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National’s $11.7 billion hole is right where they left it

3 November 2017 1 comment

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Remember Steven Joyce’s claim there was a “$11.7 billion hole” in Labour pre-election budget?

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The claim of an $11.7 “fiscal hole” became a dominating irritant throughout the election campaign, even though in large part it failed simply because no one else (except Bill English) agreed that it existed.  TV3’s “Newshub” even created this now-famous, handy, infograph to illustrate the fact that Joyce and English were effectively on  their own;

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The claim has been largely forgotten, except when the Left need a handy reminder of right-wing duplicity to throw at National/ACT trolls – just to wipe any smirk of entitlement  from their silver-spoon-fed faces.

Except, on Thursday, 23 November, there was a curious – and disturbing – juxtaposition of media stories in Fairfax’s Dominion Post;

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Joyce seems curiously very sure of himself on the existence of the “hole”;

“Unfortunately, sadly, I think it looks like over time I will be proven correct. I genuinely don’t take any joy out of that because actually all that says is that the new Government is going to spend more than it said to meet its promises, and that’s because it didn’t allow enough money for other things

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Sadly I think we’ll get to the ($)11(b) over time.”

Where might this “hole” come from, if it exists?

One possible answer lay on the front page of the same edition on the Dompost;

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The report, by Fairfax journalist Rachel Thomas, revealed a massive shortfall in spending on medicines alone;

Cancer patients say they are sick of paying for their own survival after an independent report revealed a $682 million “hole” in government funding for lifesaving medicines.

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The $682m figure in Wednesday’s report from the New Zealand Institution for Economic Research (NZIER) is the amount it says would be needed to restore the community pharmaceuticals budget to 2007 levels.

In real terms, Budget spending for prescription medicines, vaccines, haemophilia treatments, nicotine replacement, and cancer medicines – sometimes administered in hospitals – dropped from 6.2 per cent in 2007 to 3.6 per cent in 2018, according to the report.

Now granted that Medicines New Zealand is a “drug lobby group” – but the NZIER which analysed the problem also revealed their methodology;

The NZIER report was commissioned by Medicines New Zealand, a drug lobby group, and collated from Pharmac annual reports and Official Information Act requests.

When former Health Minister, Jonathan Coleman, was asked to explain the massive $682 million hole in the medicines budget, his reply was;

Since 2007, almost 900,000 Kiwis had received 426 new and widened-access medicines. “It’s important to note that … Medicines NZ [has] a direct interest in increased Pharmac spending.”

Notice that Coleman – whose working relationship with DHBs has been frought over the last three years – deflected from the issue itself. His reference “to note that … Medicines NZ [has] a direct interest in increased Pharmac spending” fails to address the relevant fact that, according to NZIER, spending on medicines has fallen under the previous National government.

He deliberately evaded the question.

Which is hardly surprising given that English’s miraculous budget surpluses appear to have been made at the expense of  under-funding for services such as healthcare – including  mental health – throughout the country.

This poses some serious questions for the new Coalition government…

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: 26 November 2017
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
Dominion Post

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Let us recall that on 5 September, National’s then-Finance Minister and “Fix-It Man”, Steven Joyce, made a startling claim that Labour’s alternative budget concealed a $11.7 billion “hole”.

Joyce’s claim was scrutinised by economists, commentators, and even a right-wing think-tank and lobby group – and declared to be unsusubstantiated by any known facts. Only Joyce, supported by his leader Bill English, maintained the existence of a purported “hole”.

On 23 November, Fairfax reported findings by the NZIER that PHARMAC’s medicines budget was underfunded by a whopping $682 million. (“$682m ‘hole’ in medicine budget”). When asked to respond, former National Health Minister Coleman criticised those that commissioned the report – Medicines NZ, a pharmaceutical lobby group – but in no way disputed the figures.

In essence, PHARMAC’s funding budget suffered a savage cut from 6.2% in 2007 to 3.6% in 2018 – the equivalent of $682 million in vital medicines.

No wonder Joyce was so confident that a fiscal “hole” existed where none could see one.

Joyce knew precisely that the $11.7 billion “hole” was of National’s own making; a legacy “gifted” to the incoming Coalition government, and a ticking fiscal time bomb waiting to detonate as incoming Finance Minister, Grant Robertson, uncovered further hidden funding shocks.

What other “legacy gifts” has Joyce left us?

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-Frank Macskasy

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[address and phone number supplied]

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References

National Party:  Labour must explain where the money is

Mediaworks:  Economist consensus – there’s no $11.7b hole in Labour’s budget

Fairfax media:  Steven Joyce sticks to $11.7 billion hole in Government budget

Fairfax media:  Cancer patients renew call for more funded medicines, as report reveals $682m ‘hole’

Radio NZ:  ‘Extraordinary’ conflict between DHBs and health officials

Other Blogs

The Standard:  Health disasters – useless Coleman in all kinds of shit

Previous related blogposts

Weekend Revelations #1 – Dr Jonathan Coleman

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

Dollars and sense – Joyce’s hypocrisy

St. Steven and the Holy Grail of Fiscal Responsibility

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 28 November 2017.

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Annette King confirmed as Labour’s candidate for Rongotai

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20 September

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NZ, Wellington, 3 May –  The Rongotai Branch of the NZ Labour Party has confirmed current MP, and former minister, Annette King, as Labour’s candidate for the 2014 General Election.

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annette king - labour candidate for rongotai -  wellington - 3 may 2014

Rongotai Labour Party members and invited guests, attending the electorate-selection meeting at Mornington Golf Club.

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In a speech to a packed hall at Mornington Golf Club, in the south Wellington suburb of Berhampore, Ms King was introduced by former Deputy Leader of the Labour Party and MP for Wellington Central, Grant Robertson. His opening comments drew applause and laughter from party members, supporters, and public;

“I get to sit next to Annette in Parliament which is a huge pleasure. One of the things I’ve noticed is that Annette is one of the best multi-taskers in politics. She can simultaneously complete a Soduku and eviscerate Tony Ryall, all at the same time.”

He added,  “the committment that I have seen from Annette that is reflected in the twenty one years as the MP here is without peer, in politics in New Zealand, in my view.” Grant Robertson spoke of her “compassion, true heart, and Labour values”.

Robertson said “she is true to what we believe is a movement that it’s our job to lift the spirits and the prospects of every New Zealander.” Turning to Ms King, he added, “we need you in the  next Labour[-led] government, we need your wisdom, and your experience… and your core values.”

He then seconded her nomination as the Labour candidate for the Rongotai electorate.

With no other nominations, Annette King’s nomination was put to the floor, and was passed unanimously by voice vote.

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Wellington Central MP,  Grant Robertson, discussing issues with Labour Party rank and file members.

Wellington Central MP, Grant Robertson, discussing issues with Labour Party rank and file members.

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A little later, I had a brief one-on-one with Grant Robertson.  I asked him,

“Grant, what is your personal number one for this election?”

He replied,

“The biggest issue for me is jobs. As the Labour Party’s employment spokesperson, I go around the country and I see too many New Zealanders who don’t have work, who want to work, and we have an economy that doesn’t have jobs at the center.

We’re an economy at the moment that’s driven by the bankers and the speculators and what we need is an economy that’s driven by and for people and that will have jobs at the center. So that’s what you’ll hear me talking [about] all through the election.”

I asked Grant Robertson about Labour’s buy-local procurement policy,

“Government procurement is one of the best ways you can stimulate the economy and most of the countries in the world do it and don’t worry about the so-called committments that they’ve got under international agreements… But absolutely, a procurement policy that focuses on encouraging companies that will employ New Zealanders is vital.”

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Annette King, addressing Labour Party members with a good-natured speech.

Annette King, addressing Labour Party members with a good-natured speech.

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Following on, Annette King, addressed Labour Party members with a good-humoured speech, and reaffirmed her determination to promote Labour Party policy and ideals. Ms King said “there was work to be done” and that she “had the passion, the feeling, and the committment” to follow through. She also paid tribute to “new blood” coming through in the Labour Party,

“I do believe that a party needs new talent, we need to bring in the new and rejuvenate. And we’re doing that with members like Grant [Robertson], and Jacinda [Ardern], and David Clark, and Megan Wood, and many of those young people who are coming through showing such talent.”

Ms King also reaffirmed the need for people with institutional memory;  “an experience of knowing what it’s like to be in government. What we want, at this election, is to lead the government again.”

Ms King added,

“The value of fairness to New Zealanders; ensuring that everybody is looked after in this country. Not just the privileged few we see under this government.   There does need to be access to good healthcare; education for our children; and really important, the ability to have a warm, dry, affordable, home. These are some of the  values of our party and so much more.”

In reference to National’s latest scandals, she said,

“We’re going to take the fight to this government, in the next few months. We’ve got twenty weeks to make sure we lead the next government and I believe that we can. What a difference a week makes in politics! Last week a few of us were down at the Newtown market… we were down there and people were walking past us, and looking at us sideways and walking on.

We’d just suffered the fallout of the Shane Jones departure from the party. Today, down at the market, we were surrounded by people. People wanted to talk about policy, to talk about the Labour Party. They wanted to join the Labour Party.  In one week we have seen some really innovative policy coming out of the Labour Party, and people [were] saying ‘Hey, that is the Labour Party we know. A progressive Party that comes up with the real ideas [for] change for New Zealand’.”

There was more than an element of truth when Ms King pointed out,

“All the progressive change in this country came from the Labour Party. This government, and the National governments before, are governments of the status quo. And when you need change, you have a Labour party [government].

And what I could not bear is the thought of three more years of National, and neither could most working people in New Zealand.”

 

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Current MP for Rongotai, Annette King, discussing policy matters with Labour Party stalwarts.

Current MP for Rongotai, Annette King, discussing policy matters with Labour Party stalwarts.

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Annette King is one of the longest-serving MPs in Parliament, having been in office for twentyseven years – twentyone of which have been in the Island Bay/Miramar electorate alone.

In 2000, she was Minister for Health, over-seeing the re-building of the Health portfolio which had been badly under-funded by the previously National-led government. Chronic under-funding in the late 1990s was having a deleterious effect on patients requiring critical life-saving surgery. Many failed to survive the growing waiting lists under Bill English’s watch.

National’s health minister at the time – Southland MP, Bill English – tried to stem the increasing deaths by belatedly injecting extra money for surgery. It failed to address the crisis that had been building over several years of National’s cost-cutting; tax cuts (1996, 1998); and slashing of the public service sector.

One of Ms King’s first moves was a  cash-injection of $1.5 billion into the health sector in December 2001. She said, at the time,

“Unashamedly, the first lot of money will go to those with the greatest need – low income, poor, sick, Maori, and Pacific [people].”

National’s health spokesperson at the time, Roger Sowry, responded with a statement which could only be described as jaw-dropping for it’s sheer hypocrisy.

With National cutting back on funding for services; increasing user-pays; two tax cuts (2009, 2010), and slashing the public service sector, it seems that – unlike the Split Enz song, history does indeed repeat.

Ms King will have her work cut out for her when a new Labour-Green government takes office after 20 September.

Below, Paul Eagle, chatting with Labour Party members;

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    Shrewd strategist and local City Councillor, Paul Eagle (in red shirt), was announced as Annette King's campaign manager.

Shrewd strategist and local City Councillor, Paul Eagle (in red shirt), was announced as Annette King’s campaign manager.

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This blogger took a moment for a brief interview with Annette King, asked her what her priorities would be when a new Labour-Green government took office post 20 September.

I asked Annette King, “what’s really important to you?”

Ms King replied,

“The most important thing for me, and it’s the number one that runs through everything we do, and that is reducing inequalities…”

“Health inequality; housing inequality; education inequality. Inequality in New Zealand is the biggest I’ve experienced in all my years. And I mean, I wasn’t here for the Depression, I’m not that old, but inequality in our society is so great now, that we need a progessive government that’s going to address them. And then you go through the areas. If you take health inequalities; who dies earlier; who dies younger; who has less access.

And you go to low income, Maori, and Pacifica. So that’s my priority.”

Interesting – Annette King’s priorities were remarkably similar to her comments in December 2001 (see above).  Grant Robertson seems to have been correct when he said that her “core values” had not changed.

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(L-R) Paul Eagle, Annette King, and Grant Robertson

(L-R) Paul Eagle, Annette King, and Grant Robertson

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Ms King’s successful nomination was followed by a final ceremony; the awarding of a recognition to long-serving Party members for their contributions to the labour movement.

LEC Chairperson, Peter Franks, presented a gold pin, and life-membership, to Peg Collett and Reatha McInnes (not pictured), for long-term service to the NZ Labour Party;

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LEC Chairperson, Peter Franks, presenting a gold pin,  and life-membership, to Peg Collett and Reatha McInnes (not pictured), for service to the NZ Labour Party.

LEC Chairperson, Peter Franks, presenting a gold pin, and life-membership, to Peg Collett and Reatha McInnes (not pictured), for service to the NZ Labour Party.

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One hopes that people like Ms Collett and Ms McInnes are with us to see the return of this country to the social democratic values for which we were once internationally reknowned for.

We once led the way in women’s rights; anti-atomic bomb testing in the South Pacific; anti-apartheid campaigning; a nuclear-free status; and many other progressive movements for which we can be rightly proud.

The term “punching above our weight” doesn’t even begin to cover the impact that we, as a nation, have had on global affairs.

Today, as the current government would have it, our “reputation” seems fixed on making money from tourism; making money selling logs and dairy powder; and making money with the production of fantasy movies.

“Making money”

Not quite “up there” with engendering the right of women to vote; saving the planet from atomic weapons; and supporting an entire nation to be free from apartheid.

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References

Wikipedia: Annette King

ODT/NZPA: Public Hospital ills blamed on funding

ODT: Acute heart surgery list nearly 400

The Press: Four forced off waiting list die

Sunday Star Times: Anger on heart op delay – English wants answers on cash use

The Dominion: $1.5b injection for Health

NZ Herald:  Prescription fees increase

Fairfax media: 2400 more state sector jobs could go

Metrolyrics: History Never Repeats Lyrics

NZ Herald: NZ inequality at highest level

 

Copyright (c) Notice

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

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

 

 


 

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I'm a leftie voting left - join me

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 5 April 2014.

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Jobs for the bro’s?

20 November 2011 1 comment

10 September 2011

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Is it me – or does this sound plain wrong

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Full Story

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Why was the position not advertised, as is common practice?

Is this an example of nepotism? (Silly question. Of course it is.)

And at a time when this government has thrown thousands of government workers out of their jobs, and onto the unemployment scrap-heap – how much is this “advisor” job costing the tax-payer?

As an indication, this case might give us an idea,

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Full Story

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And once again, the highly-paid “advisor” involves the English family.

Another case,

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Full Story

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So much for this government “cutting expenditure”. They are sacking ordinary workers – and rehiring “advisors” aid exorbitant amounts of tax-payers’ money?

What on Earth is going on here?

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+++ Update +++

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It appears that the ‘heat’ has gone on Tony Ryall in this matter.  He and his colleagures may have been hoping that Mervyn English’s appointment slipped in “under the radar” – but New Zealand is too small a country for that to happen.

Appointments of family and friends to jobs that are not publicly advertised is never a good look, and it is surprising that the government was silly enough to think they could get away with it. It reeks of corrupt practice.

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19 November 2011

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And yet more of the same…

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Full Story

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Katherine Rich has been appointed to the Health Promotion Agency Establishment Board, which replaces the Alcohol Advisory Council.

The move has outraged advocacy group Alcohol Action. Spokesperson Doug Sellman says Ms Rich has been one of the most vociferous defenders of the alcohol industry.

Professor Sellman says supermarkets normalise alcohol as an ordinary commodity and sell it by the tonne at ultra-cheap prices up to 24 hours a day.Ibid

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The Labour Party agrees the appointment of Katherine Rich is too much a conflict of interest.

Health spokesperson Grant Robertson told Radio New Zealand while he holds Ms Rich personally in high regard, he believes her role with the Food and Grocery Council does clash with being part of such an agency.

“I think the linkage with her role supporting and advocating for the supermarkets is unfortunate and doesn’t sit well with the health promotion role that the future agency will have.”

However, in a written statement on Saturday, Health Minister Tony Ryall says Ms Rich, a former National MP, was appointed for her experience, balance and integrity.” Ibid

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(L-R) National MPs Simon Powell, Katherine Rich, former National leader Don Brash, National MPs Nathan Guy and Gerry Brownlee applaud John Key as he delivers his speech as the New Zealand National Party launch their election campaign at Sky City on October 12, 2008 in Auckland, New Zealand.

Source

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Stacking government and quango roles with party hacks (even if they are talented party hacks) seems to be a time-honoured tradition that National is loathe to depart from.

However, the Radio NZ report does raise an important question regarding her appointment to  the Health Promotion Agency Establishment Board, which replaces the Alcohol Advisory Council.

ALAC was an organisation dedicated to raising awareness of New Zealand’s considerable alcohol related (some say fueled) problems.

2009 BERL report estimated that “$4.437 million of diverted resources and lost welfare” could be directly attributed to alcohol abuse. That $4.4 billion  is reflected in  ACC, hospital admissions, crime, family violence, lost productivity, etc, and places a firm dollar cost on the harm that alcohol abuse is causing NZ society. These are costs we all pay for through ACC levies and taxes spent on medical intervention; policing; and the justice system.

Whilst working for the Food and Grocery Council, Ms Rich was a firm advocate of liberal laws surrounding marketting and retailing of alcohol.,

The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) and Alcohol Advisory Council (Alac) strongly backed the recommendations.

Alac chief executive Gerard Vaughan said it set out a clear objective of reducing alcohol-related harm which stretched to structure and role changes for the district licensing agencies responsible for managing liquor licensing in their own communities.

Communities up and down the country were sick of the violence and vandalism that came with drinking and that proposed changes to licencing regimes would help address the problem, Mr Vaughan said.

Nearly 3000 submissions were received by the commission, many of which supported the tightening of laws around alcohol sales, purchasing and consumption.

But NZ Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich said the report reflected “classic nanny state thinking.”

It failed to target those causing the problems and punished everyone, she said. The industry was already one of the most regulated, and more sensible ways to approach existing problems included better enforcement of current rules and better use of legal powers, along with industry-led initiatives.”   Source

New Zealand has a $4 billion-plus problem with alcohol abuse (BERL report) and Katherine Rich dismissed attempts to address this crisis as “classic nanny state thinking“.

Thank you, Ms Rich. It’s nice to know where you stand on social problems that affect us all.

It is worthwhile reflecting that since liquor laws were de-regulated in the mid 1980s (as part of the wave of Rogernomics “reforms”), that 25 years later things have gotten steadily worse. In those 25 years, the free market system has reigned practically unchallenged and unchanged.

Somehow I think “Nanny State” has little to do with it.

Nanny is still nursing a hang-over from the last 25 years.

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Related

A kronically inept government

Community Needs vs Business Demands

New Zealand 2011AD: Drunken Mayhem and a nice Family Day Out

Our ‘inalienable right’ to destroy communities through alcohol abuse

Govt’s consultants’ bill $375m and rising

 

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Guest Author: Why I Won’t Be Voting National

Tim Jones

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I won’t be voting National at this year’s General Election.

Now, this won’t come as a great surprise to those who know me. My opposition to the National Party started in the Muldoon years and hasn’t wavered since – so a government which is Muldoon 2.0, but with a friendlier smile, isn’t likely to appeal to me. I live in Wellington Central, and for the record, I will be giving the Green Party my party vote and Labour MP Grant Robertson my electorate vote.

But I think I have got some particularly good reasons for not voting National this time – and ironically, perhaps, they date from before the 2008 General Election. At that time, I was the Convenor (and I’m still a member) of the Sustainable Energy Forum, and, much to my surprise, I was invited to a lunch with National Energy spokesperson Gerry Brownlee and a whole lot of energy company heads.

I felt like a fish out of water, but more to the point, Gerry felt he was among friends, and he told those energy company heads, in no uncertain terms, that when National came to power the shackles would be off. They could forget any concerns the Labour Government might have had about climate change or the environment. You dig it or drill it or mine it, Gerry said, and we’ll back you up.

You could say many things about Gerry Brownlee, and I’d be happy to join you, but you couldn’t say that he hasn’t been true to his word. From the moment National came to power, they have shown a complete disregard for New Zealand’s and the world’s environment. While cynically promenading a “clean and green New Zealand” brand in international tourism markets, they have thrown the doors open at home to:

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  • Mining in National Parks – yes, they lost the first round on that issue, but they haven’t given up
  • Offshore oil drilling in waters even deeper and riskier than the Gulf of Mexico
  • The mining of massive quantities of lignite in Southland which would release billions of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere
  • Fracking (hydraulic fracturing) to extract more oil and gas – a dangerous technique which has already been shown to lead to both groundwater contamination and localised earthquakes when used overseas, and which has been banned by France, a country not known for its environmental credentials
  • A massive and vastly expensive programme of motorway building to serve the interests of the trucking industry, which is also being served by National’s downgrading of our rail system.

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In other words, National are taking our economy back to the 1950s and massively increasing our dependence on fossil fuels.

And how do National propose to reconcile all this with New Zealand’s international commitments to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions? They don’t, perhaps because the Cabinet is full of climate change sceptics – as recently as 2005, John Key professed himself among them. They simply hope that the international audiences to whom they promise action on climate change won’t notice what the Government is doing at home.

Now, there are lots of other excellent reasons not to vote for National. But New Zealand’s environment is the foundation of New Zealand’s wealth, and in turn, the liveability of New Zealand depends on the world having a liveable climate. John Key’s Government has shown utter disregard for any meaningful action on climate change, either with New Zealand or internationally, and complete contempt for the New Zealand environment. That’s why I won’t be voting National.

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(Tim Jones writes novels, short stories and poetry. He was awarded the NZSA Janet Frame Memorial Award for Literature in 2010. You can contact Tim at senjmito@gmail.com. On Twitter: http://twitter.com/timjonesbooks.)

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