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Posts Tagged ‘Dear Leader John Key’

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

30 June 2016 2 comments

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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

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The editor
Dominion Post

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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.

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-Frank Macskasy

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[address and phone number supplied]

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References

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

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The slow dismantling of a Prime Minister – downward slide continues

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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;

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TV3 news housing poll

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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;

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Key says he'll quit politics if National loses election

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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

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national's free market solution to housing

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

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Hooton and Farrar slag Key – With friends like these…

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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;

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

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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.

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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?

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

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

22 April 2016 4 comments

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

20 March 2016 5 comments

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Prime Minister John Key draped in current flag at NZ Open

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“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…

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john key photo op (1-4)

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Though some weren’t quite so keen…

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john key photo op (5)

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Some turned out to be downright dodgy…

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john key photo op (6)

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And some turned into an unmitigated disaster…

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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.

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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)…

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john key photo op (7-9)

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

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john key photo op (10)

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

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john key photo op 11-14)

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Chuck in an Aussie Prime Minister…

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And another Aussie Prime Minister…

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

 

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Yet another Aussie Prime Minister…

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

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

A former New Zealand Prime Minister…

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Or the current Brit Prime Minister.

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

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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)

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See? Nailed that handshake…

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

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

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Or a US State Secretary…

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John-Key-Hillary-Clinton-1200

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Maybe another Royal…

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john-key-prince-charles-rachael-park

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And a Queen or two…

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

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

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Key and Queens

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Some bloke from China…

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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)

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And some bloke from America…

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

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And we know what followed next…

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key - letterman

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Though perhaps not quite as embarrassing as this…

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RWC_JohnKey

 

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*facepalm*

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

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Key in toy boat

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And when you get tired of doing your own driving…

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

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Still hangin’ out with Ritchie and The Boys…

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

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Good night John!

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Ok… getting a bit wanky now…

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

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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;

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

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Key with alt flag lapel badge

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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;

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lapel badge - key - turnbull

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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…

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Prime Minister John Key draped in current flag at NZ Open

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Screw those principles.

Smile for the camera, Dear Leader!

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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

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Annoying little guy and ritchie mccaw

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

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

5 March 2016 4 comments

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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,

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"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.”

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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.

 

 

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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

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6a00d83451d75d69e201901cbc5a3c970b

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

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

19 February 2016 4 comments

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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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;

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

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

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

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The editor
The Wellingtonian

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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.

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-Frank Macskasy

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[address and phone number supplied]

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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)

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

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