Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Dear Leader John Key’

The Legacy of a Dismantled Prime Minister – Revisited

.

.

Following John Key’s sudden (and largely unexplained) resignation on 5 December 2016, I wrote a piece lamenting that he had left no positive  legacy of significance;

.

.

… much  has been said of Key’s “legacy”. Pundits have been scratching their heads, trying to figure out what  “legacy” can be attributed to eight years of a Key-led administration.

Despite screeds being devoted on the subject, it appears that little can actually be attributed to any form of Key “legacy”.

[…]

[Brent] Edwards contrasted Key’s administration with that of Jim Bolger and pointed out the latter’s legacies, which have had a lasting impact of New Zealand’s social and political landscape. The first was the advent of MMP which forever changed politics as it is done in this country. The second was Bolger’s courage to stand up to his party’s redneck conservatism and engage with Maori to address Treaty of Waitangi grievances.

[…]

In an era marking the rise of nationalistic political movements (Brexit, Trump, et al), Key’s “package of reforms” will be rolled back and many, like Charter Schools, swept away entirely.

These legacies of a failed economic ideology – neo-liberalism – may rate a mention in the footnotes of future history books, but not much more. In fifty years time, no one will point to Key’s supposed “reforms” as people still do to Michael Savage’s achievements.

[…]

… and I leave this brief assessment for future historians;

John Key – Master at spin, photo-ops, and PR, but nothing else. When the teflon was stripped away, there was nothing underneath.

And that will be his legacy: nothing. We simply couldn’t think of a single damned one.

As I pointed out then – and which has subsequently been proven – National’s  “growth” was illusory, based mostly on high immigration and unsustainable ballooning house prices in Auckland.

Unfortunately, my dismissal of Key’s administration as historically inconsequential may have been a rush to judgement. I regret that I failed to pick up a vital policy change that has had a long term – albeit utterly unforeseen at the time – beneficial impact on  this country.

On 21 May 2009, John Key announced the appointment of Professor Peter Gluckman as the first  Chief Science Advisor to the Prime Minister. At the time,  Key stated;

“This appointment delivers on the Government’s goal of including science at the heart of our decision-making.

I campaigned on creating this role because I recognise that New Zealand’s prosperity rests on our ability to make full use of the expertise that our scientists can contribute.

Professor Gluckman will provide me with a direct line to advice when I need it. He will be an independent voice that will complement existing channels of advice such as government departments and the Royal Society.

This role is one of vital importance that demands not only a high level of science expertise, but also the utmost integrity to fairly represent the state of science knowledge.”

Fast forward to almost exactly nine years later;

.

.

Sir Peter was unequivocal; there was no credible data to support the meth hysteria that had swept the country;

“There’s absolutely no evidence in the medical literature anywhere in the world, of anybody being harmed by passive exposure to methamphetamine at any level.

“We can’t find one case in the medical literature, we can’t find one case by talking to experts where there is evidence of harm … it makes no sense.”

It backed up a curious admission from National Party leader, Bill English, in August 2016, where he questioned the validity of p-contamination levels in state houses;

“Now, the test as I understand it, indicates the presence of any P at all which may be a very low health risk.

According to that guideline they should not be moving people into houses where there is P contamination.

They’re operating to a Ministry of Health guideline which I understand is internationally standard, but is regarded as not quite appropriate”

It would certainly help housing New Zealand if the scientists applied themselves to coming up with a new guideline.

We would hope that within a few months there will be a standard that all the scientists regard as more appropriate. In the meantime, Housing New Zealand are doing their best to ensure that they don’t inconvenience tenants any more than is necessary.”

Astonishingly, despite Bill English knowing two years ago that meth-testing levels were probably bogus, National’s current Housing spokesperson, Judith Collins, voiced ignorance to its validity;

“We didn’t know. I spoke to [then-Minister of Social Housing] Paula Bennett about it, and she’s absolutely adamant she didn’t know. She got advice from the Housing NZ and also the Ministry of Health, and apparently Standards NZ were involved. So it’s the first time that we knew.”

Ms Collins was happy to pass the buck;

“But Housing NZ needs to front up, because they have refused to front up to media, and their minister Phil Twyford, he’s not making them front up. Let’s just find out what they knew.”

In October 2016, the Ministry of Health repeated it’s assertions that P levels in houses were only dangerous if manufacturing – not smoking – had taken place;

Ministry of Health Director of protection, regulation and assurance, Stewart Jessamine, said;

“Underpinning those conversations has always been the Ministry’s view that the Ministry’s guidelines only cover clandestine laboratories and this has been routinely pointed out.”

Despite clear statements from the Ministry of Health and from then-Prime Minister Bill English, Housing NZ continued its policy to evict around 300 families from State houses; disrupting lives; and demanding compensation from some former tenants.

On 6 June this year, Housing NZ’s CEO,  Andrew McKenzie, denied point blank ever being advised by the Ministry of Health that they were mis-applying P-levels;

“We weren’t warned repeatedly.

No, we weren’t  [told].

[…]

So, certainly, the organisation is very clear, we were not told. There’s no record of being told that we were mis-using the guidelines.”

Evidently, the Prime Minister of the day’s public comments on national radio, questioning meth-testing levels,  did not constitute “being told”.

National party current-leader, Simon Bridges gave a belated qualified “apology” – of sorts;

“I’m sorry that the advice we got was wrong and has made this situation what it is.”

Bridges’ apology was for “advice we got was wrong” – not for wrongful eviction of tenants.

But not one single individual has taken responsibility for 300 families losing their homes and $100 million of tax-payer’s money flushed down the toilet on pointless testing.

Since Sir Peter’s meth-testing bomb-shell, Housing NZ has been forced to apologise to tenants who were caught up in the hysteria; cease demanding repayment for unnecessary clean-ups; and taken evicted tenants’ names of a Housing NZ black-list. There is also consideration of making compensation payments for Housing NZ tenants who lost their homes and possessions (though tenants in private “social housing” may miss out).

The policy of evicting tenants for flawed meth-levels, and where culpability for who (if any of the current tenants) smoked the drug, has been put to a stop.

For 300 people whose lives have been unnecessarily disrupted, it is too late. But at least no more vulnerable families will be put at risk of summary eviction and imposition of hefty punitive financial penalities.

In a curious way, this is due to Key’s decision to implement the role of a Science Advisor nine years ago. Sir Peter’s description of his new role in 2009 was remarkably prescient;

My primary task is to give the Prime Minister strategic and operational advice on science and science policy issues.

[…]

… I have a role of advising on specific matters related to science. In general this will be in the form of formally commissioned reports that will summarise the evidence base to suggest a specific mode of action or secondly where new scientific developments create either opportunity or risk. Again, I anticipate that my role will be limited to situations where my independence and hopefully high public respect can add value beyond what can come from departmental or sectoral advice.

[…]

… I will serve as a conduit of alerts that might arise where scientific progress shows either opportunity or threat for New Zealand. I will not be a lobby for individual science projects, but where scientists see something emerging that they think policy makers need to be aware of, I can assist with communication.

More recently, in an interview on TVNZ’s Q+A with Corin Dann, Sir Peter expanded on the role of Science Advisor for sound policy-making;

“So most of the things that governments really need help from the science community over are remarkably complex. The water system, the climate system, the agricultural system. That’s what we can try and do is explain both to the public and to the policy maker and to the politician. What are they options that then emerge? Complexity always means there are multiple options.

[…]

…the whole question of, ‘How do we have complex conversations over difficult matters in a constructive, collegial manner. Because this is a matter where, clearly, people come to it with different personal perspectives. We have put the evidence on the table, and I would hope that over time – we said that when we released the report – it would hopefully promote a conversation where people would look at the evidence across all the political parties, and with the public, and perhaps reflect that perhaps we’ve gone too far into the retribution model of justice and not enough into the restorative, rehabilitative and particularly preventive form of justice which other countries, such as Finland, Germany, have done. And the evidence there is, in my view, that we could have a conversation…

[…]

And what a science advisory system can do is provide the evidence on the basis that it will help, over time, governments and societies make better decisions.”

For far too long, New Zealand’s policy-making by our elected representatives has been predicated on knee-jerk reactions and populism. Whether it was Muldoon’s disastrous  decision to abandon compulsory superannuation payments which left New Zealand at the mercy of overseas financiers – or the current explosion in incarceration rates in our prisons based on “tough on crime” jingoism – political decisions have hardly been predicated on sound science.

As a nation we have paid heavily – in both social and financial measures – for flawed political decision-making.

Sir Peter’s revelations that meth testing was a sham was based on science. The data was hard (if impossible) to refute.

It is high time that Science Advisors should be mandatory and well-resourced for every single Ministry and department in this country. Their advice should be critical in all aspects of crucial policy-making.

Otherwise we lurch from one ineffectual populistic policy extreme to another. All to win votes in a vacuum of real information and hard data.

Make no mistake, we end up paying for policy extremes that are not founded in sound science. National’s populistic tough-on-crime mantra and harsher bail laws has resulted in a massive explosion in our prison population.  The number of prisoners (including non-sentenced people awaiting trial, whose guilt/innocence has not yet been decided) now exceeds 10,000 and approaching 11,000.

As Justice Minister Andrew Little pointed out;

“The Netherlands, where I was last week, a country of roughly 15½ million, has a prison population of 7000. We’re a country of 4.7 million and we’ve got a prison population of approaching 11,000. What is happening in New Zealand is abnormal, and we’ve got to get to the bottom of it.”

National would have wasted $1 billion of our taxes on a new mega-prison in Waikeria. They have lambasted Labour’s attempts to grapple with a burgeoning prison muster by parroting the “soft on crime” mantra. Simon Bridges and his National party MPs have capitalised over fear-mongering on this issue;

.

 

.

Sir Peter Gluckman weighed in;

“Cabinet will be considering a range of questions and issues in the next two to three weeks, and a range of decisions will be taken about stuff to do in the short term and stuff we’ll be able to do in the longer term.

I was shocked by the rate of rise in the prison and justice system costs in the past 30 years, and in particular that this rise has continued and is actually enhanced at the very time that crime rates are actually declining.

We say, ‘Lock ’em up, lock ’em up, be tough on crime.’ But all that’s going to do is keep driving up costs.”

Of course, some offenders still needed prison time for retribution and to protect the public.

But if you look at what’s driving the costs – it’s that we’re making more severe sentences.

Now is that sensible when we know people who are in prison for longer often become professional criminals? It’s an inevitability of what the environment creates.

Evidence in the report suggests prisons are often training grounds for further offending. Prisoners can build their criminal careers by learning criminal skills in prison, which damages their employment, accommodation and family prospects, and compounds any existing mental health and substance use issues.

Associate professor, Ian Lambie, a Science Advisor to the justice sector and clinical psychologist, stated with crystal clarity;

“This Government has clearly indicated they want some work done and are interested in reform.

Where we are heading is not where we should be, and it does not create a safer society, a safer New Zealand.

What we have to do, rather than building more prisons, is focus the money on ways to create fewer prisoners, and we have to look at early intervention.

We have to remember that the majority of people [prisoners] get out. They have mental health needs, literacy needs, housing needs – and those life needs need to be addressed. We need to give the support and services if we’re really going to turn their lives around.”

So who do we listen to?

Politicians such as tough-on-crime National MPs with an eye on the next election in 2020?

Or Science Advisors who act on information and are impartial and dispassionate on issues?

It is time that New Zealand put more weight on evidentially-based policies. Relying on emotive, political, headline-grabbing sound-bites designed to scare people and elicit their votes is a poor way to formulate sound policy.

The meth-testing scam is a clear case of where emotion and politicisation leads us. It is a warning we should heed as a nation if we are to learn from our mistakes.

That’s not a bad legacy from a Prime Minister who otherwise wasted nine years.

.

.

.

References

Fairfax media: John Key dismisses rumours surrounding resignation

Radio NZ: PM to resign – ‘It feels like the right time to go’

NZ Herald: NZ’s half-trillion-dollar debt bomb

Beehive: PM appoints Chief Science Advisor

Radio NZ: Meth house contamination debunked by PM’s science advisor

Radio NZ: English calls for more specific housing meth tests

Mediaworks/Newshub: National had no idea meth guidelines were wrong – Judith Collins

NZ Herald: Housing NZ on the defensive over meth testing as it says just five state house tenants have been evicted over P use

Radio NZ: Housing NZ boss apologises over faulty meth tests

Radio NZ: Housing NZ boss ‘regrets’ meth-testing approach (audio)

Fairfax media: Housing NZ report into meth test saga to cover ‘every aspect’ of ‘policy failure’

Fairfax media: Housing NZ backtracks after saying it has no plans to stop taking payments for meth clean-up costs

TVNZ News: Social housing tenants evicted over meth contamination may miss out on compensation

Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor: The Role of the Chief Scientific Advisor

Scoop media: TVNZ – Q+A – Sir Peter Gluckman interviewed by Corin Dann

Fairfax media: Compulsory super ‘would be worth $278 billion’

Interest.co.nz: English says NZ$1 bln capital cost and NZ$1.5 bln of operating costs for extra 1,800 prison beds reduces room for tax cuts

Fairfax media: Prisons under ‘immense pressure’ with only enough space for 300 more inmates

Fairfax media: Government aims to cut prison population and fix ‘abnormal’ system

Fairfax media: $1 billion prison expansion entering final stages of approval

TVNZ: Waikeria Prison expansion is ‘unfortunately’ needed and Government is ignoring the reality of high inmate numbers – Simon Bridges

Additional

Radio NZ: Sir Peter Gluckman: Meth fiasco shows science advisors crucial

Other Blogposts

Liberation:  Cartoons about John Key’s resignation

No Right Turn:  A tiny start

No Right Turn:  Priorities

No Right Turn:  Calling bullshit on “P-contamination”

Public Address:  “Meth contamination”: the making of a moral panic

Public Address:  We are, at last, navigating out of the “meth contamination” debacle

Pundit: Meth house clean-up only just begun

The Daily Blog:  Well, well, well – so the meth contamination hysteria was bullshit? When will the Mainstream Media & Paula Bennett apologise to NZ?

The Daily Blog: New meth hysteria allegations – Auckland Health Board narked on tenants using their addiction services to HNZ

The Daily Blog:  Shocking new details – HNZ kicked 300 onto street AFTER they were told meth hysteria was wrong

The Daily Blog:  Drug driving hysteria will become our new Meth housing hysteria

The Daily Blog:  Radio NZ continue to promote the lie that National didn’t know about meth testing scam

The Daily Blog:  Soper demanding answers over Metiria when HNZ blew $100m for meth testing hysteria – the double standards are unbelievable

The Standard: Gluckman – Methamphetamine policy was a crock

The Standard: Dud advice

The Standard: National’s strategy on the Housing Corp P fiasco

Previous related blogposts

The Dismantling of a Prime Minister – Completed

The Legacy of a Dismantled Prime Minister

Letter to the editor – John Key’s legacy?

.

.

.

.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 2 July 2018.

.

.

= fs =

National pissed off: Labour is nicking John Key’s dodginess!

2 April 2018 3 comments

.

.

A meeting between Broadcasting Minister, Clare Curran and Radio NZ’s Carol Hirschfeld at a Wellington cafe has put the scent of blood into National’s collective nostrils. Ms Curran had insisted that the meeting was informal;

.

.

Ms  Curran has rejected claims that her meeting with Ms Hirschfeld was a secret meeting;

“At no time have I ever said the meeting was coincidental.

While I believe the meeting was not official and informal, as soon as I became aware that it should have been considered an official meeting in answer to a written question, I corrected the Parliamentary record. This was a mistake.

The meeting was not a secret, and I regret that the meeting took place.”

National’s caretaker Little Leader, Simon Bridges, is braying for blood;

“We need to get to the bottom of what’s happened here but it seems very serious if Carol Hirschfeld has resigned and we need to understand what this means in relation to Clare Curran.”

The critical problem apparently lies with the fact that Ms Hirschfeld kept the meeting secret from Radio NZ’s hierarchy, initially claiming that her cafe meet-up was a “chance encounter”.  In response to a question from a National Party MP,    Radio NZ’s chief executive, Paul Thompson, informed a select committee;

“Carol had been to the gym, she was getting a coffee, they bumped into each other, in a cafe and had a conversation so it was hardly a secret meeting. I don’t have any concern.”

For a supposedly “secret” meeting, a cafe rendezvous seemed to lack most of the necessary ingredients for  a covert political operation.

Perhaps Simon Bridges is aggrieved that Labour has lifted one of it’s own strategies and attempted to use it themselves. When it came to “informal meetings”, National’s former Dear Leader, John Key, was quite the expert.

In 2011, Key met with Mediaworks’ former CEO, Brent Impey at a “social event”;

.

.

Note that at first, Key denied meeting any representatives with Mediaworks. Two days later, he was forced to concede “running into” Impey at a “social event”. The issue of a government bail-out of Mediaworks was “briefly raised”.

The following year, Key had another supposedly chance encounter with a corporate head hustling for a lucrative government deal;

.

.

A year later,  it was revealed that Key was at it again, with another of his “informal meetings” – this time with old school friend, Ian Fletcher;

.

.

As we recall, Fletcher was later appointed as the head of the GCSB.

But according to Key, the vacancy at the Government Communications Security Bureau was “not discussed”. Of course it wasn’t. Fletcher’s appointment three months later was a pure coincidence – right?

When it comes to dodgy deals done behind closed doors – or at “informal” events – nobody does it better that National.

And nobody weaseled out of being caught  conducting secret informal “chance meetings” better than our own Teflon Don, whom Simon Bridges considered his hero;

.

.

As fellow blogger, Martyn Bradbury said succinctly on this issue;

“The media focus on the insignificant and judge the Left at a threshold far higher than they ever held National to account.”

Labour will have to make more of an effort to avoid these prat-falls. Because unfortunately, Key used up the country’s entire supply of teflon for himself during his leadership tenure with all his personal, Party, and ministerial scandals.

Of which there were many.

***Updates***

28 March – 8.16am

On Radio NZ’s ‘Morning Report”, it was announced that Board Chairperson, Richard Griffin (and former advisor to Jim Bolger) advised National MP, Melissa Lee, that Carol Hirschfeld had resigned – before it was publicly announced.

Ms Lee said she was surprised by the resignation of Ms Hirschfeld, who she described as a “well respected journalist”, and was given notice of the move by RNZ chair Richard Griffin shortly before the announcement.

Was that appropriate?

Why did he discuss this with an Opposition MP?

Did he have Board permission to disclose this?

What other contacts does Griffin have with National?

The Curran-Hirschfeld event is beginning to create ever-widening ripples.

.

.

.

References

Mediaworks:  Hirschfeld resignation – Clare Curran to stay on as Minister

Maori Television:  RNZ’s Carol Hirschfeld resigns

Newstalk ZB:  Hirschfeld to resign immediately after Curran meeting saga

TVNZ:  Prime Minister defends loan to MediaWorks

NZ Herald:  SkyCity deal was PM’s own offer

Fairfax Media:  Key met spy candidate for breakfast

Beehive:  New GCSB Director appointed

NZ Herald:  ‘Jokiness and blokiness’ – How Bridges is emulating John Key

Radio NZ:  Curran has ‘a lot of questions to answer’ over meeting – National MP

Additional

Radio NZ:  Carol Hirschfeld resigns over meeting minister – ‘There are serious questions here’

Radio NZ:  Curran on Hirschfeld’s resignation: ‘It was not a secret meeting’

Other Blogs

The Daily Blog:  Blind Alpacas vs war crime double standards – Hey look, what Curran did wasn’t great, but what’s worse is what the Former Attorney General did

The Standard:  An Orwellian Minister for Open Government

Previous related blogposts

Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How

Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How (Part # Rua)

Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How (Part # Toru)

.

.

.

.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 28 March 2018.

.

.

= fs =

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

9 September 2017 Leave a comment

.

.

Parliament’s Grassy knoll: who tried to character-assassinate Winston?

.

The leaking  of Winston Peter’s superannuation over-payment is well known. Also known is that Ministers Paula Bennett and Anne Tolley were briefed by Ministry of Social Development and State Services Commission, respectively, on Peters’ private details regarding the over-payment before it was leaked to the media and made public knowledge.

Also briefed – though it is unclear why, as he was not a warranted Minister of the Crown – was political appointee, Chief of Staff, Wayne Eagleson.

Evidently the only person in the entire country not briefed was the Prime Minister, Bill “Double Dipper from Dipton” English.

Bennett, Tolley, and Judith Collins have all denied any involvement in the leak.

Paula Bennett was adamant;

“I don’t actually go around the back scuffling around doing leaks. I actually, if I’ve got something to say, I say it directly and up front and kind of bluntly. “

Which is true, in a Bizarro World kind of way. In 2009, when Bennett mis-used her Ministerial powers to reveal personal details of two solo mothers on the DPB, it was done in a very public manner.

However, Bennett never apologised publicly for the breaking of the two women’s privacy. And she stubbornly insisted she would do it again;

Asked if she would do the same thing again, Bennett said “it would depend on the circumstances”.

Perhaps Judith Collins, who disclosed a State servant’s name and personal information to a right-wing blogger, was involved in the leaking of Peters’ situation?

Prime Minister John Key has conceded it was “unwise” for Judith Collins to give Cameron Slater a public servant’s name, job title and phone number which was then used in an attack post on his Whale Oil blog.

However, John Key says no disciplinary action will be taken against the Justice Minister because the action pre-dated the final warning he gave Ms Collins over the Oravida scandal.

Mr Key says he still stands by the Justice Minister.

“I think the passing of private information, in terms of phone numbers, I think that’s unwise. It’s unwise of a Minister. Look in the end it’s one of those things,” Mr Key says.

Collins also refuse to accept she had done anything wrong – despite being forced to resign in 2014;

“I absolutely and strongly deny this and any suggestion of inappropriate behaviour. I am restrained in clearing my name while I am still a Minister inside Cabinet and I believe the right thing to do is to resign as a Minister so I am able to clear my name.

I have asked the Prime Minister for an Inquiry into these serious allegations so that my name can be cleared. I will, of course, cooperate with any Inquiry.”

Only Minister Tolley has not been accused of a direct privacy violation of any individual(s) – at the moment. However, MSD is know to leak like a sieve and it was MSD that briefed the Minister regarding Winston Peters.

One thing is for certain; some Ministers are not averse when it comes to leaking personal details of individuals who run foul of this government.

They have ‘form’.

Postscript

Recent revelations that blogger and activist, Martyn Bradbury, has had his private bank details scrutinised by Police shows how little National and its state agencies respect the privacy of individuals.

.

.

Especially those who dare criticise the current regime.

.

A face-palm moment for ACT candidate, Anneka Carlson

.

Meet Anneka Carlson, ACT’s New Plymouth candidate and number seven on their Party List;

.

.

Carlson is seventh on the list and would enter parliament if ACT gained 5 per cent of the party vote.

The 28-year-old never dreamt of being a politician but standing for ACT in her home town “just feels right.”

“It was meant to happen.”

Parliament needed people with life skills and her life experiences would help stand her in good stead if she is elected, she said.

The former West Auckland police officer owned her own business in New Plymouth, is a North Taranaki SPCA board member, and ran fitness programmes for cancer support groups.

She is also completing a business studies degree extra-murally at Massey University. 

“I’m fairly young, and I’m surprised to be high on the list because I’m a bit of political newbie, but I’ve already seen lot of things from working in the police.

All well and good – engaging young New Zealanders to enter politics should be encouraged. It should never be  the sole “happy hunting grounds” for Baby Boomers seeking to feather their own nests, at the expense of younger generations.

Unfortunately, there are times when youth counts against a candidate.  Such as when Ms Carlson lamented ACT’s lack of public support;

“It makes me wonder why people don’t know more about ACT in New Plymouth.”

It should be no surprise to anyone that Ms Carlson wonders why ACT is not supported more at the ballot box. It’s not because “people don’t know more about ACT“.

Quite the contrary – most New Zealanders middle-aged and over – are very clear about ACT and what it stands for. After all, we lived through ACT-style so-called “reforms” in the late 1980s and into the 1990s.

That is why ACT is not well supported except by a tiny minority of unreconstructed wealthy, privileged extremists. (Aka, the One Percent.)  At 28, Ms Carlson would be oblivious to all this.

But at least Ms Carlson understands how privileged she is as a middle-class pakeha from an economically well-supported background. As she herself admitted;

“I’ve come from a fairly privileged upbringing…”

At least Ms Carlson has a measure of self-awareness. Given time and experience she may understand how that privileged upbringing gives her a head start in life that is denied many others.

She may even experience that critical Road-To-Damascus revelation that ACT’s market-driven ideology has made matters much, much worse since 1984.

I suggest the next cuppa tea she has is not with David Seymour, but Jim Bolger.

.

Another poll indicates coming change in government

.

.

A recent Horizon Poll released on 1 September reconfirms the rise of Jacinda Ardern’s popularity with voters;

Jacinda Ardern has a 6% lead over Bill English as preferred Prime Minister among definite voters.

Among the 860 adult respondents who are both registered to vote and 100% likely to vote, Ardern leads English by 43% to 37%.

Among all of the 960 respondents to the August 11-15 Horizon Research poll Ardern leads 45% to 32%.

Winston Peters is preferred Prime Minister by 15% of all respondents and 14% of definite voters.

James Shaw, the Green Party leader, is preferred by 2%, and David Seymour of ACT and Te Ururoa Flavell of the Maori Party each by 1%.

Coincidentally, English’s current popularity at 37% is similar to Key’s Preferred Prime Minister ratings before he stepped down as Dear Leader Prime Minister.  By May last year, Key’s PPM rating had  fallen to 36.7% – continuing a steady downward trend.

Which means Ms Ardern is now more popular than John Key was, prior to his resignation.

.

Another step back from globalisation

.

Queensland’s Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, has announced a major step back from neo-liberalism’s prime enabler, globalism, by announcing that the State government would prioritise local businesses for contracts. The aim is to create more local jobs.

Ms Palaszczuk was unapologetic in renouncing globalisation;

“ Our new procurement strategy is unashamedly a ‘Buy Queensland’ one.  No longer will we be constrained by free trade agreements that have seen jobs go off-shore or interstate.

Wherever possible, one regional and one Queensland supplier will be invited to quote or tender for every procurement opportunity offered. Preference must be given to local subbies and manufacturers on significant infrastructure projects of $100 million or more.

This money comes from Queensland taxpayers, it is only right we spent it in a way that benefits Queensland businesses and workers as much as possible.”

According to the SBS report, Queensland spent  A$14 billion per annum  on supplies, services, plus A$4 billion  building and maintaining State infrastructure.

Ms Palaszczuk made a valid case for buying-local when she pointed out “this money comes from Queensland taxpayers, it is only right we spent it in a way that benefits Queensland businesses and workers“.

The prime role of a government in a Western-style democracy has always been (or should be!) to protect and enhance it’s citizens. Creating an environment where local jobs flourish  is part and parcel of that dictum.

Governments are not “in business” to create  jobs in other countries at the expense of their own workers.

ExportNZ’s Executive Director, Catherine Beard, was predictably hostile;

The ‘Buy Queensland’ promotion should be about encouraging Aussies to buy their local product, just like ‘Buy NZ Made’ encourages New Zealanders to buy Kiwi-made. It’s OK to encourage your people to buy local, but it’s not OK to mandate State Government weightings that amount to protectionism.

The protectionism in Queensland’s policy is completely contrary to Closer Economic Relations between New Zealand and Australia.

In plain english, Ms Beard is fine with “it’s OK to encourage your people to buy local,” but “it’s not OK to mandate State Government weightings that amount to protectionism” because it harmed the interests of her members.

Tough. It’s about time globalisation began to be rolled back instead of continually exporting jobs and entire businesses to off-shore jurisdictions where labour is cheaper and easily exploitable because of lax (or unenforced) labour laws.

We need fair trade, not so-called “free” trade. “Free” trade is not free when we, the tax-payers, have to foot the bill to pay for welfare, because workers became unemployed after their jobs were exported to China, Vietnam, Pakistan, Fiji, etc, or cheaper (and often shoddier) goods imported to unfairly compete with locally-made products.

Queensland’s Premier understands this. She wants jobs created for her own workers – not in some other country. Especially when those workers in other nations won’t be paying tax in Queensland.

.

.

.

References

Radio NZ:  Timeline – Winston Peters’ superannuation overpayments saga

NZ Herald:  Beehive knew of Winston Peters’ super payments weeks ago

Mediaworks:  Paula Bennett says she doesn’t go ‘scuffling around doing leaks’

Fairfax media:  Bennett won’t rule out releasing beneficiary details

Mediaworks:  Collins ‘unwise’ to pass information to Slater

NZ Herald:  Statement from Judith Collins

Fairfax media:  Government backs down over collecting individuals’ data until security confirmed

Fairfax media:  Former promotional ‘hype girl’ keen to get more dancing to ACT’s tune

Fairfax media:  Tick party vote for ACT to bring quality candidates into parliament, leader says

Fairfax media:  The 9th floor – Jim Bolger says neoliberalism has failed NZ and it’s time to give unions the power back

Fairfax media:  Hamilton social service providers dispute PM’s ‘almost’ no homeless claim

Horizon Poll:  Ardern preferred Prime Minister with 6% lead

Mediaworks:  Newshub poll – Key’s popularity plummets to lowest level

SBS: Qld govt to prioritise local businesses

Scoop media:  Trade Ministers need firm hand over Queensland

Other Blogs

Martyn Bradbury:  My case against a secret NZ Police investigation that breached my privacy and my civil rights

Previous related blogposts

The slow dismantling of a Prime Minister – downward slide continues

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

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

.

.

.

.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 4 September 2017.

.

.

= fs =

The Legacy of a Dismantled Prime Minister

9 January 2017 5 comments

.

Prime Minister elect John Key with Picton the kitten on arrival at parliament, Wellington, New Zealand, Monday, November 10, 2008. Credit:NZPA / Ross Setford.

Prime Minister elect John Key with Picton the kitten on arrival at parliament, Wellington, New Zealand, Monday, November 10, 2008. Credit:NZPA / Ross Setford.

.

Following his unexpected announcement to resign as New Zealand’s Prime Minister on 5 December last year, much  has been said of Key’s “legacy”. Pundits have been scratching their heads, trying to figure out what  “legacy” can be attributed to eight years of a Key-led administration.

Despite screeds being devoted on the subject, it appears that little can actually be attributed to any form of Key “legacy”.

On 29 December, Radio NZ’sDirector of News Gathering“, Brent Edwards, wrote;

“At the time of his departure, his own personal rating remained high…”

Whilst Key’s Preferred Prime Ministership rating remained higher than his rivals, Key’s public support had plummeted since 2009. In October 2009, Key rated a phenomenal  55.8% in a TV3/Reid Research poll.

By May last year, TV3/Reid Research reported Key’s support to have fallen by 19.1 percentage points  to 36.7%. The same poll reported;

National though is steady on 47 percent on the poll — a rise of 0.3 percent — and similar to the Election night result.

So something was clearly happening with the public’s perception of Key. Whilst National’s overall support remained unchanged from election night on 2014, Key’s favourability was in slow-mo free-fall.

Edwards’ analysis of Key’s “legacy” appeared mostly to consist of this observation;

Within the political commentariat Mr Key has been highly regarded, mainly on the basis of his political style.

He added,

He was quick to dump any political unpopular policies before they did terminal damage to his government and he had an uncanny knack of skating through the most embarrassing political gaffes with little damage, if any, to his political reputation

What other Prime Minister, for example, would have escaped with their political credibility intact after revelations they had repeatedly pulled the ponytail of a waitress at their local cafe?

In effect, Key’s ‘qualities’ appeared to consist of constant damage-control and “an uncanny knack” to avoid being charged with assault.

Edwards contrasted Key’s administration with that of Jim Bolger and pointed out the latter’s legacies, which have had a lasting impact of New Zealand’s social and political landscape. The first was the advent of MMP which forever changed politics as it is done in this country. The second was Bolger’s courage to stand up to his party’s redneck conservatism and engage with Maori to address Treaty of Waitangi grievances.

Key’s “legacies”, according to Edwards, was a failed flag referendum costing the taxpayer $29 million and this;

He did help manage the country through the Global Financial Crisis and the Christchurch earthquake. But National was left a legacy by the previous Labour Government – a healthy set of government books – which gave it the financial buffer it needed to deal with both crises.

Irony of ironies – Key’s one claim to a “legacy” was the product of a prudent Labour finance minister whose own legacy was a cash-gift to Key. Yet, even that cash-gift to Key could have been squandered had then-Finance Minister, Michael Cullen listened to Key’s wheedling demands for tax-cuts;

“Mr Key can’t have it both ways. One moment he says there is a recession looming then he thinks there are still surpluses to spend on tax cuts.”

… he is almost the kinder, gentler Kiwi Donald Trump. He is a populist who has been able to read and respond to a national mood in ways that few other politicians have, although that has more to do with a reliance on opinion polling than some kind of semi-supernatural intuition. 

Matthews’ reference to Key’s ability “to read and respond to a national mood in ways that few other politicians have, although that has more to do with a reliance on opinion polling” was pointed out by Radio NZ’s John Campbell, in his own assessment of the former Prime Minister’s tenure;

Key entered Parliament in 2002. His maiden speech was a pre-Textor, pre-dorky, pre-casual, pre-everyman piece of rhetoric, ripe to the point of jam with admonishments and exhortation.

[…]

And the key passage, in this respect, was: “We mustn’t be scared to do things because they might offend small groups, or seem unconventional. Good government is more than doing what’s popular. Good government is more than blindly following the latest opinion poll.”

On election night 12 years later, having just been made prime minister for a third term, Key triumphantly thanked his pollster, David Farrar, by name: the country’s “best”, he declared, admitting, as the New Zealand Herald reported, that he had rung Farrar “night after night, even though he wasn’t supposed to”.

The man who’d entered Parliament declaring a belief in something better than poll-driven politics had subverted himself. Gamekeeper turned pollster.

Matthews summed up with this conclusion;

He was somehow politically untouchable, even when New Zealand was laughing at or with him, or just cringing. Future historians will provide a clearer picture of his failures: A flag change that was supposed to be a personal legacy became an expensive embarrassment; the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal is dead in the water; he could have used his political capital to do something meaningful about inequality and poverty.

[…]

But over on the West Coast, the government’s failures to satisfy the grieving Pike River families remain entirely embodied in Key.  

Again, Key’s abilities appear to lie with being “politically untouchable”. His “legacies” amounted to a list of dismal failures.

The unknown author of an editorial for the Otago Daily Times was kinder, as if it had been written by one of National’s small army of taxpayer-funded Beehive spin-doctors;

The legacy Mr Key will leave is one of financial stability, a unified government, a record of strong economic management and a commitment to lift as many New Zealanders out of poverty as possible. A shortage of suitable housing has been laid at the door of Mr Key but his efforts in trying to sort out that particularly difficult area have been assiduous.

One of the issues he received the most criticism for is failing to bring home the bodies of the Pike River miners who died in the explosion. While Mr Key would have meant what he said at the time, the pragmatism which ruled his career meant he made a tough call to allow the mine to be sealed. Then there was the failed flag referendum.

But, his leadership during the Christchurch, and latterly Kaikoura, earthquakes was seen as outstanding by most New Zealanders. New Zealand secured a seat on the United Nations Security Council in no small part due to the work carried out by Mr Key.

Curiously, the un-named author glosses over the “commitment to lift as many New Zealanders out of poverty as possible”, “a shortage of suitable housing … laid at the door of Mr Key”, “criticism for … failing to bring home the bodies of the Pike River miners who died in the explosion”, and “the failed flag referendum”. Because at least –  the author crows – we “secured a seat on the United Nations Security Council”.

The ODT’s mystery cheerleader for our former Dear Leader may be one of the few attempts to put a positive ‘spin’ to Key’s administration. It was, however, glaringly light on specifics.

In direct  stark contrast to the ODT’s lame attempt to canonise Key, Audrey Young was more caustic in her piece, Key – No vision, no legacy, no problem. Her conclusions were;

… two other areas I consider to be legacies for the Key Government although he has not claimed them as such: the Ross Sea sanctuary and the modernization of New Zealand’s spy agencies.

Unfortunately for Young, the original proposals for a MPA (Marine Protected Area) for the Ross Sea began as far back as 2005, and was first mooted by the US delegation to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Living Marine Resources (CCAMLR).

If Key’s sole legacy was to increase the spying powers of the SIS, GCSB, and uncle Tom Cobbly – that may not be something his descendants bring up at polite dinner parties;

“Yeah, it was grand-dad Key who helped turn New Zealand in the virtual police state we have now. Sure we have spy cameras in every home, workplace, and cafe, but crime is almost non-existent!”

– is not something Max or Steph’s own kids will be heard crowing about.

Young suggested that Key’s “legacy” was more akin to a ‘state of mind’;

When I’ve asked people this week what they thought Key’s legacy was, many have said he gave New Zealanders a greater sense of confidence, especially about New Zealand’s place in the world.

That is true but it is a state of mind. It could just as easily disappear through circumstances well beyond our control.

Giving “New Zealanders a greater sense of confidence, especially about New Zealand’s place in the world” were the legacies of former Labour Prime Ministers – notably Norman Kirk and David Lange. Their leadership against the war in Vietnam; atomic bomb testing in the South Pacific; opposing apartheid in South Africa; advancing gay rights,  and turning the entire country into a nuclear-free zone are legacies that are with us today.

Going back even further, and the legacies of Labour’s Michael Savage are still discussed today.

Cringing whilst Key recited his “Top Ten Reasons for Visiting New Zealand” on the David Letterman Show would hardly have given Kiwis “a greater sense of confidence, especially about New Zealand’s place in the world“;

[Warning: Cringe Level: Extreme]

.

.

Most who saw that episode would have  hidden their heads beneath a pillow or blanket. Hardly the stuff of legacies, except of the Silvio Berlusconi variety.

She then concluded;

The fact that Key doesn’t really have a legacy is of no matter.

Well, that’s alright then. According to Young, Key’s “legacy” would be in the same vein as the manner in which he handled his own and ministers’ scandals and stuff-ups; nothing to see here, folks, no legacy, move along please.

Comedian, Jeremy Elwood, offered;

We may never have another Prime Minister who provides as much fodder for as many late night comedy shows around the world, as well as right here, again, but that’s all been part of his “popular appeal”.

Another ‘comedian’ – albeit unintentional – was Roger Partridge, writing on behalf of the so-called NZ Initiative (formerly the now largely discredited Business Roundtable). Partridge offered a lengthy list of neo-liberal “reforms” from Key’s tenure as PM;

Key’s was also a reforming government. After the Fourth Labour government, it was perhaps New Zealand’s most radical in the post-war era. The GST for income tax swap, welfare reforms (the likes of which might have brought down another government), the investment approach to social services; labour market reform, partial-privatisation, reforms in education, including national standards and charter schools: these may have occurred incrementally, but together they comprise a prodigious package of reform.

None of Partridge’s listed “reforms” will stand. In an era marking the rise of nationalistic political movements (Brexit, Trump, et al),  Key’s “package of reforms” will be rolled back and many, like Charter Schools, swept away entirely.

These legacies of a failed economic ideology – neo-liberalism – may rate a mention in the footnotes of future history books, but not much more. In fifty years time, no one will point to Key’s supposed “reforms”  as people still do to Michael Savage’s achievements.

The Herald’s “business editor at large”, Liam Dann pointed to;

…ongoing GDP growth at about 3 per cent, unemployment at around 5 per cent and the crown accounts are solid with the Government booking surpluses that are forecast to top $8 billion within five years.

– but had to concede that much of this “growth” was illusory, based mostly on high immigration and unsustainable ballooning house prices in Auckland;

The housing boom has been a global phenomenon driven by the unusually low interest rate environment in the wake of the GFC. Investors have been looking for somewhere to put their money outside of the bank and assets prices have soared – both sharemarkets and property.

And far from National’s books being in surplus, Key has  managed to rack up a debt of  $95 billion according to a recent Treasury document.  Dann must have missed that salient bit in his rush-to-gush. He did, however, acknowledge the nature of the “ongoing GDP growth” further into his piece;

Overall population growth and record net migration is widely cited as a factor taking the gloss off New Zealand’s strong growth story.

Per capita GDP isn’t nearly so strong and the extra population is adding to the housing bubble and highlighting some deficiencies in infrastructure spending.

Almost reluctantly, Dann concludes;

He has not been a reformer but he has created a stable platform, in unstable times, for growth.

He exuded confidence and it rubbed off on the economy. Whether he has done enough to set the nation up for long-term prosperity, as outlined in those rosy Treasury forecasts, remains to be seen.

He also repeats Brent Edwards’ observation;

…Key made the most of the market conditions he had to work with.  He has benefited from some ground work done by the previous Labour Government, particularly in booking the gains from the China free trade agreement.

Writing for Radio NZ, John Campbell asks;

So, in the end, how will history judge John Key?

In his earnest, boy-scout, way, Campbell is charitable about one possible legacy left by Key;

In the age of Trump and Brexit and Manus Island, and having succeeded Don Brash and his divisive Orewa rhetoric, part of what may endure is a sense that, under him, New Zealand did not embrace xenophobia and paranoia and the vilification of Māori, Muslims, Mexicans, blue-collar immigrants and almost anyone who wasn’t Tribe White.

To this point, writer and trade unionist, Morgan Godfery, not a natural ally of Key, tweeted on the day the prime minister announced his resignation: “I’ll go into bat for Key on this: he rejected the politics of Orewa, avoiding what might have been an ugly decade of tension and conflict.”

Which might be true… except that Key and his Ministers were not above vilifying those who dared criticise National, or when it suited party-politics;

.

nationals-targets-of-vilification

.

See also: National Minister refers to PM as “Wild Eyed” Right-Winger!

In his usual manner of gentle admonishment, John Campbell chides Key and his Administration for their failing in housing;

“When I was six”, [Key] said in his maiden speech, “my father died; leaving my mother penniless with three children to raise. From a humble start in a state house, she worked as a cleaner and night porter until she earned the deposit for a modest home. She was living testimony that you get out of life what you put into it. There is no substitute for hard work and determination. These are the attitudes she instilled in me.”

Campbell responded;

Key was six in 1967. Among the many things that have changed since then is housing affordability. The IMF’s latest Global Housing Watch lists New Zealand’s housing market, in relation to household income, as the most expensive in the OECD. Could a penniless solo mother, working as a “cleaner and night porter”, paying market rents, now earn the deposit for a modest home?

Then Campbell issued what may well be Key’s one and only true legacy – if one could call a broken promise to the grieving families and friends of 29 men entombed deep within a mine on the West Coast, a “legacy”;

This is what John Key said, behind closed doors, when he met with Pike families on September 22, 2011.

“The first thing is I’m here to give you an absolute reassurance we’re committed to get the boys out.”

An absolute reassurance. The boys out. When the families heard that, there was spontaneous applause. The human details. The empathy, sincerity and trust. When the clapping stopped, the prime minister continued:

“When people try and tell you we’re not, they’re playing, I hate to say it, but they’re playing with your emotions.”

And then John Key made it personal:

“So, you are the number one group that want to get those men out. And, quite frankly, I’m number two. Because I want to get them out.”

Five years on, the men are still in. It may be that the risk of getting them out is too great. But, when he was alone with them, Key didn’t say that, or qualify his words with that possibility. His was an “absolute reassurance”, and the families believed him and have clung to that belief in the years since.

Of all the many broken promises from Key, that will be the one most remembered. Because as Campbell so astutely pointed out, “John Key made it personal”.

‘Mickey Savage’ writing for The Standard was more brutal and unforgiving in his/her appraisal of Key’s administration;

Key has perfected the aw shucks blokey persona that some clearly like.  Although this was only skin deep.  His management of dirty politics and the Cameron Slater Jason Ede axis of evil won him the last election but at the cost of his soul.

As to the substance he did not really achieve or create anything.  He saw off the Global Financial Crisis and the Christchurch Earthquake rebuilds basically by borrowing money which New Zealand could because Michael Cullen had so assiduously paid off debt.

His economic development policies were crap.  Expanding dairying only polluted our rivers and increased our output of greenhouse gasses. The growth of tertiary education for foreign students only caused the mushrooming of marginal providers.

The primary economic growth policy now appears to be ballooning immigration.  Auckland’s population grew almost 3% last year.  The symptoms are clear, rampant house price increases, homeless caused by ordinary people no longer being able to afford inflated rental amounts and a whole generation shut out of the property market.  And services are stretched as budgets are held but demand increases.

And child poverty has ballooned.  Key was great with the visuals and the talk of an under class and the trip to Waitangi with Aroha Ireland before he became Prime Minister was a major PR event for him to show that at least superficially he cared about the underclass.  But the reality?  Over a quarter of a million of children now live in poverty and kids are living in cars even though their parents have jobs.  There is something deeply wrong in New Zealand.

S/he concluded;

Overall Key was great at the spin and the PR but appallingly bad at dealing with the reality.  Despite his hopes the country is now in a far worse situation under his stewardship than it was when he took over.

‘Mickey Savage’ has summed up Key’s legacy perfectly and I leave this brief assessment for future historians;

John Key – Master at spin, photo-ops, and PR, but nothing else.  When the teflon was stripped away, there was nothing underneath.

And that will be his legacy: nothing. We simply couldn’t think of a single damned one.

.

.

.

References

Radio NZ: PM to resign – ‘It feels like the right time to go’

Radio NZ: How does John Key’s legacy compare to the Bolger years?

Scoop media: 3 News Poll – 2-10 October 2012

TV3 News: Newshub poll – Key’s popularity plummets to lowest level

Beehive: Cullen on Key’s tired old tax cut mantra

Fairfax media: The boy from Bryndwr – John Key’s Christchurch legacy

Radio NZ: Brand John – The Key to National’s success

ODT: The John Key legacy

NZ Herald: Key – No vision, no legacy, no problem

US State Department: A proposal for the establishment of the Ross Sea Region Marine Protected Area

Youtube: John Key’s Top 10 Reasons to visit New Zealand

The Telegraph: Best of Bunga Bunga: 7 most outrageous lines from Silvio Berlusconi’s new biography

Fairfax media: John Key’s most enduring legacy is make the right like Madonna

Interest.co.nz: Roger Partridge assesses the legacy of John Key as Prime Minister and finds an impressive record given the constraints of MMP

NZ Herald: Liam Dann – John Key’s economic hits and misses

NZ Herald: NZ’s half-trillion-dollar debt bomb

Treasury NZ: Financial Statements of the Government of New Zealand for the Year Ended 30 June 2016

Additional

NZ Herald: Bennett gets tough with outspoken solo mums

Scoop media: Justice Minister Judith Collins resigns from Cabinet – PM’s announcement

Dominion Post: Forced sterilisation ‘a step too far’

Newstalk ZB: Key – Nicky Hager a conspiracy theorist ‘because I think he is’

NZ Herald: PM attacks journalist over SAS torture claims

NBR: Collins on her last chance, PM says

NZ Herald: He’s Dotcom’s little henchman – PM attacks journalist’s spy claims

NZ Herald: Eleanor Catton has ‘no particular great insights into politics’, says John Key

Other Bloggers

Against the current: John Key’s Dismal Record on Climate Change

Bowalley Road: What A Way To Go! Some Initial Thoughts On John Key’s Resignation

Local Bodies: John Key’s Real Legacy

Sciblogs: Key’s legacy – an economist’s view

The Daily Blog: The true legacy of John Key

The Standard:  John Key’s legacy

Your NZ: Key’s legacy

Previous related blogposts

National Minister refers to PM as “Wild Eyed” Right-Winger!

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

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 18: “No question – NZ is better off!”

National and the Reserve Bank – at War!

National exploits fudged Statistics NZ unemployment figures

The Dismantling of a Prime Minister – Completed

.

.

.

audrey young political column cartoon john key's legacy

.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 4 January 2017.

.

.

= fs =

An earthquake separates John Key and ‘The Iron Lady’, Margaret Thatcher

24 November 2016 3 comments

.

key-thatcher-fracture

.

In October 1987, British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher – apostle of Britain’s neo-liberal, free-market “reforms” – was famously quoted in an interview saying;

.

 

margaret-thatcher

And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It’s our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour…

.

Twenty-nine years later, as much of New Zealand is ravaged by a 7.5 earthquake, John Key makes an appeal to the people of Aotearoa on Radio NZ’s ‘Morning Report‘;

.

john-key-web-rob2_10

The one thing I’d we’d just say to New Zealanders at the moment is stay close to your family and friends. Make sure you listen to the radio and listen to the best information that you’re getting. And if you do have certainly older neighbours or family, if you could go in and check up on them that would be most appreciated. Because there will be people feeling genuinely alone.

 

.

Far from decrying Key’s sound advice, I would applaud him for giving it at a time when the country is rattled by ongoing,  severe,  seismic activity.

But it illustrates one fact with crystal-clarity;  Thatcher was wrong. There is such a thing as ‘society’.  We are our Brothers and Sisters Keepers; and functioning solely and purely  for our own Individualistic and immediate Familial benefit is not to our  advantage.

For without it, we are very much alone and left vulnerable to the immense, implacable, forces of nature.

Which is why the dictates of neo-liberalism – the so-called “invisible hand of the free-market” and selfish Cult of Individualism –  is doomed to failure. That is why the international  arm of neo-liberalism – globalisation – is  being rejected from country to country.

Because at the end of the day, when this country is hit by earthquakes that tear apart our roads, bridges, offices, community facilities, factories, ports, schools, and our own homes – I don’t see the “Invisible Hand of the Free Market” coming to our assistance, “invisible” or not.

Only people, working collectively for the greater good, can achieve mutual support – quite often for no personal benefit or gain.

Defenders of the neo-liberal/free market/globalisation ideology should stop and consider; we cannot have the Primacy of the Individual in good times, and then seek sanctuary within the strength of society in bad. People acting together as a community is either within us all the time, or not at all.

It is time for the leader of New Zealand’s free-market, pro-neo-liberal, political party to understand this simple truth.

.

.

.

References

Margaret Thatcher Foundation: Woman’s Own – interview – 31 October 1987

Radio NZ: Morning Report – John Key urges New Zealanders to look out for their neighbours

.

.

.

collaborating

.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 19 November 2016.

.

.

= fs =

National and the Reserve Bank – at War!

15 July 2016 4 comments

.

reserve bank vs government

 

.

Open warfare has broken out between the National regime and  the Reserve Bank. Recent media statements indicate that we are seeing an increasingly bitter  war-of-words; a battle of wills, taking place over the growing housing crisis.

National is demanding that the Reserve Bank implement policies to “get on with it” to rein-in ballooning Auckland housing prices. The Reserve Bank is resisting, in an almost Churchillian-way.

In April this year, Key denied flatly that there was any “housing crisis” in this country;

“No, I don’t think you can call it a crisis. What you can say though is that Auckland house prices have been rising, and rising too quickly actually.”

But a year ago, on 15 April 2015, Reserve Bank deputy governor Grant Spencer warned that investors/speculators were becoming a major problem in the housing market;

“Investors are often setting the marginal market prices that are then applied to the full housing stock within a regional market.”

Spencer went on to issue what must be the most prescient statement ever uttered by a senior civil servant;

“Indicators point to an increasing presence of investors in the Auckland market and this trend is no doubt being reinforced by the expectation of high rates of return based on untaxed capital gains.”

Predictably, Key rejected taxing capital gains as an instrument to control rampant speculation;

“I remember when everyone said to [introduce] the equivalent of a [capital gains] bright line test, it will solve the issues. Well, it really didn’t.”

Key also rejected calls by the Reserve Bank to curb high levels of  immigration which was exacerbating demand for housing. Key was blunt;

“We’re going to stick with the plan we’ve got.”

Of course Key is not prepared to reduce immigration . It is one of the few drivers for current economic growth that is stimulating the economy. Curb migration and the economy stalls. Stall the economy and National would have nothing to take to the election next year.

As National’s own minister, Jonathan Coleman stated in 2011;

“It’s important to highlight the economic value of Immigration here…

[…]

…New migrants add an estimated $1.9 billion to the New Zealand economy every year.

Immigration recognises the strategic importance of the tourism and export education sectors and the direct links they provide to employers.

Given these compelling figures, my number one priority has been to ensure Immigration is contributing to the Government’s economic growth agenda.”

Coleman’s 6 May 2011 press release was entitled, “Immigration New Zealand’s contribution to growing the economy”.

Key deflected criticism and instead blamed the Auckland Council. In a blustering attack reminiscent of the late Robert Muldoon, Key threatened the Auckland Council with over-riding it’s Unitary Plan;

“The effect of the [government] National Policy Statement would vary around the country, but in essence it linked the price of land to demand in the economy. If the land price is going up too quickly (councils) have to amend their plans to release enough land, and if they don’t do that they’ll breach the law. If the Unitary Plan doesn’t meet the demands of Auckland, the National Policy Statement because of the way it works will drive it, mark my words.”

His solution? Build more;

“Look, in the end, we’ve been saying for some time it is not sustainable for house prices to rise at 10, 12, 13 percent a year. The only answer to that is do what we’re doing: allocate more land and build more houses.  It certainly will stop it, there’s no question about that, because if you build enough supply, you eventually satisfy demand.

The mantra to ‘build more, build more‘ overlooks recent statistics which showed that nearly fifty percent of housing in Auckland was being purchased by  investors/speculators;

The Reserve Bank has for the first time unveiled official figures that break out the Auckland market from the rest of the country’s mortgage lending figures. The figures confirm what some previous research and anecdotal evidence has pointed to. Investors are huge in the Auckland market.

The figures show that in April, investors committed to $1.623 billion of the $3.536 billion worth of mortgages advanced in Auckland. That’s just a tick under 46% of the total.

Labour’s Phil Twyford said that in some areas of Auckland, up to 75% of housing was being grabbed by investors/speculators. Twyford said;

“They should start immediately by banning non-resident foreign buys from speculating in New Zealand property, unless they build a new dwelling. That’s the Australian Government policy and we think it makes a lot of sense.”

So unless National is prepared to ban foreigner and local  investors/speculators from purchasing around half of all new housing in Auckland, building new homes will not address the growing crisis.

On the issue of foreign-ownership of residential property, Key was adamant that his open-door, free-market policy of foreign ownership of housing  would be unchanged. Even if it meant New Zealander’s would find  it harder and harder to buy their own home, in their own country. As he said to Corin Dann on TVNZ’s Q+A last year;

“But the point here is simply this – I don’t want to ban foreigners from buying residential property.”

But Deputy Mayor, Penny Hulse, was having none of  Key’s bullying tactics. She responded with her own tough message;

“We’ve got six and half years of land planned for, infrastructure in the ground and ready to go. Government themselves have got more than 20 special housing areas that belong to Housing New Zealand that are ready to go.  There’s no shortage of places to build. Our question to government would be, perhaps you just need to get on with it.”

The reality is that National is unwilling to implement any policy that might lower property prices. As Key has said previously;

“If it is left unchecked, some buyers could find themselves substantially overexposed in an overvalued market, and we all know what happens if those values start to fall.” –  John Key, 23 July 2013

“Let’s just take the counter-factual for a moment. Would you want your house price going down?  And what most Aucklanders say to me is ‘I’d rather my house price went up, but I’d rather it went up a little more slowly than this’.” – John Key, 6 August 2015

So Key is in a bind. His government’s  continuing popularity is at the pleasure of property-owners with bloated housing values.

Build too many houses or implement too many restrictions (including new taxes), and property values in Auckland and elsewhere in New Zealand might begin to fall, as they did in the late 1990s. That would be a financial shock for many New Zealanders who, through rising property values, are feeling like “millionaires”, albeit on paper.

If that happens, National’s popularity – riding high on 47% – would finally crash and burn, paving way for a Labour-Green(-NZ First?) coalition government next year.

However, National’s desperation to resolve what has become a major public crisis has apparently found a new scape-goat – the Reserve Bank.

National’s cunning plan is for the Reserve Bank to do their “dirty work” for them. If the RBNZ were to implement policies that would result in property values levelling off – or even dropping – then Key and English would have “plausible deniability”. They could point to the Reserve Bank as an independent body and wash their hands of its actions.

Recent demands from John Key for the RBNZ to “get on with it” are not the first time that National has interfered with  the independence of the bank.

In April last year, in a classic example of nepotistic cronyism, Bill English’s brother was appointed to the RBNZ as an “advisor”;

.

Finance Minister Bill English's brother to advise Reserve Bank on interest rates

.

A year later, in April this year, Bill English took an unprecedented step in demanding greater over-sight of Graeme Wheeler, the RBNZ’s Governor;

.

Bill English seeks talks on Reserve Bank governor's performance 'from time to time'

.

According to the Fairfax report, English said;

“The duties of the board include keeping under review the performance of the governor. I would expect to discuss your assessment of the governor’s performance from time to time.”

On National’s* own website, English went further;

“Ministers typically send letters of expectation to the Boards of entities in their portfolio. This letter was prepared after The Treasury identified an opportunity to bring the accountability framework into line with other Crown agencies.”

This is naked interference in an institution that, since 1989, was to be protected from partisan-political interference. The RBNZ supposedly acts according to legislation – not the demands of the Finance Minister. Not since the Muldoon era has the RBNZ been controlled directly by a government minister.

It can only be assumed that National is meeting stiff resistance from the bank’s Governor, Graeme Wheeler, as English attempts to assert direct ministerial “over-sight” (ie, control) over the institution.

The fact that a recent war-of-words has erupted over the RBNZ’s involvement in Auckland’s housing crisis suggests that English’s Very Kiwi Coup may not have been successful.

In fact, the Cold War has become a Hot Conflict.

In the last week, the ‘battleground’ between National and the Bank became more public, as government minister and chief Head-Kicker, Steven Joyce and Grant Spence continued their war-of wills.

6 July, 1.10 AM

John Key;

But my sense is potentially one of the risks is you have got people buying rental properties at the moment, borrowing more money but fearful that the Reserve Bank is going to move. If they are going to make changes, probably they should just get on with it.”

7 July

Grant Spencer (RBNZ);

“Increased housing demand has been driven by record net immigration, low mortgage interest rates and increasing investor participation. Net migration flows continue to hit new records, with annual net PLT migration now approaching 70,000 persons…

[…]

A dominant feature of the housing market resurgence has been an increase in investor activity. In recent months, investors have accounted for around 43 percent of sales in Auckland and 38 percent in other regions […] The prospect of capital gains appears to remain a key driver for investors in the face of declining rental yields. 

The declining affordability of New Zealand housing and increasing investor presence have seen a downward trend in the share of households owning their own home. This ratio has fallen steadily since the early 1990s, reaching 64.8 percent at the 2013 Census. The recent increase in investor housing activity suggests that the home-ownership rate may have declined further since 2013.

The Reserve Bank considers that rising investor participation tends to increase the financial stability risks relating to the household sector in severe downturn conditions.

[…]

…However, we cannot ignore that the 160,000 net inflow of permanent and long-term migrants over the last 3 years has generated an unprecedented increase in the population and a significant boost to housing demand. Given the strong influence of departing and returning New Zealanders in the total numbers, it will never be possible to fine-tune the overall level of migration or smooth out the migration cycle. However, there may be merit in reviewing whether migration policy is securing the number and composition of skills intended. While any adjustments would operate at the margin, they could over time help to moderate the housing market imbalance.”

8 July, 7.46am

Don Brash (Former Reserve Bank governor);

The Reserve bank has no statutory responsibility for Auckland house prices or indeed house prices anywhere else…

[…]

The Prime Minister wants to pretend this is somebody else’s responsibility.  I think the Reserve bank is absolutely right, that this responsibility for Auckland house prices lies first and foremost with local government Auckland and central government in Wellington.

Central government, because it controls the rate of migration, which is by any international standards a very high level, that pushes  demand for housing.  And of course the Auckland Council,  not just now, but for the last couple of decades has restrained the availability of land on which to build Auckland houses...”

8 July, 7.51am

Steven Joyce (Minister for Economic Development);

“Migration is a contributing factor to housing demand…

[…]

The prime minister’s comment was entirely fair, which is to to suggest to the Reserve Bank [that] if you’re going to these things then, then  do move on them quickly…

[…]

The Prime Minister’s comments on Tuesday were just to highlight the fact that actually if you’re going to make these sorts of changes, do make them reasonably  quickly…

8 July, 7.57am

Grant Spencer (RBNZ);

“What we’re saying is that the, what we’re seeing in the last three years is 160,000 net  in-flow is unprecedented and it’s an important driver of the current housing situation and therefore it  can’t be ignored….

[…]

“You can’t manage or fine tune the migration cycle, we know that, but all we’re saying is that given it’s an important driver that we should be taking a look at that policy – making sure that we’re getting the numbers and the skills that government’s really targeting.”

It’s an important driver in the housing market, yes. There’s no doubt about that. But we’re also saying there’s no easy solution. You can’t manage or fine tune the migration cycle, we know that, but all we’re saying is that given it’s an important driver that we should be taking a look at that policy – making sure that we’re getting the numbers and the skills that government’s really targeting.”

[…]

We’re running at a rate of 60,000 at present, but how many years can we continue running at a rate of 60,000 and continue to absorb that rate. It get’s more and more difficulty when the country doesn’t have that absorbtive capacity.”

Current battle-status: stalemate.

Controlling house prices, as former Reserve Bank governor, Don Brash said, is beyond the bank’s statutory responsibility. On top of which, the RBNZ is unwilling to be the “patsy” for implementing policies (even if it could) that might crash house prices, and make them the Bad Guys in this worsening crisis.

Only a government can act decisively in such matters – but to do so would be political suicide for Key and his fellow ministers.

Fran O’Sullivan is usually sympathetic to the National government, but her column on 6 July was damning of Key’s inaction;

Most National Cabinet ministers and MPs are well invested in “real property”. So are many of their counterparts from other political parties.

Like most of us who are “established” – that is those of us who bought into the housing market a decade or more ago – the MPs have seen their own on-paper wealth double.

Having rejoiced at the wealth effect, neither the MPs nor the rest of us want to take a financial haircut. Key is right on that score.

But it is a pretty crap society that pulls the ladder up on younger people or those less well off just because they want to preserve their new unearned wealth.

[…]

Key again duck-shoved the issue, suggesting it was the Reserve Bank’s responsibility to “have a look at the question around investors”.

What’s notable is his Government will not slap investors with an effective capital gains tax, preferring a “bright line” test which is easily avoided by holding a housing investment for more than two years; refuses to introduce specific taxes to punish land bankers; and will not introduce rules to preserve the acquisition of existing residential housing for citizens or curb migration.

Key could pass special legislation to do this.

The question is why won’t he.

“Why”? Because Key doesn’t want to lose the 2017 election.

This is National’s Achille’s Heel, and it is fully exposed.

.

.

.

Addendum1

In May this year, a TV3/Reid Research Poll was scathing of National’s inaction on the housing crisis. Even National voters were getting ‘grumpy’;

.

tv3-news-housing-poll

.

Addendum2

Current ballooning property prices are the highest in the developed world;

.

Real house price growth - annual % change

Ad

Addendem3

Latest house price figures:

• $975,087- Auckland: Average house price, up 4.7% in past three months and 16.1% since June last year

• $492,403- Hamilton: Average house price, up 6.9% in past three months and 29% since June last year

• $599,915- Tauranga: Average house price, up 4.9% in past three months and 23.6% since June last year

Latest Inflation Rate:

Inflation is currently at 0.4%, according to Statistics NZ.

Notes

* I have downloaded and retained a copy of the National Party webpage. In the past, National Party webpages tend to “disappear”, and are no longer searchable, making referencing and verification of quotes problematic. If this webpage disappears, English’s comments can still be verified to anyone requesting it. – Frank Macskasy

.

.

.

References

Radio NZ: Key denies Auckland housing crisis

Fairfax media: Reserve Bank call to look at untaxed property gains

NZ  Herald: John Key to Reserve Bank – Housing measures ‘not terribly effective’

Radio NZ: No change on immigration, says John Key

NZ Herald: Housing crisis – Reserve Bank calls on Government to curb immigration

Beehive.govt.nz: Immigration New Zealand’s contribution to growing the economy

Fairfax media: Key gets tough on Auckland with new policy forcing councils to release land

Interest.co.nz: Investors accounted for nearly 46% of all mortgage monies in Auckland

Radio NZ: Auckland’s home ownership rates ‘collapsing’ – Labour

Scoop media: PM – I don’t want to ban foreign buyers from buying

Radio NZ: Get on with it – Auckland Council tells govt

Fairfax media: Key expects LVRs to go ahead

Interest.co.nz: Key says non-Aucklanders tell him they would love it when house prices are rising

QV.co.nz: How fast is the current property market rising compared to the past? (2013)

TV3: Newshub poll – Key’s popularity plummets to lowest level

Fairfax media: Finance Minister Bill English’s brother to advise Reserve Bank on interest rates

Fairfax media: Bill English seeks talks on Reserve Bank governor’s performance ‘from time to time’

National.co.nz: English releases RB Board letter of expectations

NZ Herald: Auckland property: $400k deposit please

Reserve Bank: Housing risks require a broad policy response

Radio NZ: RBNZ wants immigration review to rein in house prices

Radio NZ: Government responds to RBNZ housing speech

Radio NZ: Reserve Bank – Housing risks require a broad policy response

NZ Herald: Fran O’Sullivan – Why won’t Key act on housing?

Fairfax media: Why MPs may want house prices in New Zealand to keep rising

TV3 News: Government gets thumbs down on housing

NZ Herald: Auckland property – $400k deposit please

Statistics NZ: Consumers Price Index: March 2016 quarter

Additional

Radio NZ: Reserve Bank refuses to play housing ball with government

Previous related blogposts

Can we do it? Bloody oath we can!

Budget 2013: State Housing and the War on Poor

National recycles Housing Policy and produces good manure!

Our growing housing problem

National Housing propaganda – McGehan Close Revisited

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

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

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

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

Government Minister sees history repeat – responsible for death

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

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

National under attack – defaults to Deflection #1

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

State house sell-off in Tauranga unravelling?

Upper Hutt residents mobilise to fight State House sell-off

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

.

.

.

reserve bank - rbnz - national government - housing affordability

Cartoon acknowledgement: Tom Scott, Dominion Post

.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 10 July 2016.

.

.

= fs =

John Key – we will not be held to ransom!

.

11380618-Modern-Janus-with-two-masks-isolated-on-white-backgground-Stock-Vector

.

When news of the kidnapping of Australians and a New Zealand citizen in Nigeria hit our headlines, our esteemed Dear Leader’s response was unequivocal;

.

John Key - NZ won't pay ransom for Kiwi kidnapped by gunmen in Nigeria

.

Key was adamant;

“Our very strong policy is not to pay a ransom and our reason for that is we think if we paid a ransom, we’d potentially put a bounty on any New Zealander’s head who travels to a dangerous part of the world, and it potentially makes the situation worse.”

Our Leader was not for turning. Key does not cave in to pressures.

Or, so it seems…

In October 2010, the country was “rocked” with news that that  the Hobbit movies would be “taken away” from New Zealand;

Jackson’s company, Wingnut Films, said in a statement that Warners representatives were coming to New Zealand next week “to make arrangements to move the production offshore” because “they are now, quite rightly, very concerned about the security of their investment.”

A week after Peter Jackson’s dire warnings of impending Mordor-like doom, Dear Leader Key intervened and rode like a Ranger to the rescue (in a BMW limousine, not a stallion);

.

Key comes through $34m deal sees Hobbit stay in NZ - NBR - Peter Jackson - Warner Bros

.

Even the Warner Bros movie execs had  stallions limos provided (at taxpayers’ expense, yet again) when they came-a-visitin’ to New Zealand to collect their $34 million bucks;

.

no-decision-yet-in-hobbit-talks-key

 

.

Along with $34 million of taxpayer’s money paid over to Warner Bros, the National government passed legislation changing the status of Jackson’s workers from employees, to “contractors”. This lessened the working-conditions of people working throughout New Zealand’s movie industry.

The employment law changes passed through Parliament within forty eight hours – a feat unheard of in New Zealand’s political process. Unions, workers, and the public had no say in the matter.

As Key said at the time,

“It was a commercial reality that without this [law] change, these movies would not be made in New Zealand.”

So the sovereignty of New Zealand’s Parliament was not ransomed by Warner Bros to gain $34 million plus a change in our labour laws?

Note: On 21 December 2010, two months after Jackson declared that there was an imminent threat to losing The Hobbit to another country, he conceded that no such “threat” existed;

.

Peter Jackson Actors no threat to Hobbit - Warner Bros

.

Three years later, Rio Tinto threatened to close it’s Tiwai Point aluminium smelter if it’s demands were not met;

Mining giant Rio Tinto has rejected the Government’s offer of a short-term subsidy to continue running the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter.

Instead, it has gone back into negotiations with electricity supplier Meridian to try and get a better deal.

If no deal is made, Prime Minister John Key says the smelter, 79 percent owned by Rio Tinto and 21 percent owned by Japanese company Sumitomo, could be shut down in about five years.

In February 2014, National conceded to Rio Tinto’s demands that it’s electricity subsidies be increased. A further ‘sweetener’ of $30 million of taxpayer’s money was paid over to the smelting multi-national;

.

pm-defends-30m-payout-to-rio-tinto

.

As Key said at the time;

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

This was echoed by Finance Minister, Bill English;

“The $30m was a ‘one-off incentive payment’ to help secure agreement on the revised contract because of the importance of the smelter to the stability of the New Zealand electricity market.”

So the jobs of eight hundred jobs in Southland were not ransomed by Rio Tinto to gain $30 million plus cheaper electricity rates?

John Key says his government will not pay ransom to extortionists?

His track record proves otherwise.

.

.

.

References

Fairfax media:  John Key – NZ won’t pay ransom for Kiwi kidnapped by gunmen in Nigeria

Hitfix:   ‘Hobbit’ Crisis – Peter Jackson warns film could leave New Zealand

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

Fairfax media:  Govt pays $30 million to Tiwai Pt

Previous related blogposts

The real reason for the GCSB Bill

Muppets, Hobbits, and Scab ‘Unions’

And the Oscar for Union-Smashing and Manipulating Public Opinion goes to…

Peter Jackson’s “Precious”

The Mendacities of Mr Key #9: The Sky’s the limit with taxpayer subsidies!

The cupboard is bare, says Dear Leader

Government Minister sees history repeat – responsible for death

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

The Corporate Welfare of Tiwai Point – An exercise in National’s “prudent fiscal management”?

.

.

.

KickingThe HobbitRGB

.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on day month year.

.

.

= fs =

Letter to the editor – give us a chance to vote, Mr Key!

30 June 2016 2 comments

.

Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

.

from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: Mon, Jun 27, 2016
subject: Letter to the editor

.

The editor
Dominion Post

.

British voters have voted to leave the European Union, and our esteemed Prime Minister, John Key responded statesmanlike;

“This was always a decision for voters in the UK and we respect the decision they have made.”

I wonder if our dear leader will also give New Zealand voters the opportunity to vote in our own binding referendum whether to Remain or Exit the controversial TPPA?

Will Key demonstrate the same respect for New Zealand voters?

I call on John Key to give us a referendum so that we, like our British cousins, can determine our own future.

.

-Frank Macskasy

.

[address and phone number supplied]

.

.

.

References

Radio NZ: Brexit’s impact on NZ will be limited – PM

.

.

= fs =

The slow dismantling of a Prime Minister – downward slide continues

.

blue-graph1

.

Continued from:  The slow dismantling of a Prime Minister continues

The gradual slide of John Key’s popularity continues with the latest TV3 Reid Research poll further evidence that Key’s once-impenetrable teflon coating has been blasted away by successive scandals; ineptitude from his Ministers; and worsening socio-economic indicators on almost every front..

Since Key’s ascension to Prime Ministership, his poll ratings – as recorded by TV3-Reid Research have tracked from 36.4% in October/November 2008, to a high of  55.8% in October 2009;

Oct/Nov 2008: 36.4%

(Source)

Feb 2009: 52.1%

April 2009: 51.1%

Aug 2009: 51.6%

Oct 2009: 55.8%

After 2009, Key’s popularity began to experience “speed wobbles”, with fluctuation from low 50s, to high 40s;

Feb 2010: 49.4%

April 2010: 49.0%

June 2010: 49.6%

Jul/Aug 2010: 48.7%

Sept/Oct 2010: 50.6%

Nov/Dec 2010: 54.1%

Feb 2011: 49.1%

April 2011: 52.4%

May 2011: 48.2%

Jun/Jul 2011: 50.5%

Aug 2011: 53.3%

Sept 2011: 54.5%

Oct 2011: 52.7%

1-8 Nov 2011: 50.0%

9-16 Nov 2011: 49.4%

16-23 Nov 2011: 48.9%

From early 2012, Key’s popularity dived;

Feb 2012: 45.8%

April 2012: 44.2%

May/Jun 2012: 40.5%

July: 43.2%

(Source)

Feb 2013: 41.0%

And from early 2013, for the first time, his popularity as preferred PM broke the “40% barrier” into the 30s;

April 2013: 38.0%

May 2013: 41.0%

Jul 2013: 42.0%

Nov 2013: 40.9%

Jan 2014: 38.9%

Mar 2014: 42.6%

May 2014: 43.1%

Jun 2014: 46.7%

Jul 2014: 43.8%

5-3 Aug 2014: 44.1%

19-25 Aug 2014: 41.4%

26 Aug-1 Sept 2014: 45.1%

2-8 Sept 2014: 45.3%

9-15 Sept 2014: 44.1%

Jan 2015: 44.0%

From mid-2015, as scandal after scandal; growing reports of income/wealth inequality; and falling housing affordability began to impact on New Zealanders’ collective psyche, his support dropped from the 40s into the 30s;

May 2015: 39.4%

(Source)

15-22 July 2015: 38.3%

(Source)

8-16 Sept 2015: 39.5%

(Source)

22 Nov 2015: 38.3%

(source)

The most recent poll, released on Tuesday 24 May shows Key’s popularity now in the mid-30s. This represents a 19.1 percentage-point drop in Key’s personal popularity amongst voters;

24 May 2016: 36.7%

(source)

The  Panama Papers may not have been a “king hit” on the government as some on the Right maintain – but public perception of National’s inaction over tax havens, tax evasion, secret foreign trusts, etc, all created an image that the Nats were friendly to those “rich pricks” who rorted the tax system.

But the worst of National’s problems lay much closer to home than the Panama tax haven.

The housing crisis has become a Force 10 political storm in this country, and National has been seen to be sitting on their hands whilst people are crowded into garages; living in cars; and even the scion on the Middle Class bourgeois are becoming more and more locked out of the housing market.

As Labour’s former President, Mike Williams stated on Radio NZ’s Nine To Noon  political panel on Monday, 23 May;

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

So unsurprisingly, the same TV3 Reid Research poll showed in no uncertain terms where the public stood on National’s hands-off policy on housing;

.

TV3 news housing poll

.

Even National Party supporters have been unable to stomach the worsening housing crisis and the sight of fellow New Zealanders sleeping in cars.

National now finds itself trapped by it’s own free-market dogma. Historically, only Labour governments have built housing, whilst National busied itself selling off state houses; implementing market rentals for Housing NZ tenants (in the past); and otherwise leaving it to the free market to meet demand.

That “free market” has failed dismally, and attempts to blame the Auckland Council, RMA, and Uncle Tom Cobbly no longer wash with an increasing grumpy electorate.

$26 million wasted on a failed flag referendum also helped cement  public opinion that National was out-of-touch; engaged in pointless exercises; and avoiding tough problems faced by many New Zealanders.

The last time this blogger saw the public show such dissatisfaction with a National government was in the late 1990s, when Jenny Shipley was PM. That did not end well for her.

Whatever plans National attempts to pull out of the Budget Hat will be too little and too late. Unlike pumping extra cash into Vote Health, Vote Education, Vote Police, or Vote Conservation, the housing sector is a behemoth much akin to a huge oil-tanker. It is simply too large to be turned around in a short time-period.

If three Ministers (English, Smith, and Bennett) devoted to housing could not address this country’s ballooning housing crisis, then National has failed miserably.

Short of a miracle, this will be Key’s last term in office, and this country will finally be rid of the Teflon Man;

.

Key says he'll quit politics if National loses election

.

.

.

References

TV3 News: Newshub poll: Key’s popularity plummets to lowest level

TV3 News: Government gets thumbs down on housing

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

NZ Herald: Key says he’ll quit politics if National loses election

Previous related blogposts

Polls and pundits – A facepalm moment

The slow dismantling of a populist prime minister

The slow dismantling of a Prime Minister continues

.

.

.

national's free market solution to housing

.

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

.

.

= fs =

Hooton and Farrar slag Key – With friends like these…

.

julius caesar

.

The Panama Papers continue to simmer and National’s greatest fear is that the public will link tax-dodging to the current government. (Up-coming political polls will be interesting to see.)  But that is not all that National’s hierarchy has to worry about.

Closer to home, National is facing “Third Termitis” and an increasingly cynical view of  the government and it’s leading figures – even from within.

Some recent ‘digs’ at  Dear Leader John Key by right-wing commentators – ostensibly friendly to National – are either miscalculations, or a subtle hint that respect for Key’s leadership style is waning.

Case in Point #1 – David Farrar

On 2 May, National Party pollster and  apparatchik, David Farrar made a guest appearance on Jim Mora’s afternoon Panel (hosted that afternoon by Jesse Mulligan), on Radio NZ. Along with lawyer Mai Chen, they discussed the issues of the day;

“…foreign Trusts and how much the Prime Minister was involved in our tax laws.”

The issue of what Key’s lawyer – Ken Whitney –  said to then-Revenue Minister, Todd McClay arose amongst the Panelists, and host.

Ken Whitney, the executive director of tax-trust specialist, Antipodes Trust Group, wrote to McClay on December 3, 2014, over concerns Inland Revenue were reviewing the sector;

“We are concerned that there appears to be a sudden change of view by the IRD in respect of their previous support for the industry. I have spoken to the Prime Minister about this and he advised that the Government has no plans to change the status of the foreign trust regime.

The PM asked me to contact you to arrange a meeting at your convenience with a small group of industry leaders who are keen to engage to explain how the regime works and the benefits to NZ of an industry which has been painstakingly built up over the last 25 years or so.”

Key refuted that he had “advised that the Government has no plans to change the status of the foreign trust regime“;

“One of the members of the tax, that group, the foreign trusts, asked me about it. I said I haven’t got a clue what you’re talking about, I don’t think that’s right that there are changes, but go and take it up with the minister.

Subsequently there’s miles of paperwork that shows all the stuff he did, I had no other involvement other than that – it happens every day to me, people come up to me all the time and say ‘what about x or what about y?’ and I say take it up with the relevant minister.”

Bear in mind when this conversation took place: December 2014.

Key is clear in his recollection of the conversations he had with his then-lawyer, Ken Whitney, and then-Revenue Minister, Todd McClay;

Mr Key was insistent he made clear to McClay the connection between himself and Mr Whitney, when he alerted his minister to the approach from his lawyer about the trust rules regime.

“I’ve seen his comments, what he basically said was he couldn’t absolutely recall but it was two years ago but I absolutely told him – 100 percent.  It’s a few years with an oral conversation that lasted a few seconds but I definitely told him.”

Which is intriguing, as Key has a somewhat dubious reputation for having a shockingly bad memory of events that are uncomfortable for him to recall and discuss. Especially when journalists are present.

A particularly extraordinary example of Key’s inability to retain recollection of events took place in November 2014, when Key “forgot” a txt-conversation he had had with right-wing blogger, Cameron Slater;

“He sent me a text one time, but I can’t remember when that was.”

In fact, the txt-conversation with Slater took place only eighteen hours previously. Which resulted in headlines like this one;

.

John Key 'genuinely couldn't recall' text messages - mediaworks - Cameron Slater

.

When the issue of John Key’s memory and reputation for lapses arose, Farrar made this revelation;

@10.06

“Oh I’m not sure I quite accept the assertion there. I found in my experience the Prime Minister has a remarkable good memory on things. There was – I had a conversation with him the other day on something, where he referred to ‘Oh I think there was something in January, um, 2007’, and he was right. It took me half an hour to look it up, but he remembered this thing, from what was it, nine years ago. So I think actually he generally has a very good memory, just not a perfect one.”

Farrar’s willingness to share this aspect of  John Key’s mental state is reassuring. It means our esteemed Dear Leader is not suffering on-set Alzheimers  Disease or any similar brain-debilitating condition, when he insists he cannot re-call an inconvenient event.

It just means Key is lying.

Thank you, David Farrar, for clearing that up.

Case in Point #2 – Matthew Hooton

The next person to offer a singularly unflattering insight into Key’s personality was right-wing commentator and a member of the neo-liberal cadré, Matthew Hooton.

Hooton has a regular 11am appearance on Radio NZ’s Nine to Noon show, where he offers his views from a right-wing, free-market perspective. He speaks frankly on a variety of issues-of-the-day and can be as highly critical of National; it’s policies; and leadership, as he is on the Left.

Hooton’s own investigation into  Murray McCully’s corrupt Saudi farm-in-the-desert deal should be required-reading for all New Zealanders, regardless of their political persuasions. As political scientist, Bryce Edwards wrote in May last year;

Perhaps the strongest views are from Matthew Hooton, who has two columns in the National Business Review (which have just had their paywalls removed). The first column, Gulf games fail to deliver, gives the background to the fallout between the New Zealand Government and Saudi Arabia, with Hooton largely blaming John Key. According to Hooton’s story, the Saudi businessman was led to believe that the incoming National Government of 2008 would resume live sheep exports.

Once in power, however, Hooton says that Key changed his mind on hearing that TVNZ would broadcast “a programme critical of live sheep exporting. In a panic, and fearing further criticism from the Green Party’s Sue Kedgley, Mr Carter was ordered by Mr Key’s media staff to go on TV and rule out any resumption of the trade, ever. This was later confirmed to the Saudis as New Zealand’s new position and negotiations ceased. Furious, Mr Al-Khalaf used his influence with the Saudi royal family to ensure the FTA was put on ice”.

Hooton’s second must-read column, Flying sheep endanger McCully, turns the focus to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, suggesting that his subsequent handling of the mess could lead to his sacking. Hooton suggests the whole deal is “implausible” in terms of the bizarre farming arrangements and partnership that the Government has established.

He doubts that the promised innovative “agrihub” will actually eventuate and “If not, people might start comparing Mr McCully’s dealings with Mr Al-Khalaf with those with Mr Roberts 15 years ago. For which Mrs Shipley sacked him”. Hooton says “Key’s nervous ‘yup,’ when asked if he had confidence in his foreign minister, betrayed concern over where the story may head”.

On 9 May, filling his regular slot on Nine to Noon’s political panel, Hooton voiced his views on the Panama Papers and how – in his view – our Esteemed Dear Leader was handling the growing scandal.

As Hooton discussed cleaning up the trust sector in New Zealand,

“That is despite his government’s obvious negligence in not legislating for greater transparency around the trust industry years ago, when reputable trust lawyers themselves were lobbying for it.”

– one particular remark caught my attention,

@ 2.19

“… From talking to the people in the industry, is that some of the people I’ve been talking to, who’ve been using other consultants up till now I should say, they’ve been trying to lobby John Key on this issue since when he was Leader of the Opposition. And they’ve been wanting him to make the industry more transparent. And Robin Oliver [former head of IRD] was on Morning Report this morning and talked about this. And the people that I’m talking to anyway, they tell me that John Key’s consistently said to them, ‘Oh yeah, absolutely, totally agree, we must sort that out, yep, yep, the government will do that’.

But absolutely nothing has happened. And I don’t think that’s necessarily – there’s nothing corrupt about that. It’s how John Key rolls. It’s a refrain I hear from people in the business community, the education sector, the health sector, you name it, John Key always just sez to people what he thinks they want to hear, and there doesn’t seems to be any follow up.”

“John Key always just sez to people what he thinks they want to hear…”  – a very brief, off-the-cuff remark – but one which goes some way to perhaps explaining Key’s popularity with the public. Even those who might stand to be disadvantaged by his policies.

An example of occurred in 2008, during the PSA Conference, when Key made a firm committment resiling National from any future asset sales;

“There’s no agenda to sell assets. There will be no asset sales in the first term – in fact there may never be asset sales in the year’s ahead.”

His speech can be viewed here.

In the same video clip, Key also resiled from weakening Union power;

“Yes, I support Unions, and I support New Zealanders’ rights to join unions. And no, we’re not proposing to change the Employment Relations Act in a way that weakens unions…”

Seven years later, amendments to the Employment Relations Act were pushed through Parliament. The amendments weakened Union power;

National has highlighted employment law changes as one of its key priorities in the first 100 days in Government. Proposed changes will affect collective agreements, the 90-day trial period, strike action and rest and meal break provisions.

[…]

The changes will give employers more power during the bargaining process.

As Hooton pointed out, “John Key always just sez to people what he thinks they want to hear…” – and Key was speaking to the 2008 PSA Conference.  Union delegates were told precisely what they wanted to hear.

Coupled with Farrar’s comments about Key’s “very good memory” (and by a process of elimination, therefore a liar) – and we have two right-wingers close to our esteemed Dear Leader  who have shared their personal observations with “how John Key rolls“.

However, the public may not be as gullible to Key’s duplicitous charms as many would think.

In October 2009, Key’s popularity rating (3News/Reid Research Poll) was at a staggering height of  55.8%.

By July 2015, his popularity rating had fallen to 38.3%.

Whether consciously or sub-consciously, perhaps the public are coming to the same realisation that Farrar and Hooton are at; our Prime Minister is a con-artist.

And a damned good one.

.

.

.

References

Radio NZ: The Panel with Jim Mora – 2 May 2016

NZ Herald: The Antipodes email – John Key, his lawyer and foreign trusts

Radio NZ: PM’s private lawyer lobbied government on foreign trusts

Radio NZ: I told McClay about lawyer, says Key

Fairfax media: How is John Key going to spin this one?

TV3 News: John Key ‘genuinely couldn’t recall’ text messages

Radio NZ: The Panel with Mai Chen and David Farrar – Part 1 (alt. link) (audio)

NZ Herald: Political roundup – The bizarre ‘bribery’ and flying sheep scandal

Radio NZ: Key ends week deeply satisfied

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

Radio NZ: Nine to Noon – Political commentators Mike Williams & Matthew Hooton (alt. link) (audio)

TV3 News: Labour: Key promised no job cuts, asset sales in 2008 speech

TV3 News: Highlights from Key’s 2008 ‘no job cuts’ speech (video)

MoBIE: Amendments to the Employment Relations Act 2000 (March 2015)

Radio NZ: National’s proposed labour laws

Other bloggers

The Paepae: John Key is getting a reputation as a liar

Previous related blogposts

The slow dismantling of a Prime Minister continues

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 16: The sale of Kiwibank eight years in the planning?

.

.

.

6a00d83451d75d69e2015390fb6bf6970b-450wi

.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 17 May 2016.

.

.

= fs =

That was Then, This is Now #28 – John Key on transparency

22 April 2016 5 comments

John Key is a principled man – except when a photo op arises (A Photo Essay)

20 March 2016 5 comments

.

Prime Minister John Key draped in current flag at NZ Open

.

“Key has led the charge for changing the New Zealand flag but clearly he’s open to being spotted in the current one, having been involved in some banter with former Australia cricket captain Ricky Ponting at the New Zealand Open golf tournament in Arrowtown on Sunday.”

The journalist – Peter Thornton – who wrote that piece has missed the point entirely: it was a photo-op.  Our esteemed Dear Leader would run naked through Hades if there was a photo-op involved.

Whether it be babies, kittens, or puppies…

.

john key photo op (1-4)

.

Though some weren’t quite so keen…

.

john key photo op (5)

.

Some turned out to be downright dodgy…

.

john key photo op (6)

.

.

And some turned into an unmitigated disaster…

.

Act member for Remuera, John Banks and Prime Minister John Key stop in for a cup of tea and a chat at the Urban Cafe. 12 November 2011 New Zealand Listener Picture by David White.

.

But let’s get back to kitten and puppies – always an easy, safe bet for a photo-op… (especially with a visiting compliant Royal chucked in for good measure)…

.

john key photo op (7-9)

.

Talking about visiting Royals – they are proven rich-pickings for Key to exploit for photo-ops…

.

john key photo op (10)

.

And there were photo-ops-galore with various sundry Royals…

.

john key photo op 11-14)

.

Chuck in an Aussie Prime Minister…

.

.

And another Aussie Prime Minister…

.

John+Key+Julia+Gillard+Visits+New+Zealand+HLo_hFr7PRPl

 

.

Yet another Aussie Prime Minister…

.

.

And – wait for it! – an Aussie Prime Minister!!

.

6862798-3x2-940x627

.

Ok, that line of Aussies was getting tedious. Let’s try something different.

A former New Zealand Prime Minister…

.

.

Or the current Brit Prime Minister.

Slow down, Dear Leader, you’ve got Cameron dead in your sights for that manly grip…

.

Britain's Prime Minister, David Cameron (L), greets the Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key, outside 10 Downing Street in central London September 18, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Winning (BRITAIN - Tags: POLITICS)

.

See? Nailed that handshake…

.

john_key_and_david_cameron__number_10_Master

.

Enough of Prime Ministers. Let’s try a current German Chancellor…

.

Angela+Merkel+John+Key+New+Zealand+Prime+Minister+IxtkHCovagLl

.

Or a US State Secretary…

.

John-Key-Hillary-Clinton-1200

.

Maybe another Royal…

.

john-key-prince-charles-rachael-park

.

And a Queen or two…

.

[*scrape, scrape, shuffle, bow, bow, grin like a commoner*]

[*scrape, scrape, shuffle, bow, bow, grin like a commoner*]

.

Key and Queens

.

Some bloke from China…

.

New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key (L) shakes hands with China's President Xi Jinping during a welcoming ceremony of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, inside the International Convention Center at Yanqi Lake, in Beijing, November 11, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS)

.

And some bloke from America…

.

key1200

.

.

Here is our esteemed Dear Leader with perhaps The Most Important Bloke in America…

.

5399238

.

And we know what followed next…

.

key - letterman

.

Though perhaps not quite as embarrassing as this…

.

RWC_JohnKey

 

.

*facepalm*

But just to keep the “common touch” with the Great Unwashed…

.

Key in toy boat

.

And when you get tired of doing your own driving…

.

key-smile-wave

.

But for the Top Prize for photo-ops, you just can’t get more Ordinary Blokey than hanging out with Ritchie and The Boys…

.

GettyImages-89998537-e1445817662233

.

Still hangin’ out with Ritchie and The Boys…

.

1445739667347

.

Ah, John, I think this is The Boys telling you ‘enough is enough, go the f**k home!

.

Good night John!

.

Ok… getting a bit wanky now…

.

John-Key-All-black

.

And then it just hits rock-bottom, in Key’s eagerness to be In-On-The-Act…

.

eight_col_hand_shake

.

It’s obvious that our esteemed Dear Leader is not shy in front of a camera.

Any camera. (No bedroom jokes please – this is a family Blog.)

In the past, Key has worn several lapel-badges pinned to his jacket;

.

.

His most recent addition being the Kyle Lockwood flag-alternative;

.

Key with alt flag lapel badge

.

It appears that at no time has Key ever worn the current New Zealand flag on his lapel. One can only assume he is ashamed to wear it.

Which became confusing when he stood with current Aussie PM, Malcolm Turnbull, for another photo-op;

.

lapel badge - key - turnbull

.

It seems wholly inappropriate that Key stood in front of a large version of the current New Zealand flag – whilst wearing something on his lapel that carried no real meaning, and had not yet been decided by popular vote.

But perhaps Key has a deep abiding belief in the Kyle Lockwood flag-alternative and is exercising his personal commitment to change. He is committed to his principles.

Except…

When a photo-op presents itself…

In which case…

.

Prime Minister John Key draped in current flag at NZ Open

.

Screw those principles.

Smile for the camera, Dear Leader!

.

 

.

.

References

Fairfax media: Prime Minister John Key draped in current flag at NZ Open

Previous related blogposts

What are you hiding, Mr Key?

John Key: When propaganda photo-ops go wrong

Not all photo ops are welcomed events

Letter to the Editor – the Royal Visit and endless photo ops for Dear Leader

.

.

.

Annoying little guy and ritchie mccaw

.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 15 March 2016.

.

.

= fs =

National’s Food In Schools programme reveals depth of child poverty in New Zealand

5 March 2016 4 comments

.

milk-crate-4bottle

.

Recently obtained OIA figures from the Ministry of Social Development reveal that 836 schools currently participate in the Kickstart food-in-schools programme. The programme began in 2009, between Fonterra and Sanitarium, to address a growing child poverty crisis.

According  to MSD’s data, over 100,000 breakfasts  are served to 27,061 children on a weekly basis.

This is in stark contrast to John Key’s claims on 5 November 2014, that hungry children in schools was only a minor problem;

“I do not believe that the number of children who go to decile 1 to 4 schools who do not have lunch is 15 percent. I have asked extensively at the decile 1, 2, 3, and 4 schools I have been to. Quite a number of principals actually even reject the notion that they need breakfast in schools. Those who do take breakfasts in schools tell me that for the odd child who does not have lunch, they either give them some more breakfast or provide them with lunch. But what they have said to me is that the number of children in those schools who actually require lunch is the odd one or two.”

The odd one or two” is contradicted by the ministry’s own figures which states that from 13 December 2013, “more than 5.9 million breakfasts  have been served since expansion“.

This would tally from Key’s own admission, on 18 October 2011, that poverty in New Zealand was continuing to worsen under his administration;

Mr Key made the concession yesterday when asked about progress with the underclass, saying it depended what measures were used but recessions tended to disproportionately affect low income earners and young people.

He said he had visited a number of budgeting services and food banks “and I think it’s fair to say they’ve seen an increase in people accessing their services. So that situation is there.”

National expanded the Kickstart programme in May 2013, in response to growing public disquiet and clamour to address the spectacle of children turning up hungry in our schools. It was also in response to Hone Harawira’s  Education (Breakfast and Lunch Programmes in Schools) Amendment Bill (aka, “Feed the Kids” Bill), which had been included six months earlier in the private member’s ballot system.

As Harawira explained in May 2014,

.

"I know this bill isn't the full answer — that families need more work and better wages to feed their kids every day all week long and that much more needs to be put in place to turn around rising child poverty levels in Aotearoa. "All I want to do with this Bill is make sure our kids get fed while this is being done."

I know this bill isn’t the full answer — that families need more work and better wages to feed their kids every day all week long and that much more needs to be put in place to turn around rising child poverty levels in Aotearoa.
“All I want to do with this Bill is make sure our kids get fed while this is being done.”

.

National’s subsequent, watered down programme to feed hungry children was derided by then-Labour leader, David Shearer;

“National’s been dragged kicking and screaming to the finish line on this. It’s only through public pressure and the pressure of Opposition parties like the Labour Party that’s got them there. But overall, it’s good for those kids who go to school hungry.”

In June 2013, then Social Development Minister, Paula Bennett, assured Radio NZ that only another hundred schools would take up the expanded Kickstart programme.

By the beginning of 2014, the programme was expanded to include all decile 1 to 10 primary, intermediate, and secondary schools.

However, MSD’s Deputy Chief Executive, Murray Edridge,  revealed that there had been a “47 per cent  increase since the expansion of the programme” in 2013;

“82 per cent of all participating schools are now providing KickStart breakfasts for more than two days per week and 58 per cent of schools are serving breakfasts for all five days of the week.”

This is at variance with Key’s assertions – made as late as 19 March last year – that hungry children going to school was not a problem. In minimising the problem, Key said;

“These are the facts,” Mr Key said. “At Te Waiu o Ngati Porou School, Ruatoria, Decile one, how many children came to school without lunch – answer – zero.”

At Sylvia Park School, decile two – there one or two kids, and at Manurewa Intermediate, a decile one school with a roll of 711, perhaps 12 had gone to school with no lunch.

Yes there is an issue where some children come to school without lunch. That number of children is relatively low.”

The rise in demand for KickStart breakfasts occurred at the same time as those on  welfare benefits was cut dramatically;

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley said today the 309,145 people on benefit at the end of the December 2014 quarter was 12,700 fewer than last year.

“This is the lowest December quarter since 2008 and the third consecutive quarter with such record lows,” Tolley says.

Numbers on the Jobseeker Support benefit had fallen by more than 5500 since last year and had declined consistently since 2010, even as the overall working age population increased.

Even children with disabilities did not escaped this government’s culling of welfare recipients;

More than 11,000 disabled children have lost access to a welfare benefit that is supposed to support them, as officials try to rein in previously-ballooning costs.

A Child Poverty Action Group report on disabled children, launched in Auckland today, said children supported by the child disability allowance almost trebled from 17,600 in 1998 to 45,800 in 2009, but were then cut back to just 34,500 last June.

The cut has been achieved both by tightening criteria and by simply not publicising the allowance.

The problem of hungry school children drew John Key’s attention as far back as 2007, when he was still Leader of the Opposition;

National launches its Food in Schools programme
Sunday, 4 February 2007, 1:21 pm
Press Release: New Zealand Government

John Key MP
National Party Leader

3 February 2007

National launches its Food in Schools programme

National Party Leader John Key has announced the first initiative in what will be a National Food in Schools programme.

“National is committed to providing practical solutions to the problems which Helen Clark says don’t exist,” says Mr Key.

During his State of the Nation speech on Tuesday, Mr Key indicated National would seek to introduce a food in schools programme at our poorest schools in partnership with the business community.

Mr Key has since received an approach from Auckland-based company Tasti foods.

“I approached Wesley Primary School yesterday, a decile 1 school near McGehan Close, a street that has had more than its fair share of problems in recent times. I am told Wesley Primary, like so many schools in New Zealand, has too many kids turning up hungry.

“We’re putting Tasti and Wesley Primary together. This is a fantastic first step. In addition to this, Tasti has indicated they may wish to expand their generous donation of food to other schools in need, and we’ll be looking to facilitate that.

“We all instinctively know that hungry kids aren’t happy and healthy kids.”

Mr Key is also inviting other businesses to contact National so it can work on expanding the programme.

“I want this to be the first of many schools and businesses that we put together. I’m interested in what works and I am humbled by the support this idea has received already. We are going to put together the package while in Opposition. We are not waiting to be in Government, because all our kids deserve better.”

According to National,  this was a critical problem in 2007.

Yet, on 19 March, National and it’s coalition supporters voted down Mana’s “Feed the Kids” Bill (which had been taken over by the Green Party after Hone Harawira lost his Te Tai Tokerau seat in 2014). The Bill was defeated 61 to 59, courtesy of National, ACT, and Peter Dunne.

MSD also disclosed that 26 applications for participation in the KickStart programme had been declined. This included Early Childhood Education (ECE) providers. No reason was given despite the OIA request specifically asking the basis for which applications were declined.

This indicates that pre-schoolers are presently attending ECE facilities and going hungry.

The MSD also admitted that Charter Schools – which are funded at a higher rate than State and Integrated Schools – also participate in the KickStart programme. Their information did not reveal how many or which Charter Schools were participating. The MSD statement confirmed that “the provision of the [KickStart] programme  does not affect a school’s funding“.

Kidscan currently lists fourteen schools that are still awaiting “urgent support, that’s 1,661 children waiting for food, clothing and basic healthcare“.

In contrast, several European nations provide free meals to school children;

The school lunch provides an important opportunity for learning healthy habits, and well-balanced school meals have been linked to improved concentration in class, better educational outcomes and fewer sick days. Given the importance of these meals, what is being done across Europe to ensure all children have a balanced and enjoyable lunch?

Many countries in Europe have policies to help schools provide nutritionally balanced meals which also reflect the general eating culture of each nation. Often, lunch is eaten in a cafeteria-like setting where children receive food from a central service point (e.g. Finland, Sweden and Italy).

In Finland and Sweden, where all school meals are fully funded by the government, lunches follow national dietary guidelines including the ‘plate model’. An example meal is presented to guide children’s self-service…

Finland – which consistently scores highly in OECD PISA educational rankings – introduced free school meals in 1948;

Finland was the first country in the world to serve free school meals. 1948 is seen as being the year when free school catering really  started, though catering activities on a smaller scale had been around since the beginning of the 20th century.

[…]

Section 31 of the Basic Education Act states that pupils attending school must be provided with a properly organised and supervised,  balanced meal free of charge every school day.

[…]

The role of school meals is to be a pedagogical tool to teach good nutrition and eating habits as well as to increase consumption of  vegetables, fruits and berries, full corn bread and skimmed or low fat milk.

Interestingly, the Finns describe free school meals as an Investment in Learning;

In Finland, we are proud of our long history of providing free school meals…

… A good school meal is an investment in the future.

With rising housing and rental costs, and wage increases  at or below inflation, not every family can successfully balance budgets to ensure a nutritious meal for their children. When it comes to a decision whether to pay the power bill, or cut back on groceries for the week – it is often the latter that is sacrificed.

The Salvation  Army recently  outlined the problem of the phenomenon known as the “working poor“;

Every week 314 new people contact the Salvation Army for assistance, and those who are currently working are often at risk too.

[…]

The Salvation Army says it is meeting more and more responsible people who have experienced misfortune that has derailed their lives.

It believes the cost of rent is a dangerous factor, even for those working.

“It doesn’t leave a lot of room for something to go wrong,” says Jason Dilger, a representative for the Salvation Army. “I do believe there are a significant number of people out there who are vulnerable.”

It says an increasing number of Kiwis are living pay-by-pay, but ideally everyone would have a financial safety net set aside to help with any unexpected hiccups.

“So many people aren’t even in a position to think that way because they’re just trying to meet expenses week to week.”

In a 2014 report, the Salvation Army stated;

Given the recent growth in the number of jobs available and the gradual decline in levels of unemployment, we should have seen a  tapering off in demand for food parcels from food banks. We have not seen this. Such demand has remained virtually unchanged since 2010, which suggests that many households are still struggling to pay bills and feed their family despite the economy recovery. Overall living costs of low income households appear to be moving in line with general inflation.

Which illustrates that the problems faced by poor, lowly-paid, and beneficiary families is not choices in expenditure – but low incomes which fail to meet the many day-to-day, week-to-week, demands placed on them.

From the 1950s through to the  1970s, a single income was often sufficient to raise a family and pay the bills.

In contemporary New Zealand, this is no longer the case. Falling rates of home-ownership is just one indicator that incomes are not keeping pace with rising costs of living.

Growing child poverty is another symptom of the increase in inequality since the mid-1980s. Prior to the 1980s, food banks were practically an unknown rarity;

Nationally, the number of foodbanks exploded following the 1991 benefit cuts, and the passage of the Employment Contracts Act (ECA). For those in already low-paid and casual jobs, the ECA resulted in even lower wages (McLaughlin, 1998), a situation exacerbated by the high unemployment of the early 1990s (11% in 1991). The benefit cuts left many with debts, and little money to buy food (Downtown Community Ministry, 1999). In 1992 the introduction of market rents for state houses dealt another blow to state tenants on low incomes. By 1994 it was estimated that there were about 365 foodbanks nationally, one-fifth of which had been set up in the previous year (Downtown Community Ministry, 1999).” – “Hard to swallow – Foodbank Usage in NZ”, Child Poverty Action Group, 2005

Shifting responsibility for this ever-growing problem onto  victims of inequality and poverty is a form of denial. It is little more an attempt to evade the problem, especially when no practical solutions (other than class-based eugenics) are offered.

Addressing the real causes of poverty and working-poor will be a tough call. Ensuring that all children are provided nutritious meals at school is the first step down this road.

As John Key said nine years ago;

“We all instinctively know that hungry kids aren’t happy and healthy kids.

… all our kids deserve better.”

Indeed, John. I couldn’t have said it better.

Postscript

The MSD response to my OIA request also confirmed that the increased up-take of the KickStart programme was not restricted solely to low-decile schools;

Since the expansion [in 2013] 170 schools rated decile five or higher have joined the programme.

Which indicates that schools in middle-class areas are now requiring State assistance to feed hungry children.

 

 

.

.

.

References

Email: OIA Response from Ministry of Social Development

Kickstart Programme: Home

NZ Herald: Key admits underclass still growing

NZ Herald: 300,000+ Kiwi kids now in relative poverty

Parliament Today: Questions and Answers – November 5

Scoop media: Hone Harawira – Feed the Kids Bill

NZ Herald: Harawira’s ‘feed the kids’ bill begins first reading

Radio NZ: Govt gives $9.5m to expand food in schools programme

Radio NZ: Government to expand food in schools programme (audio)

Kickstart Programme: FAQ

NZ Herald:  Government votes down ‘feed the kids’ bill

Radio NZ: Parliament rejects free school lunch bills

Fairfax media: Beneficiary numbers fall again: Government

NZ Herald: 11,000 disabled children lose welfare benefit

Scoop media: National launches its Food in Schools programme

Radio NZ: Ministry says charter schools “over-funding” is $888,000

Kidscan: Supporting Schools

European Food Information Council: School lunch standards in Europe

Wikipedia: Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) – 2012

NZ Federation of Family Budgetting: Why are so many of us struggling financially?

Child Poverty Action Group: Hard to swallow: Foodbank use in New Zealand

Additional

Fightback: Feed the Kids, end the hunger system

NZ Herald: Number of Kiwi kids in poverty jumps by 60,000

Previous related blogposts

Can we afford to have “a chat on food in schools”?

National dragged kicking and screaming to the breakfast table

Are we being milked? asks Minister

High milk prices? Well, now we know why

Poor people – let them eat cake; grow veges; not breed; and other parroted right wing cliches

Poor people – let them eat cake; grow veges; not breed; and other parroted right wing cliches… (part rua)

Once were warm hearted

.

.

.

6a00d83451d75d69e201901cbc5a3c970b

.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 29 February 2016.

.

.

= fs =

Letter to the editor: Setting it straight on user-pays in tertiary education

19 February 2016 4 comments

.

Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

.

Labour’s promise of a return to (limited) free tertiary education appears to be unsettling some, for whom the last thirty years has been dominated by the implementation and bedding-in of  user-pays (often gradually, so as not to spook the punters) ; reduced-tax; and minimalist-government ideology;

.

letter to editor - the wellingtonian - sue usher - student debt

.

I replied to Ms Usher’s public expression of “guilt twinges”…

.

from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: The Wellingtonian <editor@thewellingtonian.co.nz>
date: Sat, Feb 13, 2016
subject: Letter to the editor

.

The editor
The Wellingtonian

.

Sue Usher defends user-pays in Universities, asserting, “anyone who takes out a loan on anything surely knows that there’s no such thing as a free lunch; you are not given money, you are lent it”. (letters, 11 Feb)

Prior to 1992, there were no student loans/debt. Tertiary education was paid from taxes, with the expectation that graduates would, in turn, pay for following generations.

That was the social contract.

That contract dissolved when successive governments introduced user-pays, with seven tax cuts in 1986, 1988, 1996, 1998, 2008, 2009, and 2010. The burden of higher education shifted from society, onto individuals. By 2014, student debt reached $14.8 billion.

Ms Usher admits this unfairness, “I acknowledge that repaying a loan and trying to buy a first home is a mighty challenge and feel slightly guilty that my generation did not have any such system”.

John Key and Tertiary Education minister, Steven Joyce, should also feel a twinge of guilt. Both obtained their University degrees free, paying almost nothing.

Those who parrot the cliche that education is a “private good” should consider if our doctors, scientists, engineers, teachers, et-al, all decided to pack up and move overseas.

Or if none of us could read and write.

Education benefits us all, which user-pays fails to recognise.

.

-Frank Macskasy

.

[address and phone number supplied]

.

.

.

Additional

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

Ministry of Education: Student Loan Scheme Annual Report 2014

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

Fairfax media: Joyce defends student loan crackdown

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

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

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

Sunday Star Times: Politics – John Key – A snapshot

Wikipedia: Steven Joyce

National Party: Steven Joyce

Related blogposts

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

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

.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 14 February 2016.

.

.

= fs =

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

11 February 2016 9 comments

.

student-loans-debt

.

Prologue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some Recent History: 1972 – 1992

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

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

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

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

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

.

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

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

Acknowledgement of image: NZ Herald

.

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

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

Some Recent History: 1986 – 2010

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

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

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

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

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

1 October 1986 – Labour

1 October 1988 – Labour

1 July 1996 – National

1 July 1998 – National

1 October 2008 – Labour

1 April 2009 – National

1 October 2010 – National

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

.

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

.

Source

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Progressive Response

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

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

.

Labour's announcement welcomed and slammed

.

Little proposed;

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

[…]

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

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

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

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

The Neo-Libs Strike Back

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

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

.

Steven joyce - tertiary education - hypocrite

Source

Source

.

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

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

.

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

.

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

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

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

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

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

The question could equally be put;

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

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

But the main question should be;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

.

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

.

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

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

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

  1. Steven Joyce, born: 1963.

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

  3. Student Loan system is started: 1992.

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

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

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

Key and Joyce never paid for their free University tuition.

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

Or face arrest.

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

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

Postscript

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

.

Steven joyce - tertiary education - hypocrite - achieving nothing

.

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

.

.

.

References

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

Ministry of Education: Student Loan Scheme Annual Report 2014

Beehive.govt.nz: Celebrating student support under Labour

Ministry of Education: Student Loan Scheme Annual Report 2015

The Wireless: Getting by on a student budget

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

Fairfax media: Joyce defends student loan crackdown

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

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

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

Statistics NZ: Annual unemployment rate has increased from 1987

Ruth Richardson NZ Ltd: Ruth Richardson CV

Ruth Richardson NZ Ltd: Home page

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

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

Fairfax media: ‘Painful wait’ for surgery

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

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

Statistics NZ: 2013 Census Usually Resident Population Counts

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

Radio NZ: Labour’s announcement welcomed and slammed

Andrew Little: State of the Nation speech

Twitter: Steven Joyce

Twitter: Steven Joyce

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

NZ Herald: Govt backtracks on limo statements

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

Radio NZ: Saudi abattoir deal will proceed – PM

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

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

Otago Daily Times: Smelter gets Meridian, Govt lifeline

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

NZ Herald: GST rise will hurt poor the most

Fairfax media: Time to pay some tax, Facebook?

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

Kiwiblog: Disclosure Statement

Sunday Star Times: Politics – John Key – A snapshot

Wikipedia: Steven Joyce

National Party: Steven Joyce

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

Additional

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

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

Other bloggers

The Daily Blog: John Key said WHAT about waitresses’???

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

Previous related blogposts

A Query to the Taxpayers Union

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

Know your Tory fellow travellers and ideologues: John Bishop, Taxpayers Union, and the NZ Herald

Greed is good?

It’s official: Political Dissent Discouraged in NZ!

Shafting our own children’s future? Hell yeah, why not!

Hon. Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy

Budget 2013: How NOT to deal with Student loan defaulters

Budget 2013: Student debt, politicians, and “social contracts”

Steven Joyce – Hypocrite of the Week

Anne Tolley’s psycopathy – public for all to see

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

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 15: John Key lies to NZ on consultation and ratification of TPPA

.

.

.

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

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

.

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

.

.

= fs =

The bloated ego of a vain man – When John Key refused to listen

27 September 2015 2 comments

.

Fuck you my little Kiwi Peasants!

.

A TV3 Poll on 20 September confirmed what many of us already suspected; the majority of New Zealanders are not interested in changing the flag.

For whatever reason, most respondents chose to stick with the status quo;

Want to change the flag: 25%
Keep the current flag: 69%
Don’t know: 6%

The poll was conducted from 8 to 16 September, and surveyed one thousand people. Even when the margin of error (+/-3.1%) is taken into, the result is a decisive and unambiguous ‘Yeah, Nah!”.

The response of our esteemed Dear Leader was one of arrogant dismissal.

On the morning of Monday, 21 September,  on TV3’s “Paul Henry Programme” (which this blogger has not seem, but is quoting from the TV3 web-story), Key gave his response to the poll;

“It’s, with the greatest respect, not a terribly sophisticated question. It’s yes or no question but within all of those numbers there will be some people who will say they will never change and others who say they’ll never change but if… you press them they might change.”

Key had parroted precisely the same line earlier on Radio NZ’s Checkpoint;

@ 0.45

Key: “Ok, so it’s not a terribly sophisticated question. It’s a yes or no question [unintelligible]-“

An increasingly exasperated Guyon Espiner posed simple questions to the Prime Minister – and elicited anything-but-sensible responses;

@ 0.50

Espiner: “Aw, come on though. This is the best question. It’s a simple question; do you want to change the flag, yes or no. And only 25% of people want to change the flag. It’s a great question.”

Key: “So if you ask more sophisticated questions, fair enough, [garbled] the people who just want to say ‘I won’t change under any circumstances, that’s it, I’ve made my mind up’. That number is under 50% and falling. So everybody else is in a, ah, they will, they’ll say to a pollster ‘Yes, I’ll keep the current flag, but they’re open to change and they’re considering it.

Key kept repeating the mantra that the ‘Yes/No’ question from the TV3-Reid Research Poll was “basic” and was insistent in his (obviously pre-prepared tutored) responses to  Espiner that different questions would yield different answers;

@ 1.23

Espiner: “Yeah but that might be a valid argument if we hadn’t seen the options, Prime Minister. But we’ve got those options out there. People have seen the four options. Then they’ve been asked. And they’ve said, over-whelmingly, they’ve screamed this, ‘no, we don’t want to do it‘.”

Key: “Yeah, like I’ve said, yeah, y’know it’s a very basic question. If you have a look at a more sophisticated basis [sic] you get different answers.

@ 2.19

Espiner: “So the 70% of people who say they don’t want to change the flag, do you think that they, what, don’t know their own minds, or…?”

Key: “No, like like I said to you, y’know, if you ask a more comprehensive question, you get a much more granular [sic] breakdown. And therefore, and then you get to the number of people who just say, ‘no, I don’t want a change’. And that is under 50%. But, y’know, it’s a big number and that’s what makes it difficult, because for a lot of people, y’now, they say, “Oh, it’s out history’ and that’s it. But for goodness sake, every audience I go to at the moment I ask them this question, y’know, at some point in the speech, and I haven’t had an audience that’s been more than 50% at wanting to keep the flag, and in fact the vast overwhelming bulk want a change [unintelligible]-”

Espiner: “Well, come on, that’s just a, that’s just a nice little anecdote though. This is a scientific poll. I mean, we take these numbers seriously, you take your 47% party vote pretty seriously. You can’t have that, and then say ‘Oh yeah, but the poll’s rubbish because I went to a meeting and everyone liked it’.”

At one point, Key  invoked the 1972 Kirk-led Labour government as a justification for his increasingly monomaniacal flag-quest.

Key: “…It’s not a new debate. I mean, whatever the merits you think that, it goes all the way back to Norman Kirk.”

Espiner’s response was immediately derisory;

Espiner: “Oh, we’re not going to start blaming Labour from 1972, now, are we?

Key’s insistance that the TV3-Reid Research poll was flawed because the question was too “basic” or “not  terribly  sophisticated” is a cop-out.

The actual Reid Research poll question was;

Now you have seen the final four flags, do you?

  • Want to change the flag
  • Keep the current flag
  • Don’t know

That poll question is similar to the proposed  second part of the Flag Referendum. Schedule 2 of the New Zealand Flag Referendums Act 2015 is specific how the second referendum ballot paper is to be laid out;

.
Schedule 2 Voting paper for second flag referendum
.
So if the TV3-Reid Research question was “basic” or “not  terribly  sophisticated” – what does our esteemed Dear Leader think of the second ballot paper, which is nearly identical?

The reality is that this poll has put the “frighteners” into Key.

Perhaps for the first time he has glimpsed the potential implications if the referendum fails to replace the current flag. John Key’s credibility will have taken a severe pummeling; he will have spent much of his “political capital” for no good reason; and it will be seen as a personal failure for his leadership skills.

New Zealanders will have every right to ask why Key spent $26 million on a referendum which only 25%  of respondents – less than National’s core voter-base – supported.

The flag referendum will do for Key what a 1997 referendum on a proposed compulsory superannuation savings scheme did to  National-NZ First coalition  Treasurer, Winston Peters. At that referendum, 92% of voters (from a postal ballot turnout of 80%) voted against replacing NZ Super with a private savings system.

The poll was widely seen as an indictment of Winston Peters and the Bolger-led National-NZ First coalition Government.

A failure of this magnitude will be remembered as “Key’s Folly” – a moment when one man’s ego out-stripped his common sense and he began to believe the hype created by National’s taxpayer-funded spin-doctors and party strategists. In other countries, such ego-driven leaders build massive bronze statues of themselves.

Even Key is not as delusional as to think his “popularity” would let him get away with a 20-metre metal-version of himself in front of Parliament.

As more polls on this issue appear, pressure will increase on Key to dump this fiasco.

The question is; is Key’s ego greater than his much-vaunted political-acumen?

It hasn’t been so far.

.

Appendix1

A strategy to subvert John Key’s vanity project

.

spoil and foil - flag referendum

.

.

.

References

TV3 News: Political poll – Support low for flag change

TV3 News: Key – Flag poll question ‘not sophisticated’

Radio NZ: Checkpoint – Key brushes off poll but admits changing flag a tough ask (alt. link)

NZ Parliament: New Zealand Flag Referendums Act 2015 – Schedule 2

NZ Parliament: New Zealand Flag Referendums Act 2015 – Voting paper in second flag referendum

Wikipedia: 2002 General Election

Wikipedia: Referenda in New Zealand

Other blogs

No Right Turn: So much for the PM’s vanity project

The Standard: The flag poll

Previous related blogposts

Letter to the editor – John Key’s legacy?

The Flag Referendum – A strategy for Calm Resistance

Flying the flags of discontent – MOBILISE!

The slow dismantling of a Prime Minister continues

.

.

.

flag.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 22 September 2015.

.

.

= fs =

What do Hungary and New Zealand have in common?

9 September 2015 5 comments

.

2013-02-16_-_wien_-_demo_gleiche_rechte_fc3bcr_alle_refugee-solidaritc3a4tsdemo_-_refugees_are_human_beings

.

What do Hungary and New Zealand have in common? Besides having flags that are easily confused with other country’s…

.

ANZAC-Flags

.

Hungary Italy flags

.

The answer; both are currently governed by right-wing parties, and both are guilty of inhumane, uncivilised obstructionist policies toward Syrian refugees in desperate need of re-settlement.

In New Zealand, the government consists of National and it’s parasitic satellite-party ACT, with support from Peter Dunne and the Maori Party.

In Hungary, the government consists of a large Muldoonist-style conservative party, Fidesz (pronounced  “Fee-dec” – as in ‘school decile’), and it’s parasitic satellite-party, the Christian Democratic People’s Party.

Both have adopted policies of bloody-minded stubborness refusing to assist refugees;

.

PM cold on upping refugee quota

.

Hungary PM - Europe's 'Christian roots' in danger from refugees

.

I don’t know which is worse; the xenophobe, or the fool who attempts top justify his inaction by pointing to others;

“There are quite a few countries that don’t take refugees.”

His rationale for not increasing our efforts to held Syrian refugees (they are not migrants!) is both gutless and nonsensical.

What is it about the Right that, when faced with a humanitarian crisis, they turn their backs and look the other way? From whence does such cowardice spring?

Especially when,   two years ago, Key made these comments in a speech to the United Nations;

.

key - United Nations - practising his hypocrisy

“The gap between aspiration and delivery is all too apparent, as the situation in Syria has again so brutally reminded us. 

But any failures of this institution are less failures of the Organisation than they are failures of us, its Member States, and those who have the responsibility of leading those states.

There would be no dreadful humanitarian situation in Syria if Syria’s leaders had upheld the commitments made to the international community and to the Syrian people when Syria joined this organisation and ratified the Human Rights Covenants.

This Organisation would not also have been a powerless bystander to the Syrian tragedy for over two years if the lack of agreement among the Security Council’s Permanent Members had not shielded the Assad regime – thereby re-confirming the fears of New Zealand and others who had opposed the veto at the original San Francisco conference in 1945.

New Zealand is pleased that the Security Council has at last met on the situation in Syria.” – John Key, 27 September 2013

It is not the UN Security Council that is now the “powerless bystander to the Syrian tragedy” – it is John Key and his morally-challenged government.

With our current refugee intake a measly 750 per year, there has been mounting pressure on our esteemed Dear Leader, John Key, to increase the number to one thousand, or to  double it.

After all, if the British  government had not taken in one particular female  Jewish refugee in 1939, after fleeing the Nazi take-over of Austria, our Prime Minister would never have existed.

It appears that Key is now displaying the same callous  indifference to Syrian refugees that he has exhibited to tenants of State houses and social welfare beneficiaries – despite the fact that his grandmother was a refugee and his mother a beneficiary of  this country’s once-generous state housing and welfare system.

It defies comprehension that a human being who owes his very existence to the compassion of others – now turns his back on those who need his help. John Key may have found wealth and power in his journey through life. But it appears he has also lost something along the way.

Meanwhile, there are those willing to lend a hand when others are in need;

.

refugees-coal-press

 

.

.

.

References

Wikipedia: Fidesz

Wikipedia: Christian Democratic People’s Party

Radio NZ: PM cold on upping refugee quota

ITV News:  Hungary PM – Europe’s ‘Christian roots’ in danger from refugees

Interest.co.nz: Contrasting family histories of John Key and David Cunliffe revealed by ancestry research

Fairfax media: They’re not migrants, double the refugee quota now

Beehive.govt.nz: New Zealand’s Statement to the UNGA General Debate

TVNZ News: ‘We can do more’ – Little says NZ refugee quota should be 1250

Other Blogs

No Right Turn: Raise the quota

The Dim Post: Nothing will come of nothing

Imperator Fish: Keep your dead children off our beaches!

The Pundit: Guts, guts, got no guts

The Standard: “Get some Guts!”

The Standard: How much does New Zealand spend on refugees?

 

 

 

.

.

.

030915NZHtoon1

.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 4 September 2015.

.

.

= fs =

Letter to the editor – Does Dear Leader recall the ’81 Springbok Tour now?

3 September 2015 5 comments

.

Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

.

from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: Mon, Aug 31, 2015
subject: Letter to the editor

.

The Editor
DOMINION POST
.
In July 2008, a journalist interviewed John Key, asking,

“In 1981, were you for or against the Springbok Tour?”

He answered,

“Oh, I can’t even remember … 1981, I was 20 … ah … I don’t really know. I didn’t really have a strong feeling on it at the time. Look, it’s such a long time ago.”

It was the first, of many, instances of Key’s “brain fades” where important dates, events, and discussions seemed to slip from his memory.

The shortest interval of time between an event and attempting to recall it was in November 2014, when Key “forgot” that he had had a txt-conversation with right-wing blogger, Cameron Slater. It took less than twelve hours for our esteemed Prime Minister to “forget” that he had texted Slater the previous evening.

With the All Blacks’ selection being announced at Parliament on 30 August, in the presence of John Key, one hopes that this event will now ‘jog’ his memory regarding his stance on the 1981 Springbok Tour.

At the very least, no National/ACT supporter will ever again be able to insist that “politics be kept out of sport”. The only thing missing was the National Party logo on the All Black’s shirts, alongside all the other corporate sponsors.

.

-Frank Macskasy

.

[Address & phone number supplied]

.

.

.

References

Fairfax media: All Blacks Rugby World Cup squad announcement ‘not politicised’ – PM

NZ Herald: In search of John Key

Radio NZ: PM’s contact with blogger questioned

.

tumblr_mxrohkcPdA1shrky2o1_1280

.

.

= fs =

Signs of the times…?

.

do_not_touch2

.

Noticed around Wellington, this last week…

Firstly at the well-known pub-restaurant, ‘The Backbencher‘, just across the road from Parliament. The famous eating establishment is well-known for it’s near-life-size puppet-caricatures of Party leaders. The one below is ‘John Key’;

.

sign of the times - john key - ponytail pulling (1)

.

One of the waitresses pointed out what was held in the John Key puppet’s hand;

.

sign of the times - john key - ponytail pulling (2)

.

Yup – an imitation pony-tail!

Meanwhile, across town, at the Heaven Woodfire Pizza restaurant in Upper Cuba Street, were these signs in their windows;

.

sign of the times - john key - ponytail pulling (3)

.

Notice the red “ban” sign at the left?

Methinks a certain pony-tail pulling incident has entered into popular culture and will be around for a wee while yet…

Not quite the “legacy” our esteemed Dear Leader wished for?

.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 31 July 2015.

.

.

= fs =

The slow dismantling of a Prime Minister continues

2 August 2015 7 comments

.

blue-graph1

.

Continued from:  The slow dismantling of a populist prime minister

Amidst the latest scandal swirling around this increasingly desperate National government, the chaos at Serco-run Mt Eden prison is just the latest in a long line of ministerial botch-ups.

Lost in the growing shocking stories of violence, drug-taking, and even prisoner deaths – the latest 3News/Reid Research Poll paints a strikingly clear picture of a third-term government fast losing public support.

As was reported previously, the personal popularity of our esteemed Dear Leader, John Key, has been in slow free-fall since 2009;

Oct/Nov 08: 36.4%

(Source)

Feb 2009: 52.1%

April 2009: 51.1%

Aug 2009: 51.6%

Oct 2009: 55.8%

Feb 2010: 49.4%

April 2010: 49.0%

June 2010: 49.6%

Jul/Aug 2010: 48.7%

Sept/Oct 2010: 50.6%

Nov/Dec 2010: 54.1%

Feb 2011: 49.1%

April 2011: 52.4%

May 2011: 48.2%

Jun/Jul 2011: 50.5%

Aug 2011: 53.3%

Sept 2011: 54.5%

Oct 2011: 52.7%

1-8 Nov 2011: 50.0%

9-16 Nov 2011: 49.4%

16-23 Nov 2011: 48.9%

Feb 2012: 45.8%

April 2012: 44.2%

May/Jun 2012: 40.5%

July: 43.2%

(Source)

Feb 2013: 41.0%

April 2013: 38.0%

May 2013: 41.0%

Jul 2013: 42.0%

Nov 2013: 40.9%

Jan 2014: 38.9%

Mar 2014: 42.6%

May 2014: 43.1%

Jun 2014: 46.7%

Jul 2014: 43.8%

5-3 Aug 2014: 44.1%

19-25 Aug 2014: 41.4%

26 Aug-1 Sept 2014: 45.1%

2-8 Sept 2014: 45.3%

9-15 Sept 2014: 44.1%

Jan 2015: 44.0%

May 2015: 39.4%

(Source)

The most recent 3News/Reid Research Poll is no better for John Key. His PPM ranking has slipped again;

July 2015: 38.3%

From the rarified-atmosphere heights of 55.8% (2009), Key has dropped 17.5 percentage points in the Preferred Prime Minister rankings by July of this year.

The artificial construct of the  relaxed, “blokey”, apolitical, public persona of John Key worked well for the first two terms. But scandal after scandal; a sense that National lacks any firm economic direction (except for asset sales and more roads); and a growing perception amongst New Zealanders that the most basic of Kiwi Dreams – owning your own home – is slipping from our grasp, has put National precisely where it was in the later 1990s, under Jenny Shipley’s stewardship.

People are looking for answers and they are not finding it from Key’s  easy-going approach, nor  National’s message of the Big Aspirational Dream. Both are wearing thin. And irritating to more and more people who, once-upon-a-time, voted for him.

Especially if you happen to be a young person looking to buy  their first home in Auckland.

The fact that the housing bubble is occurring in Auckland is significant for a critical reason;  it is often said that when it comes to general elections, where Auckland goes, the rest of the country follows.

Key has done nothing to address the Auckland housing bubble and the perception/reality that foreign investors are snapping up properties will continue to  gnaw away on his remaining popularity.

When Key utters sentiments such as;

“But the point here is simply this – I don’t want to ban foreigners from buying residential property.”

– most New Zealanders hearing that will be wondering to themselves if their elected Prime Minister is more concerned with the interests  of foreign  investors  speculating on our houses, pushing up prices and locking out young New Zealanders from home-ownership – then he is with the aspirations of those same young New Zealanders.

If New Zealanders, en masse,  begin to believe that multi-millionaire John Key is no longer empathetic to their needs, and instead prefers to justify the rights and interests of wealthy foreign speculators, then their support for him will decline further. The perception that John Key, living the life of a millionaire, in a multi-million-dollar mansion, expressing sympathy for other millionaires to buy houses that we see as rightfully our heritage, will be a toxic one.

Make no mistake; this is an ideological viewpoint from our esteemed Prime Minister, and most New Zealanders will see it as being divorced from their daily realities of living, working, paying bills, trying to get ahead, etc.

Also ideological, is Key’s commitment to Serco. Despite Key’s assurance that “all hell will break loose” if Serco does not improve it’s performance at Mt Eden Prison, there is no possibility – either in Hell or Heaven – that it will loose it’s contract. None whatsoever.

Quite simply, if National were to cancel the contract and dump Serco, it would be a massive admission of failure  that privatisation of social services is fraught with risk and no guarantee that “private is better”. It would set the right wing agenda, to out-source government activities, back by a decade.

It would also highlight to the voting public that National was engaged in risky experiments to push it’s privatisation/neo-liberal agenda. And funded by our taxes, to boot.

The housing crisis in Auckland will be a major test for National. Especially when the next bit of bad news hits the headlines;

Auckland house prices could hit $1 million within 18 months if interest rates continue falling, experts predict.

Geoff Barnett, national manager of real estate agency chain Century 21, said sales price growth patterns gave a strong indication that the magic million could be hit soon.

“If you look at the growth in the last 18 months of over $200,000, and if we had the same amount of growth over the next 18 months, we could get to $1 million in Auckland. If interest rates keep coming down, we could easily get there,” Barnett said.

The  3News/Reid Research Poll also asked respondents what their views were on foreign investors buying up properties. The results were predictable;

Should the Government should ban “foreign buyers”, people who are not residents or citizens, from buying houses?

Yes – 61%
No – 35%
Don’t Know – 4%

More critical for Key, even the majority of National voters supported a ban;

National voters

Yes – 54%
No – 43%
Don’t know – 3%

When the Prime Minister is so out-of-touch with the majority of his own supporters, and is more concerned with endorsing and maintaining a free market  ideology that supports foreigners’ interests rather than New Zealanders’ aspirations – then it is Game Over.

Unless Key does a complete 180 degree back-flip, and bans foreign investors from buying houses, this will be his last term.

National – the party of aspiration – undone and defeated when it could not meet that most basic aspiration of New Zealanders: owning your own Quarter Acre Pavlova Paradise.

Addendum1

From Radio NZ;

Combined support for Labour and the Greens has overtaken National in the latest four-poll average, covering polls taken during July. And Labour has crept back up to 32.4 %, its highest since March 2014.

[…]

National is down to 44.5%. That is its lowest since October 2013. Still, it remains far ahead of all other parties and not far below its election score of 47.0%.

But Labour’s trend seems to be up and National’s down (for now). And Labour and the Greens combined lead National by 0.9% for the first time since February 2014. Around budget time National led by 8.8%.

Winston Peters’ New Zealand First would decide which of the two sides would lead a government.

Source: Poll of Polls, Radio NZ

 

.

.

.

References

TV3:  Poll – 61pct want to ban foreign buyers

Scoop media: TVNZ Q+A Transcript – PM – I don’t want to ban foreign buyers from buying

TV3: The Nation – Interview – Prime Minister John Key

NZ Herald: When will Auckland break $1m median?

 

.

.

9. John Key Tenants in our own country

.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 28 July 2015.

.

.

= fs =

Letter to the editor – John Key’s legacy?

25 July 2015 5 comments

.

Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

.

 

 

from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: NZ Herald <letters@herald.co.nz>
date: Fri, Jul 24, 2015
subject: Letter to the editor

.

The editor
NZ Herald

.

Past Prime Ministers have created legacies that have marked their contribution to this country.

Michael Joseph Savage set up the welfare system and State housing, to alleviate the very worst poverty New Zealand was facing during the Great Depression. Savage would not tolerate the ravages of poverty in a country of plenty like New Zealand.

Norman Kirk’s tenure as Prime Minister was tragically cut short due to illness, but during his brief service to this country, he was instrumental in making our opposition to French atomic bomb testing in the South Pacific known to the world. We became a world leader in opposing atomic weapons, gradually moving humanity from the insanity of a thermonuclear war.

David Lange built on Norman Kirk’s legacy, and announced to the world that New Zealand would become Nuclear Free. Under his watch, gay equality took a giant step forward, removing homosexuality as a criminal offence – something we now take for granted in the 21st century.

What will John Key’s legacy be to this country? Addressing pressing problems surrounding child poverty? Leading the world once again in environmental issues such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions?

No, it appears that our esteemed Prime Minister’s legacy is predicated on changing our flag.

Not exactly what one might call a pressing problem of our generation.

.

-Frank Macskasy

 

.

[address & phone number supplied]

.

.

 

.

Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

.

.

= fs =

The slow dismantling of a populist prime minister

.

john Key smile and wave

.

It’s been a source of frustration and a mystery akin to flying saucers, Loch Ness Monster, Yeti, Bermuda Triangle, etc. I refer, of course, to the unfeasibly high popularity of our esteemed Dear Leader, John Key.

Every time a scandal strikes this government (and there have been so many, I’ve lost count); every time it implements unpopular policies such as asset sales or expanding the powers of the GCSB; every time it fails to balance the budget despite numerous promises; every time it breaks election promises such as not raising GST, not interfering with Kiwisaver, bringing agriculture into the ETS, raising wages comparable to Australia; and as  housing  becomes an ulcerated sore in our cities – Key’s popularity apparently remains undented.

Recently, over a period of months, he was even found to have been assaulting a female staff member at an Auckland cafe;

.

EXCLUSIVE The Prime Minister and the Waitress - ponytail pulling - Amanda Bailey - John Key

.

– and he survived that humiliating experience, his political career apparently intact. His apolitical “blokeyness” seems to have pulled his backside out of the fire, yet again.

But is his popularity as consistently high as we think it is?

Actually – no.

Since 2009, when Key’s “Preferred Prime Minister” (PPM) rating stood at 55.8% on 3News-Reid Research polling, it has been trending down ever since;

Oct/Nov 08: 36.4%

(Source)

Feb 2009: 52.1%

April 2009: 51.1%

Aug 2009: 51.6%

Oct 2009: 55.8%

Feb 2010: 49.4%

April 2010: 49.0%

June 2010: 49.6%

Jul/Aug 2010: 48.7%

Sept/Oct 2010: 50.6%

Nov/Dec 2010: 54.1%

Feb 2011: 49.1%

April 2011: 52.4%

May 2011: 48.2%

Jun/Jul 2011: 50.5%

Aug 2011: 53.3%

Sept 2011: 54.5%

Oct 2011: 52.7%

1-8 Nov 2011: 50.0%

9-16 Nov 2011: 49.4%

16-23 Nov 2011: 48.9%

Feb 2012: 45.8%

April 2012: 44.2%

May/Jun 2012: 40.5%

July: 43.2%

(Source)

Feb 2013: 41.0%

April 2013: 38.0%

May 2013: 41.0%

Jul 2013: 42.0%

Nov 2013: 40.9%

Jan 2014: 38.9%

Mar 2014: 42.6%

May 2014: 43.1%

Jun 2014: 46.7%

Jul 2014: 43.8%

5-3 Aug 2014: 44.1%

19-25 Aug 2014: 41.4%

26 Aug-1 Sept 2014: 45.1%

2-8 Sept 2014: 45.3%

9-15 Sept 2014: 44.1%

Jan 2015: 44.0%

May 2015: 39.4%

(Source)

From the insane heights of 2009 (55.8%), Key has lost 16.4 percentage points in the PPM contest by May of this year.

Key’s leadership is safe. The only contenders are careerist politicians – most of whom would make National unelectable as a government;

  • Steven Joyce – far to arrogant. Looks down at people. Has a tendency to rant at political opponants who he finds threatening. Also not averse to threatening people who piss him off, in a sober, Aaron Gilmore kind of way.
  • Judith Collins – accident prone. Too many skeletons in her closet. Links to far right-wing bloggers; Oravida; and mis-use of her ministerial powers show her to be untrustworthy. Probably the dodgiest of all National MPs.
  • Nick Smith – tends to be sacked from ministerial portfolios more often than Winston Peters. Fast becoming identified with New Zealand’s critical housing problem. Has a fall-back career as a bus tour-driver.
  • Anne Tolley – Would be hopelessly out of her depth. Is beginning to stuff up her Social Welfare portfolio, and recent appearance on ‘Q+A‘ was cringeworthy.
  • Gerry Brownlee – the second-best of the bunch, but also tends to exhibit arrogance and a dismissive attitude to laws. Rules evidently don’t apply to him, as they do to us mere peasants.
  • Hekia Parata – (Joke entrant. Zero probabability.)
  • Paula Bennett – She’s the one. Zombified conservative voters love her for “dealing to the lazy benes”. Has a casual, “relaxed” air about her similar to Key’s. The only one who could possibly take over from Key and not consign National to the Opposition benches for the next ten years.

Except that Key’s leadership is fairly safe for the foreseeable future. Key has de-politicised politics and lulled the peasantry into a hypnotic state that would make Andrew Newton jealous.

But make no mistake, Key’s teflon has been gradually stripped away with scandal after scandal, and Andrew Little’s “Cut the Crap” remark in Parliament on 26 November last year showed that Key can be called out on his bullshit.

If an Opposition Leader can continue to highlight to the public that Key is in fact bullshitting them – it’s game over. Key will be forced to do Real Politics – and that is not his  forté.

One thing that the above polling shows with considerable clarity is that Key’s “dream run” has concluded.

Addendum1

A Wikipedia page of various polls also presents PPM data, but the TV3-Reid Research polls reach back to 2008, giving a more overall picture of the rise-and-dip of Key’s leadership.

Addendum2

A TV1-Colmar Brunton Poll on 19 July reports that John Key’s popularity as PPM has dropped 4 percentage points since May, to 40%.

.

.

.

References

The Daily Blog: The Prime Minister and the Waitress

3News: Opinion Poll – April 13-20 2010

3News: Opinion Poll – 210 October 2012

Reid Research: TV3 Poll Results

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

Radio NZ: Collins defends giving details to blogger

TVNZ Q+A: Revolutionary changes in store for social services

Radio NZ: ‘Cut the crap’ and say sorry, Little tells PM

Wikipedia: Opinion polling for the New Zealand general election, 2014

.

.

.

John Key radio live teflon coated

.

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

.

.

= fs =

Letter to the editor – Contempt for Referenda? Now it’s our turn.

.

Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

.

 

 

from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: Tue, Jul 14, 2015
subject: Letter to the editor

.

The editor
Dominion Post

.

John Key wants the public to take seriously his $29 million flag referendum.

1.3 million New Zealanders voted in the $9 million asset sales referendum in 2013. I intend to show the same “respect” to his referendum, as the contempt he showered on the asset sales referendum, and which he scornfully dismissed as a waste of money and “a political stunt”.

It’s our turn.

.

-Frank Macskasy

[address and phone number supplied]

.

.

.

Related blogposts

 

.

.

= fs =

Letter to the Editor – Just how witless is our PM?!?!

30 June 2015 5 comments

.

Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

.

from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: Mon, Jun 29, 2015
subject: Letter to the Editor

.

 

The Editor

Dominion Post

.

When National recently announced that it will consider selling State houses to overseas buyers – I had to check the calendar, just to ensure it wasn’t April 1.

This has to be the most bizarre and ill-considered policy announcement, in the annals of New Zealand’s political history.

When interviewed by Guyon Espiner on Radio NZ’s “Morning Report”,  on 29 June, Key admitted;

“I don’t know a huge amount about them…but they’re a charity, I think,  in Queensland.”

And,

“I don’t know a tremendous amount about them…”

Just what our most poor and vulnerable families need – a Prime Minister who seems to be utterly clueless about who will be buying taxpayer-built State houses.

The most curious thing is that Key’s government plans to sell houses that are – allegedly – “in the wrong place and wrong size” for Housing NZ’s requirements.

In which case, why would a  charitable organisation, from another country, with little knowledge of our local community needs – be buying up such properties? How would they know what we needed?

Very little of this makes any sense. One can only assume that this is yet another money-raising venture from Bill English, who desperately needs a budget surplus next year.

.

-Frank Macskasy

.

[Address and phone number supplied]

.


 

References

Radio NZ: Morning Report – Foreign buyers eyeing up state house sell-off


 

.

1623616_704918519553325_1013129092_n

.

.

= fs =

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

.

Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

.

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

.

The Editor
Sunday Star Times

.

Prime Minister John Key has called on tenants of State houses to report cold, damp, neglected conditions of their homes. Key says;

“We want to make sure people get assistance. I mean I accept that there’s a lot of people and the Government’s record actually of improving those houses (has) been a strong one over the course of the last four or five years.

We’ve worked hard on trying to improve them. But I accept that some people are cold and some people have, you know, less resources and on the back of that they should definitely reach out for more help.” (Radio NZ, “More state housing action needed – English”, 23 June)

Mr Key seems unaware that government claims that Housing NZ has sufficient money to fix up delapidated properties is at variance with HNZ’s 2013/14 Annual Report which stated, in part;

The responsive repairs programme, which includes work on vacant properties, is dependent on demand, which was higher than expected in 2013/14. Consequently, the budget was overspent due to higher volumes of work orders. The average cost per work order was also higher as a result of more comprehensive repairs and upgrades being carried out on vacant properties. To mitigate this overspend, we deliberately reduced the planned maintenance programme, which decreased the percentage of maintenance spend on planned activity. [p28]

Part of the problem is that the National Government has demanded tens of millions of dollars in dividends from Housing NZ. This year alone, Housing NZ will pay $90 million to the government in dividends – money that could be better spent on maintaining run-down, leaking, mouldy, cold houses. Heating vouchers for the poorest families would also help alleviate illnesses like rheumatic fever.

That should be our esteemed Prime Minister’s first priority.

How many more children must die before this government acts?

.

-Frank Macskasy

.

[Address & phone number supplied]


 

References

Radio NZ:  More state housing action needed – English

Parliament: Hansards – Housing, Affordable – Progress and Management of Housing New Zealand

Housing NZ: 2013/14 Annual Report

 .


 

.

CGw9SZjUgAA0Shw

.

.

= fs =