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Simon burns his Teal Coalition Bridges

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Act I – Post-election, Dealing the Cards

During the post-election coalition negotiations last year, there was much entrails-reading of which way NZ First would move to form a new government. Labour and NZ First? Or National and NZ First?

Then came the novel suggestion from several  media and mostly right-leaning political commentators – all with singularly hyper-active imaginations – of a potential  National-Green Coalition government. This was mentioned by Laura Walters and Katie Kenny, on 24 September (2017), both writing for Fairfax media; former National PM, Jim Bolger on 25 September, talking with John Campbell on Radio NZ’s Checkpoint; Bill English on 25 September; National’s deputy Paula Bennett on 29 September;  Jim Bolger again on 1 October; Fairfax’s Tracy Watkins on 2 October, et al…

The ‘cheerleaders’ were lining up to “encourage” (and in one instance, demand!) the installation of a ‘Teal’ Coalition.

Even former cricketer-turned-Mediaworks-AM Show presenter , Mark Richardson, offered his one cent worth of advice to Green Party leader James Shaw to  “be a risk taker and back yourself” by coalescing with the Nats. (Though Richardson admitted that a decision by Shaw to coalesce with National would “blow his Party to smithereens“. This did not seem to perturb Richardson, a self-confessed National Party supporter.)

Tracy Watkins had to concede that any coalition deal with the Nats was a lengthy, but guaranteed,  political suicide mission, “National has used up all its future coalition partners. United Future and the Maori Party are gone and ACT is on life support“.

Strangely, Shaw’s response was utterly predictable. He would take a phone call from then National-leader Bill English… but…

“It’s my responsibility to do so. And we’ll have to see what they’ve got to say. But one of the things I will be saying in return is ‘You know we campaigned on a change of government and you know what was in our manifesto … and how incongruous that is to what the National Party policy programme is’.”

Act II – Was a ‘Teal’ Deal the Real Deal?

So how viable would a coalition have been between two political parties that – on the face of things have as much in common as a chicken and a platypus?

Not much, it would seem.

On several occassions,  National’s current caretaker  Leader, Simon Bridges criticised the Green Party’s policies on social issues;

In terms of the Greens, if they were a true environmental party that wasn’t focused on other bits and bobs, they could be a party that we could work with and work with strongly,” Bridges said on Tuesday.

And;

You’ve seen me say that I think actually there is a role for us in the environment.

I do have problems with the fact that they’re more than simply an environmental party – a lot of other stuff I disagree with, but on the environment we know… New Zealanders care passionately about this.”

And;

It’s a deep red rather than Green. I’m interested in working with them on genuine conservation, environmental issues but not picketing on the streets.”

The sub-text of that narrative was for the Green Party to neuter itself. As James Shaw had to point out to Simon Bridges – much like an exasperated parent patiently explaining something to a young child;

“History has shown that people want to vote for parties on a range of issues. We’ve always said that sustainability is a function of society, of the environment, and of the economy, and you can’t disaggregate those things,”

It would not be dissimilar to the Green Party dictating to National to abandon it’s close links to corporate interests, the farming sector, and other pro-business lobby groups. A point made by recently-elected Green Party Party co-leader, and former Daily Blog contributor, Marama Davidson;

“They’ve got to change a lot. It’s not good enough that Simon’s trying to position himself as all of a sudden caring about our rivers and our water, when his very policies under his party led to the exact environmental degradation that we’re seeing. He wanted to open up drilling to our Maui dolphins’ home.

They don’t understand the connection of the flawed economic model that led to the environmental degradation in the first place. They would have to change a lot, and I don’t think that’s what they intend to do.”

So how ‘green’ is our true-blue National Party?

Act III – National plays the Green Card

On 28 April, at a so-called “Bluegreens” Forum – a greenwashed front for the National Party –  Simon Bridges made much of his party’s “green credentials“;

“Good environmental practice is crucial for securing the type of future we want for our children and grandchildren.

My view is that people aren’t used to hearing a National Party leader talk like this, but I’ve said right from the start that the environment is important to me and the National Party … The environment isn’t an optional extra.

Climate change is going to be one of the most challenging issues of our time. We’ve made some good progress in recent years, but we need to do much more.

We now need to wrestle emissions down, just staying stable doesn’t cut it … We need to incentivise households, businesses, scientists and entrepreneurs to be developing and implementing technological solutions.”

Note; the reported comment from Bridges – “Good environmental practice is crucial for securing the type of future we want for our children and grandchildren” – is almost a word-for-word repeat from last year’s National’s Environment policy on their website;

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Most crucially, note Bridges reference to needing “ to incentivise households, businesses, scientists and entrepreneurs to be developing and implementing technological solutions“.

Developing and implementing technological solutions” – not reducing reliance on fossil fuels. For National that was a No-Go Area.

Not so for this coalition government.

On 12 April, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced  that “There will be no further offshore oil and gas exploration permits granted“. She said;

“This is a responsible step which provides certainty for businesses and communities that rely on fossil fuels. We’re striking the right balance for New Zealand – we’re protecting existing industry, and protecting future generations from climate change.”

More than “a step”, it was a bold leap – perhaps one of the most radical since New Zealand declared itself a nuclear-free nation on 8 June 1987. Climate change officially became this generation’s “nuclear free moment” on 12 April 2018.

Without doubt, it would be an expensive proposition to forego possible, undiscovered, oil reserves that might be worthy millions – billions! – to our country.

But the cost of runaway climate change; increasing CO2; rising temperatures and sea levels; more energetic storms; growing threats of flooding and coastal storm surges; harsher droughts; heavier rains – would  cost us billions as well. With rising sea levels and more powerful storm surges, thousands of homes were now within coastal danger zones;

“Climate change will increasingly create severe risks for New Zealand’s coastal housing stock. Even a small amount of sea-level rise will substantially exacerbate the costs of flooding and storm surges. Under the most optimistic emissions scenario studied by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, global average sea levels will likely rise by between 44cm and 55cm by 2100, and around 1 m with continued high emissions. Across New Zealand, for regions with high-quality data, there are 43,683 homes within 1.5m of the present average spring high tide and 8,806 homes within 50cm.”

According to the Ministry for the Environment, the cost of not addressing climate change threats cannot even be accurately ascertained;

The costs of inaction are difficult to quantify as they depend on the actions that the whole world takes to reduce emissions, not just New Zealand. The costs of inaction will be large but are hard to predict accurately and hard to express in monetary terms. This is also the case for modelling co-benefits of action such as air quality and health benefits. Current research and model development is beginning to address these complexities.

As a rough indicator, the cost of the Christchurch earthquakes was estimated to be about $40 billion (in 2015 dollars), which includes $16 billion  for residential construction. Around 10,000 homes were demolished due to earthquake damage. Compare that figure with Motu’s; “43,683 homes within 1.5m of the present average spring high tide and 8,806 homes within 50cm“.

Regrettably, National’s green rhetoric and Simon Bridges’ pious claims were not matched with more recent stated intentions – intentions that pose a direct threat to the long-term environmental well-being of our country as well as the entire planet.

Despite Simon Bridges asserting that “climate change is going to be one of the most challenging issues of our time. We’ve made some good progress in recent years, but we need to do much more” – National was going to do everything in it’s power to oppose practical solutions to reduce climate gas emissions.

Bridges point-blank refused to “do much more“.

Act IV – Blue card trumps Green for Bridges?

Soon after Prime Minister Ardern issued her government’s 12 April Declaration, Bridges responded like a child with his favourite toy taken off him;

If we are the Government in two years we will change it back.”

Bridges’ double-speak on environmental matters was pointed out by Fairfax’s Laura Walters in no uncertain terms;

Bridges had made a point of talking about National’s future environmental direction, and saying he would be open to working with the Green Party in the future – something the Greens have said was unlikely to happen.

However, when he was asked about his plans for the environment on Thursday, he was not able to point to any policies, or general policy areas.

In case Bridges protests at being “unfairly misquoted” in the media, his follow MPs were also vociferous in their opposition to the coalition government’s decision to curtail further offshore oil and gas exploration. In a recent press release, National’s Energy and Resources Spokesperson, Jonathan Young, said;

“The Government’s decision to ban gas and petroleum exploration is economic vandalism that makes no environmental sense […]

This decision will ensure the demise of an industry that provides over 8000 high paying jobs and $2.5 billion for the economy.

Without exploration there will be no investment in oil and gas production or the downstream industries. That means significantly fewer jobs.

This decision is devoid of any rationale. It certainly has nothing to do with climate change. These changes will simply shift production elsewhere in the world, not reduce emissions.”

And in a bizarre twist, National’s own Climate Change spokesperson, Todd Muller, also condemned winding back New Zealand’s fossil fuel industry. In the same press release as Jonathan Young, he said;

“The decision makes no sense – environmentally or economically – because less gas production means more coal being burnt and higher carbon emissions.

Many overseas countries depend on coal for energy production. Those CO2 emissions would halve if they could switch to natural gas while they transition to renewable energy.

By stopping New Zealand’s gas exploration we are turning our backs on an opportunity to help reduce global emissions while providing a major economic return to improve our standard of living and the environment.

We need to reduce global CO2 emissions. But there is no need to put an entire industry and thousands of New Zealanders’ jobs at risk.

The Government’s decision today is another blow to regional New Zealand, and Taranaki in particular.

It comes hot on the heels of big decisions that reduce roading expenditure, cancel irrigation funding, and discourage international investment in the regions.”

Todd Mueller has the wrong job title. With his unwavering support  for the fossil fuel industry and increased roading expenditure, he should be National’s Increasing Greenhouse Gas Emissions spokesperson. Nothing that Mueller has said would lead to any reduction in dangerous emissions from burning fossil fuels.

The press release from Young and Mueller was also dated 12 April;

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– the same day Prime Minister Ardern released her statement to wind-back oil and gas exploration off our coast. This indicates how long and hard Young and Mueller must have thought deeply on this matter  before issuing their press release.

Not content with being advocates for the fossil fuel industry, Simon Bridges announced eighteen days later that a National government would over-turn the coalition government’s regional fuel tax in Auckland;

“A re-elected National Party will overturn the Government’s regional fuel tax to leave more money in the back pockets of hard-working New Zealand families.

Regional fuel taxes are unfair on New Zealanders. They are regressive, and hit poorer New Zealanders the hardest.

The fuel taxes the Government has announced will leave a typical Auckland family around $700 a year out of pocket.

The regional fuel tax is simply punishing Aucklanders for the Government and the Council’s lack of fiscal discipline.

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And to Councils I say don’t get used to this raid on the back pockets of hard working New Zealanders because a re-elected National Government will repeal this tax.”

Bridges attacked Auckland Mayor Phil Goff;

“Auckland Council is a clear case in point. We know it is a free spender of rate-payers money. It was true under Len Brown and it’s true under Phil Goff.”

Which contrasted with former National Party leader and PM, John Key, who all but endorsed Phil Goff’s bid for the mayoralty in 2015;

“Phil Goff has been a very long standing member of Parliament. It was quite a combative relationship when he was leader of the opposition, but there’s no question he had a big work rate and he was a very effective minster.”

Simon Bridges obviously didn’t get the memo from Key’s office that Goff “was a very effective minster“.

It is also worth remembering that when National was in power, they also raised the petrol excise duty by nine cents per litre over a three year period, with Road user charges increasing similarly. In March 2009, National’s Transport Minister, Steven Joyce announced;

”Our preference is for a simpler system which delivers benefits to road users across the board.” From 1 October this year motorists will pay an increase of 3 cents per litre in fuel excise duty and drivers of diesel vehicles will pay the equivalent in road user charges. A second 3 cents increase will occur at October 1 next year. Each 3 cent per litre increase includes an annual increase of 1.5 cents per litre scheduled by the previous government.

…these smaller adjustments to roading excise and road user charges across New Zealand will make more funding available for roading across the country.”

Evidently, increasing fuel excise taxes for more roads (and thereby more cars) is a good thing. But increasing  fuel excise taxes to fund public transport initiatives – thereby assisting in reducing greenhouse gas emissions – is a bad thing. How else could one interpret National’s contradictory statements and policies?

National took matters a step further when they announced on Twitter a petition to persuade the coalition government to reverse it’s decision to ban offshore exploration;

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This wasn’t just Opposition for the sake of opposition. National’s petition signalled a deep ideological opposition to any steps  that would reduce the production of fossil fuels  in this country. The prospect of losing revenue from this industry – despite being a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions – was simply too much for National to contemplate.

National was signalling to all and sundry that given a choice between maintaining the fossil fuel industry and keeping the revenue stream from it – or beginning a slow phase-out and reduced revenue, the winner would always be industry.

And the environment be damned.

So much for the pious sentiments from Bridges at the National’s Bluegreen Conference;

“Good environmental practice is crucial for securing the type of future we want for our children and grandchildren.”

So with National’s antipathy to taking the crucial, hard steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, what was National’s reasoning to entice the Green Party into a coalition deal (or at least a confidence and supply arrangement)?

The answer came from Bluegreens co-chairman, Geoff Thompson. Thompson was unequivocally clear in his stated intention to using his front-organisation as a way for National to return to power;

“We’re a well-liked party … but it’s not good enough. Forty-four per cent [in a recent poll] doesn’t get us there so we want to expand and we see the environmental side of the party, that’s us, as being an opportunity for that expansion.”

For National, “to expand … we see the environmental … as being an opportunity for that expansion” was the answer.

Appealing to the Green Party to work with National would have been made with generous offers.

But the reality is that the Nats would have demanded that the Greens abandon;

  • their “red green” “bits and bobs” social policies;
  • their policies to move away from oil and gas exploration;
  • and policies to improve public transport in Auckland through regional fuel taxes

In short, the Green Party would have found itself neutered on their environmental as well as social policies.

That would have left the Greens with no alternative but to dump their coalition deal, thereby probably triggering an early election. And we all know how voters treat small political parties that cause early elections.

Simon Bridges and his National Party have demonstrated through their opposition to abandoning offshore oil and gas exploration permits that they have very little interest in environmental issues. It is even doubtful they will ever fully  honour the Paris Climate Agreement.

As early as 2012, National had already broken it’s commitment to include agriculture in the emissions trading scheme;

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National’s behaviour in the last few months have proven that a coalition with the Green Party is not only impossible – but fraught with danger of broken promises and backsliding on environmental commitments.

National would always give pre-eminence to industry; fossil fuel production, and building roads.  Environmentalism, alternative fuels, and public transport would always taken second priority – if at all.

Epilogue – Whatever the game, Physics Wins. Always.

In June 2016, atmospheric carbon dioxide reached 400 parts per million (ppm) at NIWA’s Clean Air Monitoring Station at Baring Head, Wellington;

It came a year after it was crossed at the Mauna Loa station in Hawaii, which has recorded a 24 per cent rise in carbon dioxide levels since it began gathering data in 1958.

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Last month, the level was passed at the Australian monitoring station at Cape Grim, Tasmania.

Like something out of Neville Shute’s post-apocalyptic novel, “On The Beach“, but instead of a deadly radioactive cloud, heightened CO2 levels have reached Australia, and shortly thereafter, New Zealand.

In April last year, Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory detected CO2 reaching 410 parts per million for the first time in our recorded history.

We should be recording that level about now, here at the bottom of the world.

It is a grim reminder that rising CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide wait for no man (or woman). Not even for Simon Bridges.

Meanwhile, NIWA reported that January 2018 was New Zealand’s hottest month on record;

NIWA figures show average temperatures for the month of January across the country was 20.3°C.

The temperature for January normally averages 17.1°.

NIWA climate scientist Gregor Macara said the month’s temperatures were unprecedented.

“It was unusual that the entire country seemed to observe temperatures that weren’t only above average, but really considerably above average.”

“The majority of observation stations we had observed temperatures more than 3° above normal and in fact there are quite a few sites that were 4° above normal which were essentially unprecedented – particularly for this time of year,” he said.

While we baked, Simon Bridges and his cronies in the National Party were planning to over-turn any practical steps taken by the current coalition government to do our bit to try to reduce CO2 emissions.

This is why any talk of a Greens coalition with National is ludicrous.  National’s policies, ideology, and base-support is not compatible with environmental protection.

National is part of the problem.

The Joker in the pack

From April 2014;

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“Out of touch” doesn’t even begin to cover Simon Bridges and the environment.

 

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Note: All National Party webspages have been downloaded and saved for future reference. (They have a ‘habit’ of disappearing after a while.)

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References

Radio NZ: NZ First to meet National and Labour today

Fairfax media:  The coalitions that could form NZ’s 52nd Government and how likely they are

Fairfax media:  The day after the election

Radio NZ: Former PM Jim Bolger on how to deal with Winston Peters

Newsroom: National single-minded about its only option

Fairfax media: National wants conversation with Greens, official talks yet to begin

Fairfax media: Greens have a responsibility to talk to National – Jim Bolger

NZ Herald: Grassroots petition calls for National-Green coalition

Fairfax media: Politically Correct – Green Party won’t pick up the phone

Fairfax media:  AM Show host Mark Richardson’s advice to Green Party leader – ‘Be a risk-taker’

Fairfax media: Mark Richardson declares himself as a National supporter, does that matter?

Fairfax media: Bridges offers olive branch out to Greens, only to be quickly shot down

Mediaworks: National open to working with Greens, NZ First – Simon Bridges

Mediaworks:  National needs to ‘change a lot’ to get Greens onside – Marama Davidson

Fairfax media:  National Party ‘resetting our approach to environmental issues’ – Bridges

National Party: 2017 Environment Policy

Beehive.govt.nz: Planning for the future – no new offshore oil and gas exploration permits

NZhistory.govt.nz: New Zealand goes nuclear-free

Fairfax media: How climate change could send your insurance costs soaring

Motu: Insurance, Housing and Climate Change Adapation:Current Knowledge and future research

Ministry for the Environment: Modelling the economic costs of New Zealand’s intended nationally determined contribution

RBNZ:  The Canterbury rebuild five years on from the Christchurch earthquake

NZ Herald: Christchurch Earthquake: 100,000 homes damaged, 10,000 unsavable

Fairfax media:  Nats would reverse Govt’s decision on oil and gas exploration

National Party: Gas and petroleum decision is economic vandalism

National Party: National to overturn Government’s regional fuel tax

NZ Herald: John Key willing to work with Phil Goff

Ministry of Transport:  Increases to petrol excise duty and road user charges

Beehive.govt.nz: Regional fuel taxes replaced

Twitter: National – Sign our Petition

Ministry for the Environment: The Paris Agreement

Radio NZ: Farmers’ ETS exemption progresses

NZ Herald: Scientists record symbolic milestone, and it’s not one to celebrate

NIWA: Baring Head greenhouse gases

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist: The continuing relevance of “On the Beach”

Scientific American: We Just Breached the 410 PPM Threshold for CO2

Radio NZ: January 2018 NZ’s hottest month on record

Mediaworks: Minister didn’t know park was in drilling plan

Additional

Monkeywrench (Sandor.net):  The Politics of Green Coalitions – rethinking our strategy and positioning

Monkeywrench (Sandor.net):  Which way Winston, and what’s in it for the Greens?

Ministry for the Environment: Overview of likely climate change impacts in New Zealand

Other Blogs

The Standard: How a National/Green coalition could work

Previous related blogposts

As predicted: National abandons climate-change responsibilities

ETS – National continues to fart around

National’s moving goalposts on climate change targets

 

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 17 May 2018.

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Once Upon a Time in Mainstream Media Fairytale Land…

12 October 2017 3 comments

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You can feel mainstream media’s frustration with the news-vacuum created by the two week period necessary to count the approximately 384,072 (15% of total votes) Special Votes that were cast this election.

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Winston Peters has announced on several occasions that he will wait until the Specials are counted and announced by the Electoral Commission on 7 October,  before making any announcements on coalition;

“This will be the last press conference I am going to hold until after the 7th of October… I can’t tell you what we are going to do until we have seen all the facts.

I can’t talk to you until I know what the 384,000 people who have cast their vote said…”

And you know what? He’s 100% right.

All the media pundit speculation; all the ambushing at airport terminals; all the annoyingly repetitive questions are utterly pointless. Peters simply cannot say anything meaningful until 7 October because the 2017 Election has not yet fully played out.

This is not a game of rugby where, after eighty minutes, a score determines a winner and loser (or draw).  In this game of “electoral rugby”, the score will not be delivered for two weeks.

The media – still feeling the adrenaline from Election Night “drama” – appears not to have realised this. The 24-Hour News Cycle is not geared toward a process lasting days or weeks.

One journalist writing for the NZ Herald, Audrey Young, even suggested that initiating coalition talks before the Specials were counted and announced was somehow a “good thing”;

It is surprising that NZ First has not begun talking to National yet, at a point when it has maximum leverage.

Not doing so before the special votes runs the risk having less leverage after the specials are counted should there be no change in the seats, or in the unlikely event of National gaining.

That bizarre suggestion could be taken further; why not announce a government before any votes are counted?

Pushed to maximum absurdity, why not announce a government before an election even takes place?  Banana republics fully recommend  this technique.

It says a lot about the impatience and immaturity of journalists that they are demanding decisions on coalition-building before all votes are counted. It is  doubtful if any journalist in Europe – which has had proportional representation far longer than we have – would even imagine  making such a nonsensical  suggestion.

Little wonder that Peters lost his cool on 27 September where he held a press conference and lambasted the mainstream media for their “drivel”;

“Now frankly if that’s the value you place on journalistic integrity you go right ahead, but the reality is you could point to the Electoral Commission and others and ask yourself why is it that 384,000 people will not have their vote counted until the 7th of October. 

Maybe then you could say to yourselves that may be the reason why New Zealand First has to withhold its view because we don’t know yet what the exact precise voice of the New Zealand people is.

All I’m asking for is a bit of understanding rather than the tripe that some people are putting out, malicious, malignant, and vicious in the extreme.”

The mainstream media did not take kindly to the critical analysis which they themselves usually mete out to public figures. They reported Peters’ press conference in unflattering terms and a vehemence usually reserved for social/political outcasts who have somehow dared challenge the established order of things;

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The Fourth Estate does not ‘do’ criticism well.

Even cartoonists have piled in on Peters, caricaturising him for daring to impede the [rapid] course of democracy;

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Or satirising Peters for being in a position to coalesce either with Labour or National. Despite this being a feature of all proportionally-elected Parliaments around the world, this has somehow taken the mainstream media by surprise;

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Perhaps Winston Peters was correct when he accused  New Zealand’s mainstream media of continuing to view the political landscape  through a First Past the Post prism;

“You ran a first past the post campaign in an MMP environment. And things suffer from that.”

Without a hint of self-awareness of irony, the usually insightful Bernard Hickey  offered this strangely familiar ‘advice’ to Peters;

It could have been so different. He could have simply said he couldn’t disclose his negotiating position until after the counting of the special votes and that he could not say who he would choose. Everyone would have accepted that as a fair stance.

Really? “Everyone would have accepted that as a fair stance”?!

How many timers did Peters tell journalists  that he “couldn’t disclose his negotiating position until after the counting of the special votes and that he could not say who he would choose” and how many times did those same journalists (or their colleagues) persist?

I have considerable respect for Mr Hickey’s researching and reporting skills. He is one of New Zealand’s most talented journalists/commentators.

On this point, however, he has over-looked the stubborn persistence of his colleagues in their unrelenting demands on Peters.

That media drivel has extended to journalists reporting on a non-existent, fabricated “story” – a potential National-Green (or “Teal”) Coalition.

Nowhere was this suggestion made seriously – except by National-leaning right-wing commentators, National party supporters, and National politicians. It should be blatantly clear to the most apolitical person that,

(a) such a coalition has been dismissed by the Green Party on numerous occassions

(b) such a coalition would be impractical due to wide policy differences between National and the Greens

(c) such a coalition scenario was being made only as a negotiation tactic by National to leverage against NZ First, and

(d) such a coalition would offer very little benefit to the Greens.

Green party leader, James Shaw, had to repeat – on numerous occassions – that any notion of a National-Green deal was out of a question;

“Our job is to form a government with the Labour Party, that’s what I said on election night, that’s what I campaigned on for the last 18 months and that’s what we are busy working on.

I said on election night that I think the numbers are there for a new government and that’s what we are working on, so everything else frankly is noise and no signal.”

This did not stop the mainstream media from breathlessly (breathe, Patrick, breathe!) reporting repeating the “story” without analysing where it was emanating from: the Right. Or who it would benefit: National.

Writing a series of stories on an imaginary National-Green coalition scenario, Fairfax ‘s political reporter Tracy Watkins could almost be on the National Party’s communications-team payroll;

Metiria Turei’s departure from the Greens co-leadership seems to be what lies behind National’s belief that a deal may be possible – she was always cast as an implacable opponent to any deal with National. James Shaw is seen as being more of a pragmatist.

But National would only be prepared to make environmental concessions – the Greens’ social and economic policy platform would be seen as a step too far. Big concessions on climate change policy would also be a stumbling block.

On both those counts the Greens would likely rule themselves out of a deal – co-leader James Shaw has made it clear economic and social policy have the same priority as environmental policy.

There is a view within National, however, that a deal with the Greens would be more forward and future looking than any deal with NZ First.

One concern is what is seen as an erratic list of NZ First bottom lines, but there is also an acknowledgement that National was exposed on environmental issues like dirty water in the campaign.

That’s why National insiders say an approach to the Greens should not be ruled out.

But Watkins was not completely oblivious to the Kiwi-version of ‘Game of Thrones‘.  She briefly alluded to comprehending that National is pitting the Greens against NZ First;

Senior National MPs have made repeated overtures through the media that its door is open to the Greens, who would have more leverage in negotiations with the centre-right than the centre-left.

Watkins and her colleagues at Fairfax made no attempt to shed light on National’s “repeated overtures”. She and other journalists appeared content to be the ‘conduit’ of National’s machiavellian machinations as prelude to coalition talks.

Such was the vacuum caused by the interregnum between Election Day and Special  Votes day.  That vacuum – caused by the news blackout until coalition talks begin in earnest after 7 October – had obviously enabled sensationalism to guide editorial policy.

Writing for another Fairfax newspaper, the Sunday Star Times, so-called “journalist” Stacey Kirk cast aside any remaining mask of impartiality and came out guns blazing, demanding a National Green Coalition;

They should, and the reasons they won’t work with National are getting flimsier by the day. But they won’t – it’s a matter that strikes too close to the heart of too many of their base – and for that reason, they simply can’t.

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For all their dancing around each other, National is serious when it says it would be happy to talk to the Greens. But it’s also serious when it says it knows it has to make big environmental moves regardless.

If the Greens are serious about putting the environment above politics – and the long-term rebuild of the party – they really should listen.

Kirk’s piece could easily have emanated from the Ninth Floor of the Beehive – not the Dominion Post Building in downtown Wellington.

The media pimping for a fourth National-led coalition, involving the Greens, would be comical if it weren’t potentially so damaging to our democracy. Media are meant to question political activity such as coalition-building  – not aggressively promote them in an openly partisan manner. Especially not for the benefit of one dominant party. And especially not to install that political party to government.

One person went so far as launching an on-line petition calling for just such a coalition;

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The organisor is one, Clive Antony, a Christchurch “organic fashion entrepreneur”. (That’s a ‘thing’? Who knew?)  Mr Anthony explained why he wanted a “Teal” coalition;

“I genuinely think there is common ground between the National Party and the Green Party, which could result in practical policy wins for New Zealand. Environmental issues such as carbon neutrality and social issues like child poverty come to mind.”

Mr Anthony happens to be a National Party supporter.

Mr Anthony failed to explain what National has been doing the last nine years to protect the environment; why rivers have continued to be degraded; why the agricultural sector has been left out of the emissions trading scheme; why National has squandered billions on new roading projects instead of public transport; etc, etc. Also, Mr Anthony has failed to ask why National has not willingly adopted Green Party policies in the last nine years.

What has stopped them?  Party policies are not copyright.  After all, you don’t have to be in coalition with a party to take on their policies.

Although it helps if National were honest enough to release official reports in a timely manner, instead of the public relying on them to be leaked;

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This is how National demonstrates transparency and integrity.  This is the party that attempts to suppress critical information on climate change.

This is the party that some media pundits are clamouring to enter into a meaningful working relationship with the Greens.

As former Green MP, Mojo Mathers pointed out on Twitter;

“Oh my, National love the Greens now do they? Pity they couldn’t show some love for the environment over the last 9 years. #NoGreenWash

Dirty coal. Polluted rivers. Industrial dairying. Rising emissions. Billion dollar motorways. Seabed mining in blue whale habitat and more.”

Another, former Green MP, Catherine Delahunty, voiced what probably 99.9% of Green Party members are thinking right now;

“I would rather drink hemlock than go with the National Party. The last thing I want to see is the Green Party or any other party propping them up to put them back into power. They’ve done enough damage.”

Green Party (co-)leader, James Shaw, was more diplomatic;

“A slim majority of voters did vote for change, and so that’s what I’m working on… We campaigned on a change of Government, and I said at the time it was only fair to let voters know what they were voting for – are you voting for the status quo, or are you voting for change?”

Other individuals pimping for a Nat-Green coalition are sundry National party MPs such as  Paula Bennett or former politicians such as Jim Bolger.

All of which was supported by far-right blogger, Cameron Slater’s “intern staff”, on the “Whaleoil” blog;

Currently we are sitting in wait for old mate Winston Peters to choose who is going to run the country. After watching all the pundits in media talk about what the next government would look like, it started to annoy me that everyone has been ruling out a National/Green coalition and rightly so as both parties have basically written it off.

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A quick Blue-Green arrangement with the appropriate Government Ministries assigned to Green Ministers would kill the NZ First posturing dead and would probably be the death knell for NZ First forever once Mr Peters resigns.”

National’s pollster and party apparatchik, David Farrar, was also actively pimping for a National-Green Coalition;

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When even the far-right are salivating at the prospect of a Blue-Green coalition, you know something is seriously askew.

However,  judging by comments posted by Kiwiblog’s readers, the prospect of a Blue-Green coalition does not sit well with his audience.

As an interesting side-note, both Whaleoil and Kiwiblog both published their first stories on a Blue-Green coalition around 27 and 28 September. The Tory communications-strategy memo talking up a Blue-Green scenario appears to have been sent to Slater and Farrar at the same time.

It beggars belief that very few media commentators have picked up on what is really the bleedin’ obvious: National’s strategy is obviously a ploy to leverage against NZ First.

Of all the pundits, only one person seems to have sussed what was really happening and why. Otago University law professor and political commentator,  Andrew Geddis,  put things very succinctly when he wrote for Radio NZ on 30 September;

Media coverage of the post-election period echoes this existential angst. With Winston Peters declaring that he – sorry, New Zealand First – won’t make any decisions on governing deals until after the final vote count is announced on October 7, we face something of a news vacuum.

Commentators valiantly have attempted to fill this void with fevered speculation about who Peters likes and hates, or fantastical notions that a National-Greens deal could be struck instead…

That is as close to sensible commentary as we’ve gotten the last two weeks.

The 2017 General Election may be remembered in future – not for Winston Peters holding the balance of power – but for the unedifying rubbish churned out by so-called professional, experienced journalists. In their thirst for something – anything!! – to report, the media commentariate have engaged in  onanistic political fantasies.

They have also wittingly allowed themselves to be National’s marionettes – with strings reaching up to the Ninth Floor.

The National-Green Coalition fairytale promulgated by some in the media was a glimpse into the weird world of journalistic daydreaming. In other words, New Zealanders just got a taste of some real fake news.

Like children in the back seat of a car on a two-week long drive, this is what it looks like when bored journalists and media commentators become anxious and frustrated. Their impatience gets the better of them.

And a politician called them on it;

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When the antiquated, binary system of First Past the Post  was replaced with a more sophisticated; more representative; more inclusive MMP in the 1990s, our political system matured. Our Parliament became more ethnically and gender diverse. We even elected the world’s first transgender MP.

MMP is complex and requires careful consideration and time.

It is fit-for-purpose for the complexities of 21st Century New Zealand.

The Fourth Estate is yet to catch up.

 

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References

Electoral Commission: Preliminary results for the 2017 General Election

Otago Daily Times:  Peters will wait for special vote count

NZ Herald:  Winston Peters – 7 per cent of the vote, 100 per cent of the power

Newsroom:  Winston’s awful start

Fairfax media:  Winston Peters launches tirade on media, stays mum on coalition talks

TVNZ:  ‘Next question!’ – belligerent Winston Peters has press pack in stitches after shutting down Aussie reporter

NZ Herald:   Attack on media, some insults and stonewalling – Winston Peters comes out firing in press conference

Newstalk ZB:  Winston Peters hits out at media in fiery press conference

Radio NZ:  Green Party dismisses National-Green speculation

Fairfax media:  The Green Party also hold the balance of power, but they don’t seem to want it

Fairfax media:  National says don’t rule out an approach to Greens on election night

Fairfax media:  Stacey Kirk – Honour above the environment? Greens hold a deck of aces they’re refusing to play

NZ Herald:  Grassroots petition calls for National-Green coalition

Fairfax media: Govt sits on climate warnings

Twitter: Mojo Mathers

Radio NZ:  ‘Snowball’s chance in hell’ of a Green-National deal

Mediaworks:  ‘I will hear the Prime Minister out’ – James Shaw

Mediaworks:  Winston Peters’ super leak ‘great gossip’ I couldn’t use against him – Paula Bennett

Fairfax media:  Greens have a responsibility to talk to National – Jim Bolger

Radio NZ:  Special votes – why the wait?

NZCity:  Have patience, says Winston Peters

E-Tangata: Georgina Beyer – How far can you fall?

Other Blogs

Kiwiblog:  What could the Greens get if they went with National not Winston?

Kiwiblog:  How a National-Green coalition could work

The Daily Blog: Martyn Bradbury – Let’s seriously consider David Farrar’s offer to the Greens and laugh and laugh and laugh

Liberation:  Cartoons and images about negotiating the new government

Previous related blogposts

Election 2014; A Post-mortem; a Wake; and one helluva hang-over

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign… (waru)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign… (Iwa)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 7 October 2017.

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Observations on the 2017 Election campaign… (Iwa)

3 October 2017 1 comment

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Red-Green, Blue-Green?

There is mischief-making afoot.

Suggestions for a National-Green coalition are being floated by various right-wing commentators, National Party figures, and some media pundits. Despite Green Party Leader, James Shaw, repeatedly ruling out any such possibility – the suggestion continues to circulate.

On  election night, as TOP leader Gareth Morgan realised his party would not reach the 5% MMP threshold, he made the bizarre comment that the Greens should join with National in a formal coalition;

“I want them [the Green Party] to do what we would’ve done if we had been above five, and say to National who are gonna be the Government it’s very obvious, we will work with you, we need to work on the environment no matter who the Government is.”

To which Shaw predictably responded;

“My view is that he would have been better off backing a party that had similar ideas, like us.”

This was reiterated for the NZ Herald;

Shaw said he would not being making contact with National, but he would take a call from National leader Bill English.

“It’s my responsibility to do so. And we’ll have to see what they’ve got to say. But one of the things I will be saying in return is ‘You know we campaigned on a change of government and you know what was in our manifesto … and how incongruous that is to what the National Party policy programme is’.”

On 25 September, right-wing political commentator and mischief-maker, Matthew Hooton, again raised the proposal for a National-Green coalition on Radio NZ’s Nine to Noon political panel;

“And then there’s the other one, of course, there’s the National-Green option, which is  favoured by National party members… it’s an interesting one…”

On the same day, on Radio NZ’s Checkpoint, former PM Jim Bolger repeated the National-Green coalition possibility to host, John Campbell;

“…The Greens might be quietly reflecting on whether they, unique in the world as a Green party, should only link themselves to left-wing politics. Whereas  the environment is neither left wing or right wing, frankly. The environment is the environment, it’s Mother Earth we’re talking about.

And I just wonder whether or not they won’t reflect on towards the National government that signed up to the Paris Climate Accords and have set in place the process to reach  the goals that was set out there.

So I’d imagine in a quiet back room the Greens might be saying, ‘Why? Why are we saying we can only go with one party?’, eg the Labour party, and you might watch this space if I was you, John.”

Bolger’s hippy-like ‘Mother Earth’ musings was followed by Tracy Watkins. Writing for Fairfax media on 25/26 September, she still laboured under the impression that a National-Green coalition was a real ‘thing’;

Like Winston Peters, the Greens could theoretically hold the balance of power, after National made it clear it is more than willing to talk turkey with the minor party.

[…]  Some senior Nats consider a deal with the Greens more desirable than a NZ First deal – the Green’s environmental platform is seen within National as something it could accommodate, particularly after the clobbering it took over clean water during the election campaign.

That highlighted to National that its credibility on environmental issues and New Zealand’s 100 per cent pure brand needs some serious work – and a Greens deal would be a simple way to enhance its environmental credentials.

There is also recognition that a deal with the Greens would be more forward looking and more likely to ride the mood for change than a deal with the NZ First, whose policies are more backward looking.

Peter Dunne followed on Radio NZ’s Morning Report on 27 September, with his call for a National-Green coalition;

“The best option in my view … is for the Greens to be very bold, work out that they could make significant changes on climate change policy, and go with National.”

Note that this suggestion came from Peter Dunne, who recently chucked in his own political career rather than facing  Labour’s Greg O’Connor at the ballot box.

Where was Dunne’s own boldness?

What happened to his own United Future Party?

Even a chat-show’s sports commentator put his two cents worth in. The AM Show’s Mark Richardson suddenly decided that commentating on grown men kicking balls around wet paddocks wasn’t enough of a challenge for him. Duncan Garner decided to prompt Richardson to offer the public his  suddenly new-found “political expertise”.

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Mark Richardson, Sports Presenter (now moonlighting as a political pundit)

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Richardson complied, and sagely advised;

AM Show sports commentator Mark Richardson is dipping his toe into the political pool again, this time splashing his ideas at the leader of the Green Party.

Introduced by his colleague Duncan Garner as a “political expert”, who has “decided that you [Green Party leader James Shaw] should listen to him and this is what he wants to say.”

The cricketer-turned-broadcaster challenged Shaw to form a coalition government with National, following the stalemate reached in Saturday’s election.

I just want to say James,” said Richardson, directly to camera, “be a risk taker and back yourself, but not only back yourself, back that band of hopeful young administrators you take with them (sic),” he said.

How ‘delightful’ that National supporters and other sundry right-wingers are encouraging the Greens to be “bold”  and “risk takers”. After all, if such an unlikely coalition were to eventuate, the damage wreaked upon the Green Party wouldn’t impact one iota on the likes of Morgan, Hooton, Bolger, Dunne, Richardson, et al. But it sure as hell would destroy the Greens and eliminate the Labour Party’s only reliable potential coalition partner.

Game over for the Left.

So no surprise that a whole bunch of people on the Right and media have suddenly focused on the Green Party;

  • For media pundits, they are suffering from boredom and a debilitating psychological effect called ‘lackofheadline-itis’. With coalition negotiations unlikely to commence until Special Votes have been counted and announced on 7 October, manufacturing “news” by positing a fantasy fairy tale of the Greens linking up with National creates headlines. It’s as close to fake news as we’ll get with the msm.
  • For National Party supporters – such as AM Show sports commentator Mark Richardson (see above) – such a deal with the Green Party would lend legitimacy to a fourth term National government. Make no mistake, the Green Party is a powerful brand, and the Nats want it. Badly.
  • For the National government, should any  such a coalition eventuate, the kudos for any environmental gains would inevitably be snapped for themselves, as it did with the home insulation deal it made with the Green Party in 2009;

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Success for that  programme was claimed solely by the Nats;

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But as the fate of small parties such as ACT, United Future/Peter Dunne, and the Maori Party demonstrated with crystal clarity, snuggling up close to the National Party goliath is akin to trying to cuddle up to a ravenous lion. It will not end well.

Just ask Te Ururoa Flavell and Marama Fox.

So National would benefit two-fold.

By contrast, it is unclear what gain (if any) the Greens could hope to achieve.

National and sundry right-wing commentators should knock off trying to use the Green Party as pawns in any negotiations with NZ First. Trying to use the Green Party as “leverage” will simply not work. The Green Party refuses to be anybody’s “lever”.

Just to be absolutely clear – because evidently, having it in writing, in black and white, on the Green Party website – is insufficient for some people;

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Matthew Hooton can’t count

Also on Radio NZ’s Nine to Noon political panel on 25 September, right-wing political commentator,  Matthew Hooton, stated that National’s vote on Saturday was better than previous elections;

“Admittedly partly as a result of the decline of the Conservative Party, National has won more votes, got a higher proportion of the vote than it did in 2014 and 2008…”

It is unclear what Hooton has based that assumption on, as his statement is contradicted by the Provisional Results from the Electoral Commission.

According to the Commission’s website, the National Party gained the followed percentage and individual votes for 2008, 2014, and 2017;

Election Year Party
Votes
%
Votes
2008 1,053,398 44.93%
2014 1,131,501 47.04%
2017* 998,813 46.0%

(* Preliminary results)

The numbers are clear; National’s vote has fallen by 132,000 and their percentage of the Party Vote has fallen by over one percentage point from 2014. (And whilst National’s Party vote percentage was higher this year than 2008 – they still suffered a drop in actual votes by 54,585.

Even the demise of Colin Craig’s Conservative Party (aka, CCCP) failed to lift National’s poll results.

Whichever way you look at it, the tide is beginning to ebb on National’s fortunes.

Stuart Nash wins Napier outright

Following the 2014 General Election, I pointed out that Stuart Nash’s win in the Napier seat was due more to Garth McVicar splitting the right-wing vote, allowing Labour to slip through to victory. As I reported on 26 September, 2014;

Nash did not “win” Napier.

The National candidate, Wayne Walford lost the electorate when Garth McVicar from the Conservative Party split the right wing vote in the electorate. Remember; electorate contests are still fought using First Past the Post – not by any  proportionality or preferential voting.

The actual results were;

McVICAR, Garth: (Conservatives) 7,135

NASH, Stuart: (Labour) 14,041

WALFORD, Wayne: (National) 10,308

Add McVicar’s 7,135 to Walford’s figures, and the combined 17,443 would have trounced Nash easily.

On Election Night 2017, Stuart Nash did not had the benefit of a popular Conservative Party candidate splitting the right-wing vote. Instead, he won the seat outright;

Candidate
 Stuart Nash (L)
18,407*
 David Elliott (N)
14,159*
 Laurence Day (CCCP)
200*

* Figures provisional.

 

Not only did Nash retain his overall majority, but McVicar’s 7,135 votes from 2014 appears to have been evenly split between Nash and Elliott.

This time, Nash can legitimately assert that he won the Napier seat without vote-splitting creating an artificial majority, as happened three years ago.

Winston Peters waiting for Special Votes

It’s not often that I agree with NZ First leader, Winston Peters. But on 27 September he told the media;

“This will be the last press conference I am going to hold until after the 7th of October… I can’t tell you what we are going to do until we have seen all the facts.

I can’t talk to you until I know what the 384,000 people who have cast their vote said… please don’t write the kind of thing saying someone has moral authority…we are not first past the post here.”

He’s right.

Until Special Votes are counted, making statements to the media is an exercise in futility. It would be pandering more to the dictates of the 24-hour news cycle rather than offering anything constructive to the public.

At this point the media will have to exercise patience and simply accept that until Special Votes are counted, nothing can (or should) happen.

The democratic process cannot; must not; should not, revolve around the 24-hour news cycle.

The Curious resignation of  Wayne Eagleson

Something very, very curious has transpired in the dark coridors of power in the Beehive. The Prime Minister’s Number 2, right-hand man, Wayne Eagleson  announced his resignation on 25 September.

Eagleson was one of several high-ranking National figures who were informed that Winston Peters had received a superannuation overpayment.

On 26 September, both English and Eagleson vigorously denied leaking – or having knowledge of who might have leaked – information on Peters’ superannuation overpayments;

It didn’t come from the National Party.” – Wayne Eagleson

No, not all. I take people by their word that no action was taken by my staff in making that information public.” – Bill English

Now, aside from the fact that Bill English has already shown himself willing and capable of telling lies, by repeating Steven Joyce’s fabrications over Labour’s “$11.7 billion hole” and “increased personal taxes”, there remain an interesting question regarding the statements made by the Prime Minister and Wayne Eagleson.

Namely this: How can either English or Eagleson know with absolute certainty that the leaking of Peters’ personal superannuation details did not come from someone/anyone connected to the National Party?

If they truly  know – with 100% certainty – that no one in the National Party leaked the information; how do they know this? How is that possible?

In fact, it is not  possible.

In that respect, both English and Eagleson are covering up the possibility that the leak emanated from someone within the National party or government.

And if both men are willing to take that small step to cover-up the merest possibility of an internal National Party leak… would it be too much of a stretch to assume that one or both are fully aware of who the leaker is?

Why did Eagleson resign – especially at this very crucial time of coalition negotiations?

And what does Winston Peters know of why Eagleson resigned?

One salient fact fact is indisputable: someone did leak that information. The question is not who was responsible – but who else knew who was responsible.

Wayne Eagleson knows more than he is letting on, as does Bill English.

Winston Peters has had his ‘utu’.

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References

Mediaworks:  A phone call between National and the Greens would be a short one

Radio NZ: Nine to Noon Political Panel – 25.9.2017 (alt.link)

Radio NZ:  Former PM Jim Bolger on how to deal with Winston Peters (alt.link)

NZ Herald:  Green Party leader James Shaw rules out contacting National

Fairfax media:  The Green Party also hold the balance of power, but they don’t seem to want it

Radio NZ: Morning Report –  Dunne predicts ‘blood on the floor’

Fairfax media:  Mark Richardson declares himself as a National supporter, does that matter?

NBR: Govt launches ‘Warm Up NZ’ programmed

National Party:  10 ways National is helping families get ahead

Green Party:  How you vote has never been so important

Electoral Commission: New Zealand 2011 General Election Official Results

Electoral Commission: New Zealand 2008 General Election Official Results

Electoral Commission: Preliminary results for the 2017 General Election

Electoral Commission: 2014 Election Results – Napier (Alt.link: Wikipedia – Election Results – Napier)

Electoral Commission: 2017 Election Results – Napier (Provisional)

Otago Daily Times:  Peters will wait for special vote count

Mediaworks:  Bill English’s chief of staff quits – but wants NZ First deal first

Radio NZ:  Timeline – Winston Peters’ superannuation overpayments saga

Mediaworks:  As it happened – Parties prepare for election negotiations

Other Blogs

The Standard: How a National/Green coalition could work

Previous related blogposts

Election 2014; A Post-mortem; a Wake; and one helluva hang-over

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign… (waru)

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

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One Day Out with Green Team #5

25 August 2017 2 comments

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Hutt Valley, 19 August – As part of my contribution to the Green party election campaign, I joined the Green’s Billboard Team #5. Our team was assigned to the Rimutaka Electorate – and it was an eventful day…

We began at 10am, assembling at a private residence in the Lower Hutt suburb of Woburn. Teams were assigned suburbs throughout Lower Hutt and the Rimutaka Electorate.  Vehicles were loaded with timber; corflute sheets of varying sizes; nails, and tools. The weather was cloudy, but sunny and the day continued to warm.

But we were on limited time. The weather forecast was not brilliant for the afternoon. We would have to do as much work as possible in the limited time available.

Team number 5 headed north.

Our first stop; Waiwhetu Road in Lower Hutt, to replace a small corflute with a larger one on a private residence’s fence. Private residence’s fences are a fast, cheap, easy way to put up billboards. Usually no framing is required, just nails or staples. Five minutes and the job is done.

Then on to Upper Hutt.

The team had previously erected several billboards over the previous weeks and were well-experienced in the technique. Recent rain had softened the ground, making it easier to drive in the stakes to which legs and support-struts were attached;

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com election 2017 - billboards - green party

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(Note: not all team members were included in these images. Some did not want to be photographed, others were working on other billboard frames.)

The soft ground that made our work so easy would  prove to be problematic later on.

Several households throughout the electorate were  happy to have smaller corflutes attached to their fences;

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The team moved to existing billboards, repairing damage caused by vandals in one instance – and by recent windgusts in another. At Gibbon Street, Green Party members charitably re-erected an ACT Party billboard that had been knocked over by vandals;

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Support for the Green Party took an unusual turn when – at one house – I was invited to come for dinner later. (I declined the gracious offer.) It was a difficult decision; the aroma of a spicy Indian dish wafted through the open door as we sought permission from the home-owner to place a placard on her fence.

Around mid-day, a small disaster struck the team. The ground on which our vehicle had parked was softer than we had thought, and quickly became bogged down. No amount of muscle-powered pushing and other ‘tricks’ worked.

At that moment, Labour’s Rimutaka MP, Chris Hipkins and his wife and child were driving past in his trademarked red 4X4.

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He slowed and leaned out his window;

“Do you guys need any help?”

We all nodded. No way were we going to turn down his offer of assistance. Besides which, there was probably a clause in the Labour-Greens Memorandum of Understanding on this kind of scenario; “each Party will help each other out in the event of getting bogged down in mud“.

Yep, it’s there. Somewhere.

After some careful towing, Chris managed to extricate our vehicle. Had the election been that day, we probably would’ve voted for him on the spot, in sheer gratitude.

Thanks, Chris! Labour-Green co-operation at it’s finest!

So on top of putting up a dozen billboards on frames and fences, Team #5 managed to engage in some inter-party co-operation; Green members re-erecting an ACT billboard, and a Labour MP coming to our rescue!

Now if only Parliament could work like that.

Postscript

If we want to change the government, we have to work for it. That means going out and campaigning for Labour, the Greens, or Mana Movement. It won’t happen by itself – only People Power can do it.

We have four weeks to do it, people.

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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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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 20 August 2018.

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From TV’s “The Nation” – Patrick Gower and James Shaw have a heart-to-heart

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Saturday, 12 August – On TV3’s ‘The Nation, Patrick Gower interviewed the Green Party’s remaining co-leader, James Shaw;

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For a while, the interview was low-key, with Gower exercising old school  journalistic professionalism. It’s as if someone slipped him a nice camomile tea laced with a couple of shots of  bourbon and just a smidgeon of valium.

The interview progressed well, with James Shaw being somewhat irritatingly ‘coy’ about the Green’s campaign re-set. Gower kept his frustration in check as Shaw did the dance of the Seven Veils, but without the peeling-away of said veils.

Then, at 6:10 into the interview, there was this jaw-dropping exchange between Gower and Shaw;

Patrick Gower: Well, an important aspect of that is what Metiria Turei’s venture around this benefit fraud was all about, which was empowering the disenfranchised. Now, where do they sit — those people that she tried to reach, or, as you’ve argued, did reach now they’ve seen someone who’s stood up for them slapped down and destroyed, effectively? What message does that send to those people that you were trying to reach that this is what happens when someone speaks up for you?

James Shaw: Yeah, Patrick, I have to say that’s been a huge personal concern for me is — what message does that send? And so it is a really important part of our campaign that the people that have come forward over the course of the last four weeks in response to Metiria’s campaign who said, ‘Finally, I feel like there’s someone in the House of Representatives who actually represents me,’ we are going to be speaking directly to those people and say, ‘The Green Party is here for you. We still stand for you.’ And it is our goal to end poverty. I mean, Metiria herself said that is was always bigger than her.

Patrick Gower: Yeah, but what do those words mean when what they see is she stood up for them and she was taken down by her own party in some senses? You guys didn’t stand behind her.

James Shaw: Patrick, we absolutely stood behind her. She had the full support of me, the caucus, the party executive. I mean, we had thousands of volunteers all over the country.

Now – what’s wrong with Gower’s comments?

Why – when listening/reading his words – does one feel rising nausea and anger?

And why does the word “hypocrisy” ring loud?

Perhaps I’ve crossed over into a Parallel Universe… Bernie Sanders is still President of the United States, right?

 

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References

Mediaworks/TV3: The Nation – Patrick Gower interviews James Shaw (video)

Scoop media: The Nation – Patrick Gower interviews James Shaw (transcript)

Previous related blogposts

Some background info for Guyon Espiner

Time to speak up for Metiria Turei!

Time to speak up for Metiria Turei! (Part Rua)

The most grievous betrayal of all – two so-called “Green” MPs who should know better

Metiria Turei has started something

 

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Acknowledgement for cartoon: Toby Morris, Radio NZ.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 13 August 2017.

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Metiria Turei has started something

17 August 2017 4 comments

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When Metiria Turei announced her resignation as co-leader of the Green Party, on the afternoon of 9 August, it could be said that the bullies had won.

The reactionary media pack – led chiefly by so-called “journalists” Patrick Gower, Mike Hosking, Duncan Garner, Tracy Watkins, and  John Armstrong – had joined the hunt. They scented blood. The prize?  Who would be first to announce her resignation. Watching and listening to Gower almost salivating as he put the verbal “ultra-violence” boot into Metiria was nauseating.

The political Right-Wing – led chiefly by ACT’s sole MP, David Seymour – not only clamoured for her resignation, but actively promoted rumour after rumour to undermine her reputation. Mischief-making falsities from the Right is done with malice and glee. Especially if the “fake dirt” can be thrown anonymously via social media.  Seymour’s role in this is even more jaw-droppingly hypocritical when one studies the lengthy list of former, disgraced ACT MPS – and there have been several, for such a minor party.

Various sundry vociferous critics from the “Moral Majority” – led chiefly by Joe and Jane Bloggs – pakeha, middle class; home-owning; privileged. They have never know hunger or having to choose between paying the rent or new shoes for the kids. For them, the mantra is “can’t afford to feed kids – don’t have them”.  (Which is code for “fuck off, we don’t want to see you poor people because it makes us feel guilty and we don’t like it. You’re in our Comfort Zone”.)

Fellow blogger, Martyn Bradbury described that relentless attack on Ms Turei thusly;

It is a grim reality of the double standards that are always used against the Left in politics. The truth is that this was a class attack by rich white male broadcasters who used their privilege to launch a character assassination against Metiria for daring to give beneficiaries hope that the way they are treated will be finally discussed.

And that is precisely the point. This was never about Metiria having to lie to Social Welfare when she was 23.

It certainly wasn’t about her so-called “electoral fraud”. Hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders live overseas and are actively encouraged to vote in electorates they haven’t resided in for years. The Electoral Commission even encourages citizens to vote in electorates they are absent from;

Enrol and Vote from Overseas

Just because you are out of the country doesn’t mean you have to miss out on having your say in New Zealand’s elections.

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Your electorate will be the one in which you last lived for a month or more. 

All quite legal.

But when a mischievous young person does pretty much the same thing as a prank, to support a joke political “party” – people lose their minds?!

Ms Turei was certainly not the first woman on the Left to be vilified. Before her, there was Sue Bradford. And before her, Fran Wilde. When Conservative New Zealand is threatened by women who “cross the line”, it reacts brutally.

Ms Turei not only “crossed the line”, she was an uppity brown woman who got lippy and insolent to The Established Order of  Things.  The Establishment slapped her down – hard.

As Stephanie Rodgers wrote for Radio NZ;

I will remember that for 30 years, no one really challenged the brutal reality of life for the poor in New Zealand. We lamented child poverty rates. We railed against increasingly draconian policies and re-brandings. But there was a gentlemen’s agreement that things weren’t that bad, the system did what it could, it was just so complicated, we can’t simply give people money, they’ve got rights but they have responsibilities too.

I will remember that as soon as someone – a Māori woman who survived poverty and didn’t forget where she came from – said ‘This is fundamentally wrong, and we must do better,’ she was finished.

The “weapon of choice” to take down this uppity woman was not Ms Turei’s political opponants in the National/ACT Party (though that stooge, Seymour, certainly did his masters’ bidding). That would be too obvious. New Zealanders with a vestigial sense of fair play would quickly recognise a political “hit job” carried out by the governing party. Especially with Paula Bennett apparently having a few of her own skeletons stashed away in her closet.

No, retribution would be exacted by New Zealand’s own “Media Elite” – prominent personalities from TV (Garner, Gower, and Hosking); print media (Tracy Watkin and John Armstrong), and the usual goon-brigade of semi-articulate radio “talkback” hosts.

Radio NZ was largely exempt from the media pack hunting down their quarry. Until 10 August,that is. On a programme called ‘Caucus‘, Guyon Espiner, Lisa Owen, and Tim Watkin discussed Metiria Turei’s lying to Social Welfare in her 20s.

Driving home this evening, I listened to the three of them discussing Metiria Turei’s lying to Social Welfare in the 1990s. I listened and listened, and became more incredulous and angry with each uttered word.

I switched off the car radio. Outside, the dismal grey sky occassionally sprayed sheets of rain over me as I and  thousands of other vehicles slowly moved along the  Motorway. “60K” the illuminated overhead signs demanded.

Sixty?

We should be so lucky! We did 30 or maybe  40 and were thankful for it.

Despite the gloomy grey sky, blanketed with bulging dark clouds, it was a damn sight more cheerful outside than in my  vehicle, having listened to three journalists who I usually hold in high regard. It was darker, gloomier, and worse inside than out.

For the first time ever, I had willfully switched off a Radio NZ political programme. Listening to three, privileged, well-paid, middle-class, pakeha professionals pontificating on the sins of a 23 year old young maori woman two decades ago was more than I could stomach.  Louder than ever, Herman Melville’s now-oft repeated quote bounced around inside my head;

“Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.”

Maybe I’m wrong and I don’t know the full extent of the lives of Guyon Espiner, Lisa Owen, and Tim Watkin – but that’s the point. We don’t know their lives.

The Inquisitors who have hounded and interrogated Ms Turei have done so with utter impunity as to how they lived their lives in their teens and twenties. Perhaps they lived their lives faultlessly.

Because – and here’s the point – the journalists and media personalities are not investigating anything Ms Turei did in her adult years, especially as a Member of Parliament.  They are scrutinising her past life.

It was a time when every single one of us cocks-up one way or another. (I certainly did. I haven’t worn my halo since puberty.)

Case in point; all three likened her transgression to lie to Social Welfare with Bill English’s rorting of the Ministerial Accomodation allowance in 2009;

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Note how then Dear Leader, John “Pull the Other One (pony tail)” Key phrased English’s deliberately rorting the system as an unfortunate distraction“.

At least Ms Turei never called her lying to Social Welfare as an unfortunate distraction“. Can you imagine the reaction of the Establishment Media?!?! They would have burned her alive at a stake on the Parliamentary forecourts.

But the point here is that Bill English was 48 when he rorted the Ministerial accomodation allowance.

Metiria Turei was 23.

Please Guyon Espiner, Lisa Owen, and Tim Watkin – tell us how they are remotely similar? If you can explain this to us, the Unwashed Masses, perhaps we can begin to glimpse your reasoning to hound this woman till she finally cracks and resigns.

Because I really, really, really want to understand.

The next complaint they had was the messy nature of Metiria Turei’s “back story”. Lisa Owen referred to “missing bits of her story” and “gaps” in her life.

Well, that’s a surprise, isn’t it?

That young people have messy lives that are often not tidy; not neatly packaged for future scrutiny; and often much of what we’ve done as young adults totally eludes our memories.

My own life has been “colourful” to put it mildly. Much of it I can recall. Much of it, I’ve forgotten or the details are hazy. If anyone asked me what I was doing when I was 23, I might offer basic facts – but certainly not details.

Most normal, rational, fair-minded people would find it  utterly unreasonable to expect the often chaotic lives of young people – especially those at the bottom of the socio-economic heap – to be recalled two decades later. Especially by an unrelenting media pack demanding minute details.

John Key’s “poor memory” was a standing joke in this country. The most famous example when he couldn’t recall the last time he had txt-messaged a far-right blogger. It had been only 24 hours previously. But he said he “forgot”;

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Screw that. We know he was a lying, manipulative con-man. But he got away with it because he ticked all the right boxes;

  • Establishment
  • Wealthy
  • Powerful
  • White
  • Male

On top of which, he was further rewarded with a knighthood. (I didn’t know liars were knighted.)

By contrast, Ms Turei was anything but but any of the above.

As  State House Tenant Advocate, Vanessa Kururangi, blogged recently;

If you’re brown, don’t dream of conquering mountains.
If you’re a woman, don’t you start having an opinion.
If you’re intelligent, play that shit down.
If you have stretch marks, you don’t stand a chance.
If you have aroha, don’t share it with others.
If you extend your arms, it had better not be for a handout.
If you have a voice, keep it zipped.
If you have a skeleton, best you bury the whole house, not just the closet.
Also, learn to lie.

“Learn to lie”. That last one is a lesson all our politicians have had beaten into their skulls by events  over the last two weeks. Lie like John Key when he “forgets” stuff. Tell the truth – and prepare to be excoriated.

None of which stopped Espiner, Owen, and Watkin from holding her to a higher standard than Key. None of them paused to think; “Hang on, are we really expecting too much from a young woman in her early 20s who lived like most young people who have no perception of long-term consequences?

They’ll deny it was a witch-hunt, of course. All of them will; Tracy Watkins, John Armstrong, Mike “I Love John” Hosking, Duncan Garner, and Patrick “I’m Holding The Line” Gower, as well as Espiner, Owen, and Watkin, and a few others who I cannot be bothered to list.  Otherwise known as the “Media Elite”.

But of course it was.

Meanwhile, stories of poverty continue in our daily media. There is much hand-wringing, soul-searching, and those same  Media Elite wanting answers to questions.

Metiria Turei may not have had the answers. But she knew the welfare system is broken and keeps people mired deeper in poverty, creating new cycles of despair, lack of hope, violence, hunger, disease…

Metiria Turei may not have revealed every intimate secret she had at the time. Why should she? Does poverty really mean having to give away your privacy so that privileged folk in the Middle Class can pass moral judgement on whether you are worthy of charity. That’s really going ‘Victorian’ on poor peoples’ asses.

Maybe it would be fairer if, when a Media Elite asks a poor person who they’ve been fucking recently, that Media Elite can swap his or her details at the same time?

Like this;

Patrick Gower: “So tell us, Wretched Poor Person, who’ve you been having sex with while on the DPB?”

Solo Mum: “I’ve had sex three times, Mr Gower, Sir, with the same person.”

Patrick Gower: “Away with you, Woman of Loose Morals!” [Turns to TV camera] “In the interest of full disclosure, I’d like to say I had sex with my partner, Mary the Merino, but no suck luck. It’s just me and my right hand, folks. Now back to the studio.”

Too much information, right?

But that’s how much the media demands to scrutinise the lives of the poor – especially those on welfare. As if receiving a state benefit demands surrendering privacy.

In case certain individuals from the Media Elite believe I’m being crude and unfair – damn straight I am. The last two weeks have shown me what the new standards are. I’m quite capable of playing by those rules.

On the day that Ms Turei announced her resignation I was thoroughly ashamed to be a New Zealander.  I saw the nasty, vindictive, petty-minded elements of our society. And the Media Elite played along; encouraging it; enabling it.

A day later, as I talked to grass-roots Green Party supporters, and read the comments of other people on social media, I began to hear the voices of the better nature of New Zealanders.

And you know what, my “friends” in the Media Elite? You can’t do a damn thing about it. As “Bill” from The Standard wrote;

Something’s happening right under our noses in New Zealand and a fair few people are missing it. When Metiria Turei highlighted the fact that New Zealand’s Social Security system is deployed as a weapon against poor people, 30 years worth of pent up frustration and/or remembered experiences from innumerable people suddenly found an outlet.

Metiria Turei has started something. You can’t stop it.

You can’t stop us all.

 

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Postscript – Minister for Sheer Hypocrisy Speaks Out

Former welfare beneficiary and now Deputy PM, Paula “Good Time Party Girl” Bennett recently admonished Metiria Turei, lecturing her on the Protestant work ethic;

“ I was often on benefit, I had jobs and I was always trying to get off when I was on, because I wanted to work and didn’t want to be on a benefit.”

Which seems in stark contrast to an earlier remark that Bennett made to NZ Herald journalist, Amelia Romanos, in February 2012;

“ Then I pretty much fell apart because I was exhausted. I went back on the DPB.”

So, Bennett wasn’t “always trying to get off when I was on, because I wanted to work and didn’t want to be on a benefit“. Sometimes she got a bit tired.

What was that you were saying to Ms Turei, Minister Bennett?

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References

Radio NZ:  ‘Outside opponents want to see us fail’ – Metiria Turei

Electoral Commission: Enrol and Vote from Overseas

Radio NZ: How Metiria Turei saved the Labour Party (audio)(alt.link)

Radio NZ:  I will remember Metiria Turei differently

Fairfax media:   Bill English buckles over housing allowance

Mediaworks/Newshub:  John Key ‘genuinely couldn’t recall’ text messages

Radio NZ:  Deputy PM on Turei’s benefit dishonesty

NZ Herald: Bennett rejects ‘hypocrite’ claims

Additional

The Spinoff:  The sins of Metiria, Bill and John – sense-checking the fact checkers

Other Bloggers

Gordon Campbell on the Turei finale

Bill:  Corbyn-esque NZ

Chris Trotter:  Avenge Metiria!

Vanessa Kururangi: “A Guide To Politics – Rules on How to Survive”

Curwen Rolinson:  Jacinda Effect > Metiria Affect – Why The Greens’ Polls Are Down

Previous related blogposts

Time to speak up for Metiria Turei!

Time to speak up for Metiria Turei! (Part Rua)

The most grievous betrayal of all – two so-called “Green” MPs who should know better

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 12 August 2017.

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The most grievous betrayal of all – two so-called “Green” MPs who should know better

12 August 2017 7 comments

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Right-wing rednecks – I can deal with.

Beneficiary-bashing bigots – no problem.

Well-meaning ignorance – a bit of a challenge.

But what I find difficult to comprehend is when we face betrayal from our supposed comrades; people who supposedly share our values, and are travelling the same struggle-road.

I refer to (now-ex-)Green MPs, Kennedy Graham and Dave Clendon who dropped the political equivalent of a barrel-bomb into the middle of the election campaign with this jaw-dropping act of betrayal;

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They issued a joint statement stating;

“We do not believe that lying to a public agency … can ever be condoned.”

That one simple line speaks volumes about the self-sense of privilege exhibited by these two men. Obviously they have never had to face the prospect of choosing to lie to WINZ – or telling the truth and risk cutting their benefit and reduced income.

Their self-righteousness in siding with “public agencies” over the poor; the powerless; the abused; the dispossessed makes them unfit to be in any political movement professing to be progressive.

They should join National, or even better, ACT.

I am livid with anger at the selfish actions of these two. I have given my weekends to help erect Green Party billboards. I have helped draft letters to newspapers defending Metiria Turei from the reactionary media pack who are hounding her. I plan to give up my time to help the Green Party as much as I possibly can with leafletting and doorknocking.

And then these two fucking clowns; on parliamentary salaries; living comfortable, privileged lives – undermine everything that I – and thousands of other volunteers – have done?

To hell with that. To hell with them. To hell with their self-serving, pious self-righteousness.

And to hell with these selfish desire for revenge.

Yes, that’s right – revenge. Both of these two dickheads have been dropped down the Green Party list rankings from 2014;

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Clendon and Graham are both non-entities; non-performers who were dropped down the Green Party list to make way for more talented candidates. That much is obvious.  Also obvious is the retribution they have exacted for their demotion. They must have waited very patiently for the right moment to plunge the knife into the backs of their colleagues; the Party, and it’s supporters and volunteers.

Metiria Turei’s confession was the moment they had been waiting for. A gift for traitors to exploit.

Whilst Ms Turei faced her reactionary critics in the Establishment Media – she left her back exposed to these contemptible  cowards.

The damage that Clendon and Graham may have done to our chances to change the National-led government is much, much worse than Metiria Turei’s recent admission to lying to social welfare. They may just have thrown National a life-line. With polls on a knife-edge, one or two percent is all it takes to decide if our Prime Minister is Bill “Double-Dipper” English, or Jacinda “Let’s Do It” Ardern.

This is an act of betrayal that is much worse than anything National may have dished out to us in the last nine years. We know what to expect from the Tories and their fellow-travellers.

But to be stabbed in the back by people we trust to represent the poorest people in our society – is treachery beyond polite words.

This is my second draft at writing this. My first attempt is not printable except maybe on Whaleoil. (And even Cam Slater might have asked me to “tone it down”.)

Kennedy Graham and Dave Clendon can fuck off.

Just. Fuck. Off.

 

 

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References

Radio NZ:  Two Green MPs call for Turei to step down

Green Party: 2014 Party List

Green Party: 2017 Party List

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 7 August 2017.

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