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The Fletcher Affair – a warning for Labour

6 April 2013 8 comments

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spy vs politician

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The current mess surrounding the appointment of Ian Fletcher as the Government Communications Security Bureau’s (GCSB) Director should serve as a clear warning to any future Labour-Green government: Don’t Do It.

To be precise; don’t do what Key (and his ministerial cronies) has done. Circumventing the State Services Commission to “facilitate” appointments – even if done for decent motives – is simply;

(A) Not a good look

(B) Not worth the hassle when the media, bloggers, and Opposition get hold of it

(C) A slippery-slope toward cronyism and inevitable corruption.

The appointment of John Key’s Electorate Chairperson,  Stephen McElrea (who is also the National Party’s Regional Deputy Chair, National Party Northern Region) to the Board of NZ On Air raised numerous charges of cronyism and an agenda of political interference in public funding for television programming. (See:  Call for McElrea to resign from NZ On Air; See: PM has questions to answer over NZ on Air link )

Concerns over political appointees to highly sensitive positions, vulnerable to political interference, was quickly borne out when McElrea began to flex his “political muscles” even before being appointed to  NZ on Air’s Board,

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National man eyes NZ On Air chair

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – National man eyes NZ On Air chair

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Key’s background in deal-making; cutting corners to achieve set goals; and getting results fatally blinds him to the realities that politics and government is a whole different kettle of fish to ‘high finance’. (Which would be a good thing, considering the almighty crash of  ‘high finance’ four years ago.)

The State Services Commission was set up precisely to keep politician’s greasy hands of appointments.  At the beginning of out nascent civil service, ministerial cronyism was rampant,

The departments that grew up over the next few decades operated under the direct control of their Ministers, in arrangements that were practical in pioneering times.  Ministers approved appointments, determined pay and conditions, and oversaw administration and financial management, with varying degrees of diligence.

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Understandably, Ministers were inclined to see that the people appointed were sympathetic to their own political outlook and priorities – and inevitably, in a small population, these were sometimes friends or acquaintances.  The Public Service was run on somewhat ad hoc ‘frontier’ lines, and seems not to have been much different from its parent institution, the British civil service.  In their report on the British civil service Sir Stafford North and Sir Charles Trevelyan described a bureaucracy that was, in the 1850s, rife with patronage, fragmented and inefficient.

Acknowledgement: State Services Commission –  Origins of the Public Service and Office of State Services Commissioner

Accordingly, after 1912, reforms were enacted to clean up this unholy mess,

The Hunt Commission in due course recommended, as ‘the most important matter of all’, establishment of a Board of Management under Cabinet, to have ‘absolute and undisputed power’ in ‘all matters relating to the control and management of the Service – … appointments, salaries, promotion, suspensions, dismissals, and indeed everything affecting officers – ‘  It suggested the Board’s first duties should include blocking all ‘back doors’ of entrance to the Public Service, and arranging for all promotions be made from within the Service.

The outcome was the Public Service Act 1912 – based on Herdman’s Bill already before the house – which set up a non-political and unified career Public Service; non-political through powers of appointment, promotion and dismissal being entrusted to an independent body – the Public Service Commissioner.

Acknowledgement: IBID

It is abundantly clear that John Key doesn’t ‘get’ any of this, when he said,

I didn’t do anything wrong whatsoever. Labour have done very similar things.”

Again, blaming Labour.

Is everything he says or does predicated on what the previous government did?

Does Key not have standards of his own? (Rhetorical question. Don’t answer.)

Because Key’s memory lapses cannot be blamed on anyone but himself. Especially when, on 3 April he openly contradicted himself as to who-phoned-who, as Andrea Vance reported,

…he appears to be confused about who first suggested Fletcher for the job.

Asked why he didn’t tell the full story last week, Key said: “I’d forgotten that at that particular time.”

In Porirua this afternoon, Key was grilled about the sequence of events that saw Fletcher appointed as director of the GCSB in September 2011.

At first Key said: “Iain Rennie, state services commissioner recommended him to me… I rang [Fletcher] and said ‘look, you know, you might be interested.”

Asked again who first brought up Fletcher’s name, Key replied: “Iain Rennie put it to me.”

Later on, he was asked again who first mentioned Fletcher. “I would have mentioned it to him, I’m sure.”

When pressed to clarify if he first suggested the name to Rennie, he said: “I’m sure I probably would have.”

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Fletcher’s appointment defended by SSC boss

Key lied. He was caught out lying.

On 4 April, Scoop Media wrote about the rationale behind Ian Fletcher’s appointment as GCSB director. Fletcher had no prior military of Intelligence experience. But he did have an extensive  background in intellectual property, commerce and “free” trade (see: The CV of a Spy Boss ) .

Fletcher’s appointment was announced  in September 2011, and was due to take up his new job in early 2012.

At the same time, police were planning their raid on Kim Dotcom’s mansion, scheduled to take place  on January 20 2012.

Scoop wrote,

Suppose Dotcom’s arrest and extradition was the clincher in the deal that secured Warner Bros’ agreement to produce The Hobbit in New Zealand. But any link to John Key, who led the negotiations with Warner Bros, would tend to confirm Dotcom’s claim, supported by the strong connection between Hollywood and US vice-president Joe Biden, of political persecution. So the prime minister had to be protected by having total deniability, leading to the completely implausible claim of not knowing about the most prominent resident in his own electorate until the day before the raid.

Acknowledgement: Kim Dotcom Part Two

Conspiracy fantasy?

Remember that Key has had several top level meetings with Warner Bros executives,

October 2010

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No decision yet in Hobbit talks - Key

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – No decision yet in Hobbit talks – Key

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July 2011

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PM's 'special' movie studio meeting

Acknowledgement: Fairfax – PM’s ‘special’ movie studio meeting

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October 2012

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Key - Dotcom won't be discussed during Hollywood visit

Acknowledgement: TV3 – Key: Dotcom won’t be discussed during Hollywood visit

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Four days later,
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Dotcom raised at PM's Hollywood dinner

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And those are only the meetings which we, The Masses, are aware of.

It’s interesting to note Chris Dodd, the CEO of  the Motion Picture Assiciation of America (MPAA) referred to the Trans Pacific Partnership Aggreement (TPPA) in the 5 October NZ Herald article above.

The TPPA has more to do with intellectual property rights than with “free” trade. (See: “Global Research –  The “Trans-Pacific Partnership”: Obama’s Secret Trade Deal; See: MFAT -Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations – Intellectual Property Stakeholder Update)

It’s also worthwhile noting that Ian Fletcher’s appointment coincided to the month with the raid on Kim Dotcom’s mansion.

  • Raid on Kim Dotcom’s mansion:  20 January 2012.

And both men were involved in intellectual property rights – though from different angles,

  • Kim Dotcom – the man who Hollywood executives wanted brought down because of alleged copyright violations on his ‘megaupload’ website. (see: The MPAA on Dotcom)
  • Ian Fletcher – the man who had worked in the UK to protect oroporate interests in intellectual property rights. (see below)

When Ian Fletcher’s appointment was announced on 8 September 2011, Key himself proudly boasted of the new Director’s  career,

Announcing the appointment Prime Minister John Key said he has ” policy and operational experience particularly in relation to international economic and trade matters.”

Acknowledgement: New Zealand’s new top spy boss revealed

Fletcher’s ” policy and operational experience particularly in relation to international economic and trade matters” seemed to matter for John Key for some reason?

Kim Dotcom was very high on the list of issues relating to “international economic and trade matters“; namely intellectual property rights.  Indeed, in March 2007, Fletcher was appointed as Chief Executive of the UK Office of Intellectual Property.

On 20 March 2007, Ian Fletcher said,

“I am delighted to be joining the Patent Office. It already plays a vital role in the UK’s economic prosperity, its scientific excellence and its innovation system. As the Office moves on to tackle to challenges set out in Andrew Gowers’ review, the Office’s role will become even more central to the UK’s response to the challenges of globalisation.”

Acknowledgement: Intellectual Property Office – New Chief Executive for the Patent Office

(Hat-tip; Karol, on The Standard)

It has been widely commented that Ian Fletcher has no background in the military, nor Intelligence – yet was considered the one candidate who was eminently suitable for the role of Director of the GCSB.  Perhaps now we are starting to understand why Ian Fletcher’s appointment seemingly related to,

  • the Crown’s case against Kim Dotcom
  • Illegal downloads/Intellectual Property rights
  • MPAA concerns
  • Hollywood big business
  • Trans Pacific Partnership

And as Key himself admitted, the issue of Kim Dotcom had been raised by Hollywood executive. Just what does our Prime Minister have to discuss with said executives? Who knows – it’s all done in secret, behind closed doors. We’re just expected to pay our taxes and shut up.

Conspiracy theory?

Conspiracy theories remain the subjects of idle parlour chit-chat and somewhat kooky websites… well, until charges are laid. Then a conspiracy theory becomes a conspiracy case in a Court of Law.

This affair should serve as a warning for the next in-coming Labour-Green government. National’s administration is a text-book case of how not to do things.

Every minister in the next Labour-Green government should be appointed a “minder” to ensure that they do things By The Book, and not to cut one single corner. Or at the very least, periodically re-read press reports and blogposts detailing every f**k-up by National over the last four years.

New Zealand is a small country. Secrets are notoriously difficult to keep. And even if the whole story behind the Fletcher-Dotcom-GCSB-TPPA thing has not been fully revealed – I think we’ve had a glimpse into the murky shadows of political perfidity to smell something rotten.

The issue has not only further dented Key’s credibility, but is starting to wear down his public persona of  good natured, ‘blokeyness’,

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John Key calls media 'Knuckleheads'

Acknowledgement:  NZ Herald – John Key calls media ‘Knuckleheads’

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Abusing the media? Not a good look for Dear Leader. It appears that the stress of the job is getting to him. And he can’t handle it very well.

Key’s “blokeyness” morphes into bratty petulance when he further dictates the terms under which he will talk to the media and in Parliament,

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PM John Key

‘What I should have done, and what I will be doing in the future, is saying, well, the member needs to put that down to me in writing, and I’ll be doing that to the journalists as well.
‘Cos if you want perfection of everything I have done, two, three, four, five years ago, I will get you all that information for you, but I’ll get you the whole lot and give it to you.”

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – John Key changes tack over questioning

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This is “seige mentality” stuff.

Key’s teflon coating wore away over a year ago. With no defensive cloak, the media recognise a government and it’s leader who are in dire trouble and  on the defensive.

As Martyn ‘Bomber’ Bradbury wrote on “The Daily Blog”,

“John Key’s extraordinary appointment of his school-hood chum to be the new Director of our spy network could well be his ‘speeding in the Prime Ministerial Limo’ moment.”

Acknowledgement: The Daily Blog – John Key’s ‘speeding in the Prime Ministerial Limo’ moment

And as Bryce Edwards noted in the NZ Herald on 4 April,

“As a barometer of the political media, John Armstrong is always useful, and it appears that he too ‘smells blood’.”

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Political round-up: John Key’s precarious credibility

There are more headlines to come out of Key and National. It’s only a matter of time.

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Related blogposts

Crony Watch!

References

Fairfax Media: New Zealand’s new top spy boss revealed (8 Sept 2011)

The Listener: Kim Dotcom and Megaupload: a timeline (20 March 2013)

Scoop: Kim Dotcom Illegal Surveillance And Response: Timeline (28 March 2013)

Fairfax Media:  Fletcher’s appointment defended by SSC boss (3 April 2013)

Radio NZ: State Services boss ‘surprised’ at PM’s phone call (4 April 2013)

NZ Herald: PM paints himself into another corner  (4 April 2013)

NBR: Honesty bigger issue than cronyism (4 April 2013)

NZ Herald: PM put mate’s case for job in 2009 (5 April 2013)

Radio NZ:  PM has no regrets about calling Fletcher (5 April 2013)

Fairfax Media: John Key changes tack over questioning (5 April 2013)

Scoop: Kim Dotcom Part Two (4 April 2013)

NZ Herald: PM put mate’s case for job in 2009 (5 April 2013)

Radiolive: Former GCSB boss intrigued by Ian Fletcher appointment – Audio  (5 April 2013)

NZ Herald: Ian Fletcher appointment a ‘totally ethical process’ (5 April 2013)

NZ Herald: John Key calls media ‘Knuckleheads’ (6 April 2013)

Other blogs

The Standard: The CV of a spy-boss

The Standard: Fletcher GCSB Change manager – and QLD

The Daily Blog: John Key’s ‘speeding in the Prime Ministerial Limo’ moment

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The unmitigated audacity of John Key and John Banks

19 March 2013 13 comments

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This is how a politician  owns up to a mistake,

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Shearer makes no excuse for forgetting bank account

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

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Then there are politicians who continually blames others or claim to “forget”, when it’s obvious they are lying.

John Key’s talent for blaming others for his own stuff-ups is fast becoming becoming legendary,

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https://fmacskasy.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/national-and-john-key-blames.png

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Key’s habitual finger-pointing currently extends to blaming Solid Energy’s debt crisis on it’s  Board; management; coal prices; global financial crisis, and uncle Tom Cobbly. He takes  no responsibility for his own Ministers demanding higher debt gearing levels  and dividend payouts which helped plunge Solid Energy into a financial hole,

He’s [John Key]  blaming the previous Labour Government, including former state owned enterprises minister Trevor Mallard who encouraged the company to expand in 2007, and citing a Cabinet paper supporting that stance.

“They can’t wash their hands of the fact that from 2003 on, they were intimately involved with the plans that that company had,” Mr Key said.

Acknowledgement: TV3

It was put to the PM that Solid Energy seemed to have been working with a “pretty high-risk” strategy. He responded by saying that all of these things were operational matters — he added that “if National’s to blame, then so’s Labour”. He said that the management and the board are responsible for the balance-sheet.

Acknowledgement: Scoop.co.nz

Board at fault for Solid Energy debt, not Govt – Key

Mr Key denied the Government was responsible for the company’s woes, despite encouraging the board to take on debt in 2009 and expecting it to pay a dividend.

Acknowledgement: TV3

They made some investments in core assets and those didn’t work out either, and the coal price collapsed.

Acknowledgement: MSN News

So everyone was to blame for Solid Energy’s collapse – except National which has been in power for four years and bled the company dry with demands for high dividends.

Then there are times in politics that politicians make utterances that are breath-taking in unmitigated audacity,

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Shearer makes no excuse for forgetting bank account Banks comments

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

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This is one such instance – John Banks,  whose memory was so “bad” that he forgot his close relationship with a rather large German multi-millionaire; a helicopter flight to one of the biggest mansions in New Zealand; and who forgot $50,000  cheques for  donations for his electoral campaign.

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John Banks says he never lied about internet billionaire Kim Dotcom’s $50,000 donation to his 2010 mayoral campaign but says he erred in not answering questions about the affair more openly.

But Mr Banks denied misleading the public about the donations and events around them, including a helicopter ride to Dotcom’s mansion which he has said he cannot remember.

“I didn’t lie. There’s no reason to believe that I lied. I simply couldn’t recall.”

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald

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For someone with “nothing to hide” ACT leader and former Auckland mayor John Banks is doing an awfully good job of creating the impression there are some things he would rather keep to himself.

He has refused to confirm he solicited a donation from internet billionaire Kim Dotcom for his 2010 mayoral campaign and refused to confirm he asked that the $50,000 donation be split into two $25,000 payments.

He has also said he does not remember who donated money to his mayoral campaign, does not remember discussing money with Dotcom and his staff and, till yesterday, could not remember flying to Dotcom’s Coatesville mansion in Dotcom’s helicopter.

Either Mr Banks is suffering from the early onset of Alzheimer’s or he thinks honest answers to the questions raised by the revelation that Dotcom was an undisclosed donor to his campaign will reflect poorly on him.

Acknowledgement: Dominion Post – Editorial: Bad memory or poor judgment?

John Key and John Banks are now attempting to compare David Shearer’s omission for declaring his New York-based bank account.

Key said,

“People make mistakes. I make mistakes and when I do, I try and tell people I’ve made them. It’s just that you don’t get cut any slack from the Labour Party when you say you’ve made a mistake, but when they make one they don’t want anyone to have a look at it.”

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Key weighs in on Shearer’s $50,000 ‘oversight’

And John “I-can’t-recall” Banks added his own 2 cents worth,

“Shearer is on record as saying those who suffer from a memory lapse aren’t fit to hold office.  Shearer’s hypocrisy is staggering.”

Acknowledgement: IBID

Except for one thing – and here’s the rub:

David Shearer himself disclosed and admitted his own mistake,

“Frankly I was horrified that I’d overlooked it and I moved straight away to correct it. When I myself found that (bank account) error I made the move to correct it, I didn’t wait for anybody else to find it.”

Acknowledgement: IBID

It is one thing to stuff up; come clean; apologise; and not try to blame others.

It is entirely another matter when one continually blames others for his mistakes or has such problems recalling events that they become a laughing stock.

Perhaps Mr Key and Mr Banks should take a lesson from David Shearer’s book;  own your mistakes; don’t blame others; and don’t make facile excuses.

It’s not politicians who make mistakes, that the public loathes. It’s when they try to avoid responsibility for their errors.

Especially when Key and Banks demand responsibility from the rest of us,

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Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key

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John Key – am I detecting a seismic shift in public attitude?

10 February 2013 22 comments

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Is Dear Leader  losing his touch? He doesn’t seem quite so “dear” to some people any more…

  • The Novopay foul-up just gets worse and worse and worserer with each passing pay cycle. Wouldn’t it have been cheaper to just delegate the pay-system into the hands of Lotto? The results would’ve been about the same.

 

  • Education Minister, Hekia Parata, screws up on a semi-regular basis. Does Key hand her the ceremonial sword and with a smile tell her, “you know what to do with this”. Nah, he annoints her as National’s “most effective communicator. Has anyone ever seen 4.4 million people do a collective face-palm?! Meanwhile, Joyce is the new de facto Minister of Education and Parata is given duct-tape to put over her mouth. This, for National, is seen as a “solution”.

 

  • Unemployment keeps going up and up and up and up… And when the stats cannot get any worse, they do a massive West Auckland-style u-turn and wheelie burn-out… Unemployment is no longer up – people have given up banging their heads against a brick wall. So the stats are now a mess. What they do indicate is that people are turning off from looking for work.  It must be depressing getting knocked back time after time after time after… And if you think it’s bad now, in bright sunny summer – wait till the gloom and shortened days of Winter really kick in with mass-depression.

 

  • Manufacturing and exporters are screeching like banshees that the high Kiwi Dollar is sending them to the wall… and Steven Joyce smiles benignly and sez, “things are challenging”. Not helpful, Mr Joyce. Not one bit.

 

  • The country’s third biggest construction company goes to the wall and the Nats do… nothing. Question: at a time when we have to rebuild the second (or third) largest city in the country – how does a fricken construction company manage to go into receivership?!?! Someone explain this to me. Wouldn’t that be like a water-tanker truck in the Saharan desert unable to sell water???

 

  • We have a critical housing shortage in the country… A shortage of housing?! But, but, but… isn’t the free market supposed to prevent these shortages??? What goes on here?

 

  • We have a shortage of skilled tradespeople, IT specialists;  healthcare professionals… whilst on the other hand, we have 175,000 unemployed. Hmmmm… shortage of skilled staff… 175,000 unemployed… shortage of skilled staff… 175,000 unemployed… shortage of skilled staff… 175,000 unemployed… why don’t we-? Nah. What a silly idea. For a moment there I had this ridiculous thought in my mind about re-training 175,000 unemployed to meet our skills shortages… Bugger me, where do I get these daft notions from.

 

  • National doesn’t want to build housing for New Zealanders. They say it’s up to the Free Market to do this. Government, sez Joyce, Brownlee, Key, et al, say that it’s not the role of government to offer subsidies or state housing. Unless you’re a private school. Or farmers wanting irrigation systems. Or Rugby World Cup. Or investors in a finance company. Or insurance companies. Or a movie producer – especially a foreign one. Then there’s plenty of money. Whoopie – lolly scramble!

 

  • But just don’t get silly over housing.

 

  • Steven Joyce wants to put the bulldozers and excavators into our conversation lands and have deep-sea drilling off our coast, in deep waters… because, you know, we don’t mind if the remaining few native forests in New Zealand are destroyed for the benefit of foreign investors. Or that we run a risk similar to the horrendous disaster in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico which spewed millions of barrels of oil into the Caribbean. After all, the oil companies will look after us… *snort!*

 

  • Because National is not a hands-on government to create jobs and support local businesses. But if you’re a private school or Warner Bros, then the question becomes, “How much did you want me to make that cheque out for?”

 

  • Tony Ryall wants $30 million shaved from the Health budget (where else will we get the cash to subsidise those lovely furry Hobbit movies?!). So  grommett operations for kids may be cut. Hey who needs a pesky grommett anyway – and did I say how cool Hobbits are…? And of course those seven New Zealanders who are suffering from the terminal Pompe disease… they aren’t as cool as Hobbits.

 

There’s more.

But I think you, the reader, get’s the point. (Unless you’re a dedicated National/ACT supporter – in which case don’t you just lerrrve those cute Hobbits?)

But it seems that the bad news and continuing incompetance and just sheer lack of bright ideas from National is becoming too much for even National’s traditional cheer leaders…

Fran O’Sullivan wasn’t impressed. Not by a long shot. In fact, she seemed a bit ‘put out’ by Key’s inaction (as if it had suddenly dawned on her),

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Time for Key to call an economic summit

Full story

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For Fran O’Sullivan – who is widely noted as a bit of a Nationalphile – to be chiding her beloved Dear Leader indicates that even his adoring legion of glassy-eyed admirers are starting to feel frustration. When O’Sullivan criticises Key for “waffling” and then berates Key for “simply shrugging his shoulders” – then we know that not only is the honeymoon well and truly in the past, but the ‘marriage’ is verging on a trial separation.

O’Sullivan didn’t mince words when she bluntly stated that “faith is no excuse for a failure to act” and demanded that  “it’s time, surely, for Key to call an economic summit to address the issues New Zealand faces“.

Good call, Fran.

A few years too late, but hey, some of us are a bit slower than others.

Meanwhile…

Right wing/all-over-the-place  media “personality” and talkback host, Kerre Woodham wrote an extraordinary column on 23 December, last year. Had it been written at any other time than two days before Christmas – when 99% of the populace is bleary eyed with the so-called “Festive Season” (said through gritted teeth, I might add) – her words would have had far more clout.

In fact, I could just barely recall her column piece and retrieve it from my Bookmarks (filed under WTF?). For the reader’s edification – read and enjoy (if you’re a National/ACT supporter you may want to put down your deluxe, Jackson-autographed, mink-lined Hobbit and read this bit),

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Kerre Woodham - Nats run out of petrol

Full story

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If Kerre Woodham speaks closer for the Middle Classes, then National should be in high-gear panic mode by now. Her attitude was summed up thusly,

I thought John Key said that by cutting income tax rates we would be able to stimulate the economy. Guess that didn’t work. I thought Key said that he would be able to stem the flow of New Zealanders to Australia by building a competitive economy and offering after-tax earnings on a par with those across the ditch. Well, that hasn’t worked, either.

 There are now more people moving to Oz under National than there were under Labour. But instead of ‘fessing up and conceding nothing the Government has come up with has worked, the Prime Minister has produced a classic example of Orwellian double-speak.

Akshally, says Key, moving to Australia is a GOOD thing for New Zealanders to do. They’ll see the world, gain experience – no, just like everything else, Key is comfortable with the numbers of Kiwis farewelling this country.”

Source: IBID

That, readers, was the sound of a Middle Class person coming to the realisation that our esteemed Dear Leader; dodgy Party; and worthless policies – are a fraud.

That, readers, was the realisation by a Middle Class person that National was not about to meet their aspirations.

It is the same sound of  National’s ‘House of Cards’ crashing that we heard in the late 1990s. A crash which culminated in National’s election defeat on 27 November 1999.

When bene-baiting right-wing talk-back hosts like Woodham can make statements like,

Well, they may know how to make money for themselves but they don’t seem to have any answers when it comes to making the country richer.

If, after four years of government, the best strategy they can come up with to produce a surplus is to raise the fuel tax, they are devoid of initiative and bereft of imagination.”

Source: IBID

– then we know that the Middle Classes are starting to wake up. And they’re noticing that the Emporer is naked and it ain’t a pretty sight.

Next…

Businesspeople are running as fast as their feet can carry them – to a joint inquiry run by the Opposition Parties in Parliament – and it’s a brave/stupid/both National Government that ignores the signals,

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Exporters tell inquiry of threat from high dollar

Full story

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When a businessman – in this case managing director Gordon Sutherland –  says,

We know that – we’ve known that for a very, very long time. Of course we get efficient, of course we try and work as hard as we can to be efficient – it’s the only way we can exist. It drives me insane when people say, ‘Get efficient’. What do you think we are – idiots? We’re not.”

– then the Nats are treading on very thin ice to ignore such messages.

National is supposed to the the Party for business. So when business people begin to turn on the Nats – that’s a pretty bloody big signal that it’s the beginning of the end for this government. And considering Key has stated he will not lead National from the Opposition benches (see:  Key says he’ll quit politics if National loses election) – it’s ‘bye-bye’ Dear Leader.

Once he’s gone, the Nats will have left in their wake a poorly performing economy; high unemployment; growing income divide; higher child poverty; businesses about to collapse (Mainzeal already gone); and a raft of other tragic consequences.

The 2011-14 Key-led  administration will be remembered in the same way many New Zealanders view with derision the Bolger/Shipley-led National government from 1996-99.

Going by the next story, however, Key is already despised by a wide sector of the community.

But more to the point, that hostility is no longer held in check and is being voiced out loud,

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Mixed reception for Key at Big Gay Out

Full story

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What we are seeing now seems to be a  seismic shift in public opinion on Key and National. But more importantly,  where only a year ago people were reluctant to voice their dissatisfaction or hostility in public – now that shyness is disappearing. People are pissed off and they know who to vent at,

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In 2008, Key raised levels of expectation to new heights (see: A fresh start for New Zealand).

With promises of higher wages and other warm-fuzzy, populist nonsense, people voted for him in droves. Their expectations were raised as Key’s supreme self-confidence;  personal rags-to-riches story; and plausible rhetoric made them line up and put their trust in him.

The trouble with raised expectations, though, is that failing to deliver “the goods” results in an inevitable backlash. Not just at the ballot box, but in terms of vitriol. We tend to pull people of a pedestal mighty quick, if they stuff up.

National’s failure to meet those expectations may already be a foregone conclusion, as NZ Herald columnist, John Armstrong wrote on 22 December last year,

A slight sense of desperation was evident in National’s reaction to this week’s release of the Treasury’s latest forecasts.

National is not going to let anything stand between itself and its Holy Grail of a return to Budget surpluses within the next three years.

What was once merely a target now seems to be an obsession. The reason is straightforward. Some major economic indicators are starting to confirm anecdotal impressions of an economy close to tipping into recession,

National is therefore clinging ever tighter to the increasingly vain hope of balancing the books by its target date of the 2014-15 financial year.

Meeting the target is all part of National’s branding as the party of sound economic management. Failure on that front would be a major blow to its credibility.”

See: Gloom sets scene for tumultuous 2013

If meeting an accounting target is all that National has left – Shearer better start packing up now. He’ll be in the Prime Minister’s residence at the next election.

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References

Interest.co.nz: Stats NZ reports 23,000 jobs lost

NZ Herald: Time for Key to call an economic summit

NZ Herald: Kerre Woodham: Nats run out of petrol

Fairfax media: Mixed reception for Key at Big Gay Out

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David Shearer – New Solutions or Time-Honoured Answers?

29 January 2013 7 comments

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David Shearer - 27 January 2013 - new era new solutions - wainuiomata rugby club

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Wainuiomata, Sunday, 27 January 2013 –  It was a scorcher of a day throughout most of the country – and the Wellington region was no exception.  The Met Office was predicting 23 degrees – this blogger scoffs at that and thought it nudged closer to 30.  Not for the first time, I thanked the Human Race for the invention of air-conditioning inside a car.

This was not the first time I had heard Party leaders speak. My very first occassion was Bill Rowling, in the 1975 election campaign.  According to my memory, he seemed a nice enough guy and had some good things to say.

Unfortunately forLabour – and for the nation – Muldoon made “mince meat” out of Rowling; won the ’75 election; trashed Labour’s compulsory super-savings scheme; and set the country on a course for future dependency on foreign bankers. Nice one, Rob.

My most recent encounter with a Party leader had been John Key, in Lower Hutt and then in Upper Hutt, in 2011 in the lead-up to the general election.

Impressions? I understood why many people likened politicians to used-car salesmen.  There was something about Key that instinctively made me feel uneasy and doubt every word he uttered. At any moment, I expected him to offer the audience shares in the Wellington harbour bridge. (Soon, he’ll be offering us shares in companies we already own. So I wasn’t far off.)

Back to the present…

At first, I thought the Wainuiomata Rugby Club – at a far-flung corner of this little village – was an odd place for a public meeting. But maybe not. In some ways, Wainui represents New Zealand  in the wider world; tiny, isolated, out-of-sight of the rest of the country and mostly forgotten. As a microcosm of New Zealand, surrounded by verdant green-covered hills, it was a perfect setting.

The Rugby Club car-park was jam-packed. Decided to park across the road. Smiled nicely at the Wainui Bowling Club folk who must’ve been wondering what was going on across the road, and legged it.  Bloody traffic had been slow all the way through the Hutt Valley and through Wainui and the ” star attraction” was due to start his speech within minutes.

The host’s introductory speech was just finishing, and David Shearer walked – strided confidently – from a rear annex where he had been waiting with one of his staff.

There was good applause from the audience, perhaps a third or half of whom were Labour party members or supporters.

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com David Shearer - 27 January 2013 - new era new solutions - wainuiomata rugby club

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Shearer was in good form as he opened his speech,

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Tena koutou katoa.

Greetings everyone and thank you for being here together on a Sunday.

It’s great to see so many friendly faces.

It’s wonderful to see so many of you prepared to give up some of your summer break to talk about the future of our country.

There is nothing more important. And nothing more urgent.

I can tell you that today I’m refreshed, I’m fired up, and I’m raring to go.

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com David Shearer - 27 January 2013 - new era new solutions - wainuiomata rugby club

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This year will be a big year for Labour – a year where we not only hold the government to account, but also show there’s a better way.

A way of hope, where there is a place for everyone and where we fight for a world class NZ that we can all be proud of.

Today I want to lay out the challenges before us, the need for change and our focus for the year.

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Shearer started off well – and for the most part, maintained a vigorous energy as he gave his twenty to thirty minute long speech.

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David Shearer - 27 January 2013 - new era new solutions - wainuiomata rugby club

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NEW ZEALANDERS WHO INSPIRE US ALL

A book I was given for Christmas tells the stories of 50 inspiring New Zealanders – artists, scientists, musicians, business people, some well-known, some less so.

Reading about their lives, they share the same passion and pride in their work and in their country. The ambition to be world class.

As scientist Ray Avery says: ‘we have no respect for the status quo’.

These people never say it’s too hard – we’re not big enough, we’re too isolated, we don’t have enough money.

Instead they say, “To hell with it, I’m going to do it anyway”.

New Zealanders have always achieved what wasn’t supposed to be possible.

Sir Edmund Hillary’s idea of what was possible took him to the very top of the world.

Kate Sheppard’s idea of what was possible made New Zealand the first country to give women the vote.

Alan MacDiarmid’s idea of what was possible took him from Masterton to winning the Nobel Prize.

We’ve always dreamed big and succeeded.

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Interestingly, this is the same book that Alliance leader, Jim Anderton, referred to on numerous occassions during the 1996 general election campaign.  He often mentioned it in his speeches, highlighting how New Zealanders had struggled to overcome adversity during their lives.

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I see that same attitude in families and schools, businesses and sports teams as I travel up and down the country.

People overcoming adversity, dreaming of something better.

When I see a single mum put herself through polytech to build a better future for her kids, I’m inspired.

When I meet New Zealanders well into their retirement, who after a lifetime of service are the first to volunteer come Daffodil Day, I’m inspired.

When a kid, who the stats say should fail, becomes the first member of their family to graduate from university, I’m inspired.

It’s inspiring because Kiwis don’t lie down.

From the most famous to the most humble, courage and determination is the common bond.

They deserve a Government that backs their hopes and inspires them to succeed.

A Government that says: you do your bit, we’ll do ours.

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Shearer used the phrase “you do your bit, we’ll do ours” several times throughout his speech. It’s a phrase that can mean different things to different people.

In a centre-left context, it can suggest an interventionist hands-on government. Though it  harks back to the famous Marxist expression, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs“, I doubt if 21st Century Labour’s speech writer  had Karl Marx in mind.

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That’s what a Labour Government will do.

That’s what a government I lead will do.

 NATIONAL’S EXCUSES ARE HOLDING US BACK

 But this Government’s low expectations are holding us back.

For 4 years we’ve been fed skilfully spun excuses for why we can’t get ahead.

It’s the Global Financial Crisis, the Canterbury earthquakes, the global outlook that is the problem.

We are told we have to accept second best.

There is always an excuse for why we can’t get ahead. For why we can’t be a leader in this field or that.

For example, the National government aspires to being a fast follower when it comes to climate change.

Hold that thought. What is a fast follower exactly?

Does it mean that if we follow too fast we become … what…an accidental leader?

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Good point; “Does it mean that if we follow too fast we become … what…an accidental leader?

Writing his speech, I would have referred to New Zealand’s leadership during the French anti-nuclear tests at Muroroa, and our opposition to apartheid in South Africa. Whilst our Aussie cuzzies were lukewarm in their support of Norman Kirk’s decision to send a frigate to the test site, we went ahead and did it anyway.

We were The Mouse that Roared. And this would have tied in beautifully with his references above to “ 50 inspiring New Zealanders”.

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But a leader with no clue about where they’re going.

That’s not good enough with an issue that is so important to our planet, and our country.

We deserve better than that.

I refuse to accept that for New Zealand.

And so do the Kiwis I meet.

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Strangely, this seems reminiscent of Key’s January2008 speech, “A Fresh Start for New Zealand“,

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

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

The reason I point this out is that Shearer’s speech writer(s) should be wary of using too much generalised rhetoric. In many cases New Zealanders have heard it all before.

If rhetoric is used, make it original and make it something unique to social democratic precepts. There has to be a different language; different words – a different brand – to that of the Nats.

Otherwise Labour’s message will be diluted and lost within the political-media maelstrom.

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com David Shearer - 27 January 2013 - new era new solutions - wainuiomata rugby club

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 FORGOTTEN NEW ZEALANDERS

 But this Government has forgotten the hard-working and inspiring people I come across every day.

In a pub in Napier, a guy came up and said to me “I’m working harder than ever, I pay my taxes, we’re trying to bring up our kids the best we can, but we simply can’t seem to get ahead”.

He went on to say: “I just feel nobody is standing up for me”.

So many others I have met feel the same.

They’re busy helping organise school galas, donating their time to charities, running the sausage sizzle to fundraise for local sports clubs.

They are at the heart of our communities helping make our country the great one it is.

I’ve run into that spirit amongst many small business owners.

They’re the kind of people who pay themselves for 40 hours but work 80 just to keep the doors open.

They’re not asking for an easy ride or a hand-out.

But like thousands of others across this country, they’ve been taken for granted.

They feel the Government has forgotten them.

Kiwis across the country are working harder than ever.

They’re doing their fair share. Playing their part.

We all have that responsibility.

But they feel let down.

My promise to you as Prime Minister is that I will always stand up for the hardworking, forgotten New Zealanders.

You’re doing your bit, it’s time you had a Government that did its bit too.

 NEW ERA – HANDS ON GOVERNMENT

 We desperately need real leadership now more than ever.

The Global Financial Crisis has exposed the frailties of the old economic wisdom.

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Now we’re getting to the knitty-gritty. Recent history backs up Shearer’s statement 100%  that  the “Global Financial Crisis has exposed the frailties of the old economic wisdom“. This is reality and only the most hard-line rightwing National/ACT Party devotee  would attempt the futility of arguing to the contrary.

This is where National is vulnerable (amongst a truckload of other vulnerabilities).

In point of fact, whilst Key may not have been personally responsible for the 2007/08 Global Financial Crisis – his profession certainly had a hand in it’s making.  Key has admitted as such, two weeks after the 2008 general election (notice not before the election),

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Source

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In turn, despite the lies from National MPs (more on that in an upcoming blogpost), Labour left the New Zealand economy in a fairly positrive state,

  • unemployment was low at 4.6% (source)
  • sovereign net debt mostly paid down from 20% to 5.6% of GDP (source)
  • and Labour was posting surpluses, as even Key had to admit, with open derision (source)

These are all positives that Labour shouldn’t be afraid to remind New Zealanders – many of whom suffer from long-term memory-fade at the best of times.

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The National Party believes the financial crisis is just a blip to get over. Their solution is to apply their failed ideas of the past over and over.

They are wrong.

The hands-off, simply leave it to the market approach has failed all over the world.

We are on the cusp of a new era – when new thinking and leadership is needed to build wealth we can all share in.

The world has changed…

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Why not offer a few examples?

– Examples of hands-on State intervention.

– Examples of governments re-taking control of their currencies.

– Examples of people throwing out right wing governments and replacing them with centre-left administrations.

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…National hasn’t. It’s stuck in the past.

We need a government that recognises times have changed.

We need a Government that finds the courage to act, not better excuses for why we can’t.

We need a government prepared to stand up for hardworking forgotten Kiwis.

We need a smart, hands-on Government.

A government that is prepared to be a player, not a spectator.

That will be a Labour Government, and the Government I will lead.

It’s about getting our priorities right, being thrifty about our economy.

Bringing our debt under control.

But being smart about how we tackle the massive challenges ahead.

Above all, this country needs a government that chooses to act. Let me tell you what I mean.

When a young couple is putting off having kids until they buy a house, and yet despite saving hard, prices always slip beyond their reach, it’s time to act.

That’s why I’m committed to putting 100,000 families into new homes.

It’s ambitious, but New Zealanders can see right through the Government’s hands off approach that leaves it to the market.

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Ambitious? Of course – but also doable. This is not beyond our means and it’s laughable that those right wingers who poo-poo the idea as “too hard” or “too costly” are always – always – the same ones who defend against similar   criticisms levelled at  National’s “pet projects” for their business mates.

Evidently subsidising Warner Bros (a multi-billion dollar corporation) or a rugby tournament with our taxes is “not hard” and “not costly”. It’s called an ‘investment’.

So why is building homes for our own people “too hard” or “too costly”?!

Right wingers have a blinkered view of the world and a narrow idea of what is an ‘investment’.

Housing for our citizens is a human right and something we’ve always taken pride in. This is Labour’s core strength; ensuring a roof over peoples’ heads.

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They see through the tinkering with the RMA.

They see through the latest excuse – to blame the local Council.

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Well sussed.

Key has been blaming everyone and everything for the poor state of our economy; rising unemployment; growing poverty, etc.

  • In 2008 he blamed his money-trader mates
  • He’s blamed the Global Financial Crisis
  • He’s blamed people receiving welfare payments
  • He’s blamed “dodgy statistics”
  • He’s blamed the Labour Party
  • He’s blamed the Greens
  • He’s blamed Winston Peters

And now, recently, Key and his National cronies have taken to blaming local body councils,

We need more houses built in New Zealand, at a lower cost. That means we need more land available for building, more streamlined processes and less costly red tape…

… It’s ridiculous that we allow councils to demand almost anything as a condition for the consent.

And it’s ridiculous that we allow them to charge whatever fees they want.

See: John Key’s State of the Nation speech – post mortem

I’m waiting for him to next blame aliens, Illuminatii, et al.

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It’s just not credible.

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Damn right it’s not.

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It’s also why Labour will introduce a Capital Gains Tax to move investment into business and away from property speculation that is pushing house prices through the roof.

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Problem, solution.

Good.

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When a student graduating from university faces 7.3% unemployment and little chance of getting a job, it’s time to act.

They’ve done their bit, we need to do ours.

It’s heart-breaking watching parents waving goodbye to their kids at our airports.

People want to work – they just need the jobs.

Two days ago, John Key had an epiphany: We have a youth unemployment problem – we need apprentices.

Good on him. I thank the focus group that brought that to his attention.

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There was thunderous applause from the audience at this point.  The remark referring to “government by focus group” is a quip  that National constantly  tossed at the Clark government.

It applies equally well to National’s term. Let’s keep using it.

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There are now 20 per cent fewer apprentices today than when he took office. We are now importing foreign labour to meet skills shortages in the biggest rebuild in our history in Christchurch.

Is he just waking up to this now? Is this government asleep at the wheel, completely out of touch?

You don’t need to answer that. The answer is obvious.

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com David Shearer - 27 January 2013 - new era new solutions - wainuiomata rugby club

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There was a touch of humour as Shearer said, “you don’t need to answer that. The answer is obvious.” The audience loved the wry touch and laughed. The laughter was at National’s expense.

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I have been serious about youth unemployment from the day I was elected leader.

Labour’s plans are out there. I’d be delighted if this government picked them up and ran with them.

For example:

We’ll pay employers the equivalent of the dole to take on apprentices.

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More loud applause. Everyone welcomes the idea of apprentices – what’s not to like? Taking young folk from our 85,000 Unemployed or Not in Education or Training(NEET); training them into a trade; adding to the skills base of our country – this is real investment.

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We’ll back Kiwi businesses to get their slice of the $30 billion dollars the Government contracts out every year – but we will require them to take on apprentices and trainees in return.

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This is the kind of  social contract that only a centre-left government can enact. National’s neo-liberal dogma could not allow such a hands-on, visibly interventionist, policy. It flies in the face of everything they hold dear; that only the “Market” can create jobs.

Labour (or any other centre-left and left Party) has no such constraints. They can be utterly pragmatic and do whatever it takes to generate jobs.

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We’ll give tax breaks to companies doing world-leading research and development, so the innovations – and the jobs – they create stay right here in New Zealand.

Another thing.

When I see talented people forced to leave their home town because there’s nothing on offer for them, it’s time to act.

That’s why we’ll work with councils on projects that support their provinces. Projects like the Gisborne to Napier rail link to boost economic development and create jobs.

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This was well received by the audience, with good applause and rowdy cheering. The audience seemed to understand perfectly well the long-term value of rail.

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When I hear of high value manufacturers shedding jobs because our high dollar cuts them off at the knees, it’s time to act.

We’ll make changes to monetary policy so that our job-creating businesses aren’t undermined by our exchange rate.

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Problem, solution.

Excellent.

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When a 5 year old girl falls asleep in class because she had no breakfast before she left home, it’s time to act.

Labour will put food in schools, to make sure all our kids get the same chance to learn.

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Problem, solution.

On a roll…

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When a mum and dad work long hours but still can’t afford healthy food for their kids, it’s time to act.

We’ll lift the minimum wage and champion a living wage to make sure hard work can provide a decent living.

This is what I mean when I say we need a smart Government prepared to act.

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Problem, solution.

Good stuff!

Plenty of applause at these statements.  And plenty of material for the electronic media,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com David Shearer - 27 January 2013 - new era new solutions - wainuiomata rugby club

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And print media,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com David Shearer - 27 January 2013 - new era new solutions - wainuiomata rugby club

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This is where National will continue to be on the back-foot. Come 2014, (if the Nat-led Coalition lasts that long – by no means a foregone conclusion) Key and his administration will have been in office for six years. Aside from balancing the books (oh f****n hooray), what will be their legacy? What practical achievements can they present to the voting public after two terms in office.

Bugger all, I would suggest.

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A Government that says we will back you if you’re prepared to do your best.

Yes, we face huge challenges, but by being hands on we can turn our biggest challenges into opportunities for the future.

Since we announced KiwiBuild last year, excitement is growing. Architects, construction companies and designers around NZ have been in touch.

They see an opportunity to build affordable, energy-efficient – even energy generating – houses.

Houses that use home grown sustainable materials.

Houses that families will be proud to call home.

This is an idea the country is embracing.

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And it’s also 100% feasible. There is no reason why any of Shearer’s suggestions cannot be implemented. It is, after all, part of our innovative, “number 8 fencing wire” mentality that we love to espouse as a Kiwi characteristic.

Ok, well let’s put that into operation. Not just to make money for overseas corporates like Warner Bros – but for our own young people.

This is the kind of talk that cuts through the free market, neo-liberal BS. This is what will encourage New Zealanders to call  this country home – and not just a launching pad for overseas destinations.

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More than 70 per cent of Kiwis support our KiwiBuild programme to build 100,000 first homes.

New Zealanders are also behind our other new ideas and those numbers are growing.

Most people see the need for a Capital Gains Tax on investment properties.

Nearly six in every ten New Zealanders support our idea to make KiwiSaver universal.

And nearly two-thirds of you back our pledge to protect universal superannuation for future generations by gradually lifting the age of eligibility.

The forces of conservatism said that reforming Super wasn’t the right thing to do.

It wouldn’t be popular – so we shouldn’t do it. They were wrong.

New Zealanders are forward thinking and are prepared to do what it takes to create a better future.

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When New Zealanders understand the long-term implications of their decisions, and vote accordingly for sensible policies on Election Day, we can achieve great things.

But when we vote through sheer stupidity for selfish reasons – as many did on 29 November 1975 for Robert Muldoon – we inevitably achieve short term gain. But loose out Big Time on long term benefits (see related blogpost:   Regret at dumping compulsory super – only 37 years too late).

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National has a big idea of course – it’s to sell our best assets.

And, with them, goes another chunk of our future.

That is their plan.

Most Kiwis hate it. And we are behind them fighting that idea all the way.

 HANDS ON – A GLOBAL TREND

 Labour isn’t alone in knowing the time has come for active government.

A movement of leaders and people across the world have realised the old hands-off solutions take us nowhere.

It’s a new way of thinking and it’s evolving.

New Zealanders are looking to a government that will roll up its sleeves and back them.

You do your part, and we the government will do ours.

In 2014 that’s the Government I will lead.

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And that it pretty much what persuaded voters to support Labour and it’s coalition partners in 1999. The do-nothing, slash-and-burn mentality of Bolger and Shipley  was driving New Zealand to a yawning chasm. Neo-liberalism was creating a nightmarish society of high unemployment, degraded social services, missed opportunities, and widening gap between the rich and poor.

Sound familiar?

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 AGENDA FOR 2013

Kiwis won’t have to wait until the election to find out what I stand for and what I’ll do about the issues that matter to them.

I’ve already put clear stakes in the ground on housing affordability, quality education, growing jobs and the economy.

There’s more to come.

For Labour, this year is about preparing for Government.

We want New Zealanders to know that we’re ready to govern.

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It’s simple: appear confident and act like a government-in-waiting – and they will flock to you.

Note, this applies also to NZ First, Mana, and the Greens. The public want to see Opposition Parties working together for the good of the country as a whole. By all means offer your own policies for public debate – but take note that there’s a very fine demarcation between debate and squabbling.

Any hint of squabbling and the voters will turn of.

There have to be positive reasons for voters to take a punt on voting for the Opposition.

Work together, in a cool, calm, methodical, professional manner – and they will flock to you.

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That’s why today I’m setting out my agenda for the year.

Number one is jobs.

It is our most urgent priority and cuts across everything we do.

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Damn straight.

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Labour’s plan to build new affordable homes will create thousands of new jobs and apprenticeships.

A job is more than a weekly wage, it’s gives people a purpose and pride in themselves. That’s why I’m focussed on jobs.

Our housing proposals are at the cutting edge of urban design and energy efficiency.

This year we will bring together the best ideas of architects, designers, urban planners and others to a housing conference.

I want KiwiBuild ready to roll on Day 1 when we take office.

First-home buyers shouldn’t have to wait.

Jacinda Ardern, my Social Development spokesperson, will produce an alternative white paper this year, setting out our direction to help lift kids out of poverty.

There are 270,000 children in hardship in this country, and the government is failing them.

Kids deserve the best chance in life regardless of their parents’ wealth, and with Labour they will get that.

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And those of us on the Left will be supporting, encouraging, and where necessary, nudging, a Labour-led government to maintain the focus of these problems (I refuse to call them “issues”) .

It is simply unacceptable to have poverty in this country and tackling this cancer in our society must rank at the top, along with job creation and caring for our children.

On this note, I would suggest that David Shearer demonstrate his total commitment to addressing child poverty in this country by taking on the role of Minister for Children.

There is nothing more important to the future of our nation than our children. (Some rightwingers don’t get this simple fact – but then, they do suffer from a brain-deficit in comprehension of social problems.)

John Key made himself Minister of Tourism – and spent his holidays in Hawaii. I guess he’s Minister of Tourism for Hawaii, and we just didn’t hear that part of the announcement.

An incoming Labour Prime Minister’s portfolio must be Minister for Children.

No ifs, buts, or maybes – that will set the tone of an incoming Labour-led government.

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Their best opportunity is from a world-class education system.

We’ve already set out our plan to put food in schools and extend reading recovery so our kids aren’t destined to be drop outs from their first day at school.

This year I’m asking my education team to look at ways to improve transitions from school to further training and high-skill jobs.

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Suggestions;

1. Can Charter Schools. These are parasitic neo-liberal constructs which add nothing to our education system.

2. Look at Finland. They’re at the top of OECD PISA tables for achievement. I suggest they have a wealth of knowledge we can  gain from them. (Finland does not use the “Charter schools” model.)

3. Whether of not NZ First joins the Coalition on an official basis, I would strongly suggest that MP Tracey Martin be given an education or health or Associate Minister of Children’s portfolio. This woman has talent and should not be over-looked. (Disclaimer: I’m not a member, supporter, or even fan of NZ First. But I recognise talent when I see it.)

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85,000 young New Zealanders are not in work, education or training.

It’s a flaw in our system.

I want to see our schools seamlessly connect to further training opportunities.

I want every child to go through school with a purpose and plan of where they’ll end up.

Because every young Kiwi deserves a shot at a career that excites and motivates them.

Without this we’ll continue to see kids, without the right skills to get a job, falling through the cracks.

And our employers will continue to struggle to find the skills they need.

That’s not a future I want for my kids or yours.

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Pretty damned obvious, eh?

I mean, really, it’s so fricken insanely straight forward.

In fact, it’s so patently obvious that voters have a clear choice,

A. Vote National and more of the same – 85,000 not in work, education or training.

B. Vote for a centre-left Coalition and get these kids into apprenticeships.

Is there anyone out there who doesn’t get this?

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I’ve spoken of a clean, green, clever economy many times.

We need our environment to drive our economic success and our economy to keep our environment clean.

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Despite warnings from the likes of Dr Mike Joy that our environment was hardly the fiction of  being “100% Pure” or “Clean & Green”, right wing spin doctors (see:  When spin doctors go bad) and our Dear Leader don’t seem to understand the simple fact that much of our economy is predicated on our marketing brand (see:  John Key’s “pinch of salt” style of telling the truth).

Dr Joy was lambasted by Mark Unsworth – a rabid right-wing lobbyist for a professional “government relations consultancy” company, Saunders Unsworth – who condemned the scientist as an economic “saboteur” on 21 November, last year.

Now, as our environmental mishaps begin to compound, the chooks are coming home to roost – and crap all over everything,

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NZ works on agreement on residue in milk

Source

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The reality is we will not create more better paying jobs by simply exporting more milk powder.

We’ve been talking about it since Mike Moore invented lamb burgers.

Our future prosperity will be carved out by backing the talent of businesses working in high tech, or the innovations of those adding value to our natural resources.

It will be built by those that see the promise and opportunity of a clean, green future.

Great ideas are emerging from organisations like Pure Advantage, and from thousands of innovative can-do Kiwis.

A thriving manufacturing sector is at the heart of my vision. That’s why our manufacturing inquiry that starts tomorrow is an important first step.

But the commitment is lacking from government.

Well I am committed to this future.

There is simply no other option.

That is why I have asked my colleagues to develop a clear plan to diversify our economy.

A plan we can put in front of New Zealanders, not airy fairy concepts.

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There was more applause to this…

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All of these areas – jobs, education, housing and building a new economy – are critical to rebuilding our second largest city.

I am committed to rebuilding Christchurch from the grassroots up, not the Beehive down.

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A part of me thinks that “rebuilding Christchurch from the grassroots up, not the Beehive down” may be the toughest, most demanding of Labour’s promises.  300,000 Cantabrians may have 300,000 opinions as to what should be done.

At the very least, a Labour-led government must put an end to  school closures and the prospect of the Charter Schools experiment. Christchurch has enough stresses without central government adding to the woes of an already vulnerable community.

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That’s why I’ll be talking to Cantabrians about how they see their future.

To ensure their voices are heard.

That’s what we’ll work on in the coming months.

These ideas will make a difference.

These are ideas National simply can’t see.

CONCLUSION

The difference between the forces of conservatism and the need for change has never been wider.

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Indeed. On almost every level, there is a world of difference between the expectations of National Party supporters and those who support Labour, the Greens, Mana, and NZ First.

The differences are best epitomised by the issue of child poverty.

National/ACT supporters play the blame-game and deride parents for making “bad choices”. Key himself validated this belief in February 2011, when he said,

But it is also true that anyone on a benefit actually has a lifestyle choice. If one budgets properly, one can pay one’s bills.

“And that is true because the bulk of New Zealanders on a benefit do actually pay for food, their rent and other things. Now some make poor choices and they don’t have money left.”

See: Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key

This attitude of selfishness can become vicious and downright psychopathic in cruelty. Perhaps the nastiest I’ve seen was Damien Grant’s piece in the NZ Herald yesterday – see:  Damien Grant: I’d rather a better phone than feed a hungry child.

People like Grant – and those who posted vile messages in support of his comments – are the mean spirited, self-centered, dark side of humanity. Their vision of  society would not be too dis-similar to to Dickens’ Victorian-era world.

Though strangely enough, Rightwingers/National Party supporters are never quite able to explain  how a child can choose to be born into a family ridden by unemployment, poverty, dysfunction, addiction, abuse. Strange, eh?

Labour/Green/Mana and probably NZ first supporters see problems such as  child poverty as a societal problem that affects us all. They understand there are many reason why a family may be living in poverty.

With 175,000 New Zealanders now unemployed, it’s hardly surprising that poverty is increasing. Contrary to the bizarre fantasies of right wingers and low-information voters, the dole is not very generous. No one in their right mind would give up a job earning $600 a week, to go on the dole for $204.96 a week, net (see:   WINZ Unemployment Benefit – current).

A priority of an incoming Labour-led government should be  to un-do the benefit cuts of Ruth Richardson in 1991. It is an indictment on Labour that it never carried out this positive reform during it’s tenure in office.

Aside from being the right thing to do, Labour should ask itself; why should the poorest in our society vote for them if they don’t un-do the policies of previous right-wing  governments?

What’s in it for them?

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Come 2014, New Zealanders will face a choice more stark than any in a generation.

A choice in the direction of their country.

A choice between staying as we are and managing our decline, or being part of a hands-on

Government that’s backing hardworking New Zealanders.

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Government that’s backing hardworking New Zealanders“.

Code for the fickle middle classes?

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A government that chooses action over excuses.

A government that understands the world is entering a new era and we need to change with it.

One that shares the determination and passion of those Kiwis who inspire us most.

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There was more loud applause at this point. Despite not giving specifics, the audience seemed to like what they were hearing; the direction that Shearer was moving the Party.

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That’s the Labour Government I will lead.

But I can’t do it alone.

Today, I am asking for your help.

I want you to be part of my team and play a part in the next government.

I want to hear your hopes for this country and your ideas of how we get there.

I want each of you to take the Labour message out to your neighbours, your co-workers, your congregation, and your friends.

Tell them yes, we in the Labour Party are committed to making a real difference in people’s lives.

We will not accept the status quo.

A tide for change is building.

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Indeed. And that tide for change is not just the poor; the unemployed; or the low-paid. Even businesspeople seem to be getting mightily pissed of at National’s arrogant  hands-off, do-nothing, Leave-It-To-The-Marketplace attitude,

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The managing director of a company that makes and exports a device that protects crops from hail stones said comments from the Government that his sector needs to get smarter are “insulting and unnecessary”.

Mike Eggers said he is sick of hearing politicians telling him he has to up his game if he wants to survive – when the high dollar makes it more and more difficult to operate.

“We’re told to get smarter and I find that irritating and insulting. I’m about as smart as they get in my little field. How the hell do these people get smarter? For a politician to tell somebody else to get smarter – he’s risking his life.”

A scrap-copper manufacturer told the inquiry the Government can’t continue to do nothing about the exchange rate.

A W Fraser managing director Gordon Sutherland said the over-inflated dollar is crippling exporters and it was disappointing when the Government told them to keep making efficiencies to remain viable.

“We know that – we’ve known that for a very, very long time. Of course we get efficient, of course we try and work as hard as we can to be efficient – it’s the only way we can exist. It drives me insane when people say, ‘Get efficient’. What do you think we are – idiots? We’re not.”

Joyce’s immediate response?

“Nobody’s arguing that being a manufacturer isn’t challenging. In fact, in my history in business, every time you’re in business it’s challenging.

“But going around and trying to talk down the New Zealand economy and talk about a crisis in manufacturing, I don’t think is particularly helpful.”

Mr Joyce said there was no simple answer to the problems the sector are facing, except to keep working hard to further improve their businesses.

See: Radio NZ – Exporters tell inquiry of threat from high NZ dollar

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If Joyce and his little  National buddies think that kind of response will win them the next election – they must be more deluded than I thought imaginable.

Joyce might as well have saved time and simply told exporters and manufacturers, “Go vote Labour”. The effect will be the same.

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Change that guarantees everyone gets ahead, not just those at the top.

Change so we once again stand tall as a country.

A country where we strive to be a leader – not a follower.

A country where the Government is hands-on and backs its people.

A country we can be proud of.

Friends, join with me to build that future.

Because, together, that’s what we will do in 2014.

Thank you.

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With that, Shearer concluded his speech.  As the audience rose to their feet, cheering enthusiastically, he left the stage,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com David Shearer - 27 January 2013 - new era new solutions - wainuiomata rugby club

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So, what to make of  Shearer’s performance?

Shearer spoke from a pre-prepared speech (hard-copy provided to this blogger) which he more or less followed. He spoke convincingly and  passionately and though perhaps not as charismatic as a Jim Anderton or younger Winston Peters or late Rod Donald, it was sufficient to present his message to people in the  Hall.

Reading a pre-prepared speech, this Blogger scores Shearer  a 6/7  (where 10 is in the league of Lange/Kirk/Savage and 1 is one-dimensional to the point of being robotic.)

The speech scores a 5/6. It was adequate – but perhaps something was missing. Something that would make a listener sit up, with the proverbial lighbulb switching on.

After Shearer left the stage, Hutt South MP, Trevor Mallard, invited the gathering outside to enjoy the beautiful hot day in an adjacent park, as well as a free sausage sizzle for all,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com David Shearer - 27 January 2013 - new era new solutions - wainuiomata rugby club

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A traditional Kiwi sausage sizzle provided free snacks – though there were suggestions that NZ Herald journo, Audrey Young (not pictured) pay for hers in the spirit of Market User Pays,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com David Shearer - 27 January 2013 - new era new solutions - wainuiomata rugby club

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It also gave Shearer an opportrunity to meet the press outside, to answer questions. Most questions  seemed focused on  Labour’s recently released Housing policy,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com David Shearer - 27 January 2013 - new era new solutions - wainuiomata rugby club

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Patrick Gower (at left, with pink tie) was the main questioner,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com David Shearer - 27 January 2013 - new era new solutions - wainuiomata rugby club

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At times the questions were so intent on detailed house pricing; number of bedrooms; location; location; location, that they  seemed more suitable for a real estate agent than a Party leader. But they were fair questions and this blogger has no quibble with them,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com David Shearer - 27 January 2013 - new era new solutions - wainuiomata rugby club

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I stood with the group throughout the Q + A session, listening and recording the exchange between Shearer and msm journos.

My impression? He has improved significantly since his earlier days as Labour’s mumbling, incoherent,  leader. Occassionally there is still hesitation, and that requires further training to make his speech patterns more fluid, natural, and assertive.

In any case, except for an occassional moment or two, he answered journo’s questions reasonably  well.

The question is – is he ready to go head-to-head with The Great Car Salesmen, aka, our Prime Minister John Key? Currently, I’m not sure. By 2014, with more practice and experience, and as his confidence grows, he has a fair chance.

What the Labour Party needs to do is ensure that not only does Shearer get the training and experience, but that he is 100% well-versed in every aspect of Labour policy and funding mechanism.

National is vulnerable right now, and this blogger  believes things are about to get a whole lot messier for the Tories. 2012 was only the beginning of their eventual demise as government.

There’s still a lot of work ahead of us, and every critic and opponant of National must do their bit; Party activists; MPs (which means side-lining hopeless non-performers and elevating those who are taking it to the Nats); bloggers; and disaffected ordinary New Zealanders who’ve had a gutsful.

2014 is ours to seize.

Other moments and faces of the day

Rimutaka MP, Chris Hipkins, (“Kennedy for President” t-shirt) and friends,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com David Shearer - 27 January 2013 - new era new solutions - wainuiomata rugby club

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Hutt Mp, Trevor Mallard, chatting with two members of the public,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com David Shearer - 27 January 2013 - new era new solutions - wainuiomata rugby club

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Te Atatu MP, Phil Twyford, and supporters,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com David Shearer - 27 January 2013 - new era new solutions - wainuiomata rugby club

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And Labour leader, David Shearer, listening intently to a fellow New Zealander,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com David Shearer - 27 January 2013 - new era new solutions - wainuiomata rugby club

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Other blogs

The Jackal: Anti Shearer faction loses traction

The Standard: For a February leadership vote

Disclaimer

This blogger has no links or preference to either “Team Shearer” or “Team Cunliffe”, and is mostly neutral in the leadership stakes.

Copyright (c)  Notice

All images 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.
* Acknowledgement of source is requested.

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Guest Author: David Shearer, Leader of the Labour Party

– David Shearer, Leader of the Labour Party

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Speech: New Zealand – A new direction  |  Sunday, November 18, 2012

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Today I want to talk about two paths that lie before us as a country.

Each offers very different directions and different choices.

One path leads to disappointment, decline and constant struggle.

That’s our country’s current path, the one National is taking.

The other path is about change.

It’s about a new direction for Labour and a new direction for New Zealand.

A new direction where we fight back, create opportunity and build a world class New Zealand that we’re proud of.

A new direction that’s about what is best for the long term, not just the short term.

A new direction that’s about all New Zealanders daring to dream and having the opportunity to get there.

Not just accepting second best and managing decline.

We’ve always been a creative, innovative people with a ‘can do’ attitude.

Respected and admired across the globe.

Down to earth. Willing to give it a go.

We need that new direction now more than ever.

It’s about building a smart, new and powerful economy that delivers a fairer society.

That’s what I stand for.

That’s what we can achieve together.

For most of the last 20 years, I lived in parts of the world where life was bleak.

Every time I came home, I counted my blessings.

I counted my good fortune that I had grown up in a country like this.

But we are losing what we once held dear.

Kiwis just want the chance to succeed, to be the best they can be and to build a great life.

It’s not too much to ask.

I got my fair chance growing up in Papatoetoe. My father was a teacher. My mum worked at the local school.

They gave us the kind of Presbyterian upbringing where you saved for what you needed, and made the most of what you had.

I remember Dad wanted a boat to take us kids out sailing but he didn’t have the money to buy it.

So he rolled up his sleeves, went to night classes and learned how to build one.

Over 4 months, he and I built that boat together in the garage.

That was the way things worked. The State backed you so you could realise your dream.

I grew up in a time when there were plenty of part-time jobs for kids and – thanks to penal rates – some of them were quite well-paid.

I had a paper round that earned me the money to pay for my own bike. I pumped gas at the Puhinui petrol station and learned the value of a dollar.

That’s what it was like back then, growing up in New Zealand.

I know it wasn’t perfect for everyone but for most Kiwi families, life gave you a fair go.

And, free, to everyone, was an education that could match any in the world.

A nation flourishes when it gives every person a fair chance.

When it looks after its own.

And when it prizes fairness and humanity.

It was when I went out into world that I discovered just how much that means.

I also learnt something about myself.

That if you’ve grown up with the values this country gave me, you can’t turn away. You just can’t.

So my life has been about making a difference.

Lifting people up when they need it the most. Making their lives better.

Giving them the opportunity to take the next step.

This world can be hugely indifferent to suffering.

For me, that came into stark relief when I went to Somalia. War and famine was overtaking the country.

A small group of us working there realised that unless something changed, thousands would die from hunger.

With daily gun battles being fought in the streets, we were faced with a choice.

Take a risk and make a change. Or shrug our shoulders and say the job’s too big, let’s get out of here.

We stayed. We made a change.

I worked with a dedicated team of Somali doctors and others. We fought to keep supply lines open to bring in food.

We fed around 30,000 children who would have died otherwise.

We evacuated our staff three times. I lost a colleague on that operation.

But I was never in any doubt. Standing up for what was right – what would make a difference – that was the right decision.

Looking back I feel immense satisfaction.

But I can tell you it also makes it very clear to me where my priorities lie.

I am in politics to make lives better.

I’m not here to cross something off my bucket list. Or to indulge in some sense of celebrity.

I went out into the world to help improve people’s lives and I’ve chosen to enter politics for the same reason.

It’s why I want to lead this country and it’s why I need your support to get there.

Together we can make a difference. A big difference.

The values I bring with me are the ones that I was raised with.

They are the ones that I took with me out into the world.

They are Labour values. They’re our values: that everyone should have a fair chance and the opportunity to get ahead.

And if you agree people are not being given that fair chance right now then I’m asking you to join me in making the changes we need.

Change can make people uneasy.

But change has always been what has saved us in times of trouble, and it can save us again.

The first Labour government made the big changes that mattered:

affordable housing,

free schooling,

free health care,

a fair start for every child.

Don’t let anyone tell you a government can’t do big things to change lives.

Those big changes led New Zealand out of the Depression and it was this party that made them.

We are the party that is brave about change.

I think about Norman Kirk’s government establishing the Waitangi Tribunal that has helped reconcile Māori and Pakeha. And his commitment to New Zealand’s independent place in the world.

I think of David Lange standing up for our independence at the Oxford Union debate:  “hold your breath for just a moment – I can smell the uranium on it.”

It’s not just a great line, it’s about a great idea. Today we’re still nuclear free and I’m proud of that.

And the thousands of children lifted out of poverty under Helen Clark. The icons of Kiwisaver and KiwiBank were put in place.

Don’t let anyone tell you a government can’t do big things to change lives.

We made big changes and New Zealand flourished.

But where is our country today?

Where is the sense of possibility?

Where, I ask our Prime Minister, are the jobs?

It should never have come to this.

Imagine this scenario, for just a moment.

If we had kept Norman Kirk’s Superannuation Scheme – that Muldoon scrapped – it would be worth more than $240 billion today.

We would probably still own some of our banks and many other major companies.

Our entrepreneurs would be thriving because we’d have so much capital to invest in their ideas.

The Kirk Labour government could see the future. The National government saw political opportunism.

When our opponents say they want to grow our economy, I don’t doubt their sincerity.

But I doubt their method. I doubt it fundamentally.

How have they done in the last 4 years? Measure the results any way you want:

the cost of your groceries,

the money you’re earning,

the affordability of houses

1,000 Kiwis a week give up hope and go to Australia despite John Key promising he’d turn those numbers around.

That’s the population of Hamilton leaving since National was elected. It’s never been higher.

This government simply hasn’t delivered.

Our unemployment rate is 7.3%. Can you remember who was in power the last time it was this bad? Let me remind you it was the last National Government.

Right now there’s 175,000 people looking for work.

Māori and Pasifika unemployment is at 15%. One in four of our young people are unemployed.

And week after week, the losses just keep on coming.

Behind those numbers are real people, real families and real communities.

A couple of weeks ago, I sat down with miners who’ve lost their jobs at Spring Creek.

Darryl Sweetman is a miner. His future should be bright.

He has a lovely family, a partner, a daughter and a new-born son. But Darryl’s been laid off.

He’s worried he’ll lose the home they’ve been renovating and have to leave the town he’s lived in his entire life.

Paris Brady came back from Australia to raise his young family in Greymouth. He’s the kind of guy we need here.

Keen, motivated and used to hard graft. But just 10 weeks into his mining apprenticeship, he’s had the rug pulled out from under him and he’s out of work.

All over the country that’s the human face of losing jobs.

When this Government rests its entire hopes for future economic growth on the rebuild of Christchurch – our biggest natural disaster – you know it has no ideas.

What will it take for National to admit its hands-off policies aren’t working?

They know in their hearts that selling Mighty River Power will not make our power bills cheaper.

That selling Meridian won’t create a single job.

That selling Genesis won’t grow the economy.

Yet they knock us for being a party that can’t deliver growth.

Let me tell you. The evidence tells a different story.

If we compare all National and Labour Governments, back through history, the average GDP growth under National is 2.9%.

Under Labour, it’s 3.7%.

Who are the best economic managers?

But this government takes the prize. It has the worst economic performance in 50 years.

And we should remind ourselves of this:

In 2008, this National government inherited one of the world’s best government books after 9 budget surpluses.

And in 2 years’ time, no doubt, they’ll hand them back to us in bad shape.

The problem is that in order to pull us out of this hole they’re turning to the very ideas that put us there in the first place.

You know and I know: it’s not going to work.

And that’s why we need big change.

VISION

We need a different path.

We need to fight for the future we want.

One where we make a real difference to people’s lives.

We have always been the Party of new ideas.

When it mattered throughout our history, we’ve been willing to use the power of government to give the country what it needs to move ahead.

New Zealand needs to use that power once more. And under my leadership, we will.

Five years ago, that might have been seen as economic heresy in many places.

But not today.

Governments all around the world are intervening in their economies to dig themselves out of a vast Global Financial hole.

And they’ve got it right.

Hugh Fletcher is not what you’d call a radical.

But just a couple of weeks ago he was on the radio saying the laissez-faire status quo position is not acceptable.

He said our exporters were finding it hard to compete and we would have to come up with a new approach.

The Manufacturers and Exporters Association is saying the same thing.

So too is the EPMU.

And so are we.

There is a meeting of minds around a new direction.

The hands-off approach has failed and it’s left the world badly off balance.

Government has at its disposal levers that only it can pull.

Levers to change the settings that stimulate growth and opportunity.

As Prime Minister, I’ll use the power of government to change this country.

Let me be clear, it’s not about big government.

It’s about common sense.

It’s about using government intelligently, so it can transform the economy for everyone.

In a small country like New Zealand competing against the world’s economic giants, we need the government to pitch in together, not step back.

If you are willing to do your bit, the government should do its bit too.

It needs to be a player, not a spectator.

We need to get the country firing on all cylinders again.

I know we need to grow the economic pie – not just be expert in dividing it.

That means prudent financial management. It means balancing our budgets.

It means making the tough decisions to reduce our current account deficit.

This government hopes we can get there by cutting costs, selling assets and driving down the cost of labour.

It won’t work. It never has.

If you want to run the economy like they do, this is what you’ll get:

A few very wealthy people at the top,

No decent jobs in the middle

And a whole lot of low-skill, low wage families barely managing to hold on.

That’s a strategy that is as short sighted as it is heartless.

I have no interest in building an economy where only a few get rich, and everyone else gets left behind.

I lived in too many ruined countries where that happened to want to ever see it happen here.

My vision for New Zealand is fundamentally different from the one National is following.

New Zealand should be a place where people know they can get ahead, a place where the world wants to live and a place we can all be proud of.

A place that rewards talent and hard work, that puts a premium on innovation. Where our environment is a driver of our economic success and our economy keeps our environment clean.

A place which grows skilled, well-paid jobs and keeps our kids in New Zealand.

I want to lead that transformation.

I want a fair society where everyone gets a chance.

Where we look after those who need it, but where everyone has a responsibility to do their bit too.

Rights and responsibilities – a society based on that simple social contract.

I want to lead a country that is independent and confident in the world.

Where our values dictate what we say and do, not the persuasions of other nations.

That’s the kind of country we all want.

A few months ago, I spoke of that vision.

I received an email from Paul Callaghan thanking me. Because of course, his thinking had inspired me.

I phoned him back to thank him. For devoting his life to making New Zealand a better place.

He died 3 days later.

His inspiration is still with me.

He argued New Zealand cannot grow wealthy on agriculture alone. Valuable as it will always be, we must add to it and diversify our economy.

We must get behind our new smart, innovative businesses – that are growing faster than any other sector.

They are doing their bit. The Government should do its bit. Under Labour it will.

To realise that vision I promise that from the day we take office, you will see big change.

Right across the economy we will make fundamental changes.

We will replace a simplistic hands-off approach with a smart hands-on one.

Monetary policy will change.

So when the high dollar is killing our exporters we will give the Reserve Bank tools to act on the exchange rate.

Our manufacturers are our job generators.

If they’re doing their bit, we should do ours with intelligent government.

The R&D policy will change.

Most of what New Zealand exports today was known to the world before the industrial revolution.

This government treats Research & Development as ‘nice to have’.

We will treat it as absolutely vital to grow our smart businesses so they can take their products to the world.

We’ll change our tax system for the better.

We will bring in what this economy desperately needs:  a capital gains tax.

We want people to invest in houses because they need a place to live, not because they get a tax free investment.

To shift investment instead into productive businesses to grow jobs.

The savings policy will change.

We’ll enrol everyone into KiwiSaver. That will support our retirement, but also build an investment pool to power our best businesses.

That means companies like F&P Appliances can be owned here, not sold off-shore.

We’ll change the approach to productivity.

Kiwis work longer hours than just about anywhere else in the world. But you wouldn’t know it looking at our pay packets.

That’s because the hands-off approach says: “pay low wages, cut back on conditions and ramp up casualization”.

That has to end. We’ll be hands-on. The Minimum Wage will go up. A Living Wage must be our goal.

And Labour laws will be reformed to restore decency.

We are proud of our unions and our origins. We thank them for what they do in standing up for workers’ rights, but we need to be in government to back you up.

The procurement policy will change.

The government spends $30 billion a year on contracting goods and services.

The simplistic hands-off approach says “forget about Hillside Railway workshops, forget about local jobs. Go for the cheapest offshore price.”

The intelligent hands-on approach says: “we get much more from each government dollar by investing in a Kiwi company”.

So wherever it’s the smart thing to do, we’ll prioritise the local supplier.

The approach to education will change.

I started my working life as a teacher. So I have an appreciation of the valuable job teachers do.

And I know a gimmick when I see one.

Bigger classes, unqualified teachers, charter schools and performance pay will achieve nothing.

The intelligent approach, the one I will follow is the one that asks:  what will it take to make this education system the best in the world?

Our teachers are demoralised. Yet we all know they are critical to equipping our kids for the modern world.

We know too that shutting schools in Christchurch destroys communities and causes heartache for already distressed families.

I went to a public meeting there after receiving a moving letter from Christchurch mum Sonya Boyd.  She’s devastated that her local school will close and is worried about the impact on her son Ben, his friends and in fact the whole community.

At that meeting a parent told me: Hekia Parata is doing what 10,000 earthquakes couldn’t do – destroying our school.

I say to the people of Christchurch: we are committed to helping you rebuild your city from the grassroots up – not the Beehive down.

You want, more than anything, to get your lives back, and on your own terms.

It’s time you had a government that stood alongside you.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING

So those are the big changes we’ve already committed to.

To lift the economy. To grow jobs.

Today we add another important item: housing.

Owning your own home is a Kiwi ambition but for tens of thousands of New Zealanders it’s a dream that’s out of reach.

If there is one thing your newspaper tells you every day about life in New Zealand it’s this:

We have a housing problem. And it’s a deep seated problem.

If you’re a young person today, you look at the cost of houses and you despair.

For the first time, home ownership in Auckland has dropped below 60%.

It’s one of the reasons so many of our young people are giving up and going to Australia.

The National government’s answer fell woefully short of what is needed.

They don’t understand that the market has failed first-home buyers.

The simple fact is we need more affordable houses.

It’s time for Government to step up.

And we will.

Today I’m announcing that we will put 100,000 Kiwi families into their first home.

That’s the sort of big change we need to make a big difference to people’s lives.

We’ll oversee and invest in a large scale 10 year building programme of entry-level houses that Kiwis are crying out for.

Yes, it’s a big commitment and it’ll take a couple of years to ramp up, but we can do it.

I won’t stand by while the dream of home ownership slips away from future generations.

At the peak of last decade, about 30,000 new homes were built a year. Now it’s less than half that.

These are the missing rungs on the housing ladder. And it shows what an active and responsible government can do to help.

The start-up cost of the building programme will be financed through issuing government stock called Home Ownership Bonds.

The money we make from selling the houses will go back into the pot for building more.

The houses will be compact in size. Some will be stand-alone dwellings and others apartments. All of them will be good quality and energy efficient.

The homes will be sold to first home buyers who’ve saved their own deposit, like with KiwiSaver.

We estimate that the maximum needed to be raised for a kick-start will be $1.5 billion.

It will quickly become self-funding though. And because it’s a capital investment, it won’t affect our commitment to balance the books and return to surplus.

I can already hear our opponents complaining that this is too bold. That the problem’s too big and there’s nothing we can do.

I won’t accept that. I won’t give up on the Kiwi dream of an affordable home.

I have spoken to Auckland Mayor Len Brown to take up his offer of a partnership with Auckland council to make land available.

In addition, we will introduce a National Policy Statement under the RMA to ensure that planning rules and consenting decisions support affordable housing.

We want to make a difference.

Building 100,000 new houses will create training opportunities for apprenticeships, more jobs and give a $2 billion dollar a year boost to the economy.

This will make a big difference but alone, it’s not enough.

HEALTHY HOMES GUARANTEE

Too many Kiwi families are living in cold, damp and mouldy homes.

This affects their health and their quality of life.

Because of this, we’re seeing the sort of third world diseases that I was battling in Somalia in our own communities here. That’s not right.

Child poverty is a scourge that robs hundreds of thousands of kids of their future.

This cannot continue.

Let me be clear, we are not prepared to have families, particularly children, living in these conditions.

Eradicating poverty will be a top priority for the next Labour Government.

That’s why we’ll introduce a Healthy Homes Guarantee so landlords have to ensure every rental property is a healthy home that’s insulated and has efficient heating.

It’s time for poor quality houses to be brought up to scratch with minimum standards.

The crucial point is: this is about smart government pulling the levers to make New Zealand a better place.

We will take action where the market has failed for the benefit of thousands of Kiwis.

CONCLUSION

We have done the work we needed to do to change ourselves at this conference.

Now it’s time to lift our sights and to come together to change New Zealand.

Our Labour movement has always relied on the hard work of volunteers.

I thank you for everything that you do to support our cause and to support our country.

And now I ask you to join me.

Norman Kirk once famously said: New Zealanders don’t ask for much: someone to love, somewhere to live, somewhere to work and something to hope for.

As much I’d like to, I can’t provide everyone with someone to love.

But everyone should have a job, a home – and a country we can all have hope in.

But we won’t on National’s track. It’s full of disappointment and is taking us nowhere.

We need to change.

We need a new direction.

One that’s about using our Kiwi ‘can do’ attitude to create new wealth.

One that encourages Kiwis to dream of what can be.

One that offers opportunities to realise that dream.

One where everyone who plays their part shares the rewards.

And, one where the government gets stuck in too.

I promise you this: from the day we take office, we will turn over a new page for this country and continue Labour’s proud tradition of progressive government.

We won’t be taking office to tinker, we’ll be taking office to remake New Zealand.

So I am asking you.

To rise up.

To take a message of hope to New Zealanders.

To fight for our future.

To say loud and clear that there is a better way. There is a Labour way.

We can do it, standing strong together.

We can make the change.

And we’ll do that in 2014.

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Citizen A – 1 November 2012 – Online now!

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Citizen A

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– 1 November 2012 –

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– Claudette Hauiti & Chris Trotter –

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Issue 1: How do we get affordable housing in Auckland – is the Government on the right track and should the Super City open up more land?

Issue 2: Can the Maori Party convince Pakeha to vote for them?

Issue 3: What does the latest roy morgan poll mean for David Shearer at this months Labour Party conference in Auckland?

Citizen A broadcasts 7pm Thursday Triangle TV

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Acknowledgement (republished with kind permission)

Tumeke

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Just say “NO!” to political prostitutionism

25 October 2012 18 comments

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From the Sunday Star Times (scanned hard-copy  – on-line version locked behind a Fairfax paywall) on 14 October,

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Andrea Vance is correct;  most polls have shown a steady decline for National (with the exception of those at specific moments when issues surrounding Maori claims over water rights are in the headlines) since the general election last year.

John Key’s teflon coating is patchy at best, as scandals; incompetance; and a stagnating economy is showing up National as singularly inept at any measure of governance.

A TV3 poll tonight (24 Oct) was even more bad news for these ministerial muppets,

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Full story

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The four relevant questions asked of respondents were,

1. Do you agree National has done a good job in terms of building a brighter future?

  • 49% said no;
  • 46% said yes;
  • 5% did not know.
2. Has National helped with full employment?

  • 57% said no;
  • 36% said yes;
  • 7% did not know.
3. Is the Government providing the best school system for our children?

  • 58% said no;
  • 32% said yes;
  • 9% did not know.
4. Are our Government departments run efficiently?
  • 49 percent said yes;
  • 42 percent said no.

Key’s responses to each of these four questions is reported here: National’s bright future not here yet – poll

Some of his comments are laughable. Actually, no. All his comments are a joke.  If anything, his responses to these poll results are a scathing indictment of National’s arrogance and disconnect from the public.

Which brings us to Peter Dunne.

National is in power only because of complicity by John Banks and Dunne.

Dunne’s history began in 1984, as a Labour MP. From there, he  jumped from one Party to another; Labour; United New Zealand; United Future New Zealand; and join coalitions led by both National, then Labour, and back to National again in 2008.

See: Peter Dunne – Member of Parliament

Dunne is a political chameleon – able to re-shape and re-form to suit his political environment, as governments come and go. Unlike that other Great Survivor, Winston Peters, Dunne has the unmatched record of rarely having been out of government. Any government.

He has outlasted  Lange, Palmer, Moore, Bolger, Shipley, and Clarke – and is now onto his seventh Prime Minister, John Key.

Whatever “political viagra” the man is on, he could make a vast fortune selling it globally, to other politicians.

Political journalist, Andrea Vance,  has suggested in her 14 October article that,

As Labour begin to pick up in the polls… Dunne is the kid on the sidelines, eyes screwed shut, willing David Shearer to pick me, pick me”.”

Like hell.

For many people in this country, and this blogger included, Peter Dunne has burnt his bridges with the social democratic left.

His vote in Parliament, to enable the passing of legislation to facilitate the 49% sell-down of Mighty River Power, Genesis, Meridian, Solid Energy, and Air New Zealand, is a step too far. (See: The asset partial sell-off can begin)

With the passing of the Mixed Ownership Model Bill into law on 27 June, Peter Dunne well and truly nailed his colours to the mast – despite even a poll on his own website receiving an over-whelming ‘no’ vote, and many comments critical of asset sales.

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The poll was taken down soon after it began to attract public attention. (Evidently the outcome was not to Mr Dunne’s satisfaction?)

So much for asking the public to “let us know your views“.

Unless we see a threat of a possible third term for National (and one hopes the voting public is not that capricious), Shearer, the Greens, Peters, and Harawira should have nothing to do with Dunne.

His politics is best described as prostitutionism – with about as much ethics shown as a Wall Street banker or back street crack-dealer.

Dunne has utterly betrayed his own country by supporting the sale – theft –  of state assets. Considering he has been part of three terms of a Labour-led government – to then support neo-liberal policies  shows a lack of principled behaviour.

What was he doing in a Labour-led government in the first place?

What else is he willing to do to keep ministerial “baubles of power”?

A new Labour-led government, starting  afresh and addressing many of the social inequities and economic imbalances afflicting our country,  should leave behind the dross of previous administrations.

The next government should be a principled one. And Peter Dunne has none of the necessary qualities that would make him a credible fit with such a new administration.

Take note, Mr Shearer; you need to start your new Administration on the very best footing. Peter Dunne will provide the opposite.

Mr Shearer; do you really want the left-overs of a failed National “government” at your Cabinet table?

As the Member for Ohariu once said,

We understand clearly that the only reason for our existence is to represent the voice of the people in our parliament. We believe  that any  party that is not constantly in touch with the views of the people is simply not doing its job. In this space you can read what others think on key issues, and you can let us know your views.” – Peter Dunne, “Have your Say Polls”, United Future website (since deleted)

Clean sweep, Mr Shearer, clean sweep.

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Postscript:

Whilst Dunne’s website has closed down the Poll and the many posted comments are lost on his website, Blogger Robert Guyton had the presence of mind to C&P and re-post many of the posted comments on his blog.

These are the views that Peter Dunne does not want us to read: Robert Guyton.

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