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Posts Tagged ‘Internal Affairs Minister’

As clear as mud

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= That Was Then =

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Enter “John Key transparency” as  parameters in a Search Engine field, and you get about 820,000 results from ‘Google’ and 2,360 from ‘Bing’. (Does the latter seems to know something we don’t?)

Transparency was one of Key’s major “buzz words” for his election campaign in 2008 and last year. He mentions it often, as in a speech he gave Local Government NZ on 26 July 2010, where the word was used six times,

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"It’s worth noting here also that the world has changed in terms of the appetite for transparency around the way we spend money...
... Of course, transparency is as important as ever in election year – be it local body elections or central government elections."

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Indeed, Dear Leader, indeed. Transparency is very important.

We’re glad you’re so supportive of transparency in government. Now, let’s check ‘your score-card’…

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= This is Now =

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Regrettably,  National appears to have abandoned all notions of transparency, and has closed down several issues from public scrutiny.

Two issues, in particular have all but been shut down by National. A veil of secrecy has been draped over the Judith Collins/ACC scandal  and National’s negotiations with Skycity to amend legislation so that the casino can expand by increasing it’s pokie machines by an estimated 350 to 500.

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Full Story

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As Economic Development Minister David Carter revealed, on 20 January, National was in negotiation with SkyCity to extend  its licence beyond its current 2021 expiry, and  to increase the number of gaming tables and pokie machines at SkyCity’s Auckland casino.

The deal would go like this; in return for building a $350 million convention centre, National would relax or amend bits of legislation that would allow Skycity to expand it’s gambling operations. Some estimate an extra 350 to 500 pokie machines would be added to the casino.

Skycity chief executive, Nigel Morrison, was quite clear that without government concessions  to their gaming license, the proposed convention centre would be only a “breakeven proposition for Skycity”.

Marcus Curley, equity analyst for Goldman Sachs was somewhat more candid when he told Interest.co.nz,

More recently, media reports (NZ Herald, February 2, 2012) have pointed to a potential increase in machine numbers at Auckland Casino between 350 and 500. Any proposed changes to gambling legislation would be subject to a full public submission process under the usual select committee process. We believe the incremental revenue from additional machines and tables will be critical in achieving an acceptable financial return on the convention centre project. “

Meanwhile, community groups, anti-gambling organisations, Opposition Parties, and even conservative-moral organisations such as Family First have condemned any suggestion for Skycity to expand it’s gambling operations. The results would be obvious except to (a) the most naive (b) the most blind, that more gambling tables and pokie machines would lead to more problem gambling.

(By coincidence, the small minority  who support Skycity’s plans are National MPs and some vociferous right wing/free market extremists/nutcases. As I said, naive and blind.)

Quite rightly, on 12 June 2011, John Key stated categorically,

Any changes to gambling regulations will be subject to a full public submission process. ” – Source

Unfortunately, as we all know by know, what John Key says – and what he eventually ends up doing – are not always the same thing.

All negotiations between National and Skycity are now being conducted in strictest secrecy. Neither John Key nor Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce are publicly disclosing what concessions National is prepared to make to Skycity.

Outgoing Internal Affairs Minister, Amy Adams, has refused to release any information or reports on government negotiations, citing “commercial sensitivity”. This is a common feature of the gambling industry, as Statistics NZ  reports,

The social and economic costs and benefits of gaming are difficult to measure as official statistical information on the industry is limited. Detailed financial information is often hard to access for reasons of commercial sensitivity…” – Source

In December 1997, as public opposition to casinos grew, a moratorium was passed on new casinos opening in New Zealand.

End of story: no more casinos.  (Oh, yeah, right… )

What Skycity is intending – with National’s secret complicity – is to by-pass that moratorium by expanding their existing  casino. No new casino – just 500 more tables and pokie machines. Because gambling is now a multi-billion dollar industry, as this data from Statics NZ sadly shows,

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Source

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This is grossly dishonest. It shows that National is willing to assist a corporation to circumvent the law and public opinion. And John Key is more than willing to allow all this to happen in secrecy, without public scrutiny.

The most absurd aspect of National’s refusal to disclose to the public what is taking place, is their constant buck-passing and referral to “commercial sensitivity”.

What “commercial sensitivity”? Skycity is the only casino in Auckland. It has very little competition as there are no other casinos competing for their clientele.

So why is it “sensitive” for National to disclose it’s negotiations with Skycity?

How can  “any changes to gambling regulations be subject to a full public submission process” if we, the public, don’t know what’s going on?

Why this paranoid need for such secrecy?

What is John Key and National hiding?

In an almost prophetic article written by Gordon Campbell in November 2008, he said,

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The Key government has made it clear that public –private partnerships (PPPs) will be a major part of the country’s planning over the next decade. These projects entail a major commitment of taxpayer funds and public liabilities.

Before we begin down that track, what kind of commitments will the new government provide that ‘commercial sensitivity” will NOT be invoked to conceal from the public the details of these contracts ? Upfront, there needs to be a commitment to utter transparency in the structure and ongoing outcomes of PPP contracts – and the firms bidding for the work need to be told beforehand that their acceptance of such transparency will be a condition of them getting the work. In Canada and in Australia, it has proved extremely difficult for the public to find out just how PPP contracts involving hundreds of millions of dollars of their money are structured, and how the patterns of risk and profit will actually play out, over time.

Why, without a commitment to forego commercial sensitivity on PPPs, we may never know how well or badly the Key government is performing in one of its pet areas. Key has promised “outcomes, results and accountability” from the new Cabinet that is being sworn in today. The media is currently celebrating that kind of talk – without bothering its pretty little head unduly about how, and whether, they will be able to measure the walk. ” – Source

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Full Story

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In a move reminiscent of John Key’s use of the Police as National’s private para-military security force, in the Teapot Tape fiasco, ACC Minister Judith Collins  has laid a complaint with the Privacy Commissioner. She has also, allegedly, issued a defamation lawsuit against Labour MPs Trevor Mallard, Andrew Little, and Radio NZ. It is unclear, at this stage if she has actually carried out her threat of legal action.

It is this blogger’s belief that Collins has little interest in any actual investigation by the Privacy Commissioner, nor lawsuit against the two MPs and Radio NZ.

What we are witnessing is a cunning plan by the Minister. It is a plan so cunning that… she has all but succeeded in closing down one aspect of the ACC/Pullar/Collins/Smith/Boag/Slater/??? scandal.  She has successfully extricated herself from the issue by claiming some sort of “sub judice” principle,

Order Paper and questions

Questions for oral answer

3. Accident Compensation Corporation—Release of Personal Information

[Advance Copy – Subject to minor change before inclusion in Bound Volume.]

3. ANDREW LITTLE (Labour) to the Minister for ACC: When was the email she received between 12 March 2012 and 18 March 2012 from Michelle Boag concerning Bronwyn Pullar and the involvement of both in a meeting over a mass privacy breach first printed by her or a staff member in her office?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister for ACC) : Since this matter is before the Privacy Commissioner, it is not in the public interest for me to answer that.

Andrew Little: Does she stand by her statement in an interview on Radio Live this morning, commencing at 8.22 a.m., that “I know exactly what has happened in terms of my office and myself.”?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I stand by all my statements.

Andrew Little: In whose custody and control was the copy or copies of the email that was made in her office placed?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: That matter is before the Privacy Commissioner, and it is not in the public interest for me to answer that.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I want to hear Andrew Little’s question.

Andrew Little: What instructions did she give to any staff in her office, or any ACC staff member, in relation to the Michelle Boag email or any copy of it?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Since that matter is before the Privacy Commissioner, it is not in the public interest for me to answer that. ” – Source

Collins has been repeating, by rote, “that matter is before the Privacy Commissioner, it is not in the public interest for me to answer that“.

It means every time the media, an Opposition MP,  or anyone else asks Collins to respond to an embarressing question regarding her involvement in the ACC/Pullar/[Collins]/Smith/Boag/Slater/??? scandal – she has a convenient excuse to avoid answering.

In which case, one can only wonder what it is that Collins does not wish to  comment on?

Ignoring an inconvenient question by responding with “No Comment” used to be the stock response of politicians caught in the public spotlight and media glare. It often signified that they were keeping their mouth firmly shut to avoid further implicating themselves in whatever scandal was the order of the day.

But “no comment” became synonymous with “I’m guilty as sin”.

Hence why the spin doctors, media advisors, political strategists, and other sundry Party apparatchiks now have a new means to protect their wage-paying  Parliamentary masters: sub judice.

The process is  ridiculously simple;

  1. Lay a complaint with Police/Courts/Commissioners – or alternatively initiate  an Inquiry
  2. Deflect any questions thereafter by saying “That matter is before the – – – – “
  3. Then shut up.

Easy-peasy.

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So much for Key’s committment to “tranparency”. His government is as transparent as a muddy river.

When a government resorts to this sort of subterfuge, it’s fairly obvious that transparency has given way to furtiveness and secrecy. It indicates a government that is badly on the back-foot; vulnerable to criticism; and in a defensive mode.

It took Labour three terms to achieve such a state of hyper-sensitivity to criticism.

National has achieved it after only one term. Not exactly a position of strength and confidence in which to begin their second term.

It is the first subtle indication of a government on it’s way out.  God knows how they will end this term, if this is how they are starting out.

Not very well, I suspect. In fact, prepare for an early election or change of government.

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Previous Blogposts

Drugs & Gambling – NZ’s 21st Century Growth Industries?

John Key has another un-named source???

Other Blog’s posts

Citizen A online NOW – ACC fratricide, Ports of Auckland legal failure and convention center bribes

Fearfactsexposed: Government’s control of media sends a shiver down democracy’s spine

Additional

Listen to more on Radio NZ’s  Morning Report

Gordon Campbell: 90s Cabinet Gets Key Coat of Varnish

Statistics NZ: Gaming: an economically significant industry

Casinos safer than pubs, Key says

SkyCity would need at least 350 extra gambling machines for NZ$350 mln convention centre investment to be worth it, Goldman Sachs analyst says

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