments

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April 7: Day 13 of living in lock-down… and unlucky for those who are superstitious. A day when there was a ray of sunshine from an otherwise bleak day of worrying signs.

Today, as RNZ reported;

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield reported 54 new confirmed and probable cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand today, bringing the total number of cases to 1160. Twelve people are in hospital and four are in intensive care, including one person who is in a critical condition.

Today’s new figure is down from the 67 new cases reported yesterday.

If that downward slip – from 67 new cases yesterday to 54 today – becomes a solid downward trajectory, then god knows it’s been worth it. The damage to our economy; the closure of businesses (some permanently); the loss of jobs; the billions borrowed to keep this country afloat; the likely crippling of our tourism industry; and the effort made by so many people to do the right thing during the four week lock-down…

It is a little thing, but something to hold on to.

Our heroic Prime Minister warned us;

Now is not the time to change any of our behaviours.” – Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister, 7 April 2020

Because only after two weeks, irresponsible and supposedly mature adults, are calling for a relaxation of the lock-down.Many of those clamouring voices are from the business sector for whom – apparently – the Dollar trumps people’s lives.

Even while National Party Leader Simon Bridges was calling for tough quarantine measures of travellers arriving in our country, so as not to re-introduce the contagion into our community, his economic development spokesperson, MP Todd McClay, was calling for relaxation of our already porous lock-down shield;

“New Zealanders are doing there bit here, largely across the board the vast, the vast majority of people are respecting these rules. I think if the government says they trust people around self-isolation, that there will be ways for businesses to open up.

I think if you’re a clothing manufacturer, or a small business that’s working from home it can be contactless, you will show that you will adhere to and respect all of the Covid-19 health and safety rules, but we need to be doing everything you can to keep these businesses running.”

National’s inconsistancy of tough border controls and relaxed domestic lock-down will only achieve one thing: breathing life back into the contagion and giving the virus a second chance.

It would undo the last two weeks of sacrifice, for immediate gain.

It must not be allowed to happen.  The government must be allowed to stay the course and the mainstream media must stop amplifying the steady stream of hystrionics from self-interested businesspeople like “Mad Butcher” group chief executive, Michael Morton. When interviewed by RNZ Morning Report’s Susie Ferguson on 7 April, he was unashamedly blunt;

“If you open up and doing 20% of your trade, well, you’re going to lose a significant amount of money.”

Anyone who thinks that businesses could open “and respect all of the Covid-19 health and safety rules” is delusional or feeble-minded. Even in supermarkets like Pak N Save, where aisles are wider than smaller retailers, there are still significant numbers of shoppers who pay little heed to the two-metre social-distancing rule.

Or joggers like this clown, today (7 April) who ran past two women on Oriental Parade – within elbow-touching proximity;

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— despite the fact that Oriental Parade has a ridiculously wide footpath for pedestrians, joggers, and even bicyclists;

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He just couldn’t be bothered maintaining a safe space between himself and the two women. And he’s not alone. This blogger has seen too many other people for whom maintaining  safe “social distancing” is just not a priority. Even Simon Bridges “forgets” to keep to the two-metre rule;

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People not keeping their distance is dangerously common at the supermarkets.

Add to that all the other retailers Todd McClay wants re-opened with added foot-traffic; people not respecting; safe “social distancing” etiquette and we have a recipe for disaster.

You can be assured of one, simple inalienable fact: if Jacinda Ardern and the government were to follow Todd McClay’s and the business community’s demands to re-open businesses, the results would be predictable: a resurgence in infection. People would get sick. People would die.

And people like Todd McClay would blame Jacinda Ardern.

Stay staunch, Ms Ardern. Lives depend on your steadfastness.

Meanwhile, my work day started with my usual drive past the Park’N’Ride  on my street. There were just three cars present. A good start I thought.

Then getting on to the main road and onto the highway, I observed the commercial vehicles on the road around me; a “CMS” van; 5 ambulances; a flat deck light truck carrying stacks of beehives; a skip bin truck; 2 vans bearing the “ZAP!” logo (the driver of one van visibly in uniform, obviously working); a Kiwirail van; 2 “Downer” vans; a “Jina’s” fruit and vege van; a green “Toll” truck; a pest-control van (company name not visible); 3 police cars; an “AA” Road Service ute; “New World” delivery van; a “Rangitikei” free-range chicken van; “Nilfisk” van; a “Kiwi Green” marked van; a “Laser” plumbing van; a “Fulton Hogan” roadworks truck; a “OS” marked van; a “L.G. Anderson truck; a van marked “BBC” (bathroom company); a gravel hauling truck; 2 “JETS” covered trucks; a Mainfreight” truck; a “McAuley’s” container-truck; a “Strait NZ” van; an “Absolute Control” marked van; a white “Caffe L’affare” van; Wellington Regional Council ute; et al.

There were definitely more police cars visible and – worryingly – more ambulances.

The traffic north of Melling Interchange was once again light; three or four cars ahead or to my rear at any given time. Around Kelson, traffic increased to approximately a dozen cars in my immediate vicinity. By the Melling Interchange traffic was the heaviest I’ve seen it in two weeks with around two dozen vehicles around me. By Ngauranga, the “numbers continued to be “heavy” (heavy  compared to the last two weeks). By the time I reached the Terrace Tunnel, traffic had thinned considera=bly to about half of what I had observed further north.

Courtney Place looked “dead”; nil traffic.

At Oriental Bay, people were cautioned not to stay on the beach with lit messages;

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The weather was chilly with a blustery wind so it was unlike anyone would be sunning themselves on the sandy beaches today. A quick glance confirmed my thoughts: no one lounging on the sand.

But there were still plenty of joggers and like the fellow above, not all were showing courtesy by respecting the 2 metre distancing rule.

More worryingly; the Evans Bay Marina Carpark appeared to have even fewer freedom campers’ vehicles than the previous day;

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The campers had clearly “up sticks” and moved on. Aside from international air travel, it is hard to think of a more efficient vector for viral transmission than freedom campers driving around New Zealand; stopping in small towns and larger cities; and passing on their infection.

To paraphrase Peter, Paul and Mary, Where Have All The Freedom Campers Gone? And should anyone be making enquiries? Do the rental companies install GPS trackers in their vehicles? If so, the information gleaned from those devices could be troubling.

Perhaps it is time for “freedom camping” – aka the “low  end” of tourism – to be curtailed.

On the way to Miramar, the fifth police car in a day was parked on the center median strip on Cobham Drive (main route to Wellington Airport). Reassuring to see the Police around. Perhaps they could look into the mysterious Case of The Missing Campers?

Meanwhile, if we thought that Todd McClay; “Mad Butcher” group chief executive, Michael Morton; and other money-hungry nuts were bad enough, the Award for the most insanely irresponsible Person in Aotearoa New Zealand has to go to this prize fool:

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The virus has not yet been eradicated; new infections are still happening; and Seymour wants the lock down lifted before the four weeks is up?! Is this man deranged?

Worse still is this comment from him;

“Every day that we are locked down people are losing money, they’re losing businesses, they’ve got mental health issues that are going to arise.”

Not only is he valuing money over people’s lives – but he is exploiting mental health as a cloak to give legitimacy to his despicable suggestion. In effect he’s saying, “Never mind the risk to others; we want to make money; or else we’ll blame our supposed poor mental health on this government and the PM.”

Cue: sob story on RNZ, Newshub, TVNZ, et al about “depressed” businessman who can’t make money.

Congratulation to  Seymour for hitting rock-bottom. This is about as bad as it gets for a sleazy, opportunistic politician desperate for publicity and votes.

I’m not sure which is worse to be afraid off – the virus or a psycopath masquerading as a Member of Parliament. Maybe they’re related.

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Current covid19 cases: 1,160

Cases in ICU: 4 (1 critical)

Number of deaths: 1

 

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References

RNZ: Covid-19 – What happened on 7 April

TVNZ: Simon Bridges calls on Government to quarantine, test everyone still arriving into NZ

RNZ:  More industry and small businesses could reopen – National

RNZ:  Coronavirus – Mad Butcher CEO claims government decisions hurt butchers

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Simon Bridges admits he ‘should have been further apart’ from supermarket staff in photo shared online

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Coronavirus – New Zealand should consider quitting lockdown early, David Seymour says

Must Read

Elemental: Hold the Line

Democracy Now:  Madrid’s Ice Rink Turned to Morgue as Spain Exceeds China in Coronavirus Deaths

Additional

RNZ:  Covid-19 Pandemic Timeline

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 1

Life in Lock Down: Day 2

Life in Lock Down: Day 3

Life in Lock Down: Day 4

Life in Lock Down: Day 5

Life in Lock Down: Day 6

Life in Lock Down: Day 7

Life in Lock Down: Day 7 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 8

Life in Lock Down: Day 8 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 9

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

Life in Lock Down: Day 12

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Acknowledgement: Rod Emmerson

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This blogpost was also  published on The Daily Blog on 9 April 2020.

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Referenda on Euthanasia – NZ First’s Victory – or a Major Miscalculation?

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NZ First’s success in putting the euthenasia bill to a public referenda may not be the victory they believe it to be. They may even have sounded the death-knell for a second Labour-NZ First-Green coalition.

On 23 July this year, NZ First MP, Jenny Marcroft, submitted a Supplementary Order Paper whereby a  binding public referendum on David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill would be held at next year’s General Election.

Ms Marcroft voiced her party’s non-negotiable expectations on this issue;

“The New Zealand First caucus’ further support of the Bill is contingent upon the amendment, providing for a referendum, passing.”

Ms Marcroft’s justification for calling for a binding referendum sounded lofty, apparently based on high principle;

“New Zealand First believes this issue directly affects the fabric of society, and is one that temporarily empowered politicians alone should not decide upon. This decision requires the direct participation of the voting public.”

Whether NZ First actually believes that is unclear.

One thing is for certain; if successive polls are any indication, the referendum will pass the Bill into law.

In which case, NZ First can claim – hand on heart – that it “simply had no choice but to follow the will of the people”. So NZ First may escape the wrath of critics of euthanasia who will then focus their electoral retribution elsewhere (or so NZ First hopes.)

But NZ First can also claim praise from supporters of the Bill by pointing out it was instrumental in it’s adoption (albeit indirectly).

Writing for Newsroom, Sam Sachdeva made a similar point;

“But in pushing for referendums on euthanasia and abortion, Peters positions himself either claim the credit or dole out the blame depending on the vote result and fallout, and more easily peel off both red and blue voters come 2020. Politically, it is shrewd.”

All things to all people. It’s a cunning plan, if that was the true underlying reason for promoting the referendum.

Unfortunately, as with most cunning plans, there are often unintended consequences.

This is ACT’s Bill. Relitigating this issue next year as the election campaign heats up gives ACT much needed oxygen –  extra publicity by using every platform available to promote the referendum and promote itself at the same time.

If the publicity of championing the Individual’s right to choice gives ACT an extra couple of percentage points of Party Votes, David Seymour could find himself with three extra MPs.  If National’s support holds at around the 47%-mark – that gives them 57 seats. Fiftyseven National plus four ACT = Prime Minister Simon Bridges.

An unpleasant thought, to put it mildly.

NZ First’s wily old fox and its political strategists may not have thought this one through.

In 1996, the Alliance put forward a Citizen’s Initiated Referenda on whether or not the country’s state forest plantations and cutting rights should remain in public ownership.

The Alliance’s chief stategist-at-the-time, Matt McCarten toured the country, explaining to every electorate Branch that the CIR on forestry ownership would likely boost the Alliance’s prospects at the first MMP election in late 1996. Matt explained that the added publicity of the Alliance policy on public ownership of strategic state assets would be a major draw-card in the coming election. With MMP imbedded as the new, fairer, electoral system, the Alliance would finally be able to capitalise on every vote cast for the party.

No more “wasted votes”.  A CIR, in Jim Anderton’s name, would remind voters which political movement opposed the steady advance of neo-liberalism. That “nudge” in the ballot-booth could benefit the Alliance immensely.

Matt McCarten gave his speech to a packed hall in the Rongotai Electorate in the presence of dozens of party activists; local Alliance candidate, Bill Hamilton, and a much younger Electorate Secretary – Frank Macskasy.

The CIR lapsed due to the high number of valid signatures required – ten percent of registered voters – within an unfeasibly tight time-frame; twelve months.

But the very act of thousands of highly-motivated Alliance activists going door-knocking in the lead up to the 1996 Election Day, presenting the petition; discussing it with householders; reminding them face-to-face that the Alliance was staunchly opposed to privatisation – may have provided an impetus even if the CIR itself failed to gain sufficient valid signatures in time.

In 1993 there were two Alliance MPs.

After the 1996 Election, the number skyrocketed to thirteen.

Even though votes for the Alliance fell from 350,063 in 1993 to 209,347 (siphoned off to a fledgling NZ First, that had also campaigned on halting asset sales) public support was still considerable. The unsuccessful petition event may have contributed to the success of both parties.

Twentyfour years later, and the stark possibility exists that NZ First may – inadvertently – assist it’s nemesis at the next election.

According to media reports, David Seymour, says  “he didn’t feel strongly either way about the referendum, but saw it as a necessity“. A “necessity” to win more votes and seats next year?

Mr Seymour is not without political nous. With one eye on recent polling and the other on next year’s general election, he may also have calculated that NZ First has inadvertently thrown him a life-line.

If ACT gains exposure from the euthanasia referendum throughout next year’s campaigning, finally reminding voters at the ballot box, the outcome  may be the greatest unintended consequence since the a certain intoxicated Prime Minister thought an early election would be a… cunning plan.

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References

NZ First: Binding referendum on End of Life Choice Bill

NZ Parliament: End of Life Choice Bill

Mediaworks/Newshub: Most New Zealanders support euthanasia

TVNZ: Strong support for legalising euthanasia in 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton Poll, as MPs set to thrash out details

Scoop Media: New Poll – Euthanasia Support Overwhelmingly Strong

Wikipedia: Referendums in New Zealand

Newsroom: Why Winston Peters is wrong on referendums

Wikipedia: 1996 New Zealand general election

Wikipedia: 1993 New Zealand general election

ODT: Euthanasia bill to go to referendum

Other Blogs

No Right Turn: Death with dignity (various)

The Daily Blog: Why NZ First are right and the Euthanasia law needs to be a public referendum

The Standard: The End of Life Choice Bill

The Standard: Parliament votes to give disabled people the right to a good life

Previous related blogposts

John Key – Practicing Deflection 101

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 October 2019.

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David Seymour – A Valid ‘Hit’ and a Colossal ‘Miss’

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For lone ACT MP, David Seymour, November has been a “mixed bag”.  The leader of a near-non-existent Party scored this month – though only one was a try/goal/bowled-out. The other was a foul/offside/no-ball that all but negated his previous success.

A Hit, A Very Palpable Hit!

ACT’s David Seymour has panned a $24,000 junket by Parliament’s Speaker, Trevor Mallard and former National Minister, Gerry Brownlee. The 48 “diplomatic mission” was timed to coincide with an All Black game being played in Tokyo.

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Aside from the obvious question how  a two-person trip lasting two days could possibly rack up a $24,000 bill for taxpayers, one wonders if our elected Parliamentary representatives aren’t remunerated sufficiently generously that they can pay their own way to a rugby game.

If Mallard and Brownlee were bathing in champagne, I hope they at least had the decency to save tax-dollars by bathing together? (Togs optional.)

As Mr Seymour said, pointing out the blindingly obvious:

They are literally taking the mickey out of New Zealanders by saying a 24-hour trip that happens to coincide with the All Blacks playing was a diplomatic effort.

Gerry Brownlee earns $180,000, Trevor Mallard earns $296,000. If they want to go to the rugby in Japan they can afford it whereas a lot of taxpayers can’t.

There’s no chance that this is about taxpayer benefits. if you believe that you probably think Gerry should be running on for the ABs against England next week – it’s not a public benefit, therefore they should pay the money back.”

David Seymour quite rightly fulfilled his duty as an Opposition MP by making public his concerns and asking why taxpayers were footing the bill for a typical kiwi-bloke’s weekend away for a bit of footy.

This is the raison d’etre for an Opposition MP and in this case, Mr Seymour caught another member of another Opposition Party in his parliamentary snare. Both Brownlee and Mallard had their snouts in the public trough, and Mr Seymour called them on it.

In doing so, the MP from Epsom has earned his place in the House and his pay for the year.

A Colossal Miss!

When it comes to political game-playing, it would be hard to beat David Seymour’s recent Trumpesque utterances on the “deadly perils of the humble shopping bag”.

Three years ago, Seymour became a zealous disciple for the plastic-bag industry. As people became more aware of the damage caused to the environment – especially sealife – moves were made to phase out this ubiquitous aspect of modern life. The threat to sealife was mostly invisible, but evidence quickly mounted that the waste from human civilsation was having dire consequences.

Out-of-sight-out-of-mind was no longer an option.

For some bizarre reason (possibly because ACT is the party of “free enterprise” and is wedded to capitalist values at any cost?!) Seymour thought it would be a brilliant idea to take up the cause of the plastic bag.

In July 2015, Seymour told RadioLive that phasing-out single-use plastic bags  and replacing them with  re-usable shopping bags would kill “20 people a year”. Seymour suggested that a “reusable bag sitting in the hot boot of their car with a bit of blood that’s seeped out of some steak or chicken – you end up with infections and potentially people dying“.

He gave no evidence for his claim. His allegation – much like his Party – was ignored.

In August this year, Seymour was beating the Plastic Drum again – this time raising another ‘bogeymen’ – of people replacing single-use plastic bags with thicker plastic bags. Again the claim was made on a private radio station – NewstalkZB – perhaps because he thought he would be given an uncritical reception by his hosts at a privately-owned, profit-driven, commercial radio station.

In the same month, Seymour berated the Coalition government that “the Greens’ nutty ban on single-use plastic bags has claimed its first victim.”

Seymour was referring to a small Porirua company called “Kiwi Plastics“, which produced single-use plastic bags. The company owner, Angelus Tay, was highly critical of the move to phase out single-use plastic bags;

“The bag can’t defend itself, so you blame the product. People think it’s so easy and they’re all just thrown away. Then they’re ending up in the sea and it’s a ‘plastic problem’.  The days are numbered because the bags will be gone next year … I’ll tell the staff it’s not my fault, it’s the government policy.” 

Angelus Tay blamed the government for having to close his business and Seymour parroted the line.

Except… Mr Tay has a somewhat dubious record when it came to his company’s safety record. In 2011 he had been fined $45,000 for dangerous workplace practices;

Kiwi Plastic Company Limited was convicted of failing to guard two of its bag sealing machines after an unannounced visit by Department of Labour inspectors found the guards had been removed.

The machines, which seal the sides of plastic supermarket bags, could heat up to 210degC.

Inspectors also found an employee had been taught to over-ride automatic shutdown mechanisms.

Earlier, in 2002, “Kiwi Plastics” and its owner/director, Angelus Tay, were prosecuted for a similar offence after three of his employees were badly injured in a workplace accident.

The closure of his factory may have been related to the planned phase-out of single-use plastic bags. It may also have been a direct consequence of Mr Tay’s cavalier disregard for workplace safety.

But you wouldn’t know any of this reading David Seymour’s press statement  lamenting of the closure of “Kiwi Plastics“.

More recently, on 2 November, in an example of political re-cycling, Seymour re-newed his claim that re-usable shopping bags could kill up to 20 New Zealanders a year.

This time Seymour quoted a source for his assertions: a 2013 “research”-paper from George Mason University, located near Washington DC. According to their own website, George Mason University ranks 801st out of 1,000 universities world-wide.

By contrast, the University of Auckland ranks 85th.

Auckland University Professor and microbiologist, Siouxsie Wiles, rubbished Seymour’s claims, stating they had already been debunked;

“So it’s written by two professors of Law and Economics who are not microbiologists or public health experts.

They’ve taken a data set around people who are hospitalised or deaths in San Francisco and looked at before plastic bags were banned and then afterwards. They’ve then drawn a bunch of conclusions which if anybody in public health looked at would say no, not true at all.

I do think we need to have a little bit more education about how people should be using their [reusable] bags and how you should be treating certain food groups.

But to take – I’m not even going to call it a study – to take this information and then draw the conclusions that the researchers have is irresponsible actually.”

Fellow scientist (epidemiologist) and public health expert, Professor Michael Baker from the Department of Public Health at the University of Otago, also slammed Seymour’s claims;

“The authors appear to be well qualified in law and economics. It would have been reassuring to see authors or contributors to this research with skills in key relevant areas such as epidemiology and environmental microbiology.

Based on the data presented here, I don’t think any epidemiologist would say that this study has demonstrated a causal relationship between the ‘grocery bag ban’ and foodborne illness. I think it would be absurd to extrapolate figures from this report to the NZ situation, without doing a lot more analysis and investigation of the US experience.”

Professor Baker also revealed that the  2013 “research”-paper had been funded by a free-market “environmental” think-tank called Property and Environment Research Center (PERC). PERC’s website describes itself as “The home of free market environmentalism“.

It’s funniest statement is presented without a shred of self-awareness of satire;

“Our research examines how markets encourage cooperation instead of conflict over natural resources…”

Donors to PERC have included corporations such as  Exxon Mobil, the far-right Koch Foundation, and Dunn’s Foundation for the Advancement of Right Thinking – a right-wing funder of various causes. The Dunn’s Foundation is known for minimising human influence in climate change.

According to watchdog group, Conservative Transparency;

Dunn’s Foundation’s purpose, according to documents filed with the IRS, is “to advance the understanding and practice of classical liberalism, market capitalism, free enterprise, individual political and economic liberty and to reduce the impact of the use or threat of force by coercive organizations (both public and private) against the people of America and the world, principally through education and persuasion.” It pursues its mission by giving out massive quantities of money to conservative and libertarian groups.

Apparently PERC likes single-use plastic shopping bags.

Little wonder that Seymour has latched onto this dubious “report”.

Seymour’s “solution” to the mounting plastic pollution in our environment? To fine litter-bugs;

“The problem is with this small percentage of people so arrogant they think its okay to let their rubbish fly around and end up in the sea, and we should be punishing those people more stringently.”

The only problem with his “solution” is that litterers do not have their names stamped on their plastic rubbish.  These single-use plastic bags were spotted on an Oriental Bay beach, and in a tree lining the streets adjacent the Upper Hutt railway station.

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Who pays for this littering? (This blogger retrieved the plastics bags on the water’s edge on the beach and placed them in a nearby bin. The yellow supermarket bag in the tree was not readily accessible.)

In fact, much of  the beach was littered with the detritus of human civilisation, with various forms of plastic strewn across the shore;

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There goes our “clean green” image.

Suburbs were not exempt from plastic rubbish. This blogger collected a bagful of (mostly plastic) rubbish on an afternoon walk through his neighbourhood;

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Whilst some have now abandoned the use of plastics such as straws, such as “The Churchill“, in Wellington’s CBD;

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– a certain coffee-chain retailer persists in offering customers these disposable plastics;

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– and sure enough, on the footpath immediately outside “Starbucks“, lay a plastic straw that had been carelessly thrown away.*

According to David Seymour, “we should be punishing those people more stringently”.

But none of the plastic rubbish had anyone’s name on it. So his suggestion becomes meaningless. Except… Seymour isn’t really concerned with increasing littering fines. Seymour wants  to shift focus from producers of plastics to litterers. His suggestion is a strategy of deflecting from  the real problem: the growing mountain of plastic waste that is clogging our oceans, waterways, beaches, streets, gutters, parks, forests… no place is exempt.

In case anyone thinks this is an exaggeration, the next time you are out and about walking – look down. Look at the grass-verges on your street; your city footpath and gutter; along your beach or park. All of a sudden, the amount of rubbish littering our environment becomes more apparent. You may be amazed at what you have not been noticing until now.

This is what David Seymour chooses to ignore. Seymour complains that “It’s not the bags that are harming the environment, it’s the way people are using them.”

And that is the problem: we are using them. And they are everywhere.

But for David Seymour, MP for Epsom, a $24,000 junket at tax-payer’s expense is more worthy of his righteous indignation than the fouling of our environment. He has either been ‘captured’ by the plastics industry (perhaps willingly) – or this was a publicity stunt to improve ACT’s near-zero poll rating.

Neither possibility is  reassuring.

Mr Seymour may know the dollar price of some things – but the value of other, more important things, continues to elude him.

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* Note: Suspicious minds need not worry that this blogger placed these items on the ground. There is enough rubbish in the environment already without having to ‘doctor’ a situation. Most items in images were retrieved and appropriately disposed.

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References

Radio NZ:  David Seymour on Japan junket: Trevor Mallard ‘a well-known sports fanatic’

TVNZ:  ‘They’re taking the mickey’ – David Seymour lambastes colleagues’ $24k Japan rugby ‘junket’

Mediaworks/Newshub:  ACT – Reusable shopping bags can kill

NZ Herald:  Our plastic rubbish killing sea life

ACT: Economy

NewstalkZB: ACT leader – plastic bag ban will backfire

Scoop mdia:  Nutty plastic bag ban killing jobs

Fairfax media: Plastic bag makers say their product isn’t to blame for damaging the environment

NZ Herald:  Porirua plastics company fined $45k

TVNZ: David Seymour – Plastic bag ban could lead to fatalities

Top Universities: George Mason University

Top Universities: University of Auckland

Radio NZ:  Microbiologist slams ‘irresponsible’ plastic ban claims cited by Seymour

Fairfax media: David Seymour’s claims against reusable bags fact checked by leading scientists

Wikipedia: Property and Environment Research Center

Property and Environment Research Center (PERC): Home page

Property and Environment Research Center (PERC):  About Us

Desmog: Property and Environment Research Center (PERC)

Conservative Transparency: Dunn’s Foundation for the Advancement of Right Thinking

Forbes:  Yet Another Dead Whale Found With Pounds Of Plastic In Its Stomach

Previous related blogposts

Anti-Deep Sea Drilling Wellingtonians Take To The Streets (part tahi)

Key’s challenge to Deep Sea Oil Drilling Protesters

Anadarko: Key playing with fire

Drinking river water – Tourism NZ puts visitors at risk

TDB Investigation into what is happening in our water

Copyright (c) Notice

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

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

 

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 29 November 2018.

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Observations on the 2017 Election campaign… (Waru)

30 September 2017 Leave a comment

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The people have spoke;  votes cast; and now the post-election negotiations begin in earnest…

… once Special Votes are counted and announced on 7 October.

The Electoral ‘Wild Card’ – Special Votes

Three years ago, there were 330,985 Special Votes cast, accounting for 13.5%  of total votes. That reduced National’s seats in Parliament by one, and gifted the Green Party a fourteenth MP. The balance of power in Parliament went through a seismic shift with that one transfer of a single seat.

This year the number of Special Votes has risen dramatically to (approximately) 384,072 (or 15% of total votes).

Special Votes have traditionally supported left-leaning Parties and Labour and the Greens may pick up one or two extra seats, at the expense of National.

This may result in former Iranian refugee, lawyer, and feminist activist,  Golriz Ghahraman becoming the Green’s eighth MP. Two extra MPs will send Mojo Mathers back to Parliament.

National will lose one, maybe two seats, reducing it’s MPs from currently 58 to 57 or 56.

Two extra seats for the Labour-Green bloc will strengthen their hand in negotiations with Winston Peters. A Labour-Green-NZF coalition would rise from 61 seats to 62 or 63 out of a 120 seat Parliament. (With the demise of the Maori Party, there is no over-hang.)

No wonder Peters, Labour, and the Greens can afford to  bide their time. Two weeks will give the three parties a clearer picture as to what voters have delivered.

The Maori Party – a ‘bob each way’

During the election campaign, on 28 August, the Maori Party’s co-leader, Marama Fox, startled the country by making noises that her party could work with Labour as a coalition partner;

“I know our people lean left and they’d love to see us in a coalition arrangement with Jacinda, Metiria not anymore, but somebody from the Greens and Marama Fox and Te Ururoa Flavell. We could change the world – I think that would be amazing.”

She continued asserting that the Maori Party could work in coalition with Labour. In effect Ms Fox was re-branding the Maori Party as an opposition party working to change the government.

But on TVNZ’s Q+A, on 24 September, Corin Dann asked Te Ururoa Flavell if  Bill English deserved a fourth term. Flavell replied;

“Yes, I do. I do, because I work with him. I do believe, come what may that he is an honourable person. That he does have people’s interests at heart […] But  I do believe that he is the right person under the circumstances. He has all that background and that knowledge  and I believe that, that he can take  the country forward.”

Ms Fox may have been earnest in her desire to move her party to the left. But Flavell’s comments suggest otherwise.

We will never know.

The Doom of the Maori Party

The demise of the Maori Party should not surprise anyone. They have suffered the doom of any small political party that has made two grievous mistakes.

Mistake #1: Moving too close to their major coalition partner  and being over-shadowed and subsumed by the  Blue Colossus that was the National-ACT Government.

Mistake #2: Ignoring past ‘messages’ sent to them by voters who consistently showed their displeasure at the Maori Party’s choice of coalition partner. Since the 2008 general election, the Maori Party’s presence in Parliament has steadily dwindled;

2008: 5 seats

2011: 3 seats

2014: 2 seats

2017: nil seats – gone by lunchtime

In blaming voters for their defeat, Marama Fox and Te Ururoa Flavell and other Maori Party leadership ignored the gradual decline of voter support until they had nothing left.

Hone Harawira proved himself correct when he criticised the Maori Party’s coalition with National;

“The downside of being in government with National is having to put up with all the anti-worker, anti-beneficiary and anti-environment (and therefore anti-Maori) legislation that comes as a natural consequence of having a right-wing government.

The Maori Party is a coalition partner of that government and our co-leaders are ministers in that government, so unless we take a very strong position against some of the government’s legislative agenda we will be seen as supporting that agenda.

It does not reflect the hopes and dreams of either the Maori people or the Maori Party, and was opposed by most Maori during the select committee hearings. If we support this bill, we’re effectively saying that our coalition with National is more important than our commitment to Maori.”

Even Patrick Gower warned the Maori Party four years ago that it was sliding toward an inevitable doom if it maintained it’s cosy relationship with the Tories;

” It needs the nuclear option.

It needs to kick National in the guts and walk away.

[…]

It’s time for Flavell to change the narrative.

He needs to start distancing the Maori Party from National. He needs to start extricating it from the cosy relationship.

He needs to position the Maori party differently – much differently. “Positioning” isn’t enough any more – he needs to make a break.

And so it came to pass.

Which is unfortunate, as I believe that the Maori Party’s voice in Parliament added to the public discourse. One hopes that a resurgent Maori-Mana Party will return in 2020. Maori need representation in the House, independent of any mainstream, pakeha-dominated party.

Gareth Morgan – green with envy?

Gareth Morgan’s call for the Green Party to work with National is either political naivete – or a cunning plan to undermine and eventually destroy the Green Party and siphon off their voter-base.

Either way, not a look look for Mr “Common Sense”.

The fate of the Maori Party (and other small parties whose orbits took them too close to their stellar coalition partners) is a clear warning that a blind person could see.

Mr Morgan should to stick to his “knitting” such as promoting the Universal Basic Income and building his own party for 2020.

ACT – time to pull the plug

It’s time for National to pull the plug on ACT. The Epsom life-support unit served it’s purpose when ACT could be guaranteed to poll over 1.2% – but it’s electoral support has been waning since 2008;

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Election Year Party
Votes
%
Votes
2008 85,496 3.65%
2011 23,889 1.07%
2014 16,689 0.69%
2017 10,959 .05%

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With no hope of ACT’s sole MP, David Seymour, pulling in a second MP on his “coat-tails”, National might as well cut him loose and regain Epsom for themselves.

Or not.

Who can really care anymore for a “Party” polling at half of one percent?

Certainly not Bill English;

“We want to get on with the job of forming a government, but we will work with New Zealand First at a pace they’re willing to go.”

He said it was pretty clear cut that a two-party coalition would be more stable, and voters had given National a task of forming a government with New Zealand First.

“Our position in going into those negotiations is that almost one in two New Zealanders supported National.

“The voters have given us the task of forming a government with New Zealand First and that’s what we’ll proceed to do.”

ACT would complicate a governing arrangement, and he would not expect the party to be included in that government.

“The shortest path to stable government is a two-party coalition between National and New Zealand First.”

By the way, David Seymour…

On TVNZ’s Q+A, ACT leader and sole-MP, David Seymour, blamed First Past the post for his party’s crushing defeat on Election day;

“Every minor party got hammered, we kind of went back to a first-past-the-post environment.”

Typical of right-wingers; demanding personal responsibility from the rest of us – but never showing any themselves. If ACT cannot win electoral support under MMP, then it will never achieve success under any system (except maybe at gunpoint).

Perhaps Mr Seymour should just accept that 99.95% of voters simply do not like ACT’s free-market, dog-eat-dog,  and corporate-welfarism for it’s taxpayer-funded Charter Schools.

When Gareth Morgan’s TOP gained four times more votes (48,018 – 2.2%) than ACT  (10,959 – 0.05%), what does that say about the fate of neo-liberalism in this country?

Yes Winston, we have…

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The question is, what will he do about it?

Does Winston Peters really want his party to end up like the Maori Party, ACT, and Peter Dunne – all casualties of their political closeness to National?

Lisa Owen made this observation on TV3’s The Nation, on 24 September, when she pointed out to Steven Joyce;

“Given the situation you find yourself in with the previous people you’ve worked with dwindling…”

As others have pointed out, a vote for NZ First was indeed a vote for change. Otherwise, those leaning toward National would have cut out the Black & White Middle Man and voted for the Blue Team.

Going with National is More of the Same.

Choose wisely, Mr Peters, choose wisely.

The Fate of The Maori Seats

With the demise of the Maori Party and the assimilation of all seven Maori Seats into a mainstream, predominantly white-person’s political party, it is more apparent than ever that we need to retain those Maori Seats to ensure on-going, guaranteed Parliamentary representation for Tangata Whenua.

If National bows to Peters’ demand for a referendum on the seats, it will be a sad day for democracy in this country when the Majority get to choose on entrenched safeguards for a Minority.

Why do (some) pakeha feel so threatened by seven seats when they  have 113 seats for themselves, under their potential full control? It can’t be any notion of “reverse-racism”. Those who demand the abolition of Maori seats rarely concern themselves with such matters.

National’s Dirty Politics Strategy

In a Hollywood movie, a budding politician rises up from nowhere and successfully takes on the political Establishment Elites. After a struggle, the hero/heroine prevails, showing that truth, courage, and integrity will always defeat the Dark Forces of the political Elite. Cue happy ending; cue stirring theme music; roll credits; bank the ticket-takings.

In real life, Steven Joyce and his party strategists (with the assistance of Crosby Textor?) spun two lies, regarding Labour’s mythical “$11.7 billion fiscal hole” and that Labour would “raise taxes”. None of which were remotely true. Joyce was aided and abetted by Bill English who unashamedly repeated those two lies at every opportunity, whether on-air debates or interviews on Radio NZ, Q+A, The Nation, etc. At no point did either man resile from their wilful calumny.

If 998,813 voters who ticked “National” on their Party Vote ballot weren’t aware that the two claims were barefaced lies – or, knew it was a lie and simply didn’t care – Joyce’s  strategy for mis-information worked.

Even Patrick Gower – no friend of the Left – knew that Joyce’s claims were deliberate lies, and was appalled at what he was witnessing;

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The Dirty Tricks strategy was previously used against Winston Peters when an unknown agent leaked his superannuation over-payment to the media.

At the next election, Labour and the Greens must be better placed to strategically address “fake news” from the National Party. Labour and Green strategists must  be conscious that the Nats will stoop to lies if their pre-election polling shows them at-risk of losing. A rapid-response task-force should be ready and well-resourced to counteract such lies; to do it immediately,  and with energy.

Patrick Gower put it this way on The Nation on 24 September, when he interviewed Labour’s Phil Twyford;

“…And one of the issues was the attack from National on tax and their lies, in effect. Now, why didn’t you call them out earlier?

[…] But do you look back now and go, ‘We were relentlessly positive, but we let their relentless negativity come in too much.’ Do you look back now as you wake up and go, ‘Oh, we should have called them out earlier.’?

[…] But where was her junkyard dog? Where was someone— If she was relentlessly positive— And, actually, I’m going to call you out here — were you personally too late? Do you take some responsibility for not taking on Steven Joyce and letting him get away with what he did?”

This style of dirty tricks cannot be allowed to become New Zealand’s “new norm”.

That was Then, This is Now

In 2008 and 2011, then-Dear Leader John Key was emphatic that under no circumstances would he entertain any coalition deal with Winston Peters;

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Three years later;

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The Nats are nothing if not “flexible”. As are their “principles”.

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References

Electoral Commission: 2017 General Election Timetable

Electoral Commission: New Zealand 2014 General Election Official Results

Fairfax media:   National loses majority, Greens pick up one

Electoral Commission: Preliminary results for the 2017 General Election

Green Party:  Golriz Ghahraman

Mediaworks:  Labour, Greens and Māori Party ‘could change the world’ – Marama Fox

TVNZ: Q+A –  Maori Party – Te Ururoa Flavell

Wikipedia: Maori Party

Fairfax media:  Māori have ‘gone back like a beaten wife to the abuser’, defiant Marama Fox says

Fairfax media:  Te Ururoa Flavell won’t be part of a Māori Party revival

NZ Herald:  Maori Party investigates complaint against Harawira

Mediaworks: Opinion: Maori Party must kick National in guts

Fairfax media:  Party ‘for a fairer New Zealand’ falls flat, as Gareth Morgan’s TOP falls far short of 5 per cent

Electoral Commission: New Zealand 2011 General Election Official Results

Electoral Commission: New Zealand 2008 General Election Official Results

Radio NZ:  Two-party coalition more stable – English

TVNZ: Q+A –  ‘Every minor party got hammered’ – ACT Party leader David Seymour justifies dismal party vote

Scoop media: TV3’s The Nation –  Lisa Owen interviews Steven Joyce

Fairfax media:  The Māori Party is out: Labour wins all Māori electorates

Mediaworks:  Patrick Gower – National guilty of biggest campaign lie

Mediaworks:  Patrick Gower – National playing ‘post-truth politics’

Fairfax media:  Winston Peters, scandal and a recipe for revenge

Scoop media: TV’s The Nation – Patrick Gower interviews Phil Twyford

Fairfax media:  Bill English – I’m ready to talk to Winston

Other Blogs

The Standard:  National have poisoned the Peters well

The Standard:  National’s political hit job on Winston Peters

The Standard:  Where to now for the Greens?

The Standard:  Consider the people of New Zealand First

The Standard:  National rules itself out of coalitions with cynical BillShit

Previous related blogposts

John Key: Man of Many Principles (2012)

How biased is the media? A Patrick Gower case study (2014)

No More. The Left Falls. (2014)

Election ’17 Countdown: The Promise of Nirvana to come

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (tahi)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rua)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (toru)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (wha)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rima)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (ono)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (whitu)

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(Acknowledgment: Toby Morris, The Wireless)

 

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 September 2014.

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Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rima)

16 September 2017 1 comment

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Ask David: When is a Bribe not a Bribe?

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National has added to it’s list of expensive election year bribes. Not content with offering $10.5  billion on new roads (which is additional to an  estimated $12 billion  to be spent on seven roads in National’s “Roads of National Significance” plan) – the Nats have promised  to increase their  HomeStart grant by $10,000. First home buyers would get $20,000 to buy an existing house or $30,000 for a newly constructed property.

The election year bribe has been condemned by both Left and Right. Political commentator, Chris Trotter pointed out the bleedin’ obvious;

You’ve had nine years to come up with a policy like this and you leave it until the last 13 days in an election campaign to make such an announcement.

This is a further sign of National Party desperation.

If a government wants to do something, the money is there. If National says they’ll find the money, I’m sure they will, but the question is why has it taken so long?

I think that’s a perfectly fair question, the timing is what is most remarkable.

But as Newsroom reported when National began to offer home-ownership subsidies in an over-heated housing marlet;

Treasury warned the Government in 2013 that increasing first home buyer subsidies would undermine the Reserve Bank’s efforts to slow down the housing market, force an early Official Cash Rate hike and push up house prices.

According to Newsroom, in  2014 Treasury  pointed out what should have been obvious to the Nats – a party that should be well-versed in supply and demand rules;

[Welcome Home Loan and KiwiSaver withdrawal schemes]  may undermine the power and credibility of the Reserve Bank’s proposed use of restrictions on high Loan to Value Ratio mortgages, depending on up-take.

Experience with homeowner grants in Australia suggests that such programmes tend to push prices up in a supply constrained environment by supporting greater demand, rather than improving affordability.

The Kiwi Saver Home Deposit Scheme increases the cash available to homebuyers for deposits. Increasing eligibility may encourage buyers to take on more debt/seek more expensive houses. This could exacerbate house price pressures.”

Nothing better highlights National’s failure to constrain housing prices, pushed up by rampant speculation and unplanned migration , than having to throw tax-payer’s money at the problem. (Obviously not content with putting a sheep farm in the middle of the Saudi desert, costing taxpayers at least $11.5 million.)

National’s favourite holographic coalition partner, ACT’s David Seymour,  also put the boot into National’s election year gift calling it out for what it is – a policy failure and a baked election bribe;

It’s an admission of National’s failure to fix the fundamentals of our housing crisis. Instead of getting homes built, they’re trying to soothe home buyers’ pain with a bribe.

Only a few months of flat price growth has scared National into propping up investors’ capital gains with taxpayer money. ”

However, David Seymour is not above throwing tax-dollars around as election year bribes when it suits his own electoral re-election agenda;

The ACT Party says it would bring in bulk funding for teacher salaries, offering schools $93,000 per teacher but only if they abandon collective agreements.

At its campaign launch this afternoon, ACT leader David Seymour said he wanted to give schools the power to decide what individual teachers earn.

The party would do this by introducing bulk funding, where schools could opt out of the centralised payroll system and collective agreements.

Seymour was blunt in his desire to see teacher’s unions undermined and destroyed;

ACT’s policy will address these pressures. And because it comes with the proviso that schools leave the union contract […] It’s frankly a disgrace that teacher unions would reject a billion dollars in new funding in order to protect the status quo that denies kids the education they deserve.

Seymour couldn’t explain where the money for the outright bribe for teachers to abandon their voluntary union participation would come from. He simply dipped his fingers into government coffers;

Party leader David Seymour said that the Government surplus of $3.7bn meant the party could promise to pay principals $975 million, to pay good teachers an extra $20,000 each, without cutting services or raising taxes.

It is not just National that is showing increasing signs of desperation. When a right-wing political party that supposedly espouses individual freedom of choice offers  tax-payer funded bribes for people to quit an organisation they have voluntarily opted to join – then we begin to understand that the entire neo-liberal paradigm is under threat.

Will David Seymour offer our hard-earned tax money to other people to quit organisations he doesn’t agree with?

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Challenge to David Seymour on the RMA

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Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox; Green Party leader James Shaw; ACT Party leader David Seymour; and United Future’s new leader, Damian Light participated in TVNZ’s Multi Party Debate on 8 September.

Only NZ First’s Winston Peter’s – in a hissy-fit of unbridled ego – refused to take part. Peters’ reasoning could be called weak at best’

“…I was astonished, on a general inquiry late Tuesday, to be told by them that neither Labour nor National had ever accepted the invitation.

Though why Peters believed that the two major parties – National or Labour – would participate in a Minor Parties Debate is unclear.

Anyway, despite Peters’ toy-tossing tantrum, “minor” parties they may be, but their presence in Parliament will often determine the government, and influence policy.

During the debate, the Resource Management Act was made the scapegoat by ACT leader, David Seymour, for the failing of the neo-liberal system to satisfy market demand for housing.

The moderator asked Seymour if his electorate of Epsom would accept higher-density housing developments  if the RMA’s urban protections were removed.  Seymour replied;

Oh, they’ve already accepted it [higher density housing]... People have already accepted it.

Green Party Leader, James Shaw, then issued a startling challenge to David Seymour;

We could make Epsom a RMA free zone and see what happens.

Seymour ducked the challenge, changing the subject.

For good reason.

There would be blue-blood in the streets of affluent, leafy, upper middle-class Epsom if high-rise developments suddenly filled the skyline.

An example of what Epsomites might expect if ACT got it’s way and the RMA was abolished or significantly weakened to allow unfettered urban development can be found in the Wellington suburb of Mt Victoria.

Amongst the single, two-story, and occassional three-story homes is a massive high-rise block of apartments called  Melksham Tower. The building was constructed around 1975, prior to the passing of the Resource Management Act in 1991 (ironically by the then Bolger-led National Government).

Melksham Tower around 1975 with locals protesting;

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Melksham Tower, currently. Note the height of the ten story building and surrounding house(s);

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Victoria University’s Salient magazine reported local public opposition to the development;

A newly completed block of high-rise flats in Mt. Victoria has become the focal point in a struggle between private developers and local residents.

The local residents, led by the Mt. Victoria Progressive Association, are angry about the construction of Williams Development Holdings’ new 10-storey Melksham Towers building, which was originally given a council permit on the basis that it would be a block of flats.

[…]

Residents have mounted a vigorous campaign against the tower block itself, but the main attack has been focused on the roots of the problem—the inability of a community to have any say in the development of their area. The campaign started from general meetings of the Progressive Association and a small group of people went from door-to-door in the area discussing Mt. Victoria’s development and the significance of Melksham Towers.

The response was such that a demonstration of 70 residents gathered outside the tower block recently to show their disapproval of what has been described as ‘a human filing cabinet’. They also discussed what steps could be taken to prevent the construction of any similar structures.

[…]

The struggle between the interest of private developers and local communities will continue as long as people are told that area planning is perogative of those experts ‘who know best’. But, even if the Mt. Victoria residents have been too late to stop the construction of the Melksham Towers monstrosity, they have been successful in building a much closer community which is more aware of the injustices that surround it and the forces that control it. As one resident said: ‘The protest has only just begun.’

If David Seymour takes up James Shaw’s challenge, the good people of Epsom could “share the pleasure” of Mt Victoria’s citizens of  learning the hard way what unfettered development has in store for them.

Would Seymour accept that challenge?

For Epsomites, ‘The protest will have only just begun’.

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English’s Committment on child poverty – real or “aspirational”?

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On 4 September, during  TV3’s Leader’s Debate, National Party Leader and soon to be ex-Prime Minister, Bill English, sprung a surprise on the people of New Zealand. English committed his administration to committed to raising 100,000 children out of poverty in the next three year Parliamentary term;

There’s two things you need to do, one is lift incomes the other is get inside the very toxic mix of social issues which we know are family violence, criminal offending and long-term welfare dependency. We’ve got the best tools in the world now to support rising incomes with cracking the social problems.

All we have to do is party-tick National and give him that fourth term in Parliament. Simple as, bro!

Which raises some interesting and obvious questions;

  1. Why didn’t National do this earlier in their nine years in office? Why have they put it off until now, when National is floundering in the polls?
  2. What has changed since October last year when then-Dear Leader, John Key, refused to measure and address child poverty because it was “a complicated area and there are many particular measures you can use”?
  3. How are they defining who those “100,000 children in poverty” really are? Will they be using dodgy stats such as Statistics NZ uses for unemployment? Thus far, National has steadfastly refused to measure child poverty in this country.
  4. Paula Bennett  refused to accepted a recent UNICEF report on child poverty in New Zealand, disputing it’s figures. How will we know which figures are acceptable to National if it disputes the UN?

But worse still – how seriously can we take Bill English’s “committment” when National Ministers have excused their failings to meet their own goals by labelling them as “aspirational” only;

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When Minister Tolley was challenged on TV3’s The Nation why welfare numbers were still high, she replied;

It’s a very aspirational target.

“Aspirational” – National’s way of setting ambitious goals (especially at election time), and then shrugging when things don’t eventuate.

I wonder if National’s campaign for re-election is also… “aspirational”?

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ACT considers Eugenic Final Solution for the Poor?

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According to ACT’s Beth Houlbrooke, the poor should not be allowed to breed;

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The sub-text of Houlbrook’s assertion is clear and simple; poverty is the fault of the poor. Obviously they are incapable of enjoying the benefits of the neo-liberal, free-market system and have chosen to remain – poor. So after thirty-plus years of the “Revolution”, the peasants cannot recognise the paradise put before them by the likes of Roger Douglas, Ruth Richardson, et al.

In which case, if ACT believes so deeply that “parents who cannot afford to have children should not be having them” – then it should be prepared to make that Party policy and legislate accordingly.

I therefore call upon ACT Leader, David Seymour, to publicly announce that his party will be putting forward legislation to ban low-income families from having children. He can advise the public how much people must earn before the State will issue a permit to breed.

Of course, that still leaves the thorny problem of what to do with children of parents who lose their job(s); become bankrupt; lose their business, and must rely on welfare.

One response to ACT’s announcement offered a possible ‘solution’;

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I look forward to how ACT will sell this policy to the public.

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References

Fairfax media:  National announce $10.5 billion roading plan

Radio NZ:  National pledge to add $10k to HomeStart

Fairfax media:  National to double Home Start Grant for existing houses

Newsroom:  Election 2017 Live – National doubles first home grant

NZ Herald:  Editorial – Saudi sheep deal leaves bitter taste

Scoop media:  National pumps up house prices with HomeStart bribe

Radio NZ:  ACT promises bulk funding if schools drop union contracts

Scoop media:  Broken union model creating third-world staff shortages

Fairfax media:  ACT says it will give schools $20k more per teacher, if they abandon union contracts

ACT Party: Principles

Mediaworks:  Winston Peters pulls out of minor parties debate

TVNZ:  ‘We could make Epsom a RMA free zone and see what happens’ – Greens leader lands jab on ACT’s David Seymour

Wikipedia:  Resource Management Act 1991

Victoria University:  Salient – Volume 38, Number 14. June 20, 1975 – Photo of Melksham Tower, Mount Victoria

Victoria University:  Salient – Volume 38, Number 14. June 20, 1975 –  Mt Vic On The Move

Mediaworks:  Newshub Leaders Debate – Bill English commits to poverty target

Fairfax media:  National drops to 39 in new bombshell poll, Labour remains ahead

Fairfax media:  Government won’t commit to a poverty target because it’s too ‘difficult’ – John Key

NZ Herald:  Bennett slammed over child poverty claim

Mediaworks:  Paula Bennett disputes UNICEF poverty report

NZ Herald: Anne Tolley – Government’s benefits target ‘very aspirational’

Scoop media:  On The Nation – Lisa Owen interviews Bill English, Anne Tolley and Hekia Parata

Twitter: ACT Party – Poor shouldn’t have kids

Twitter: Wendy Smith responds to ACT

Additional

Newsroom:  National doubling first home buyer subsidies in face of Treasury opposition and Australian experience

Other Blogs

The Standard:  Nat/ACT don’t think poor people should have kids

Previous related blogposts

Election ’17 Countdown: The Promise of Nirvana to come

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (tahi)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rua)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (toru)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (wha)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 11 September 2017.

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Charter Schools in a Post-Truth Era

16 December 2016 2 comments

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Charter Schools’ NCEA Results  in a Post-Truth Era

On 8 December, Radio NZ’s Benedict Collins reported  that Charter Schools had been using dodgy statistics to inflate their apparent “success” rate;

Charter schools use a different method of calculating their NCEA pass rates to state schools – one which inflates their success.

Education Minister Hekia Parata has been warned by her ministry that an imperfect impression of charter schools’ performance is being created as a result.

Advice to Ms Parata shows that when charter schools are measured using the same roll-based methodology as state schools, their pass rates plummet.

The Vanguard Military charter school on Auckland’s North Shore reported a 100 percent Level 2 NCEA pass rate, but that fell to 60 percent when the school’s results were calculated the same way as state schools report.

Labour’s education spokesperson, Chris Hipkins quite rightly slammed the fake results;

“It’s disappointing that we’re not getting apples for apples comparisons but it’s even more disturbing that many kids are leaving these schools without the qualifications the Government says every child needs.

The latest Ministry annual report data also shows charter schools’ National Standards results are actually in decline.

Last year charter schools were awarded performance bonuses for their results while state schools are staring in the face of major funding cuts next year.

It’s simply not fair that students are leaving these school with minimal qualifications while charter schools receive special treatment as state schools struggle.”

ACT’s David Seyour – current Leader of the neo-liberal party responsible for Charter Schools – gave this bizarre explanation for the why the figures had been willfully fudged;

“The reason that there is a difference, just remember, is that we have been pioneering holding schools to account through a contract, and it was necessary if you wanted to do that to have a different system of measurement.”

Seymour tried to regain the moral high-ground by hitting back at Hipkins to defend the bogus data;

“More importantly, Hipkins seems oblivious that there is more than one way to measure NCEA performance. Indeed, there are a range of different measures, including NZQA and what the Ministry reports on Education Counts.”

Seymour fails to explain why it was necessary to use “more than one way to measure NCEA performance“.

As PPTA President, Angela Roberts said;

“Charter schools are a bad idea, for a multitude of reasons, but to hear that their so-called success rates are not based on fair measures is disheartening. We question why the Government put in place a different system for measuring student success for charter schools in the first place.

Benedict Collins also revealed that officials expressed disquiet at the way Charter School performance was being measured;

Education officials are to change the way charter schools report their NCEA results to bring their methodology in line with state schools.

[…]

Education Minister, Hekia Parata has been warned by her ministry that an imperfect impression of charter schools’ performance is being created as a result.

Advice to Ms Parata shows that when charter schools are measured using the same roll-based methodology as state schools, their pass rates plummet.

Parata – herself no stranger to controversy within her education portfolioclearly wanted to tidy up the perception that National and ACT were trying to deceive the public;

“I want there to be a consistent system, for the purposes of reporting to the government, which is about roll-based, which means everybody who is enrolled at that school counts and how well did they do, versus only those who sat NCEA”

Yet, this is not the first time that National and government departments and organisations have been caught out falsifying data.

Police crime-reporting in a Post-Truth Era

A bizarre story of Police employing bogus statistics broke in the NZ Herald in July, 2014;

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Police made burglaries vanish - greg o'conner - national - crime statistics

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It took journalist Eugene Bingham two years to uncover information requested under the Official Information Act;

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Two-year search for 'ghost crimes' truth - greg o'conner - national - crime statistics

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When the Herald finally received the information they had requested, a startling item of incriminating nature was discovered;

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Calls for 'ghost crimes' inquiry after police note revealed - commissioner bush

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A damning internal police document has emerged that appears to show senior officers discussed not releasing embarrassing details about the “ghost crimes” controversy in which 700 burglaries vanished from official crime statistics.

[..]

The memo, known within police as a job sheet, states John Tims had been advised by then-deputy commissioner [Mike] Bush and assistant commissioner Allan Boreham not to respond to the [OIA] request. Brady [see image above] wrote: “(Tims) had been advised to let the request sit and when and if (3rd Degree) followed up with a request the matter would be addressed then.

“The direction to me was to not respond to the Official Information Act request and file the file as it is.”

Up until then, National had been  gleefully trumpeting the fictitious “fall in crime”;

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Twitter - National - Lowest crime in 35 years - propaganda

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On TVNZ’s Q+A, on 25 October 2015, Michael Parkin interviewed outgoing Police Association President, Greg O’Conner.

O’Connor was unusually candid  when he made clear the extent to which statistics are fudged to make politicians and State officials look good;

@3.10

“Well, it’s uh, lies, damned lies, and statistics. If you look at the crime stats, um, which is those recorded stats, you’ll say the government and police administration are right. If you look at the stats around calls for service, they’re the phone calls that police receive in communications centes, etc, and just an example, family violence, domestic disputes; up by 10% a year pretty much, and across the board, 20% increase. So it’s the calls for service, to the extent that the communications centres couldn’t manage last summer. There’s a fear, and we’re obviously we’re trying to make sure it doesn’t happen this year. So the two are going in completely different directions.”

Parkin pointedly asked if the statistics are being manipulated. O’Conner’s response  was startling in it’s honesty;

@3.55

“Of course they are. Every government department – I mean, what happens is that, the stats themselves are fair, but I mean I see it as a debate [like] about health, y’know, medical – the waiting lists have going down, but people get kicked of waiting lists and so it’s, you achieve – Put it this way, with crime stats, what we’ve set out to do is the way to cut crime stats is to hit your bulk crime. So if you have any success there, of course, that’s going to be big numbers down. And what you ignore is your small  numbers. You ignore, in fact, interestingly enough you ignore drugs. You ignore a lot of your serious stuff that you only find if you go looking. And in the past that’s got us into real trouble. Got us into trouble with the child abuse files, in particular, and you remember, that they were put aside. Because they weren’t politically known. They were business as usual. All of a sudden we were concentrating on the crime and crash reduction, um, and we ignored that stuff. And so you’ve got to be careful. And this is where the politicisation of policing is really dangerous. It’s not done by the Minister saying ‘you gotta do this and you gotta do that’, it’s done by funding.”

Herald journalist, Eugene Bingham, also reported;

“ It transpired others knew about the allegations around the same time, including the local MP and then-Minister of Justice, Judith Collins.”

Judith Collins featured heavily in Nicky Hager’s ‘Dirty Politics‘, and recently stood as a candidate for the next Leader of the National Party.

Mainstream media is often criticised for reliance on superficial ‘news’ reporting; ‘clickbait‘; and dubious ‘stories‘. On this issue, the Herald and Eugene Bingham revealed to New Zealanders the extent to which State agencies will go to “massage the truth” to present deceptively favourable impressions to the public.

Statistics NZ in a Post-Truth Era

In August of this year, I reported how Statistics NZ had radically changed the manner in which it defined a jobseeker;

Change: Looking at job advertisements on the internet is correctly classified as not actively seeking work. This change brings the classification in line with international standards and will make international comparability possible.

Improvement: Fewer people will be classified as actively seeking work, therefore the counts of people unemployed will be more accurate.

Statistics NZ explained the ramifications of the “revised” definition of unemployment ;

  • Decreases in the number of people unemployed and the unemployment rate

  • Changes to the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate range from 0.1 to 0.6 percentage points. In the most recent published quarter (March 2016), the unemployment rate is revised down from 5.7 percent to 5.2 percent 

  • Increases in the number of people not in the labour force 

  • Decreases in the size of the labour force and the labour force participation rate

A person  job-searching using the internet  was “not actively seeking work“. Predictably, at the stroke of a pen, unemployment “fell” over-night from 5.7% to 5.2%.

It was “manna from heaven” for the incumbent government which has  been besieged on several fronts for worsening social and economic indicators.

Despite being little more than a dressed-up “accounting trick”, politicians could claim with a straight-face that “unemployment was falling”.

Which did not take long.

Statistics NZ announced it’s changes on 29 June 2016.

Four days later, our esteemed former-Dear Leader, John  Key, gloated on TVNZ’s Q+A  to Corin Dann;

“The unemployment rate in New Zealand is now falling pretty dramatically.”

By August, both Key and Bill English were joyfully quoting the “new unemployment stats”.

On 8 August, Key was quoted on Interest.co.nz;

“On the other side, we need these people in an environment where unemployment is 5.2% and where growth is still very, very strong. You’ve just got to be careful when you play around with these things that you don’t hamstring certain industries that need these workers.”

So not only was Key quoting the  “new, revised” unemployment stats – but his government was now actively predicating their immigration policy on the bogus data.

Three  days later, in Parliament, English also gleefully congratulated himself on the “fall” in unemployment;

“The Reserve Bank is forecasting an increase of about 1 percent more growth in the economy over the next 3 years, compared with what it thought 3 months ago. It is forecasting that unemployment is going to continue falling from 5.2 percent this year to 4.5 percent by 2019 and that job numbers will increase by more than 2 percent on average over the next 2 years. A significant component of that, of course, will be the construction boom, where thousands of houses will be built over the next 2 or 3 years. These forecasts are in line with Treasury’s forecast for the labour market and show an economy that is delivering more jobs, lower unemployment, and real increases in incomes when in many developed countries that is not happening.”

Whilst it is expected for politicians to mis-use questionable data for their own self-aggrandisement (and re-election chances), worse was to come.

On 10 August,  Radio NZ‘s Immigration Reporter, Gill Bonnett, reported;

“The unemployment rate stood at 5.2 percent for the three months ended in March.”

Bonnett did not  quote a reference source for that statement. Most likely it was Statistics NZ and it’s now-“revised” figures.

It is unfortunate that some journalists seem unaware of the new regime which portrays unemployment lower than it actually is. The fact that Statistics NZ has fudged their  data which now skews unemployment should be common knowledge throughout the mainstream media.

Especially when National ministers are now “patting themselves on the back” for a “fall” in unemployment that never happened, as their Twitter-feed showed on 2 November;

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national-party-twitter-2-nov-2016-unemployment

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And three days later;

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national-party-twitter-5-nov-2016-unemployment

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As I wrote on 14 November about Statistics NZ’s decision to change it’s criteria for unemployment,

Ms MacPherson’s [Government Statistician] assertion that Statistics NZ has changed it’s definitions of unemployment and jobseeking  “to maintain consistency with international best practice” is not an acceptable explanation.

If “international best practice” does not recognise on-line jobseeking as constituting a definition of unemployment – then that in itself is worrying and suggests that global unemployment may be much, much higher than current international statistics portray.

As a consequence of Ms MacPherson’s decision to exclude on-line jobseekers from official stats, this blogger concludes that official unemployment data is  severely flawed and unrepresentative of our real unemployment numbers.

In simple terms; the numbers are a sham.

Unemployment statistics will no longer be presented in on-going up-dates of the Jobless Tally.

When data cannot be relied upon to be accurate, it ceases to have value, except as propaganda.

Those who welcome the Post-Truth Era

On 10 July this year, Radio NZ’s Colin Peacock asked if “a ‘post-truth’ era is upon us?”  He quoted journalist Andrew Vance’s misgivings about the way half-truths and outright lies were now becoming more and more a feature of current political discourse;

…TVNZ’s website, political correspondent Andrea Vance said “the polls don’t punish National for straying from the truth”, and she pointed to the success of fact-free campaigns by Donald Trump in the US and Brexit backers in the UK.

“We are living in a ‘post-truth’ era and it has infected New Zealand politics,” said Ms Vance, who worked for newspapers in the UK before reporting on politics here. 

She’s not the only one who thinks so.

Massey University philosophy professor Bill Fish also sees echoes of the UK’s “post-truth” Brexit campaign in New Zealand politicians’ attitudes towards expert opinion and evidence.

“This is different,” Ms Vance told Mediawatch. “With Trump, Brexit and what’s happening here you’ve got political players actively deceiving the public. Politicians have always been selective with truth, but now it is brazen. I’ve been doing this for 17 years and its getting worse. It’s also crept into the public service. This lack of accountability and obfuscation feels like it’s sanctioned by political masters”.

Post-Truth has it’s sibling, “fake news” – which has shown to be an effectively vicious political weapon in the recent Presidential elections.

The phenomenon of Fake News – promulgated and spread repeatedly predominantly by conspiracy and alt.right websites – recently came to violent conclusion in the US when a 28 year old “lone gunman” (did he act alone or was it a conspiracy?) attacked  Comet Ping Pong, a pizza restaurant in northwest Washington;

Edgar M. Welch, a 28-year-old father of two from Salisbury, N.C., recently read online that Comet Ping Pong, a pizza restaurant in northwest Washington, was harboring young children as sex slaves as part of a child-abuse ring led by Hillary Clinton.

The articles making those allegations were widespread across the web, appearing on sites including Facebook and Twitter. Apparently concerned, Mr. Welch drove about six hours on Sunday from his home to Comet Ping Pong to see the situation for himself, according to court documents. Not long after arriving at the pizzeria, the police said, he fired from an assault-like AR-15 rifle. The police arrested him. They found a rifle and a handgun in the restaurant. No one was hurt.

In an arraignment on Monday, a heavily tattooed Mr. Welch, wearing a white jumpsuit and shackles, was ordered held. According to the criminal complaint, he told the authorities that he was armed to help rescue children but that he surrendered peacefully after finding no evidence that “children were being harbored in the restaurant.” He was charged with four counts, including felony assault with a deadly weapon and carrying a gun without a license outside a home or business.

According to alt.right websites  Comet Ping Pong contained a secret underground facility where  “young children were used as sex slaves as part of a child-abuse ring led by Hillary Clinton“.

None of it was true, but in an  ironic twist, the gunman  who attacked Comet Ping Pong is now himself viewed as part of a conspiracy cover-up to protect the non-existant pedophile ring;

The viral nature of the misinformation was illustrated again late Sunday, not long after the police arrested Mr. Welch and called Pizzagate a “fictitious online conspiracy theory” in their report. Some individuals on Twitter said Mr. Welch was an actor used by the mainstream media to divert attention from the alleged crimes at Comet Ping Pong. Followers of a shuttered Reddit thread on Pizzagate dissected the episode on a new online network called Voat.

Witch-hunts based on paranoid conspiracy theories become more bizarre when they turn on – and cannibalise – their own followers.

Even here in New Zealand, individuals were not immune to the moral-panic fanned by the flames of  Fake News. Some commentators uncritically reposted the pedophile allegations.

Pointedly, no citations were ever provided to the parroted allegations. (Mainly because the allegations were a fabrication. Perhaps even a conspiracy in itself, to undermine Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.)

As Clinton herself warned, Fake News can have disastrous “real world consequences”;

“This is not about politics or partisanship. Lives are at risk. Lives of ordinary people just trying to go about their days to do their jobs, contribute to their communities. It is a danger that must be addressed and addressed quickly.”

This seems to have been recognised by the Trump transition team who took action against one of their own, caught spreading Fake News;

President-elect Donald J. Trump on Tuesday fired one of his transition team’s staff members, Michael G. Flynn, the son of Mr. Trump’s choice for national security adviser, for using Twitter to spread a fake news story about Hillary Clinton that led to an armed confrontation in a pizza restaurant in Washington.

At first Vice President-elect Mike Pence denied that Flynn had ever worked for the Trump team, saying on MSNBC that he had “no involvement in the transition whatsoever”;

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However, soon after,  a transition spokesman, Jason Miller, admitted that  Flynn had worked for the transition team. Miller said Flynn would no longer be involved.

From Flynn’s Fake News to Pence’s dishonest denial – the truth eventually came out.

Curiously, Michael Flynn’s father – Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn – is also well-known for his John Key-style of “truthiness”;

“He has regularly engaged in the reckless public promotion of conspiracy theories that have no basis in fact, with disregard for the risks that giving credence to those theories could pose to the public,” Representative Adam Smith of Washington, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said on Tuesday.

“Someone who is so oblivious to the facts, or intentionally ignorant of them, should not be entrusted with policy decisions that affect the safety of the American people,” Mr. Smith added.

The Mainstream Media

As Fake News websites and “stories” proliferate, the mainstream media may actually take on a fresh breath-of-life.

In a functioning democracy; with the need for  vital checks and balances; the msm will become more critically vital to determine what is real and what is fantasy. Which also adds greater pressure on msm to ensure that it’s stories are well-researched and cite accurate facts and data.

Relying on dubious sources (such as the Herald did with the now-discredited Donghua Liu allegations) or questionable data from governmental bodies such as Statistics NZ, Police, etc, is no longer be sufficient.

This will be an opportunity for the msm to re-gain their relevance in a post-truth era of Fake News and deliberate political prevarication.

The question is; will they seize that opportunity?

Fake News, Post-Truth, Lies, Charter Schools

Charter Schools are an ideological response to State schools. It is an exercise designed to confirm that profit-driven, private-run education services are more effective and deliver better results than that offered by the State.

One of the core tenet’s of the New Right is that private enterprise/endeavour is superior to anything available from the State.

In 2002, businessman Phil Barry, author of  The Changing Balance Between the Public and Private Sectors, published by the Business Roundtable (aka NZ Initiative), wrote in the NZ Herald;

“Private firms tend to be more efficient than their state-owned counterparts, especially in competitive industries.

Privatisation of SOEs is likely to lead to improvements in their efficiency and to more open and competitive product markets, benefiting consumers, taxpayers and the economy as a whole.

The evidence does not suggest that private ownership is always more efficient. Some state enterprises can perform very well, at least for a period.”

And in 2012, then ACT-leader, John Banks said in Parliament;

“Public or private ownership of assets has been studied to death in many, many studies, and the jury is in. Private enterprise runs businesses better than the Government can.”

For many on the neo-liberal Right, education is a business not a public good and therefore should be no different to electricity supply (semi-privatised); Air New Zealand (semi-privatised – again); or a whole host of other services and assets that were once owned by the tax-payer but have been sold off over the last thirty years.

But to ensure that the basic tenet that “private enterprise runs businesses better than the Government can” is believed to be true by the public – and especially the voting public! – it must be shown to be true.

If it cannot be proven to be true, using accurate measurement and data, then fudging the truth will have to do.

In essence, that is what  ACT’s David Seymour was saying when he lamely attempted to justify  the inflated success rate for Charter Schools by claiming different standards of measurement;

“The reason that there is a difference, just remember, is that we have been pioneering holding schools to account through a contract, and it was necessary if you wanted to do that to have a different system of measurement.”

“…there is more than one way to measure NCEA performance. Indeed, there are a range of different measures, including NZQA and what the Ministry reports on Education Counts.”

When there “there are a range of different measures” you simply pick the one that gives you the results you want.

Which raises the question: what does it say about an ideological experiment if it requires a lie to sustain it?

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Note: certain portions of this story have been re-published from previous blogposts.

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References

Radio NZ: Charter school NCEA reporting to be brought into line

Scoop media: Ministry reveals shocking charter school results

NZ Herald: Charter schools not deceiving public over NCEA exam results, David Seymour says

The Northern Advocate: Charter school pass rates plummet when brought in line with state schools

NZ Herald:  Police made burglaries vanish

NZ Herald:  Two-year search for ‘ghost crimes’ truth

NZ Herald: Calls for ‘ghost crimes’ inquiry after police note revealed

Twitter: The crime rate is falling under National

TVNZ: Q+A – Police Association president steps down

Fairfax media: Firefighter injured after cat decides it does not want to be rescued from tree

Radio NZ: Stuff of substance in a clickbait climate

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey – Revisions to labour market estimates

TVNZ: Q+A – Interview with John Key

Interest.co.nz: Key deflects calls for migration review; says migration needed with 5.2% unemployment

Scoop media: Parliament – Questions & Answers – 11 August 2016

Twitter: National (2 Nov)

Twitter: National (5 Nov)

Radio NZ: Is a ‘post-truth’ era upon us?

New York Times: In Washington Pizzeria Attack, Fake News Brought Real Guns

Snopes.com: Chuck E. Sleaze

The Daily Blog: Slippery

Buzzfeed News: Hyperpartisan Facebook Pages Are Publishing False And Misleading Information At An Alarming Rate

The Guardian: Hillary Clinton warns fake news can have ‘real world consequences’

New York Times: Trump Fires Adviser’s Son From Transition for Spreading Fake News

Twitter: MSNBC – Morning Joe – Mike Pence

NZ Herald: Phil Barry Private ownership outperforms public

Parliament: State-Owned Enterprises and Crown Entities (Protecting New Zealand’s Strategic Assets) Amendment Bill — First Reading

Additional

New York Times: As Fake News Spreads Lies, More Readers Shrug at the Truth

Wikipedia: List of fake news websites

Radio NZ: Unemployment rate falls after Stats NZ revision

Other Blogs

The Standard: Charter schools fiddling their results

Previous related blogposts

The Donghua Liu Affair: One Year On

Roy Morgan Poll: Unemployment and Under-employment up in New Zealand!

Weekend Revelations #3 – Greg O’Connor and criminal statistics

Lies, Damned lies and Statistical Lies

Lies, Damned lies and Statistical Lies – ** UPDATE **

National exploits fudged Statistics NZ unemployment figures

“Spinning” in a post-truth era

2016 – Ongoing jobless tally and why unemployment statistics will no longer be used

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

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ACT Party candidate David Seymour – revealed

13 June 2014 2 comments

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

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

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

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

Michael Wood – Labour

Never heard of him.

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

Julie-Anne Genter – Greens

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

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

Paul Goldsmith/Flour – National

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

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

David Seymour – ACT

Arrogant.

Unwilling/unable to answer a direct question.

Yelled over others who happened to be speaking.

Did not listen.

In short, a perfect Tory politician.

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

Listen to the panel yourself;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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goldsmith - flour - The Nation - Epsom

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A bit tacky.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wood replied;

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

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

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

Wood responded with something less clear.

Several  interesting points emerged from the panel discussion;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The media dutifully oblige by repeating.

Just ask Patrick Gower.

 

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References

Wikipedia: Michael Wood

TV3: The Nation

NZ Herald: Act wants Resource Management Act dumped

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

Previous related blogpost

Patrick Gower – losing his rag and the plot

The secret of National’s success – revealed.

 

 

 

 


 

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Key Banks - party anyone

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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

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Act proclaims new leader!?

2 February 2014 18 comments

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ACT Party elects new leader

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Congratulations ACT Party Board -you’ve just made yourselves un-electable.

Someone who – according to Martyn Bradbury and Audrey Young – wants to de-regulate and remove all safety laws in this country should not be standing in the Epsom seat. He should be standing as a candidate in the West Coast-Tasman Electorate. Then he can explain to West Coasters – especially 29 families – why mining should be made even more dangerous than it is now.

As a side note, ACT’s committment to democracy is best out-lined by the manner in which not only the leader of the Party was determined, but also ACT’s candidate for Epsom. Neither positions were chosen democratically by ballotting ACT Party members.

Instead, the roles were determined solely by ACT’s Board. Party members (if it has any remaining) had no say in the selection process.

I’m guessing that would be the future for New Zealand under an Act government; the country run by an un-elected Board. In common parlance, this is known as an oligarchy.

As for the third, unsuccesful contender, John Boscawen, whilst one can feel a measure of sympathy for him, the manner in which ACT chose Jamie Whyte and David Seymour should come as no surprise. After all, ACT does reflect the more brutish, selfish, side of  politics. Run by a Board, ACT follows the  corporate model.

And the corporate world, with a few exceptions is rather brutish and selfish.

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References

ACT NZ: ACT Leadership and Epsom Candidacy

Radio NZ: ACT Party elects new leader

NZ Herald: Jamie Whyte elected Act leader

TV3: ACT choices huge risk for party

Other blogs

The Daily Blog:  So the saviour of ACT is a man who argues for abolition of all labour laws and removal of all health and safety regulations?

The Daily Blog: Meet The New Boss … Does Act’s Jamie Whyte represent change or continuity?

Whoar:..some of the thoughts/beliefs of the new president of the act party..jamie whyte..

The Pundit: John Key’s horrible weekend

The Pundit: ACT tilts at windmills, but don’t forget other minors

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National Part 2014 elections

.Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

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