On 29 January 2013, Prime Minister John Key announced that the rebuild of Christchurch would be a Herculean, multi-billion dollar task;
“New Zealand also faces a domestic construction boom. That will be centred, of course, on Christchurch, where the total spend is now estimated to be around $30 billion.”
“The total cost of the rebuild has been estimated at $40 billion and the Government’s share will be significant.
On current estimates, the Government’s contribution to the rebuild is expected to be $15.4 billion, of which $7.3 billion will be incurred by the Earthquake Commission, net of reinsurance proceeds.”
Despite central government’s massive re-build bill for Christchurch, in his Budget Conclusion, English was at pains to repeat his new mantra;
“The Government’s books are on track to surplus next year and are the envy of most developed countries.”
The surplus English referred to was an Operating balance Before Gains and Losses (OBEGAL), forecast to be a hair-thin $86 million for 2014/15.
English’s Budget document pointed out;
“Government is still borrowing a net $78 million a week, and in dollar terms, net debt is expected to peak at $64.5 billion in 2015/16...”
Little wonder that English stated, with blinding obviousness four days earlier;
“It means we will need to maintain firm expenditure control beyond our return to surplus...”
Which is why an increasingly nervous Finance Minister, conscious of spiralling re-build costs, came down hard and crushed any suggestion that taxpayer’s money be used to subsidise the proposed SkyCity convention centre;
“There’s no contingency for that. If the less preferred option ended up being the option then that money would be part of the Budget process.”
Firm expenditure control in this case meant that the government-purse was firmly shut. And padlocked.
National Government’s Predictable Response
In May 2011, barely three months after Christchurch’s devastating earthquake that killed 185 people, there were already suggestions from Gerry Brownlee that the Christchurch Council would have to sell part of their community-owned assets to fund the re-build.
National’s mis-handling of the economy, with two unaffordable tax-cuts, as well as the Global Financial Crisis and resultant recession, had left the government’s books deep in the red.
At first, Brownlee was coy at any suggestion of asset sales;
“I don’t foresee the council having to sell any assets, though in the end that will be their choice. ”
But in the next breath, he added;
“I would suspect that Treasury have had a look at the city council’s balance sheet, given that we are going to have to take a whole lot of debt onto our [the Government’s] balance sheet.
It’s only natural we would have a look at what the council can stand [to pay].
Yes, there is provision in this legislation for Cera [Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority] to suggest to council that they might need to sell something. ”
Brownlee denied that government or Treasury had been scoping CCC assets with a view to partial (or full) privatisation;
“The accusation is that Treasury have been looking at council assets with a view to what the council will sell. That is, I think, completely erroneous.”
On 9 February 2012, a year after the second earthquake, Brownlee admitted in Parliament (in response to questioning by the future mayor of Christchurch, Lianne Dalziel);
“In the days leading up to that particular injudicious comment from me there were numerous discussions going on with the council—between the senior executives, the mayor, me, and the senior executives of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority—over a number of issues that we want the council to take some responsibility, alongside us, for. Although Treasury officials will have talked to the council, I am unaware of exactly what that discussion would have been about. But let me tell you that when the Government is spending $5.5 billion anywhere we expect the recipients of that to have some plan for how they will participate in what will be a very, very expensive recovery, and that plan has to be a lot better than saying “We’re just going to put up the rates, and we’re going to borrow a lot more money”.”
Brownlee would have us believe that he was “unaware of exactly what that discussion would have been about” between Treasury officials and Christchurch council? As Minister of Earthquake Recovery of that devastated city, that proposition is simply not credible.
Brownlee was not being truthful.
The Minister’s denial was further shown to be less than truthful with this evasive response in Parliament on 2 August 2012;
“I have received advice from Treasury and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority on a range of funding options for the rebuilding of Greater Christchurch, to which the Government has committed $5.5 billion to date. Alongside the Christchurch City Council, I support the regeneration of our city, which will be enhanced by the development of the central city plan, released on Monday. I have publicly acknowledged the funding challenges for both the city council and the Government. Councillors and I have agreed to discuss, alongside our respective organisations, a sensible and achievable time line and funding programme for the delivery of the blueprint. I approach these discussions in good faith, as the thousands of city residents would expect us to do so. I intend to say no further on this matter.”
The full text of a remarkable, and somewhat ‘testy’ exchange between Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery, Gerry Brownlee, and the then-Speaker of the House, Lockwood Smith, under-scored the sensitivity of any suggestion that central government was putting the “squeeze” on Christchurch to sell community-owned assets and relieve pressure on English’s struggle to balance the books.
By May 2013, all pretences that asset sales were not being discussed were firmly kicked to the side, with John Key entering the political fray (and Gerry Brownlee standing pensively and obediently in the background);
Key was clear with Christchurch residents in his expectations;
“The only other option available to it is that it doesn’t actually embark on some of the projects it might want to embark on. In the end Cantabrians will have to have a say on what they think is the right mix.
I actually personally hold the view that for Canterbury, where you love sport, happen to be pretty darn good at it, and have climatic conditions that argue that a covered stadium might make sense, then actually it could be a really sensible thing to do.
And if it was up to me I would make that choice in a heartbeat if it meant changing the mix of assets, but I understand for lots of other people they might not hold that view.
This is the chance to get it right. I just urge everyone to think that through. There is the opportunity to have some quite fantastic facilities here.
The Government is quite happy to step up and put $15bn in, and there is a limit as to how much we can put in, and some of it must come from the council.”
The threat is obvious; ‘cough up the extra cash by selling some of the family silver, or no more rugger for you lot’!
Faced with National firmly closing off any options to meet ever-increasing re-build costs, Christchurch was faced with few alternatives and on 1 August last year the Council caved to central government pressure in the form of a report from investment bankers, Cameron Partners. As Mayor Lianne Dalziel admitted;
“We’ve got nothing, there isn’t even wriggle room any more, there’s just nothing there, we’re over the line and we have to pull it back before 2017.
Creating financial certainty will attract much needed investment in the rebuild. We want to work alongside the Canterbury earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) to scope the possibilities for a one-stop landing point for both local and foreign investors.”
Note the year Dalziel refers to: 2017. An election year.
Dalziel’s reference to “both local and foreign investors” is an oblique acknowledgement that the Christchurch City Council will have to part-privatise community assets to raise money that will not be forthcoming from Key’s government.
She was more forth-coming here, on the same day;
“Releasing capital from our balance sheet alongside the other options, (including increased income, reduced operational expenditure and government assistance), is clearly one of the ways we can address the uncertainty around the city’s finances.”
Dalziel also hinted at why Christchurch was forced to undertake asset sales;
“The purpose of releasing capital would be to generate funds to assist in solving the identified funding shortfall; provide the level of confidence and certainty required to develop a credible long term financial strategy and get on with the rebuild of our community facilities, infrastructure and housing; allow CCC to buffer Christchurch residents and businesses from the exponential rates increases; and allow CCC to align our vision and strategic objectives for the rebuild with our asset portfolio – that is, what we own and operate.”
It is simply untenable – both from a commercial perspective, as well as morally – that citizens in one city should be forced to pay for the rebuild of their infra-structure. This was a disaster not of their making.
Any suggestion that the cost should not be spread more evenly around the country would create a precedent that we are each solely responsible for any disaster that might befall our own region. Do New Zealanders really want to go down that road? They should think long and hard if that is the kind of society they want for themselves and their children.
Earthquake Recovery Minister could not endorse the Cameron Partners report fast enough, releasing this statement on the same day – 1 August;
“The Cameron Partners report makes it clear some major areas of financial uncertainty are causing headaches for Christchurch City, including the cost of repairing and replacing the city’s essential horizontal infrastructure [pipes, roads, waterways].
When we signed the cost-sharing agreement with the council in June 2013 we foresaw this and undertook to do a thorough review of where the shared costs of the rebuild lay by 1 December this year.
Once we have this information we can consider if any amendments are required to the cost-sharing agreement.
Officials from CERA and the Treasury are working with the council already to ensure the review provides Christchurch City with the clarity it needs to help make some of the big decisions ahead of it.”
National had won.
Brownlee had successfully forced Christchurch Council to adopt unofficial National Party policy; that Council’s were expected to divest themselves of strategic assets if funding for extraordinary projects was required. This was the same policy that Brownlee had forced on Auckland, to fund it’s rail loop, and which he outlined on TV3’s ‘The Nation‘, on 30 June 2013;
Rachel Smalley: “John Key said on Thursday that Auckland should consider selling its assets in order to meet some of these costs. Should the Council consider that?”
Gerry Brownlee: “Well I think it’s one of those things that’s inevitably going to be on the table. Remember that we’ve got a programme that is now set out for the next 10 years, and as we come up to the point where you’re getting the business case together for the city rail link and that huge expense that’s involved in that, and recognise that you’ve got a 2016 Local Body Election as well, I’d be very surprised if it wasn’t something that was considered by some people.”
But more was come on 6 December 2014, Brownlee was demanding that Christchurch Council increase the level of asset sales;
“So it’s a positive step but it’s not the end yet. I do have some worries that it might be a little timid and particularly if it were to lead to much higher rates there in Christchurch.”
Murray Horton, from the lobby group ‘Keep Our Assets Canterbury’, was correct when he warned;
“Once a chunk of ownership of those assets, the council’s assets, is gone then it won’t be long before there are calls for more to go.”
Horton’s prescience was proved barely three months later.
Costs & Consequences
On 26 February, 2015, four years and four days after the city’s second quake, the Christchurch City Council voted;
“...subject to public consultation, the council will release $750m in capital through the sale or partial sale of assets the council owns through its commercial arm, Christchurch City Holdings, to help plug its $1.2 billion funding shortfall.”
“I don’t think you can put a particular price on it. What I think they need to do, and I’m sure that the council will get there. I’ve got to say the council have been edging their way to a position that I think will leave them in a good space progressively. What really is necessary is a sales process that gets you the highest possible price. If you go out and say, ‘Look, I’m just going to sell a little bit of this and a little bit of that,’ then you’re not going to get any premium on it at all. And if you’re going to sell something, you may as well get as much for it as you possibly can. That’s my real point.
…if you look at something like the airport. It’s essentially a real estate company that just provides parking for planes. You could break it down to being that simple. It’s still going to get used. It’s still going to provide the service the city requires whoever owns it. It is partly price controlled through the Commerce Act, as is Orion. Completely price controlled. So the idea that someone else would buy it and the pricing of your electricity lines are going to become completely out of control is completely wrong. ”
The sale of community assets is a perfect fit with National’s ideological and fiscal needs;
- Ideologically, National is as wedded to privatisation as it ever was. It is only held back from a more radical asset sales programme by public opinion – a point no doubt reinforced through National’s on-going secret polling.
- Fiscally, forcing local territorial authorities to finance infra-structure through sales of community-own assets lets central government off the hook, and gives English his desperately needed surplus.
Territorial Authorities have little control over Point 2.
With regards to Point 1, however, Territorial Authorities finding themselves under financial pressure can be more strategic when it comes to finding ways and means to navigate political pressure from the likes of right-wing governments and ministers like Gerry Brownlee.
One such mechanism is found within Christchurch City Council’s own document, “Council decision on proposed Financial Strategy“, where it states;
The sale of 14.3 % of Orion on condition that the shares are only offered to another public entity, such as another TA [Territorial Authority], or an institutional investor such as NZ Super Fund, and that any agreement would be subject to the shares returning to the CCC should the investor wish to sell down its share at a future date.
The same document suggests the sale of 34% of Lyttleton Port Company and 9% of Canterbury International Airport Ltd to “a suitable strategic partner“.
The latter measure opens the proverbial slippery slope to further down-selling of Christchurch Council’s shares in both companies. As such, it would be unacceptable to most Cantabrians (and New Zealanders, who have experienced the down-side of sales of strategic assets).
The NZ Super Fund would be an ideal partner for a Territorial Authoritory such as Christchurch Council. At present the NZSF’s investment in New Zealand amounts to only 13.8% in 2014 (down from 14.2% in 2013).
Not only would the NZSF offer an ideal means by which to keep these assets in New Zealand ownership, but would retain the profits instead of seeing them sent off-shore, worsening our Balance of Payments even further.
It would also fulfil the Super Fund’s 2009 directive from the Minister of Finance “requiring us to, while always investing in a prudent and commercial manner, identify and consider opportunities to increase the allocation to New Zealand assets in the Fund“.
Lastly, the Christchurch Council could eventually re-purchase the shares from the NZSF once the city’s re-build was essentially completed and it’s books were back to some semblance of normality.
The first option should always be that local strategic assets remain in local ownership, so that everyone in the community benefits.
In the face of intransigence from an ideologically-bound, and fiscally inept National Government, the best we can hope for is Plan B.
Plan B: transferring ownership, by temporary sale, to the New Zealand Super Fund. It ticks nearly all the boxes.
Additional – Christchurch City Asset Holdings
- Christchurch City Holdings Ltd (CCHL) is the commercial/investment arm of the Christchurch City Council.
- CCHL manages the Council (ratepayers’) investment – worth around $2.6 billion – in these seven fully or partly-owned council-controlled trading organisations.
- CCHL is forecasting to paying $46 million in dividends for 2015/16 period.
- CCHL Special dividend for 2015/16 period: $549,300,000
- “The return on our CCHL investment from cash dividends has averaged 3 per cent in the last three years and 4 per cent in the last 10 years. When the appreciation in the capital value of its investments is taken into account, CCHL has achieved an internal rate of return over the past five years of 8.0per cent a year, or 25.9 per cent a year since its inception in 1996.” (Source)
Orion New Zealand Ltd: 89.3% shareholding
Christchurch International Airport Ltd: 75%
Lyttelton Port Company Ltd: 78.9%
Christchurch City Networks Ltd (trading as Enable Networks): 100%
Red Bus Ltd: 100%
City Care Ltd: 100%
Selwyn Plantation Board Ltd: 39.3%
[Acknowledgement Fairfax Media]
National Party: Prime Minister’s Statement to Parliament
NZ Treasury: 2014 Budget Speech
NZ Treasury: Rebuilding Christchurch
NZ Treasury: Budget Priorities
Beehive.govt.nz: Budget will confirm track to surplus in 2014/15
Fairfax media: Christchurch door open for asset sales
Scoop media: Parliamentary Questions And Answers Feb 9 2012
Fairfax media: Cameron Partners Review – full report
TV One News: Christchurch facing huge financial black hole
Scoop media: Brownlee says its up to Len to sell assets for loop
Radio NZ: Asset sales plan ‘may be too timid’
NZ Super Fund: 2014 Annual Report
NZ Super Fund: 2009 Ministerial Directive
Christchurch City Council: Christchurch City Long Term Plan 2015 – 2025
Christchurch City Council: Council decision on proposed Financial Strategy
Christchurch City Council: Long Term Plan consultation document adopted
Previous related blogposts
This blogpost was submitted to the Christchurch City Council as a submission to the Long Term Plan, on 22 March 2015.
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 23 March 2015.
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Much has been made of the low voter turn-out at the recent local body elections, with pundits, media, bloggers, et al, trying to figure out why voters weren’t motivated enough to bother filling our their ballot.
This is my insight into the problem…
1. Brand Politics
I’ll start with the easy one first, and refer to “brand politics”.
Quite simply, unless you happen to be follow local body politics and community issues – one is left scratching their head as to what each candidate stands for.
What are their political leanings on the Left/Right spectrum? For example, how many people in Dunedin knew that Hilary Calvert – standing for the mayoralty and Council – had previously been an ACT MP?
Calvert’s political background and extremist libertarian views would have a direct bearing on any position she was elected to. For a Party that garnered only 23,889 party votes (1.07%) in the 2011 general elections, how many Dunedin voters knew they were voting for the radical, card-carrying, member of a failed ideology when they cast their vote for her?
Where do candidates stand on the issues such as “core services” vs civic involvement by Councils?
Or on contentious issues such as water flouridation? One Dunedin candidate simply listed “water flouridation” as an issue of interest on his election leaflet – without any indication where he stood. Not very helpful.
This is where party or group branding is a useful tool for voters. Standing under a group banner with specific policies makes it easier for voters to understand who to vote for.
As Auckland mayor, Len Brown said,
“But we still have this fundamental issue that nobody knows who their councillor is and what council does, and until we address that you can have any system you like – you can have compulsory voting even – but if people don’t know what the hell they are voting for, it’s pointless.”- Len Brown, 13 October 2013
At the same time, Madeleine Foreman from Generation Zero, referred to “a lack of information” as well as “an information overload“.
The situation below does not constitute meaningful “information”,
The Auckland group, City Vision, gave voters – who might not otherwise be familiar with candidates – a better idea who to vote for (or not), according to their own political beliefs.
Voting in general elections is relatively easier because of political “branding” via Parties. We don’t need to understand what every candidate stands for, because their Party “brand” is a short-hand explanation. (Though on occassions, such Peter Dunne’s crackpot rag-tag fellow United Future MPs in 2005, we still didn’t know what we were getting with our Party Vote.)
As we lead busier lives with more constraints and demands on our time (eg, the fracturing of the country’s electricity supply into a “market”, meaning we now have to shop around for “cheaper” prices) , umbrella groups could make the voting process easier for those wanting to participate – but not quite knowing who to vote for.
One wonders how many Dunedin voters voted for Hilary Calvert without knowing her right wing, ACT connections?
2. Postal Ballot
Postal voting is a great idea for some – but not for everyone.
The problem with postal voting is that ballot papers can be misplaced; piles of other correspondence placed on top; and otherwise forgotten.
We need to run the postal voting system alongside the voting station option.
The best rationale for returning to ballot booths is that they are a visible reminder for people to vote.
I recall the very first time I ever voted. It was the Wellington local body election and I was driving past the old Wellington Children’s Dental Clinic in Willis St.
I had forgotten that the local body elections were being held (being a young man, I was more focused on young people’s stuff), and seeing the Voting Booth signs on the footpath, I immediatly pulled over and went inside to do my civic duty. (I voted for Labour candidates, as otherwise I had little idea as to what other candidates stood for.)
Voting stations may be more expensive, but cost should not be a determinant for democracy. As well as reminding people, they are a community-oriented means by which to cast your vote. There are others around you doing the same thing and this builds a sense of social cohesion and purpose.
It is the “watering hole” for local democracy.
There’s nothing much community-minded to tick a box on a piece of paper and posting it. Or sitting at your computer clicking on a box via e-voting.
Sometimes, doing things the “old fashioned way” should not be automatically dismissed as “obsolete”.
3. Central Government
The biggest fault and brick-bat for the low voter turn-out, I reserve for this current government. John Key’s administration has done more to marginalise local body democracy and engender growing apathy than any other causal factor.
National has undermined local democracy by using it’s central government powers to over-ride democratically community representatives and impose it’s own policies;
Auckland Super City
In April 2009, ACT MP and Minister for Local Government, Rodney Hide, refused to allow Aucklanders the chance to voice their opinion – via a referendum – whether or not to create the Auckland “super council”.
In Hide’s view,
“The difficulty with a referendum is it would cost a million dollars and it would just ask `yes’ or `no’.
What I’m picking up, very clearly, is that a lot of people favour a super city but they’ve got particular views about how it should be structured and run — it’s not just a `yes’ or `no’ question, that’s why I’ve been so actively engaged with the mayors.” – Rodney Hide, 24 April 2009
So one man decided the fate of 1.4 million Aucklanders? Is that democracy? What would this chap say to Hide, I wonder…
The people of Auckland had no voice in the matter.
- Margaret Bazley (Chair)
- Hon. David Caygill (Deputy Chair)
- David Bedford
- Donald Couch
- Tom Lambie
- Professor Peter Skelton
To date, Ecan still has no elected councillors and it’s governing body is appointed by John Key’s government.
The new powers of the commissioners were such that they could implement regional plans for Canterbury but which could not be appealed to the Environment Court. (See: Environment Canterbury commissioners named)
In April 2010, Forest & Bird uncovered an agenda by central government,
“...to abolish Environment Canterbury to fast-track large-scale irrigation.
Papers obtained by Forest & Bird under the Official Information Act show that from September last year briefings to Ministers and Cabinet papers focussed on the Hurunui and Rakaia rivers and how the Crown could help remove “blockages” to their progress.
“The Government was looking for a way to fast-track irrigation in Canterbury and undermine protection of the region’s over-allocated rivers,” Forest & Bird Canterbury Field Officer Jen Miller says.“
It appears that National had less-than-transparent reasons for dismissing Ecan’s councillors and replacing democratically elected representatives with hand-picked appointees.
The people of Canterbury had no voice in the matter.
Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA)
Coming into effect in late Match 2011, CERA was created by
Commissar Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee as a super organisation with powers never before seen in the country. As Brownlee himself admitted in a Beehive press statement,
“…CERA would have wide powers to relax, suspend or extend laws and regulations which would be used responsibly and for clearly defined purposes related to earthquake recovery.” – Gerry Brownlee, 29 March 2011
Brownlee tried to reassure New Zealanders that National was not creating a monstrous government organisation that essentially gave dictatorial powers to the Minister,
“These are essentially reserve powers and there will be checks and balances on the use of these powers so the public can have confidence they are being used wisely and with restraint.”
Considering National’s track record on riding rough-shod over community concerns; subverting local democracy; ignoring public opinion; and prepared to dismiss the forthcoming referendum on asset sales – Brownlee’s assurances ring hollow.
In fact, National had such faith in the democratic process – including “checks and balances” – that the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Bill 2011 was rushed through under urgency in July 2011.
CERA’s un-elected CEO is Roger Sutton, who is appointed and answerable solely to Minister Brownlee.
The people of Canterbury had no voice in the matter.
National’s interference in Auckland’s draft Unitary Plan and housing policy is, by now, well known. As The Aucklander reported on 14 March this year,
The Government is becoming increasingly heavy-handed over Auckland’s housing shortage, with talk of a new Crown agency to free up more land.
Environment Minister Amy Adams has suggested stripping the Auckland Council of some planning powers for three years to allow a Crown agency to play a role increasing the city’s residential land supply.
New Housing Minister Nick Smith has also released a Government report which, he says, shows a worrying trend of reduced land availability and soaring section prices.
Last week, Dr Smith vowed to break the “stranglehold” of Auckland Council’s policy of containing urban sprawl – a policy he said was “killing the dreams of Aucklanders” by driving up house prices.
National’s heavy-handedness on this matter was in direct response to Labour’s (well-founded) accusations that the current government was not addressing a critical housing shortage in this country.
National was content to see urban sprawl for short-term political gain, with Nick Smith’s outrageous hyperbole that the Unitary Plan would result in “killing the dreams of Aucklanders“.
The Nats also refused to enshrine the Unitary Plan in law, as they apparently had their own agenda. (See: Nick Smith and Len Brown’s relationship put to test)
The government-Council dispute was apparent to all when, on 25 March, a meeting scheduled to last for two hours was cut short after only one hour. (See: Len Brown, Nick Smith meeting breaks up without agreement on Auckland house plan)
Despite the Auckland super-city being a creation of the National-ACT government, they were unwilling to allow Aucklanders the chance to solve their own problems.
One wonders if it wouldn’t be cheaper to simply abolish the Auckland Council and appoint Nick Smith as Commissar for Auckland, and run directly from the Beehive? At least it would be more honest.
Interestingly, on 10 October this year, Nick Smith was keen to reassure voters that that was no housing crisis in this country,
“I don’t accept that there is a crisis and the duplicity of parties like Labour is exposed when the affordability index was a whole lot worse in 2008 and they rejected any notion of there being a crisis then.”
That’s an awful lot of effort that Smith and his ministerial cronies are putting into an an issue that isn’t really a crisis at all.
Earthquake recovery minister, Gerry Brownlee, has an almost ‘schizophrenic’ attitude when it comes to the housing crisis in Christchurch.
On 20 March last year, Minister Brownlee stated that Christchurch’s critical housing shortage was “best left to the market” to resolve,
However, the Government was careful about how it influenced the housing market, he said.
If it had jumped in earlier, it could have artificially lowered the appetite of private investors to provide a solution that could be lucrative for investors, he said.
Not much help to Cantabrians living in garages or cars. But at least Minister Brownlee is living comfortably in a tax-payer funded ministerial home. (See: $18m state housing bill for new Government tenants)
But by 22 November of this year, Brownlee appeared to have belatedly realised that Christchurch did indeed having a growing housing problem. His language was disturbingly dictatorial,
Christchurch City Council has been given an ultimatum – sign off the city’s land use recovery plan or the government will go it alone.
Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee has lost patience with councillors and says he’ll meet them on Friday in a final bid to solve the problem.
If that doesn’t work he’s going to use the powers parliament gave him to ratify the plan himself.
The plan allows more buildings on existing sections in urban areas and Mr Brownlee says its a vital to get house building moving.
So much for Brownlee reassuring New Zealand that, with the creation of CERA, that National was not giving dictatorial powers to the Minister,
“These are essentially reserve powers and there will be checks and balances on the use of these powers so the public can have confidence they are being used wisely and with restraint.”
Brownlee’s strong arm tactics worked, and the Commissar for Christchurch got his own way,
“We agreed a process that officials from both sides will work on over the weekend and early next week. They intend to endorse the land use recovery plan next Thursday and we will take it to cabinet the following Monday.”
This is what centralised government rule, from a small clique of ministers, looks like.
Central Government issues diktat for “core services”
In case local bodies were still unclear on National’s policy of centralised planning and control, Minister Nick Smith last year released a plan euphemistically called “Better Local Government”. (See: Govt puts the squeeze on councils)
It was an agenda to control Councils’ operations and return to “core services”. Council planning and policy-making would no longer be left to local voters – but would be determined by government appointed officials such as the Local Government Efficiency Taskforce , the Infrastructure Expert Advisory Group, and the Productivity Commission. (See: IBID)
Interestingly, Smith never actually defined what constituted “core services”.
A day later, Dear Leader Key backed up Smith by stating categorically,
“In narrowing their purpose clause, it may exclude them from providing those services, or at least challenge their thinking about whether those services should be provided.
One has to ask the question, if central government isn’t providing those services, then really should local government step in and fill the breach? Because there might be a very good reason why central government hasn’t done it.”
So, for example, if central government decides not to house the poorest people in our communities – by reducing state housing – that evidently means that local bodies must also sit on their hands and see homelessness increase? Is that how it works under a centralised National regime?
That is what I take from Key’s comments.
What voters want is apparently irrelevant.
What central government wants trumps local communities needs.
Any one or two instances of central-government interference in local body affairs could be dismissed and quickly forgotten. But taken together, there is a growing, pernicious perception (perception?!) that important decisions are emanating from The Beehive and independent local body representation is little more than illusory.
One has to wonder how motivated people are to engage in local body politics, knowing that the decisions of their locally-elected representatives can be over-ridden by a minister from central government?
If that doesn’t foster apathy, what will?
Key and his henchmen/women need to keep their grubby paws of local body bodies. They should have enough on their plate with high unemployment; high debt; critical housing problems; struggling manufacturing sector; environmental problems; etc.
We don’t need a Keygrad and National Politburo micro-managing our communities. This is one instance where the State (or at least central government) can – and should – stay out of our lives.
If National is re-elected next year, we may not be seeing much more of this kind of local, grass-roots democracy in action…
Photo acknowledgement: The Daily Blog
And supreme irony of ironies, it was the Nats who labelled the previous Labour-led governments as “Helengrad”. In reality, Labour was a Libertarian party in comparison to this neo-Muldoonist system of centralised planning and control.
I am reminded of Russel Norman’s words earlier this year,
“Next time you see John Key smiling, remember he’s not smiling because he likes you, he’s smiling because he’s giving favours to his mates while undermining your democracy.
But we have seen all this before… Robert Muldoon would recognise this Government as one after his own heart, but with better spin doctors and a smilier disposition.
Mr Key may not look like Muldoon but he sure as hell is acting like Muldoon.” – Russel Norman, 1 June 2013
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 29 November 2013.
The Press: Minority rules in low voter turnout
Fairfax media: Christchurch Rent Crisis ‘Best Left To Market’
Elections NZ: Local Body Elections
Wikipedia: New Zealand local elections, 2013
NZ Herald: Election results Around the country
Dept of Internal Affairs: Local Authority Election Statistics 2010
Previous related blogposts
The Daily Blog: Why You Need to Vote in the Local Body Elections
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from: Frank Macskasy <firstname.lastname@example.org>
to: Sunday Star Times <email@example.com>
date: Mon, Dec 2, 2013 at 8:41 AM
subject: Letter to the ed
Sunday Star Times
National’s supposed earthquake recovery minister, Gerry Brownlee was on Morning Report on 2 December, complaining that the small turnout was more about apathy than a “sea change” in public opinion wanting to see a change in government.
He said, ” I acknowledge they won a seat that they’ve always held. That was expected.But to sort of say on such a small turnout that it represents anything other than [an] indication of voter apathy is questionable.”
Is that right, Mr Brownlee?
Does that mean that the same can be said of the 2011 election results, which was the lowest voter turn-out since 1887, where over 800,000 New Zealanders did not vote?
Or is it a “good result” – despite a small voter turnout – only if the Nats come out of it looking good?
– Frank Macskasy
[address and phone number supplied]
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Pita Sharples – gone
Acknowledgement: Radio NZ – Pita Sharples quits Maori Party leadership
Pita Sharples has effectively taken responsibility for the Maori Party’s poor showing (third place) at the recent Ikaroa-Rāwhiti by-election. That result was an indictment on the Maori Party’s decision to support an increasingly shakey government that is losing support in more accurate polling.
The internal leadership struggles between himself and Te Ururoa Flavell has also taken it’s toll on the 71 year old,
“It’s clear that the leadership issue…has taken a toll on the Maori Party and our people deserve a united Maori Party.”
Acknowledgement: Domninion Post – Sharples quits Maori Party leadership
It’s also something that is focusing closer scrutiny upon an increasingly unstable government. The toll thus far;
- Hekia Parata – lost part of her port-folio. In essence, a partial sacking.
- Aaron Gilmore – forced to resign from Parliament.
- John Banks – facing charges in Court. If found guilty, he will hve to resign.
- Peter Dunne – Party de-registered; lost his ministerial portfolios; and becoming increasingly oppositional to National’s policies.
- Pita Sharples – standing down as Maori-Party co-leader
An early election this year (or early next year) is becoming more likely with each passing crisis.
Not a good time for National.
The spooks have a new Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security…
Key says that McGechan’s role will be on an “interim” basis, instead of the usual three years, as the GCSB and Related Legislation Amendment Bill is currently being considered by a Parliament Select Committee.
However, with Peter Dunne wavering on this issue; with mounting public opposition; and god-only-knows which way Winston Peters will jump; the passing of the GCSB and Related Legislation Amendment Bill is by no means guaranteed.
In which case, National has two options remaining,
The office of the Inspector-General must be expanded; properly staffed; and appropriately funded. At present, the Inspector-General’s role is a part-time position, with no permanent staffing. Our Inspector General is faced with oversight of two intelligence agencies with a combined staff of around 520. In effect he is out-numbered, out-resourced, and consequently, out-manouvered.
By contrast, our Aussie cuzzy’s version of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security has approximately 20 people working full time for the Inspectorate (see IGIS Annual Report 2011-12 Part three: Management and accountability )
This, I believe is the real problem surrounding our security-intelligence agencies – not the legislation needing “tightening up”. The legislation is tight enough as it is.
It just needs to be obeyed.
The Labour Party’s call for a full public commission of inquiry on this matter cannot be ignored any longer. If Key wants cross-party support and public buy-in to secuirity/intelligence issues, then it must be open to all political parties and the public to contribute to the debate.
As matters stand now, if National forces through unpopular, undemocratic, and ultimately counter-productive laws – an incoming government will be bound to amend or repeal it entirely. This is grossly wasteful use of the Parliamentary process and taxpayer’s money.
This blogger hopes that the GCSB and Related Legislation Amendment Bill is set aside. Aside from National ministers and a few misguided rightwing bloggers, there is very little support for this proposed legislation.
Egg; Face; Maggie Barry
Ex-radio host-come-National politician – known for her acerbic and often nasty tongue in Parliament’s debating chamber – has copious amounts of egg on her face.
Ever the loyal, obedient National Party foot-soldier for towing the OPL (Official Party Line), she loudly parroted her party’s opposition to the Auckland rail link. She expressed her “well wishes” to Len Brown after he won the 2010 Mayoralty race with this graceless message,
The morning after National’s resounding victory she sent a strong message to Auckland mayor Len Brown, saying there would be a CBD rail link before a second harbour crossing “over our dead bodies”.
Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Maggie Barry’s line in sand
But political Karma being what it is, National’s change of heart on this issue had made her look foolish. Her senior fellow politicians have now endorsed Len Brown and Auckland Council’s plans for the Auckland rail link,
Ms Barry, not quite bringing herself able to tow the new OPL, endorsed only certain aspects of Auckland Council’s transport plans,
North Shore National MP Maggie Barry said there was a “flurry of excitement” about the suggestion the North Shore could get another link to the city.
“It is essential and long overdue, and it would make a phenomenal difference to the North Shore.”
Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Key to give Auckland a crossing
I suspect there’s enough egg on Ms Barry’s face to cook up a decent size omelette.
Not content with creating the Auckland super city without first putting it to Auckland ratepayers through a referendum…
Not content with pushing more laws through Parliament under “Urgency” than probably any other government in New Zealand’s history…
Not content with dis-establishing Environment Canterbury in March 2010; replacing it with un-elected Commissioners; whose decisions cannot be appealed to the Environment Court…
Not content with usurping the authority of the Christchurch City Council with the creation of CERA…
Not content with being given sweeping political power in the Christchurch re-build, via the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act which effectively gives unbridled power to National Ministers for five years…
Not content with expanding the surveillance powers of the GCSB, where no one will be safe from being spied upon by the State…
Not content with moving to take control of Christchurch…
Gerry Brownlee is now putting none-too-subtle pressure on Auckland City to sell its assets to help pay for the Auckland rail loop,
Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – City’s shares eyed for rail
Acting more reminiscent of a feudal Baron ruling over his fiefdom, Brownlee is treating Mayor Len Brown as a vassal, forcing Auckland City to obey National’s diktats.
I wonder what Aucklanders think of this kind of high-handed Ministerial control being exerted over their city – all the way from Wellington?
It must be demeaning for Aucklanders to realise that their elected local representatives are being treated like puppets, and that real power is being exerted from the Beehive?
So much for the quaint notion of democracy.
So much for Aucklanders being in charge of their own destiny.
So much for the “partnership” that our mendacious Prime Minister promised, three years ago,
The Government will work in partnership with the new Auckland council to improve the city’s transport systems, Prime Minister John Key says.
He said today the Government shared Mayor Len Brown’s vision of getting Auckland moving and it was a government priority as well.
“The Government will work in partnership with the new Auckland City Council on what comes next, and contribute its fair share to the continuing goal of improving transport,” Mr Key said at his post-cabinet press conference.
Acknowledgement : NZ Herald – Govt will work with council on Auckland’s transport
Having a Minister of the Crown attempting to bully Auckland to sell it’s assets in not a “partnership”. And just because National has engaged in an act of wilful economic sabotage by it’s agenda of partial asset-sales – is no reason to expect others to follow that lunatic policy.
Gerry Brownlee should take note. He is playing with political fire, and a million votes in Auckland may come raining down on his (and other National MPs’) head.
If I know Kiwis as well as I think I do, they will not take kindly to being bossed around. (The Americans found this out, to their cost, when the Lange-led Labour government passed our nuclear-free legislation.)
How much does Brownlee really want to piss that many voters off?
Tread carefully, bully-boy.
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 3 July 2013.
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Is that the applause of millions of women (and men!) I can hear as Nigella Lawson re-takes control of her life?
Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Nigella Lawson moves out, blender and all
If there’s any possible good that came out of this ghastly incident, it is that women (and a few men, perhaps) around the world have witnessed the stark reality that spousal abuse is not confined to just their lives. Even the rich and famous can be affected by this kind of violence.
On 18 March 2013, Judge Peter Boshier (Law Commissioner); Jennifer Wademan (Barrister), and Thomas Dewar Sziranyi Letts (Solicitor) presented a report entitled Domestic Violence and the Impact on Children’s Lives at the 6th World Congress on Family Law and Children’s Rights in Sydney, Australia.
The contents of their speech was disturbing, as well as instructive;
“ For a country with just over 4 million people, New Zealand has a staggering 80,000 domestic violence cases a year. This level of abuse has resulted in over 200 women and children being killed as a result of domestic violence in 12 years and countless numbers of adults and children carryingthe physical and psychological effects of that violence with them through their lives. The cost inhuman and economic terms is horrific.
New Zealand has a history of high levels of domestic violence, in part, we believe, because we are open about the problems that face us. While international research estimates that up to 80% ofdomestic violence goes unreported, and certainly that has been our experience in practice, in 2012 New Zealand Police recorded almost 47,000 incidents of domestic disputes, and initiated almost 100,000 Family Violence investigations. Of these investigations, children were present in almost 60% of cases. If we assume the average household has 2 children, then at least 65,000 children were affected by domestic violence, in one year, in a country as small as New Zealand. Tragically, a third of all deaths from domestic violence involve children. ”
I have little doubt that Ms Lawson’s experience at the hands of her husband three weeks ago was a nasty, violent, and humiliating experience. I also strongly suspect that what went on behind the walls, closed doors, and curtained windows of their family home was most likely no less violent.
If Charles Saatchi could almost throttle his wife, in public, in a fit of rage – god only knows what he got up to out of sight.
There may well be women in our own country, also the victims of spousal abuse, who have seen Ms Lawson make the decisive move to leave her violent husband and seek refuge elsewhere. Abused women and their children may see Ms Lawson as having escaped – and this may encourage them to do likewise.
How many will be thinking,
If she can do it, then so can I!
Whether Nigella Lawson may appreciate it or not, she may well have saved the lives of women and children here in New Zealand and around the world.
The next time I see her on TV, I’ll see Ms Lawson in an entirely new light; a woman with inner strength and a survivor.
Let’s hope others do as well.
I have a date…
… with a Parliamentary Select Committee in a week’s time.
Yep, I sent in a submission to the Intelligence and Security Committee regarding the Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill. This is the Bill which will legitamise the Bureau’s spying on 4.4 million New Zealanders.
As the Clerk of the Committee, Lesley Ferguson wrote in an email to me,
Thank you for your submission on the Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill. A copy of your submission has been distributed to members of the Intelligence and Security Committee which is considering this bill.
The Intelligence and Security Committee is to hear submissions orally. In accordance with your request to meet with the committee to give further evidence, a date and time of Friday, 5 July 2013 from 10.20am to 10.40am has been allocated for you to appear before the committee to present your oral evidence.
The committee will have read your written submission. It will therefore not be necessary to read your written submission to them. Instead, the committee will be expecting you to elaborate further on your written evidence.
The venue for the hearing is Select Committee Meeting Room 2, Bowen House, Parliament Buildings, Wellington. Please ensure you are at the venue at least 15 minutes before your allotted time.
Please provide me with the name(s) and designation(s) of those who will be presenting to the committee.
Your submission is released publicly upon you giving oral evidence to the committee. The committee intends that hearings will be conducted in public. You may however apply for any or all of your evidence to be heard in private or secret. The committee would require reasons before agreeing to such a request. Please contact me if you wish to make such an application.
While the evidence you provide to the committee is covered by parliamentary privilege, please note that a Court ruling held that a person may be liable in defamation if that person makes a defamatory statement in a situation that is protected by parliamentary privilege (such as an oral presentation to a select committee) and later affirms that statement (without actually repeating it) on an occasion that is not protected by parliamentary privilege.
Now all I have to do is figure out what the heck I want to say…
I have a couple of ideas.
By the way – I wonder what the SIS and GCSB thought of my submission?
The Christchurch re-build…
… seems to have engendered a detente between the Mayor and Christchurch City Council on one side, and Gerry Brownlee and Central Government on the other. It’s probably a somewhat shakey detente – one liable to crack, splinter, and fall apart at even a low political seismic event.
Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Govt announces Christchurch rebuild funding
It was only a month ago that Key was pressuring Christchurch City Council to sell it’s strategic assets to finance part of the rebuild,
“ It is for the council to say ‘do you want the nice-to-haves. Then they’ll ask how are you going to pay? That could be through rates or asset sales. ”
Key referred to “partially floating assets, so the council remained in control but still raised money”, was “ incredibly logical .”
Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Asset sales could help pay for rebuild – Key
Mayor Bob Parker and the Christchurch City Council rightly rejected the idea. After all, why should Christchurch be asset-stripped simply because of events beyond it’s control?
At least National’s decision to partially privatise state assets was as a result of it’s own folly by giving away billions in tax cuts that the country could ill afford. Future generations will be the ones to pay for National’s short-sighted decisions.
If Christchurch needs extra cash to assist in it’s rebuild then I have a suggestion: bonds.
Like the War Bonds during World War 2,
But instead of Bonds for Destruction – these would be Bonds for Construction! Not Bonds to Bomb – but Bonds To Build!
If every New Zealander, on average, bought $100 worth of Bonds To Build that would assist Christchurch to the tune of around $440 million.
The government could assist by diverting student debt repayments from New Zealanders abroad, into Bonds To Build.
It might even help if National post-poned further partial SOE sales and instead encouraged “mums and dads” investors to buy Bonds instead.
Imagine stirring up our latent patriotism as Kiwis; getting kids involved to save their “pennies” and with every dollar, they bought a Bond To Build! I’m imagining Campbell Live jumping onboard and going school to school to film children buying Bonds.
Perhaps it sounds ‘goofy’ – but if bonds were useful during wartime, then just maybe we could resurrect this old idea and put it to good use again.
I know our household would be “in”!
Malcolm Burgess on Campbell Live
On Wdednesday night, 26 June, TV3’s Third Degree presented evidence which was the clearest indication to date that Robin Bain did indeed commit familiy annihilation, killing his wife and children, and then turning the rifle on himself.
The evidence was in the form of marks on Robin’s thumb and finger which have been recognised by forearms experts as gunpowder residue – caused when a rifle clip is reloaded, and thethumb or finger scraps against the top of the ammo-clip.
Pictures of Robin Bain’s hand, and the gunpowder residue marks are visible – when you know what to look for,
The twin lines are the same width as the top of the ammo clip, resting to the left of Robin Bain’s hand. Third Degree conducted tests with the rifle and found that similar marks were left on the thumbs/fingers when others re-loaded the rifle; twin streaks. Gunpowder residue.
The following evening (27 June), John Campbell interviewed Asst Police Commissioner Malcolm Burgess,
Burgess’s responses to John Campbell’s questions were enlightening…
At 5:00, Burgess suggests that the marks are not gunpowder residue but cuts,
“ …one of the other alternatives that hasn’t been properly considered is that this is in fact a nick on Robin Bain’s thumb…”
John Campbell then pointed out that Police Pathologist, Dr Alex Dempster photographed and recorded every cut and abrasion on Robin Bain’s hands, and said, “he appears not to have photographed the cuts”.
Burgess couldn’t answer Campbell’s question, except postulating that “beyond perhaps observing that he would’ve clearly been interested in fresh injuries this indeed, if it is a nick or a cut, does not appear to be a fresh injury”.
Campbell then pointed out that the distance between the two marks on Robin Bain’s thumb was “absolutely consistent with the distance – absolutely consistent with the distance in the magazine [clip] – and absolutely consistent with the kind of smudging that we see from the residue of people who have been loading magazines after discharging”.
Burgess steadfastly rejected the new evidence and said,
“I’m not convinced that what we’re seeing is indeed what was portrayed last night”.
Campbell then asked Burgess if the NZ Police would conduct similar tests to that carried out by the Third Degree team on 26 June. It was a fair question.
However Burgess’s response was luke-warm, at best,
“Well, I guess we’re always open to look at exploring, or I guess eliminating doubt, John, but that works from the principle that indeed what we’re seeing there is a powder smudge. I guess what we’re saying and what we’re suggesting by virtue of the fingerprint evidence is that perhaps that’s not indeed the case. That’s it’s a cut, or a nick to the thumb, or some other mark there rather than a powder smudge. So I think you’ve got to be a little careful which, what the basis of your hypothesis is before you start reaching [for] firm conclusions. We’re very happy, and indeed had we known this story was going to air in the form that it was , we would have been very happy to discuss the fingerprint evidence with Mr Bain’s team and see whether that enabled them to reach a [garbled] sustainable conclusion ”
When Campbell asked if the Police was not going to “stage any kind of test” to see if it was possible that the marks were gunpowder residue, Burgess replied,
“Well I think the key for us is to try and determine whether in fact it’s an injury, whether in fact the fingerprint evidence can help us make that call – ”
Campbell, “How will you go about determining that? ”
“ – and that therefore in fact eliminates or tends to eliminate the possibility that it’s [gun]powder [residue].”
Burgess added near the end of the interview,
“We’re interested in trying to establish the truth… ”
No, he’s not.
He’s not trything to establish the truth whatsoever. His purpose is solely to protect his backside and that of the NZ Police as a whole.
Every response from Burgess referred to “fingerprint evidence”. In Burgess’s mind, according to those finger-print records taken by Police in 1994, the marks were “cuts or nicks”, and not gunpowder residue.
He has already pre-judged this issue and come to a pre-determined conclusion: they are “cuts or nicks”, and nothing more.
Is it any wonder than police have stuffed up so many investigations, which have resulted in innocent people ending up in prison? How can an investigation be conducted with an open mind if officers like Burgess are pre-disposed to an outcome?
This is the kind of thinking that over-looks critical evidence.
This is the kind of thinking that sends innocent people to prison.
This is the kind of thinking that misinterprets evidence.
For example, Robin Bain’s fingerprint file doesn’t show two cuts at all. It shows one mark on the lower part of his thumb that could be anything (which, remember, Police Pathologist, Alex Dempster, did not record as a cut or abrasion when he examined Robin Bain’s hands),
So where is the second “nick or cut” on Robin Bain’s thumb-print? It isn’t there.
I won’t be waiting for the Police to review this new evidence. Burgess has made it abundantly clear that they have already dismissed the marks as “nicks or cuts”. Accepting the marks as gunpowder residue would mean the following;
- The clearest evidence yet that Police bungled the most basic aspects of the murder/suicide investigation,
- The best evidence to date (aside from the bloodied sockprints) that Robin Bain was the killer.
- An inability for the Police to consider new evidence where it threatens their image and reputation.
Of those three points, I find #3 the most disturbing.
With a supercilious smile and more than a hint of arroganance, Asst Police Commissioner Malcolm Burgess essentially told the public to “go get stuffed”; the NZ Police will not countenance new evidence that may threaten their credibility or reputation.
This is ominous in a way that I can barely describe; the Police are refusing to look at new evidence impartially.
Does this mean that their first obligation is to themselves and their own reputation, and not the law?
If so, they have become a law unto themselves.
If you doubt what I am telling you – look at the video again.
Now tell me it doesn’t make you uneasy.
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 29 June 2013.
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Planet Key’s #3 Moon “Brownlee”; Largest of the Moons, it tends to disturb other bodies through it’s presence. “Brownlee” has a rough surface and highly abrasive atmosphere that many find obnoxious. “Brownlee’s” gravitational influence has a negative, perturbing, influence on nearby bodies such as Planet Christchurch.
Brownlee recently let rip at Christchurch City Council for not carrying out repairs to council-owned community housing fast enough,
Acknowledgement: Radio NZ
Consider for a moment that Brownlee, as the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister, is in constant contact with CERA, Christchurch’s mayor, and anyone else remotely connected with that city and it’s re-build.
Brownlee has channels of communications that are open to him that allows him to discuss issues and problems as they arise.
So what was the purpose of this display of public excoriation of the Christchurch Council and especially the vilification of one Councillor, Yani Johanson?!
Does Mr Johanson not have a telephone?
Email? Skype? A paper letter? Smoke signals? (The latter seems to work well for the Vatican.)
Could Brownlee not have sat down around a table and asked the most basic of questions,
“How can we help?”
Or is the public display of testosterone-fuelled machismo Minister Brownlee’s new modus operandi when dealing with those who fall within his ministerial orbit?
This kind of authoritarianism may be the norm in Zimbabwe, Burma, or North Korea – but here in New Zealand it comes across as the cries and foot-stamping of a petulant child.
Meanwhile, National ministers should look in their own backyard when it comes to housing,
Acknowledgement: Dominion Post
Christchurch has been wracked by two massive earthquakes and thousands more quakes since. Every aspect of their basic infra-structure was damaged or ruined to varying degrees.
I think we can cut them some slack when it comes to re-building an entire city, from beneath ground-up.
Meanwhile, nearly eighteen months later, with no earthquakes or any other major disasters (unless one calls a National Government a major disaster), one wonders why National ministers have not progressed any further to re-build Pomare’s state housing?
After nearly a year and a half, all we’re seeing is a vast vacant lot, where once peoples’ homes existed,
Any ideas, Mr Brownlee?
(More on this issue in an up-coming blog-story)
Planet Key’s #4 Moon “Dunne”; covered in a dense, white atmosphere; “Dunne” is known to move from Planet Key to Planet Labour depending on which mass is greatest. The largest surface object on “Dunne” is the ‘Make Me a Minister’ volcano, which erupts whenever there is a nearby power-source.
As Minister of Revenue and Flashy Hairstyles, Peter Dunne is charged with taxation issues in this country.
No doubt his job was made considerably harder with two tax cuts (2009 and 2010) which considerably reduced taxation revenue for the State. (see: Govt’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting, see: Outlook slashes tax-take by $8b) Indeed, English was forced to tax children and their paper-rounds. (see: Key rejects criticism of ‘paperboy tax’)
Taxing kid’s meagre earnings. That’s how low and desperate National ministers have gone, to make up for the 2009/10 ‘lolly scrambles’ when the Nats gave away billions in unaffordable tax cuts.
To try to fill the fiscal hole that Bill English, Peter Dunne, et al, have put themselves into, they’ve been scrambling to raise government charges and tax everything and anything else that moves. (see: Prescription fees increase, see: Vulnerable children at risk from Family Court fees increase, see: Student fees rise faster than inflation, see: Petrol price rises to balance books)
The latest attempt to raise new taxes is Peter Dunne’s ‘carpark tax’,
Acknowledgement: Fairfax media
Well, well, well… a new tax?
A new fringe benefit tax?!
This is interesting.
Because John Key has always insisted that his Party cuts taxes and doesn’t increase them. Specifically, way back on 4 April 2005, when National was in Opposition,
National Party Finance spokesman John Key has signalled an overhaul of the Fringe Benefit Tax, during a speech to the Auckland Rotary Club today.
“The next National Government will cut the red tape and compliance costs that are choking our businesses and preventing them from getting off first base,” he says.
“A practical example of what I am talking about is in the area of Fringe Benefit Tax.
“Today I want to announce that National will revamp Fringe Benefit Tax to remove a substantial amount of the paperwork that currently occupies too much administrative time for many of our businesses, especially the small ones.
– We won’t entertain suggestions of applying FBT to on-premises car parks.”
And again in 2010, when a video was uncovered where Dear Leader was quoted as saying,
“National is not going to be raising GST. National wants to cut taxes, not raise taxes.”
When challenged on this in the House, just recently, Minister for Everything, Steven Joyce, responded with this bit of bovine faecal material,
“I would say that I think a fair amount has changed since that statement was made back in April 2005, which was when Don Brash was leader of the National Party. Since that time we have had three leaders of the Labour Party, and maybe a fourth leader of the Labour Party—”
Yeah. Lot’s of things have changed. Like, for example, the difference between being in Opposition and Promising the Moon – and being in Government and having to explain why the Moon is still out of reach.
And when the Nats have to make smart-arse comments about Labour’s leaders, then you know they’re really on the ropes. Defensive much, Mr Joyce?
Like Key’s broken promise on GST, the “carpark” tax is another instance of National breaking it’s election promises. Which indicates, mainly, that National’s tax-cuts were never as affordable as they made out in 2008.
Acknowledgement: National Party
Planet Key’s #5 Moon “Bennett”; “Bennett” originated from the asteroid belt, where many poorer dwarf-planets with low mass; minimal mineral wealth; and mostly invisible, are locked in orbits that will take them nowhere. “Bennett” gravitated to the National Zone where her mass and mineral wealth increased by close association with Planet Key and it’s many moons.
To repeat and quote Bennett, when she stated on TVNZ’s Q+A on 29 April 2012,,
“There’s not a job for everyone that would want one right now, or else we wouldn’t have the unemployment figures that we do. “
To quote Minister Bennett’s latest utterances on this issue, on 12 March 2013, when hundreds of people recently queued for just seven jobs at Carter Holt Harvey in Auckland,
“Well I am absolutely thrilled that 200 turned up quite frankly we’ve got more than 50,000 on the unemployment benefit but work expectations of them I think the fact that they are lining up that they want those jobs um speaks for itself and about peoples’ motivation to get work.”
“There’s always a lot of people going for certain types of jobs and if in particular if they are lower skilled they feel they can do them, they don’t have a lot of work experience, they have been out of work for some time.”“No I don’t feel there is a job for everyone and I think it’s damn tough but I am incredibly proud of New Zealanders and their motivation and the fact that they want them and I know that the economy is improving and we are going to see more happening.”
Acknowledgement for transcript: Waitakere News – Don Elder, Paula Bennett and the rest of us
Ok, so the lightbulb has finally clicked in Bennett’s head. New Zealand has a problem. We do not have enough jobs for the number of unemployed and solo-parents who want to work.
It’s not often that a politician acknowledges the bleedin’ obvious – so kudos to her for having the courage to do so. (John Key might learn a thing from Bennett in terms of not ducking issues.)
However, if there are not sufficient jobs to go around – what is the point in wasting taxpayers’ money and Parliament’s time on this exercise in futility,
Acknowledgement: NZ Herald
And why is language like this used by Bennett,
Acknowledgement: NZ Herald
If there are insufficient jobs – as Bennett herself has now acknowledged on at least two occassions, then ipso facto, the following must be true;
- The only ‘trap’ is a lack of work – not welfare
- Why “reform” the welfare system when welfare itself is not broke – it’s the economy that is not working (as are 170,000 people)
- Why muddy the waters with rhetoric like “trap of benefit dependency“; “introduce expectations for partners of beneficiaries and make beneficiaries prepare for work“; or that welfare had “become a bit of a trap for quite a few people“?
What does “a bit of a trap for quite a few people” mean? That it’s a “little” trap as opposed to a “big” trap? Or is she attempting to minimise the impact of her beneficiary-bashing by trying to soften her rhetoric?
So the “dog whistle” rhetoric filters down to the right wing; the ill-informed; and other welfare-hating cliques in our society – but the message is watered-down for the Middle Classes who are uncomfortable with victimising the unemployed, or who may even know someone who recently lost their jobs.
That’s the trouble with beneficiary bashing during times of high unemployment. Most of us know someone who has lost their job through no fault of their own. Bennett is walking a tight-rope here.
Eventually, people will be asking; why are National ministers wasting time on pointless welfare “reform” when it’s jobs we need?
Once that message percolates into the collective consciousness of the masses, National will be left standing naked – their corrupt, bene-bashing, dog-whistle politics exposed for all to see.
A few questions for Ms Bennett,
Why are you messing around with welform “reform”, when it’s jobs that we need?
Why aren’t you and your well-paid ministerial colleagues reforming the economy to create more jobs?
How much are these “reforms” costing us, the tax-payer?
How many extra jobs will welfare “reforms” create?
I don’t expect answers to these questions because, really, they are unanswerable.
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= fs =
All ministers have a coterie of staff. They consist of PAs, researchers, speech writers, policy analysts, media experts, and… ‘spin doctors’. Actually, any of the previous list can be labelled a “spin doctor”.
“Spin Doctors” take a piece of information and presents it in a certain, carefully constructed way, that makes their respective Minister look good to the public.
Example; National’s recent policy on 16 and 17 year old unemployed youth was “reformed”, announcing that they would be issued “purchase cards”, to eliminate wasting their benefit on cigarettes and alcohol.
End goal: to make National look good in the public eye, by getting “tough on welfare”.
(Except for one thing. It’s already against the law for retailers to sell tobacco and alcohol products to 16 and 17 year olds. The law is already in place to deal with this issue. And if retailers are selling these products to 16 and 17 year olds, then it’s a RETAIL problem – not a welfare problem.)
But the Spin Doctors quietly ignored that salient fact and simply pushed the message: National is “getting tough on welfare”.
That’s the message being spun and put out to the public to absorb. One simple line.
Anyone who doubts the efficacy of spin doctoring of such messages should check letters-to-editors and on-line fora to see how many low-information, National-friendly “armchair experts” now repeat that one, simplified Official Line; the government is “getting tough on welfare”.
Today, Bennet’s media people released this apparently positive news into the public arena,
But not before her Spin Doctors got their hands on it first,
“More than 5000 people cancelled their unemployment benefits because they found jobs last month.”
It could well be that 5,000 “cancelled their unemployment benefits”.
But as to how she could possibly know that they all “found jobs last month”? How could she possibly know that?
Those 5,000 could easily have been part of the exodus of New Zealanders moving to Australia,
Kiwi exodus to Aussie at new high
11:30 AM Wednesday Mar 21, 2012
“ New Zealanders continued to abandon their home country for Australia, with the speed of annual departures accelerating to a record 53,000 last month.
New Zealand lost a net 39,100 people to Australia in the 12 months ended February 29, 4,100 of whom left in the month of February alone, Statistics New Zealand said today.
That’s the biggest-ever annual net loss to Australia, as just 13,900 people crossed the Tasman to live in New Zealand, though short of the monthly record of 5,000 in February 2001.
People have been quitting New Zealand for Australia for years as they seek higher wages and a better standard of living across the ditch, and in 2008 the National Party won office campaigning on a promise to stem the outflow. ” – Source
If any one of those 5,000 entered into a relationship or marriage/civil union with a working partner – they are no longer eligible for welfare.
If any of those 5,000 began a part time or seasonal job – they may no longer be eligible for welfare.
If any of those 5,000 went on to ACC; a programme of some description; jail; or died – they’re no longer eligible for welfare.
“Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says the number of people on that benefit is now at 53,479, which is the lowest March level since 2009.”
“More than three quarters of all beneficiaries will be forced to seek work or face cuts to their payments under sweeping recommendations from the Government’s Welfare Working Group…
… That would more than double the numbers required to look for work from 133,200 of the 360,000 people presently on a benefit to 277,200. ” – Source
At such times, it suits National’s agenda to “spin” the figures as high as possible and accentuate them in the media.
When it suits their purpose to paint themselves in a good light, they quote low figures, and focus on those. The “spin” is more positive.
“Ms Bennett is particularly pleased that 2800 young people who were beneficiaries moved into work last month.”
Let’s give Minister Bennett the benefit of vthe doubt. Let’s assume that every single one of those 2,800 young beneficiaries is now in paid work. Let’s assume that work is full time, and not a part-time burger-flipper. Let’s assume it’s ‘permanent’ and not seasonal fruit-picking.
What has the media release not covered?
Answer: it doesn’t state how many young beneficiaries there were to start with. And the figures are tragic,
Though undated, Duncan Garner’s blog-entry was written during National’s party conference in August last year.
“The National Government has shown real leadership with initiatives for youth employment, including the recently announced Job Ops with Training.”
“Overall the number of people on benefits fell by 6698 in March to 322, 951.”
Finland is #9.
We are #19.
I think Gerry Brownlee needs new Spin Doctors. Maybe he could borrow Paula Bennett’s?
= fs =
For a better New Zealand…
~ Cleaner rivers
~ No deep-sea oil drilling
~ Less on Roads - more on Rail
~ A Living wage at $19.25/hr
~ Marriage equality - Yay! Got that one!
~ Strong, effective Unions
~ No secret free-trade deals
~ Breakfast/lunches in our schools
~ Introducing Civics into our school curriculum
~ Cut back on the liquor industry
~ A fairer, progressive tax system
~ Fully funded, free healthcare
~ Ditto for education, including Tertiary
~ Fund Pharmac for Pompe's Disease medication & other 'orphan' drugs
~ No state asset sales!
~ Rebuild public TV broadcasting!
~ Keeping farms in local ownership
~ Reduce poverty, like we reduced the toll for road-fatalities
~ Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!
~ Being nice to each other
- Producer of ‘The Nation’ hits back at “interference” allegations over ‘Campbell Live’
- The Curious World of the Main Stream Media
- The closure of three prisons and loss of 262 jobs – five issues for the National govt
- Campbell still Live, not gone
- There’s never a towie around when you need one…
- 2015 – Ongoing jobless tally
- New Poll adds to Len Brown’s problems
- John Key’s government – death by two cuts
- A Message to Winston; A Message to John Key; and a Message to the Regions
- Letter to the editor – This is how much John Key really, really cares for Northland
- Christchurch City Council – Having your asset-cake and eating it
- That was Then, This is Now #27 – John Key on GST
- Letter to the editor – Northland voters have been warned
- Letter to the editor – How much will a ‘free’ trade deal with Sth Korea cost us?
- Latest Horizon Poll – Who paid for survey questions on mass surveillance/data collection?
- Have the media finally learned to ask the right questions?
- Someone at Fairfax is a subversive?
- Opposing the TPPA – the Heavens hold their deluge ’till the People speak
- Northland by-election – a damning poll and a damnable lie?
- Letter to the editor – A right to know?
- Letter to the editor – Getting the government we deserve
- Mike Hosking – Minister for War Propaganda?
- A marketing campaign that didn’t focus very well
- The Mendacities of Mr Key #11: Sorry, Prime Minister, what ‘mandate’ were you referring to?!
- The Mendacities of Mr Key #10: “Only two years!!”
- That was Then, This is Now #26 – John Key will let slip the dogs of war
- Capitalism and the price of chocolate
- The Mendacities of Mr Key #9: The Sky’s the limit with taxpayer subsidies!
- Letter to the editor – hitting charities where it hurts, courtesy of the Nats
- The Mendacities of Mr Key #8: A roof over your head, and boots on the ground
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