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

9 September 2017 Leave a comment

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Parliament’s Grassy knoll: who tried to character-assassinate Winston?

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The leaking  of Winston Peter’s superannuation over-payment is well known. Also known is that Ministers Paula Bennett and Anne Tolley were briefed by Ministry of Social Development and State Services Commission, respectively, on Peters’ private details regarding the over-payment before it was leaked to the media and made public knowledge.

Also briefed – though it is unclear why, as he was not a warranted Minister of the Crown – was political appointee, Chief of Staff, Wayne Eagleson.

Evidently the only person in the entire country not briefed was the Prime Minister, Bill “Double Dipper from Dipton” English.

Bennett, Tolley, and Judith Collins have all denied any involvement in the leak.

Paula Bennett was adamant;

“I don’t actually go around the back scuffling around doing leaks. I actually, if I’ve got something to say, I say it directly and up front and kind of bluntly. “

Which is true, in a Bizarro World kind of way. In 2009, when Bennett mis-used her Ministerial powers to reveal personal details of two solo mothers on the DPB, it was done in a very public manner.

However, Bennett never apologised publicly for the breaking of the two women’s privacy. And she stubbornly insisted she would do it again;

Asked if she would do the same thing again, Bennett said “it would depend on the circumstances”.

Perhaps Judith Collins, who disclosed a State servant’s name and personal information to a right-wing blogger, was involved in the leaking of Peters’ situation?

Prime Minister John Key has conceded it was “unwise” for Judith Collins to give Cameron Slater a public servant’s name, job title and phone number which was then used in an attack post on his Whale Oil blog.

However, John Key says no disciplinary action will be taken against the Justice Minister because the action pre-dated the final warning he gave Ms Collins over the Oravida scandal.

Mr Key says he still stands by the Justice Minister.

“I think the passing of private information, in terms of phone numbers, I think that’s unwise. It’s unwise of a Minister. Look in the end it’s one of those things,” Mr Key says.

Collins also refuse to accept she had done anything wrong – despite being forced to resign in 2014;

“I absolutely and strongly deny this and any suggestion of inappropriate behaviour. I am restrained in clearing my name while I am still a Minister inside Cabinet and I believe the right thing to do is to resign as a Minister so I am able to clear my name.

I have asked the Prime Minister for an Inquiry into these serious allegations so that my name can be cleared. I will, of course, cooperate with any Inquiry.”

Only Minister Tolley has not been accused of a direct privacy violation of any individual(s) – at the moment. However, MSD is know to leak like a sieve and it was MSD that briefed the Minister regarding Winston Peters.

One thing is for certain; some Ministers are not averse when it comes to leaking personal details of individuals who run foul of this government.

They have ‘form’.

Postscript

Recent revelations that blogger and activist, Martyn Bradbury, has had his private bank details scrutinised by Police shows how little National and its state agencies respect the privacy of individuals.

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Especially those who dare criticise the current regime.

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A face-palm moment for ACT candidate, Anneka Carlson

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Meet Anneka Carlson, ACT’s New Plymouth candidate and number seven on their Party List;

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Carlson is seventh on the list and would enter parliament if ACT gained 5 per cent of the party vote.

The 28-year-old never dreamt of being a politician but standing for ACT in her home town “just feels right.”

“It was meant to happen.”

Parliament needed people with life skills and her life experiences would help stand her in good stead if she is elected, she said.

The former West Auckland police officer owned her own business in New Plymouth, is a North Taranaki SPCA board member, and ran fitness programmes for cancer support groups.

She is also completing a business studies degree extra-murally at Massey University. 

“I’m fairly young, and I’m surprised to be high on the list because I’m a bit of political newbie, but I’ve already seen lot of things from working in the police.

All well and good – engaging young New Zealanders to enter politics should be encouraged. It should never be  the sole “happy hunting grounds” for Baby Boomers seeking to feather their own nests, at the expense of younger generations.

Unfortunately, there are times when youth counts against a candidate.  Such as when Ms Carlson lamented ACT’s lack of public support;

“It makes me wonder why people don’t know more about ACT in New Plymouth.”

It should be no surprise to anyone that Ms Carlson wonders why ACT is not supported more at the ballot box. It’s not because “people don’t know more about ACT“.

Quite the contrary – most New Zealanders middle-aged and over – are very clear about ACT and what it stands for. After all, we lived through ACT-style so-called “reforms” in the late 1980s and into the 1990s.

That is why ACT is not well supported except by a tiny minority of unreconstructed wealthy, privileged extremists. (Aka, the One Percent.)  At 28, Ms Carlson would be oblivious to all this.

But at least Ms Carlson understands how privileged she is as a middle-class pakeha from an economically well-supported background. As she herself admitted;

“I’ve come from a fairly privileged upbringing…”

At least Ms Carlson has a measure of self-awareness. Given time and experience she may understand how that privileged upbringing gives her a head start in life that is denied many others.

She may even experience that critical Road-To-Damascus revelation that ACT’s market-driven ideology has made matters much, much worse since 1984.

I suggest the next cuppa tea she has is not with David Seymour, but Jim Bolger.

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Another poll indicates coming change in government

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A recent Horizon Poll released on 1 September reconfirms the rise of Jacinda Ardern’s popularity with voters;

Jacinda Ardern has a 6% lead over Bill English as preferred Prime Minister among definite voters.

Among the 860 adult respondents who are both registered to vote and 100% likely to vote, Ardern leads English by 43% to 37%.

Among all of the 960 respondents to the August 11-15 Horizon Research poll Ardern leads 45% to 32%.

Winston Peters is preferred Prime Minister by 15% of all respondents and 14% of definite voters.

James Shaw, the Green Party leader, is preferred by 2%, and David Seymour of ACT and Te Ururoa Flavell of the Maori Party each by 1%.

Coincidentally, English’s current popularity at 37% is similar to Key’s Preferred Prime Minister ratings before he stepped down as Dear Leader Prime Minister.  By May last year, Key’s PPM rating had  fallen to 36.7% – continuing a steady downward trend.

Which means Ms Ardern is now more popular than John Key was, prior to his resignation.

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Another step back from globalisation

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Queensland’s Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, has announced a major step back from neo-liberalism’s prime enabler, globalism, by announcing that the State government would prioritise local businesses for contracts. The aim is to create more local jobs.

Ms Palaszczuk was unapologetic in renouncing globalisation;

“ Our new procurement strategy is unashamedly a ‘Buy Queensland’ one.  No longer will we be constrained by free trade agreements that have seen jobs go off-shore or interstate.

Wherever possible, one regional and one Queensland supplier will be invited to quote or tender for every procurement opportunity offered. Preference must be given to local subbies and manufacturers on significant infrastructure projects of $100 million or more.

This money comes from Queensland taxpayers, it is only right we spent it in a way that benefits Queensland businesses and workers as much as possible.”

According to the SBS report, Queensland spent  A$14 billion per annum  on supplies, services, plus A$4 billion  building and maintaining State infrastructure.

Ms Palaszczuk made a valid case for buying-local when she pointed out “this money comes from Queensland taxpayers, it is only right we spent it in a way that benefits Queensland businesses and workers“.

The prime role of a government in a Western-style democracy has always been (or should be!) to protect and enhance it’s citizens. Creating an environment where local jobs flourish  is part and parcel of that dictum.

Governments are not “in business” to create  jobs in other countries at the expense of their own workers.

ExportNZ’s Executive Director, Catherine Beard, was predictably hostile;

The ‘Buy Queensland’ promotion should be about encouraging Aussies to buy their local product, just like ‘Buy NZ Made’ encourages New Zealanders to buy Kiwi-made. It’s OK to encourage your people to buy local, but it’s not OK to mandate State Government weightings that amount to protectionism.

The protectionism in Queensland’s policy is completely contrary to Closer Economic Relations between New Zealand and Australia.

In plain english, Ms Beard is fine with “it’s OK to encourage your people to buy local,” but “it’s not OK to mandate State Government weightings that amount to protectionism” because it harmed the interests of her members.

Tough. It’s about time globalisation began to be rolled back instead of continually exporting jobs and entire businesses to off-shore jurisdictions where labour is cheaper and easily exploitable because of lax (or unenforced) labour laws.

We need fair trade, not so-called “free” trade. “Free” trade is not free when we, the tax-payers, have to foot the bill to pay for welfare, because workers became unemployed after their jobs were exported to China, Vietnam, Pakistan, Fiji, etc, or cheaper (and often shoddier) goods imported to unfairly compete with locally-made products.

Queensland’s Premier understands this. She wants jobs created for her own workers – not in some other country. Especially when those workers in other nations won’t be paying tax in Queensland.

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References

Radio NZ:  Timeline – Winston Peters’ superannuation overpayments saga

NZ Herald:  Beehive knew of Winston Peters’ super payments weeks ago

Mediaworks:  Paula Bennett says she doesn’t go ‘scuffling around doing leaks’

Fairfax media:  Bennett won’t rule out releasing beneficiary details

Mediaworks:  Collins ‘unwise’ to pass information to Slater

NZ Herald:  Statement from Judith Collins

Fairfax media:  Government backs down over collecting individuals’ data until security confirmed

Fairfax media:  Former promotional ‘hype girl’ keen to get more dancing to ACT’s tune

Fairfax media:  Tick party vote for ACT to bring quality candidates into parliament, leader says

Fairfax media:  The 9th floor – Jim Bolger says neoliberalism has failed NZ and it’s time to give unions the power back

Fairfax media:  Hamilton social service providers dispute PM’s ‘almost’ no homeless claim

Horizon Poll:  Ardern preferred Prime Minister with 6% lead

Mediaworks:  Newshub poll – Key’s popularity plummets to lowest level

SBS: Qld govt to prioritise local businesses

Scoop media:  Trade Ministers need firm hand over Queensland

Other Blogs

Martyn Bradbury:  My case against a secret NZ Police investigation that breached my privacy and my civil rights

Previous related blogposts

The slow dismantling of a Prime Minister – downward slide continues

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

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

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 4 September 2017.

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

8 September 2017 Leave a comment

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National’s Running Ad – Unintended Messaging?

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Nearly everyone has seen National’s “running ad” – a variation on last election’s rowing-boat advertisement – but without the plagiarised and illegal use of an artist’s music.

The full advert can be seen here, on Youtube.

The messaging is fairly uncomplicated and straight-forward; the blue (actually, more like teal) team is a metaphor for National running together as a team, whilst other “joggers” – representing Labour, Greens, and NZ First – are limping along. It’s about as subtle as burning a cross on a Black American’s front lawn.

But, take another, closer look as the Teal Team does it’s cross-country running…

First, the obligatory Clean and Green and 100% Pure message;

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With not a hint of  cows defaecating in the background creating polluted, unswimmable waterways;

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Yup. New Zealand as we imagine it in our fantasies.

It becomes pretty clear though, that National is strong on presenting an image – an Aryan image;

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With the brown folk somewhere in the background, and very bloody happy with their lot in life;

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The jog takes them along a deserted country highway. By now the “jog” is beginning to look very much like inmates from one of  National’s boot-camps, enduring a  forced run;

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Back to wide-open scenery – as the runners jog across a dammed river or lake;

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Is this really National’s vision of an unspoiled, 100% “Pure” countryside – with a dam across it?

But here is where it really starts to get creepy with an unintended subliminal message beamed out to every household in the country. The Teal Team approach runners from a mixed Red (Labour), Black (NZ First) and Green (ditto) team. The other Team are clearly struggling;

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The Teal Team run past;

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As they do, the Mixed Team begin to  stumble;

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The Mixed Team stumble and collapse, falling to the ground;

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And down they go;

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The Teal Team seem apparently (?) oblivious to the situation and continue to run on;

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So the “message” from this advert is that National will readily ignore other people in obvious distress and carry on their merry way?

The subliminal theme presented by the Teal Team is one of callous indifference.

This may not have been National’s intended message. But it sure ties in with child poverty, homelessness, income inequality, and other dire social problems ignored by National. Not  until the media spotlight is focused sharply on the plight of families living in garages, cars, or tents, does National react.

The focus groups presented with this advert clearly didn’t understand the subconscious meaning  within these images when they gave it their ‘thumbs up’. Or maybe they did – but just didn’t care.

Postscript

As at 1 September, the National Party runners ad scored 570 ‘Dislikes’ as opposed to 173 ‘Likes’.

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On Youtube at least,  the Nats have already lost the election.

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The Real Green ‘Jogger’ who tried

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The doom of Metiria Turei  was well and truly sealed when the Establishment Media (aka, Media Elite) and assorted right-wing bloggers and commentators ripped her reputation to shreds like a pack of blood-crazed pit-bulls in a feeding-frenzy.

Some of the public understood her situation.

Many did not. The conservative public passed judgement on Ms Turei because, well, passing judgement on someone elses’ perceived moral ‘lapses’  makes the Judger feel so much better about him/herself.

Ms Turei’s sacrifice appears to have struck a chord with a significant number of  people;

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The Dominion Post, however, barely reported the story in a meaningful way;

Former Greens co-leader Metiria Turei has received the most nominations for the 2018 New Zealander of the Year Awards so far.

Support for Turei increased after her resignation following her admission she’d lied to Work and Income to receive higher benefit payments in the 1990s, the awards organisation said.

The nominee with the second highest number of nominations is the Australian deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce – although his eligibility to win won’t be assessed until nominations have closed.

Joyce was recently revealed to be a New Zealand citizen because his father was born here. The revelation came during a spate of Australian senators having to step down after checking laws preventing them holding dual citizenship while in office. Since then, Joyce has renounced is New Zealand citizenship. Stuff has contacted Joyce’s office for comment.

The Dompost focused more on Australian deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, than on Ms Turei’s public support.

The NZ Herald  barely mentioned the fact  that Ms Turei was leading nominations with it’s story;

Despite Turei’s fall from grace after she publicly admitted she lied to Winz about her living circumstances in the 1990s she has received the most nominations.

In an act of casual minimisation, both papers made sure their stories did not reflect any degree of public support for the former Green Party co-leader.

One thing seems  clear – there is an under-current of support for Metiria Turei.

Postscript

Anyone wanting to add their voice to nominate Ms Turei can do so on the New Zealander of the Year website.

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Fran O’Sullivan… takes a jump to the Left

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Following on from several political parties expressing varying degrees of a gradual move back to state-funded tertiary education, Fran O’Sullivan – the doyen of the Right and nominally an “impartial” journalist writing for the NZ Herald appeared on TVNZ’s Q+A on 27 August as one of it’s regular panellists.

She had this to say about sales of land and property to off-shore investor/speculators; land-banking in Auckland, and current policies that drove house-prices, gifting a tax-free gain for speculators;

@ 1.09

“… when he [Phil Twyford] talked about property speculators, what and how […] what exactly are you going to do there? Are you going to bring in place capital gains taxes? Because I say that because right now, including our government officials, we’re being marketed internationally as a hot place for property investment. No capital gains tax. No stamp duty.

In China and elsewhere, the people coming out of the US buying the big stations, that sort of thing. This is a global property play we’re in and we’re being marketed as a very good place for that. We need to have a much more holistic view I think than what we got today.”

@ 6.07

“Well I was actually quite stunned that people are talking in the range of $500,000 to $600,000. For first home owners I think that’s quite ridiculous. I think it needs to come down further.

I think there needs to be very large state intervention on the land bankers. Just to free up is not enough, I think they’ve got to take a haircut […] what happened to people after the war, farms were sold at fixed prices so people could come back in. We have a national crisis and I think, you know, speculating, and land.”

A pro-National, ostensibly pro-free market commentator loudly voicing support for seizure of privately held land?  Make no mistake, this is heresy against the supreme core neo-liberal tenet of the supremacy of individual land-owning “rights”.

What Ms O’Sullivan was advocating is a giant leap to the Left.

In effect, private land ownership has not only failed to deliver affordable homes to young New Zealanders – but is actually an impediment. Our aspirations for families to own their own homes has been confounded by unfettered capitalistic greed.

Ms O’Sullivan appears to have experienced a Road-To-Damascus conversion that neo-liberalism is not the answer. Like any inflexible, dogmatic ideology, it is part of the problem.

She joins former National PM, Jim Bolger in his own personal discovery that the neo-liberal so-called “reforms” he over-saw in the 1990s are a failure;

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Nick Smith’s Mixed Message of The Month

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On 18 August, our putative “Environment’ Minister, Nick Smith, voiced his concerns that New Zealand-based company, Rocket Labs, may be impacting environmentally on our ocean floor. The concerns were that debris from rocket launches from Mahia Peninsula in Hawke’s Bay could be harming the ocean floor;

“The preliminary work indicates the environmental effects are small, but after 100 launches we may want to have a fresh look as to what is the future regulatory regime beyond that.

By the time we have had 100 lots of debris hit the ocean, fall to the seabed, we will have a better idea [of the environmental impact].

Right now we are not able to get advice on exactly how much of the jettisoned material will actually make it to sea level, or whether it will burn up prior to hitting the ocean.

When we have that information we will be able to refine the regulatory regime.”

Meanwhile, National  has permitted granting of a consent to Trans-Tasman Resources  to mine 50 million tonnes of iron ore sand off the coast of south Taranaki each year, every year, for the next 35 years.

The process would involve mining;

“…50 million tonnes of sand from the seabed off the coast of Patea in South Taranaki, extract the iron ore from it using a giant magnet, and then put 44 million tonnes back”

The damage to ocean life in the surrounding sea and ocean floor cannot even be imagined. The zone of mining would most likely become a dead-zone – uninhabitable.

Unbelievably, consent was given by the so-called Environmental Protection Agency, despite receiving 13,417 submissions demanding that Trans-Tasman Resources’  application to be declined – and only 147 submissions in support.

Meanwhile the Ministry for the Environment has determined that any impact by Rocket Labs on the seafloor would be minimal;

“Overall, our view is that the risks to the environment and existing interests from jettisoned material falling into the EEZ are low and that the development of a space vehicle launch industry will have significant economic benefits for New Zealand, at a national and regional level.”

One has to wonder where Nick Smith’s priorities lie?

At the bottom of the ocean floor, by the looks of things.

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References

Youtube:  Keep NZ Moving Forward – Party Vote National

NZ Herald:  Cows in water supply shock town

Dominion Post:  Metiria Turei has most nominations for 2018 New Zealander of the Year

NZ Herald:  Metiria Turei and Barnaby Joyce lead nominations for NZer of the Year

New Zealander of the Year:  Nominate

TVNZ’s Q+A:  Housing Debate – Panel – 27 August 2017

Fairfax media:  The 9th floor – Jim Bolger says neoliberalism has failed NZ and it’s time to give unions the power back

Radio NZ: Rocket Lab faces government environmental checks

Mediaworks:  Trans-Tasman Resources gets consent to mine iron ore sand off south Taranaki

Manawatu Standard:  Call for moratorium on all seabed mining amid ‘secretive’ application

NZ Herald:  NZ rocket launches raise concerns about toxic environmental fallout

 

Previous related blogposts

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

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 3 September 2017.

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That was Then, This is Now #23 – Bolger breaks election promise AND predicts the future!

3 March 2014 2 comments

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That was then - 1 October 1986

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This was later - 2008 election year

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That was later - 2011 election year

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  • National Party leader Jim Bolger: promised to repeal gst – tick
  • National Party leader Jim Bolger: predicted Labour would increase gst – tick
  • National Party leader Jim Bolger: broke promise to repeal gst – tick
  • Labour: raised gst to 15% – cross*
  • Prime Minister John Key: promised not to raise gst – tick
  • Prime Minister John Key:  broke promise and raised gst  to 15% – tick

So, who has a better track record at keeping promises?

* Gst was raised to 12.5% in 1989.
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Previous related blogpost

That was Then, This is Now #22 – Lowest wages vs Highest wages

References

The Dominion: Bolger on gst attack

Fairfax media: Key ‘no GST rise’ video emerges

NZ Herald: Budget 2010: Income tax slashed, GST to 15 pc

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 February 2014.

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The Politics of Power and a Very Clear Choice – Part Wha

new zealand high electricity prices

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Continued from: The Politics of Power and a Very Clear Choice – Part Toru

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First NZ

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As Chris Trotter pointed out in his excellent blogpost just recently,

ONLY STEVEN JOYCE could offer up JB Were, Woodward Partners, Milford Asset Management, First NZ Capital,  and Forsyth Barr as credible critics of the Labour-Greens’ energy policy. As if these six financial institutions were ever likely to offer the Opposition parties their fulsome support!.”

Acknowledgement: The Daily Blog – No Dog In The Fight: Whatever happened To Academic Expertise?

We can add to the above list; AMP Capital, Morningstar Research, BusinessNZ, and Federated Farmers – all of which appear to be the front-line foot-mercenary-soldiers in National’s counter-attack to the Labour-Green’s NZ Power.

Minister of the Known Universe, Steven Joyce’s actual comment was,

Financial analysts including JB Were, Woodward Partners, Milford Asset Management, First NZ Capital, Devon Funds Management and Forsyth Barr are unanimous in their condemnation. One has labelled it a ‘hand grenade’ to the New Zealand economy, while others have said it will cut the value of every New Zealanders’ KiwiSaver account and lead to rolling blackouts. ”

Acknowledgement: Scoop –  Labour-Greens Power ‘Plan’ Economic Sabotage

Rolling blackouts“?!

He left out a plague of locusts and rivers turning into blood (though with farm run-offs, these days it’s more like Rivers of  Excrement).

We’ve had power black-outs in the past, due to dry weather; equipment failure; shut-downs for maintenance; human error; etc. And we will continue to have unavoidable power cuts, in the future;

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Damaging gales forecast for north 5.5.2013

Acknowledgement: NZ Radio – Damaging gales forecast for north

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Joyce added,

Kiwis are deeply suspicious about the Labour-Greens announcement and its timing. It’s simply economic sabotage. ”

Hmmm, considering the high value of the New Zealand dollar’s destructive effects on our manufacturing/export sector and the 40,000 jobs that’s been lost in the last four years – if I were Joyce, I would not be too keen to bandy about charges of “economic sabotage”. National’s policies in the last few years have been more than effective in that regard,

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Exporters tell inquiry of threat from high dollar

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ – Exporters tell inquiry of threat from high dollar

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It’s hardly surprising that most of the negative response has been from the financial markets and commercial firms. They are the ones with the naked vested interests.

To date, the following fear-threats have been thrown at the New Zealand public – because make no mistake, these  doomsday scenarios are directed at voters, and not Labour or the Greens.

Perhaps the most outrageous claims – or outright lies – came from share broking company, First NZ,

“Despite the alleged “excessive price increase in the 13 years since 2000 we are not convinced the system is broken. If it isn’t, then it doesn’t need fixing.

Since 2008, the “real” rate of increase (net of line charges) has slowed even further to 0.5 per cent per annum. Your writer knows for a fact he is paying less for electricity today than three years ago.

Our modelling assumes 11.6 per cent residential tariff increases over the next four years, however net of line charges this reduces to 3.2 per cent over four years.

We believe the Opposition’s desire for a 10 per cent reduction in power prices can mostly be achieved through the current market without the need for a complex and costly change of market structure.”

Acknowledgement:  NZ Herald –  Power price cuts coming anyway, says First NZ

In another document, First NZ made the extraordinary claim,

“Despite the alleged “excessive” price increases in the 13 years since 2000 we are not convinced the system is broken. We estimate that, net of line charges and after allowing for inflation, residential electricity prices have risen 2.6% since 2000.

Acknowledgement:  First NZ – Contact Energy – If it ain’t broke don’t fix it

Hold on.

Is First NZ is really telling the public that power prices have only risen 2.6% since  2000?!?! Well, they do qualify that with “net of line charges and after allowing for inflation”. Though why they would omit line charges seems pointless; the public are still paying at the end.  “Clipping the ticket” seems the norm and impacts on the end-consumer regardless of how it is done.

Which also raises a question in my mind;  why is First NZ making this assertion only now? Why did they not make the effort to rebut National’s claims when Dear Leader issued public statements like this, on 27 January, 2011,

“In the nine years Labour was in government, power prices went up 72 per cent and the Government owned 100 per cent of the assets.”

Acknowledgement:  NZ Herald – Power price fears if Govt stakes go

Why did First NZ not issue public statements ‘correcting’ National’s “misrepresentations” at the time?

Why have they left it only till now, to counter the assertion that “power prices went up 72%”?

Why is a single-buyer desk for electricity sending brokerage firms into a panic? Especially, considering, that we already have single buyer-desk’s in the form of Fonterra, Zespri, PHARMAC, etc.

The answer, I submit, is fairly obvious. First NZ’s fanciful statements and assertions are part of an orchestrated litany of bullshit to scare Joe & Jane Public to run back into the cold, dead arms of Nanny Neoliberal.

The Financial Money Men, with their Federated Farmers allies, are propping up their neo-liberal stooges in Parliament. The rats are out of the woodwork, and we can see who is lined up against the best interests of the public.

Because, in the final analysis, this all boils down to money – who makes it and who gets to keep it. And because so much money is at stake, we are told that rising power bills is the price for living in a “free” market.

We’re also promised that power prices will drop. Sometime. In the future.

We just have to be patient.

Maybe another thirty years?

It will be interesting if people buy into this propaganda BS.  Will voters believe the fear-mongering campaign from the money-pushers?

Or will they realise that share brokers and merchant bankers are  interested only in seeing that power prices remain at stratospheric levels, to provide maximum returns for their shareholders?

Because one thing is as certain as the sun rising tomorrow; these firms are not remotely interested in our welfare. Nor in the welfare of Kiwi families being gouged with higher and higher power bills.

I’m struck senseless that so many National supporters believe  that siding with the likes of JB Were, Woodward Partners, Milford Asset Management, First NZ Capital, Devon Funds Management,  Forsyth Barr, Business NZ, Federated Farmers, et al, will somehow gain them some kind of  ‘benefit’. Are National supporters so masochistic and blinded by their faith in the “free market” that they are willing to tolerate  paying higher and higher prices for electricity?

I hope they realise that JB Were, Woodward Partners, Milford Asset Management, First NZ Capital, Devon Funds Management,  Forsyth Barr, Business NZ, Federated Farmers, et al, will not pay the power bills for National supporters.

Good luck with that!

The Labour-Green coalition should welcome these attacks as an opportunity. Every time one of these money-pushing firms launches a critical attack on NZ Power – the Labour-Greens should counter with press conferences where facts, stats,   and more details are presented for the public and nice, big, colourful  graphic-charts presented.

Like this one, from the Ministry of Economic Development/Business, Innovation, and Employment;

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Ministry of Economic Development - Power Prices 1974 - 2011

Acknowledgement: Ministry of Economic Development/Business, Innovation, and Employment – Power Prices

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(Note price drop around 1999. Whilst Industrial and Commercial prices fell, residential prices continued to rise. There is more to explain the 1998/99 price fall here;  Statistic NZ –  Electricity consumption. It had little to do with Bradford’s reforms, and more to do with competing retailers changing their  methods of calculation for the CPI electricity price index and building extra generation capacity. The cost of the latter had shifted from the State and onto domestic consumers.)

Where possible, David Parker and Russell Norman should  speak at engagements around the country at public meetings. (Community newspapers and other local media should be engaged, as they love anything that happens within their community.)

Invite others such as  the Salvation Army, and experts such as energy-sector expert, Molly Melhuish, and Victoria University researcher Geoff Bertram, should be invited to address media events.

Invite members of the public; families, etc,  to present their power bills as evidence of skyrocketing prices.

Build a Broad Front of support. Show the country that there is support for NZ Power.

People want reassurance. We need to give it to them. And we need to show them why the National and the  finance sector are working in cahoots.

Because ain’t it funny that no community organisation has come out, demanding that the electricity sector remain unregulated and welcoming higher and higher prices?

And if the media aren’t presenting the full story, use progressive blogs to publish the information. We, too, can be  “foot soldiers” in this struggle. (Because surprise, surprise,  we too, use electricity.)

This is a war between the Neo Liberal Establishment and Progressive forces fighting to roll back thirty years of  a failed experiment.

That war began on 18 April.

There is no reason on Earth why we should not win.

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NZ First

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I find it hard to trust  NZ First. Or, to be more precise; I find it hard to trust it’s leader, Winston Peters.

His parliamentary colleagues; party members; and supporters – I have no problem with. They are people who, generally, want the best for this country and dislike the false religion of neo-liberalism as deeply as those on the Left do.

But Peters…

Peters has ‘form’. He has changed direction  on numerous occassions, and I find it hard to take him at his word.

Some examples…

1.

In 1996, Winston Peters campaigned to defeat the National Government and remove it from power. His campaign statements at that time seemed unequivocal;

Jim Anderton: Is the member going into a coalition with National?

Winston Peters: Oh no we are not.” – Parliamentary Hansards, P14147, 20 August 1996

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There is only one party that can beat National in this election that that is New Zealand First.” – Winston Peters, 69 & 85 minutes into First Holmes Leaders Debate, TVNZ, 10 September 1996

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Of course I am not keen on National. Who is?

… This is a government bereft of economic and social performance  [so] that they are now arguing for stability.” – Winston Peters, Evening Post, 25 June 1996

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The prospects are that National will not win this election, that they will not form part of any post-election coalition.” – Winston Peters, The Dominion, 5 October 1996

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It is clear that this National government will use every means at its disposal to secure power… Come October 12…  Two months ago I warned that the National Party would use every trick and device at their command to to retain their Treasury seats.” – Winston Peters speech to Invercargill Grey Power, 26 August 1996

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The Prime Minister [Jim Bolger] is not fit for the job and come 12 October he will be out. He should not get on his phone and call me like he did last time, because we are not interested in political, quisling  behaviour. We are not into State treachery.” – Winston Peters, Parliamentary Hansards, P14146, 20 August 1996

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We believe the kind of politician depicted by Bolger, Birch, and Shipley is not to be promoted into Cabinet. As a consequence we will not have any truck with these three people.” – Winston Peters, NZ Herald, 22 July 1996

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We are a party that says what we mean and mean what we say, regardless of the political consequences.” – Winston Peters, Speech to public meeting, 9 October 1996

Despite Peters’ assurances,  on  11 December 1996  the public woke up to this nightmare,

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In 1996, one of the biggest election issues was the sale of  Forestry Corporation of New Zealand Ltd (cutting rights only,  not the land). In 1996, the then Bolger-led National government had announced it’s intention to privatise the SOE,

In 1996, the Minister of Finance announced the government’s intention to sell its shares in the Forestry Corporation of New Zealand (formerly Timberlands Bay of Plenty). The corporation’s assets were Crown Forestry Licences to planted forests, which had expanded to 188 000 ha in the central region of North Island, processing plants in various locations, a nursery and a seed orchard.

A handful of large forestry companies and consortia submitted bids. The sole criterion was price. However, as the strength of the bids was not as great as hoped, bidders were asked to resubmit their bids. In August 1996, it was announced that the Forestry Corporation of New Zealand had been sold to a consortium led by Fletcher Challenge in a deal that valued the assets at $NZ 2 026 million.

Acknowledgement:  Devolving forest ownership through privatization in New Zealand

The sale went ahead and the  final sale-price was $1,600,000, to a consortium made up of  Fletcher Challenge Forests (37.5%), Brierley Investments Ltd (25%) and Citifor Inc (37.5%).

Acknowledgement:  Treasury – Income from State Asset Sales as at 30 September 1999

Throughout 1996, Winston Peters engaged in an election campaign to “hand back the cheque” should he and his Party be elected into a position of power,

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Forests Buy back signalled - Evening Post - 13 August 1996

Acknowledgement: (hard copy only): Evening Post, 13 August 1996

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the Game plan - what we're all playing for - Eveni ng Post - 2 October 1996

Acknowledgement: (hard copy only): Evening Post, 2 October 1996

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To quote  Peters, who said on 13 August 1996,

I ask both the Labour and Alliance parties – putting politics aside for  this one day – to join New Zealand First in it’s post-election pledge to reverse the sales process“.

As many who lived through the times will recall, Peters pledged to “hand back the cheque”. It was a powerful message.

But it never happened.

Peters joined in coalition with National  (consigning Labour and The Alliance into Opposition) and the pledge to buy back the forests was dropped – much to the disgust of people at the time..

Sixteen years later, and Peters has made the same promise all over again.  On TV3′s The Nation, on 24 June 2012,  Winston Peters stated,

 “The market needs to know that Winston Peters and a future government is going to take back  those assets. By that I mean pay no greater price than their first offering price. This is, if they transfer to seven or eight people, it doesn’t matter, we’ll pay the first price or less. ”

Acknowledgement: TV 3 – The Nation

On 4 March this year (2013), Peters announced,

New Zealand First will use its influence on the next coalition Government to buy back our state-owned power companies which are being flogged off by National and we are committed to buying back the shares at no greater price than paid by the first purchaser.”

Acknowledgement: Scoop – One More Quisling Moment from Key

Another quote from Winston Peters, who  said in a speech to the NZ First Conference,  in 1999,

All the policies and manifestos in the world are meaningless when you cannot trust the leadership. That is what leadership is about – trust. Nobody expects leadership to be infallible. But you have a right to expect it to be trustworthy.”

Acknowledgement: (hard copy only):  Speech by Rt Hon Winston Peters to the New Zealand First Conference, 18 July 1999, at the Eden Park Conference Centre

Indeed; “All the policies and manifestos in the world are meaningless when you cannot trust the leadership.”

If Peters and NZ First hold the balance of power in 2014 and choose to enter into a coalition arrangement with National – will he carry out his pledge this time?

Or will that promise be dropped and buried for political expediency and some babbled, weak excuse?

It’s happened once, before. And not too long ago.

Can he be trusted for a second time?

I am of  the belief that folks can learn from their mistakes. God knows I’m made a few in my early adulthood.

Has Winston Peters learned to honour his electoral pledges and not to treat the voting public as fools? Has he learned that he betrays voters at his peril? I hope so.

Because the public exacted a fitting response to his behaviour in 2008, as he and his Party were punished and spent three years in the political wilderness (see;  New Zealand general election, 2008).

More than ever, the future of this country – and the power –  is in our hands,

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NZ Power Shearer Norman

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Residents Vote In Mana By-Election

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Don’t screw up this time, Mr Peters.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 6 May 2013.

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Previous Related Blogposts

History Lesson – Tahi – Electricity Sector “reforms”  (4 March 2012)

John Key: Man of Many Principles (28 Sept 2012)

Labour, Greens, NZ First, & Mana – A Bright Idea with electricity! (10 March 2013)

Additional Sources

Statistics New Zealand: The history of electricity reform

Ministry of Economic Development: Electricity Prices

NZ History Online:  Dancing Cossacks political TV ad

The Treasury: Income from State Asset Sales as at 30 September 1999

References

NZPA: Splitting up ECNZ expected to cut wholesale power price (16 Dec 1998)

NZPA:  Reforms aimed at business – Luxton (21 April 1999)

Otago Daily Times: Power Prices Set To Soar (12 May 1999)

Otago Daily Times: No case for regulation (24 May 1999)

Otago Daily Times: Lower power prices coming says Bradford (3 June 1999)

Otago Daily Times: Power prices to rise by up to 15.1% (29 June 1999)

Otago Daily Times:  Reforms blamed for hike (13 July 1999)

Scoop: Alliance to hold Winston Peters accountable (8 Oct 1999)

NZ Herald: Peters ‘forgets’ NZ First support for power reforms (13 Aug 2008)

Fairfax: Government to seek inquiry into power price rise  (30 September 2008)

NZ Herald:  Put prices on hold, Brownlee tells power companies (21  May 2009)

NZ Herald: Mighty River directors’ 73pc pay rise realistic – Key (5 April 2013)

Scoop:  Labour-Greens to rip up the book on electricity pricing (18 April 2013)

NZ Herald:  Labour-Greens plan could work, says Vector CEO (19 April 2013)

NZ Herald:  National gobsmacked at Labour idea (19 April 2013)

NZ Herald: Power plan likened to Soviet era (19 April 2013)

NZ Herald: MRP chief slams socialist’ plan (21 April 2013)

TVNZ:  Q+A – Transcript of Steven Joyce interview (21 April 2013)

NZ Herald:  Bernard Hickey: Power barons fail to fool the public this time around (21 April 2013)

Radio NZ: Power prices nearly double since 2000 (21 April 2013)

Other blogs

Kiwiblog: Electricity Prices

Tumeke: MANA threaten overseas investors not to buy assets – Bloomberg pick up on the story

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National’s disdain for taking responsibility

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Continued from: National’s disdain for our credulity

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Groucho Marx  politicics

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When things go horribly wrong – whether by accident or negligence – we expect mishaps to be investigated. If a mishap is due to the latter – someone stuffed up –  we demand that those responsible be held to account.

This is what it looks like when people are held to account for their actions,

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Pacific Blue pilot fined, ordered to retrain

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Pacific Blue pilot fined, ordered to retrain

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Rena captain and officer jailed for 7 months

Acknowledgement: Waikato Times – Rena captain and officer jailed for 7 months

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Capital + Merchant's directors face judge

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Capital + Merchant’s directors face judge

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This is what it looks like when no one – especially when in a position of authority – is held to account,

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No blame for Pike River tragedy

Acknowledgement: Dominion Post – No blame for Pike River tragedy

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Calls mount for Pike River prosecutions

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ – Calls mount for Pike River prosecutions

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It simply beggers belief and defies understanding that a Minister of the Crown – Simon Bridges, to be specific – could utter words like this,

At the time of Pike River there’s been serous systemic failures in the old Department of Labour, and as a health and safety regulator they were clearly dysfunctional and ineffectual.

But the problems were truly systematic and no one person was to blame.

Acknowledgement:  Fairfax Media – Pike River report: Learn from tragedy – Minister

So  how on Earth has Bill Birch –  when he was Minister for Labour in the 1990s and was  the architect of de-regulation of the mining sector – gotten off so lightly in the media?

For Birch to say,

It raises the question of why weren’t they addressed if they were obvious deficiencies in the legislation – I don’t believe they were. I think systemic failure is more about people not putting the systems in place.

– is a travesty of everything that decent New Zealanders believe in.

Basically, what this “gentlemen” is saying is that because we, as a country, were lucky enough to get away with no disaster in our mines up until the day that Pike River Mine exploded in a flash of explosive methane – that his “reforms” cannot in any way be blamed?!?!

How in gods’ name does that make any sense whatsoever?!

Why on Earth has the media  not jumped all over this?!

The record of Birch’s “reforms” is readily available for those with the eyes to see, and the inclination to use those eyes.

As I wrote in an earlier blogpost on 29 October last year,

The gutting of the mines inspectorate and permitting self-regulation by mining companies,  had it’s genesis in the early 1990s – again the Bolger-led National government –  where Bill Birch introduced the so-called “Health and Safety in Employment Act”, in 1992.

Under the guise of  “eliminating red tape”, this dangerous piece of legislation allowed mining companies to self-monitor their own activities,

“39. Prior to the enactment of the HSE Act, New Zealand had a ‘mishmash of legislation’[5], in which the duties of employers and others tended to be set out prescriptively and in considerable detail. Under this regime, specification standards directed duty holders as to precisely what preventive measures they must take in particular circumstances. Such standards identified inputs, telling duty holders how to meet a goal, rather than health and safety outcomes to be achieved

42. In undertaking reform, New Zealand, like the UK and Australia before it, was strongly influenced by the British Robens Report of 1972. This report resulted in widespread legislative change, from the traditional, ‘command and control’ model, imposing detailed obligations on firms enforced by a state inspectorate, to a more ‘self-regulatory’ regime, using less direct means to achieve broad social goals

46. New Zealand embraced the Robens philosophy of self-regulation somewhat belatedly, but with particular enthusiasm and in the context of a political environment that was strongly supportive of deregulation. Indeed, in various forms, deregulation (and reducing the regulatory burden on industry more broadly) was strongly endorsed by the Labour Government that came into power in 1984 and by the National Government that succeeded it in 1990. The HSE Act was a product of this deregulatory environment and in its initial version was stripped of some of the key measures recommended by Robens, not least tripartism, worker participation and an independent executive. It was regarded, so we were told, as a ‘necessary evil’ at a time when the predominant public policy goal was to enhance business competitiveness…”

See: Review of the Department of Labour’s interactions with Pike River Coal Limited

The conclusion of this experiment in free market de-regulation lies deep within the Pike River Mine, with the entombed bodies of 29 dead miners.

Unfortunately, the architects of this de-regulation, Bill Birch Birch, Ruth Richardson, and Jim Bolger were never prosecuted for their part in this tragedy.

They should have been.

Of all the political Parties in Parliament, National holds itself up as the torch-bearer for “personal  responsibility”. Their website is littered with references to being the Party of  “personal responsibility (see: National’s Vision For New Zealand).

Where is the responsibility being shown here?

How can 29 people have been killed in a disaster that should never have been allowed to occur – and no one is responsible?

When ordinary people commit acts that endanger the lives of others, or even lead to death(s), the State is quick to hold the (alleged) perpetrators to account.

When acts of endangerments  are committed, leading to death(s), and the State is involved – it appears that  no one person was to blame”.

It’s a “systemic” thing.

Well, to hell with that.

I hold the following to account for the deaths of 29 men at Pike River Mine,

  • Bill Birch
  • Jim Bolger
  • the management of Pike River Mine
  • and the CEOs of the Labour Department from 1992 to 19 November 2010

Every one of these people should be prosecuted for varying degrees of malfeasance leading to manslaughter.

Or else, maybe, we should all just break the law whenever we feel like it,  and not be prosecuted?

We can say it’s  a “systemic” thing.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 18 April 2013.

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Previous related blogposts

Dear Leader Key blames everyone else for Solid Energy’s financial crisis

W.o.F “reforms” – coming to a crash in your suburb

References

Dominion Post: No blame for Pike River tragedy (11 April 2013)

Fairfax Media: Pike River report: Learn from tragedy – Minister (11 April 2013)

Radio NZ:  Calls mount for Pike River prosecutions (11 April 2013)

Radio NZ:  Lack of consquences over Pike disaster ‘unsatisfactory’ (13 April 2013)

 

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319 million reasons not to part-privatise our power companies

26 February 2013 9 comments

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SOEs

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There are at least 319 million reason why it is sheer madness for National to be considering part-privatisation of  state-owned power companies,

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Half year profit jump for Meridian Energy

Source

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Genesis Energy half-year profit

Source

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Mighty River Power profit quadruples

Source

Acknowledgement for above media reports: Radio New Zealand

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The half year (not even a fullyear!) profit for the above three power SOEs is: $319.5 million.

Combined dividends paid the the government will be: $224 million.

If 49% of all three SOEs is sold to private investors, the State (ie, You and Me) will lose out on approximatelt $110  million.

That will be $110 going into bank accounts of  institutional investors, or the pockets of wealthy New Zealanders with sufficient income to buy shares.

It will mean a drop in government income.

Worse still, going by historic events in the late 1990s when the  ECNZ (Electricity Corporatrion of NZ)  was split up, and the newly formed Contact Energy was split off and fully privatised, power prices will continue to skyrocket,

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power-prices-set-to-soar

National-led government – NZPA – 12 May 1999

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Privatisation will not mean competition resulting in cheaper power prices any more than competing fuel companies are giving us cheaper petrol prices.

In fact, as Economics Professor, Geoff Bertram said on 13 February 2013, at an anti-asset sales rally in Wellington,

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“… It’s my view that probably the  most important political consequence of the part-privatisation of SOEs is to place private investors in those enterprises  and thereby immunise them against possible future policy that might reduce their value.

And since  I think an important part of an improved government policy would indeed reduce their value, I am opposed to the asset sales…

…The companies have a very high valuation. The reason why they have a very high valuation  is that they have successfully participated in a long-running rort to extract cash from residential electricity consumers by the inexorable driving up of prices of electricity.

That rort, has been possible, because government policy has allowed and has indeed supported the emergeance of a cartel of five, large, vertically-integrated, generator-retailers – three of whom are SOEs  – which have been able to operate without any effective regulation, at the expense of  consumers who were too vulnerable to protect their interests against price hikes.

And if you looked at the tracks of electricity prices over the last 20, 30 years you will have noticed that large industry has protected itself very successfully; commercial electricity buyers have done fine; residential who are the dis-organised, unrepresented, undefended, captive group of customers have seen their prices go up in real terms 100% since 1986.

And the main consequence of the electricity reforms has indeed been that doubling of the cost of electricity to ordinary  households. 

That’s a major cause of energy poverty; it’s been an important part in the growing  inequality of income and wealth in this country; and it’s something that a socially responsible government would,  in my view,  be taking serious action to reverse.”

Geoff Bertram continued,

“Just to put that doubling of the residential price in context. New Zealand’s pretty much on it’s own in the OECD and if you look at  the figures for other countries around the OECD, from 1986 to the present, the price of electricity to residential consumers  in OECD Europe, in Australia, and in the United Kingdom, is still the same as it was in 1986. In the United States, Japan, and France, prices are down 25% , compared to where they were in 1986, in real terms.  In South Korea they’re down 50%, compared to where they were in 1986.

New Zealand is the only only OECD country that has gone out there and driven up electricity prices 50%. We’re also pretty much the only country that doesn’t have a regulator in place, and where government doesn’t have any particular social policy relating to the pricing of essential services to the public.”

Prof Bertram explained,

And here’s how it works.

You take a bunch of assets with a given value, and you look at the existing price, to consumers of the product, and you say “well look, we can get the price up”; so you project  that higher price; you capitalise that; and then if you can get the price up the asset will be worth more; so then you re-value the asset; and then you go and use the higher value of the asset to justify raising the prices, and then you repeat.

And this is the circular process which has been going on in New Zealand now, in electricity, for more than a decade. It is completely legal under New Zealand law.

It is not illegal to profiteer or  to gauge captive customers in this country. [In] very few countries is that true.

And it’s consistant with New Zealand’s generally accepted accounting practice which basically tells you that there’s a rotteness at the core of accounting practices in this country.”

And added this shocking insight,

Here’s the problem. Electricity was once an essential service provided to households at the lowest price, consistent with covering the industry’s costs. 

Since 1986 the sector has been corporatised and part-privatised, and it’s pricing has been driven by the quest for profit by giant companies that have the market power to gouge their consumers.

As the owner of three of those companies, the New Zealand government has therefore become a predator. And now the Treasury wants to cash in on that rort by selling out half the government’s stake.

What that means in terms of the options for the future for government to turn around and come back from the predator model and return to a social service approach  for energy supply, is being closed off.”

Concluding with,

But if you want to deal with energy poverty and get kids out of hospitals with asthma and other respiratory diseases and so on, one of the really good  things that you can do is get cheap energy into New Zealand households and that would be sustainable on the basis of the current government owned assets.

About 300 kwh free. [But if] you sell Mighty River and what’s feasible comes down to 200 [kwh]. You sell Genesis and what’s feasible comes down to 100 [kwh]. You sell Meridian and it’s gone…

What I’m saying is the contract  that supplies the Rio Tinto smelter down at Bluff, the old Comalco contract, is the contract New  Zealand households should have had from the start.

And it still could be done.”

See previous blogpost: Wellingtonians rally to send a message to the Beehive! (part rua)

As Radio NZ reported on 21 February,

“Electricity prices paid by Mighty River customers rose 2% over the period while costs fell 22%.”

See: Mighty River Power profit quadruples

Which leads us to these points to consider,

  1. Despite a glut of electricity, prices continue to rise. There is price-gouging going on by all power companies, whether State Owned or by privately-owned Contact Energy.  There is no competitive force driving prices down. There is no indication that part-privatisation will create any competition.
  2. At least state ownership means that most electricity profits stay in New Zealand and contribute to the State, to pay for health, education, roading, etc. However, one wonders if this sort of punitive,  indirect-taxation, on low income families is fair, whilst more affluent households can afford insulaion, solar power, and other energy-saving strategies.
  3. As Prof Bertram maintains, partial privation will most likely close off future progessive governments’ abilities to reform  the electricity industry and return to a  social service approach.

See also previous related blogpost – with Max Bradford’s response on this issue: History Lesson – Tahi – Electricity Sector “reforms”

Meanwhile, some of our past political leaders are waking up to the realities of historical state asset privatisations,

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Bolger -Telecom sale a mistake

See: Bolger – Telecom sale a mistake

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Better late than never?

Nah. Better now than later.

These mistakes are too expensive and we all end up paying.

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= fs =

TPPA: Business launches propaganda campaign

3 December 2012 12 comments

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scaling the heights of  capitalism

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When it comes to misguided, New Zealand does it very well.

If the actions of 50+ businesspeople, professional lobbyists, and an ex-politician are anything to go by, some folk have yet to learn the lessons of the last thirty years of failed orthodox neo-liberal economic dogma.

Fifty people today (3 December)  put their names to an open letter to the Prime Minister, in support of TPPA negotiations. The letter was signed by former prime minister Jim Bolger and fortynine others. (See: Open letter to Prime Minister)

Firstly, this blogger supports the right of freedom of expression for these 50 individuals to write to our Dear Leader.

Just as I have a freedom of expression to tear their letter apart and reveal it to be dangerous, naive BS, with little thought for our future or consequences.

The letter started with,

We, the leaders of major New Zealand companies and leading business organisations, write to underline the importance of international trade and investment for New Zealand and to express our support for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations now underway amongst eleven APEC economies.”

Economies“?!

Don’t they mean “countries”? Or “nations”?

The use of “economies” was prevalent  in the 1980s when neo-liberalism took hold around the world. It suggested that, as Margaret Thatcher maintained, there was no such thing as “society”. There was only the Individual; the family; and contractual transactions.

All pure ideological claptrap, of course.

Try taking the concept of society away from  social creature like humans and the result is predictable,

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We are conscious that TPP is a work in progress and that judgement about the final outcome needs to be withheld until negotiators have finished their work.”

Now this really gets my goat.

How can these 50 intelligent, well-educated, highly experienced and business-savy men and women profess to support a document they have not read and  suggest that  ” judgement about the final outcome needs to be withheld until negotiators have finished their work”?!

How many contracts have these 50 people supported and signed without first reading the text?!

It beggars belief that businesspeople who run million-dollar (or billion dollar!) enterprises, are endorsing a document, sight unseen?

Because very few people in this country – or any other country – have read the proposed TPP Agreement.  In fact, out of 29 chapters, we are privy to only five – and only because they were leaked.

Our aim in writing is to endorse the effort now underway and to outline our conviction that this effort should continue in the interests of building a more prosperous and sustainable Asia Pacific region and of ensuring that business can play its full part in the region’s continuing recovery and future economic growth.

I’d still like to know how these 50 Esteemed Gentlemen and Ladies know that “that this effort should continue in the interests of building a more prosperous and sustainable Asia Pacific region“.

Their faith is almost bordering on the religious. Have angels been whispering in their ears?

We note that the treaty ratification process requires there to be consultation on the negotiated outcome before its adoption by Parliament.”

Which, by then, may be too late. Especially if – as many suspect – Key will sign up up to some horrendous agreement that,

  1. Undermines the viability of Pharmac to buy cheaper, generic drugs,
  2. Results in New Zealand being vulnerable to investor lawsuits should Parliament pass any law that “damages” their profitability (See previous blogpost:  Dispatches from Planet Key)

How can there be democratic oversight by the public and Parliament if a completed Agreement is presented to Parliament as a fait accompli?

This may suit business – but then, businesspeople and National supporters tend not to support democracy as much as the rest of the country might like.

This will assist economic growth and job creation in New Zealand.”

Rubbish. It will do no such thing. In fact, if the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) is anything to go by, we can expect more jobs to be lost, exported to overseas manufacturers which ‘enjoy’ a cheaper labour force.

NAFTA’s opponents attribute much of the displacement caused in the US labor market to the United States’ growing trade deficits with Mexico and Canada. According to the Economic Policy Institute, rise in the trade deficit with Mexico alone since NAFTA was enacted led to the net displacement of 682,900 U.S. jobs by 2010.  Critics see the argument of the proponents of NAFTA as being one-sided because they only take into consideration export-oriented job impact instead of looking at the trade balance, also known as net exports. They argue that increases in imports ultimately displaced the production of goods that would have been made domestically by workers within the United States.

The export-oriented argument is also critiqued because of the discrepancy between domestically produced exports and exports produced in foreign countries. For example, many US exports are simply being shipped to Mexican maquiladores where they are assembled, and then shipped back to the U.S. as final products.  These are not products destined for consumption by Mexicans, yet they made up 61% of exports in 2002. However, only domestically produced exports are the ones that support U.S. labor. Therefore, the measure of net impact of trade should be calculated using only domestically produced exports as an indicator of job creation.

According to the Economic Policy Institute’s study, 61% of the net job losses due to trade with Mexico under NAFTA, or 415,000 jobs, were relatively high paying manufacturing jobs.  Certain states with heavy emphasis on manufacturing industries like Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and California were significantly affected by these job losses. For example, in Ohio, Trade Adjustment Assistance and NAFTA-TAA identified 14,653 jobs directly lost due to NAFTA-related reasons like relocation of U.S. firms to Mexico. Similarly, in Pennsylvania, Keystone Research Center attributed 150,000 job losses in the state to the rising U.S. trade deficit. Since 1993, 38,325 of those job losses are directly related to trade with Mexico and Canada. Although many of these workers laid off due to NAFTA were reallocated to other sectors, the majority of workers were relocated to the service industry, where average wages are 4/5 to that of the manufacturing sector.

See: NAFTA’s effect on United States employment

An increase in domestic manufacturing output and a proportionally greater domestic investment in manufacturing does not necessarily mean an increase in domestic manufacturing jobs; this increase may simply reflect greater automation and higher productivity. Although the U.S. total civilian employment may have grown by almost 15 million in between 1993 and 2001, manufacturing jobs only increased by 476,000 in the same time period.  Furthermore from 1994 to 2007, net manufacturing employment has declined by 3,654,000, and during this period several other free trade agreements have been concluded or expanded

See: North American Free Trade Agreement

We are already losing thousand of manufacturing jobs. A TPPA will worsen the situation,  as  local businesses make use of cheaper labour elsewhere. This means more unemployment for us;  further downward pressure of wages; and more of our taxes spent on welfare.

A prime example is our current Free Trade Agreement with China.

Thousands of jobs have been lost in New Zealand as manufacturers such as Fisher & Paykel have relocated their assembly plants to China, where labour is much cheaper.

In April 2008, we lost 430 jobs to China,

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Fisher & Paykel move 'damages iconic brand'

Full story

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All due to our FTA with that country. Now imagine this scenario multiplied ten-fold.

As ABN Amro analyst Dennis Lee said,

They are moving their production to low-cost countries. It’s a world-wide trend. The indication is quite clear. They have to find the place that can provide them with the lowest cost production.”

So the promise of  ” job creation in New Zealand ” is utter garbage.

It will certainly increase profits for shareholders.

But more jobs? Don’t count on it.

Local and worldwide experience – especially in the United States where cities such as Detroit have had their manufacturing hollowed-out – should serve as a clear warning (See:  Police: “Enter Detroit At Your Own Risk”). Free trade agreements are not about jobs; they are about strengthening corporate power and maximising dividend returns to shareholders.

It’s just a shame that the fifty people who put their signatures to the open letter to Dear Leader couldn’t be more honest about it.

The open letter ends with this,

We stand ready to assist negotiators in this effort and to participate with other members of civil society in a dialogue about how TPP can contribute to what is best for our country, its people and the people of the wider region to which we belong.

A good start to ” how TPP can contribute to what is best for our country ” would be to make the negotiations public and reveal the contents of the proposed Agreement.

That would be a jolly good start.

Addendum I

A lawyer, Daniel Kalderimis, assures us that  disputes between investors and states are real, but can be addressed.

No one would sanely deny that there aren’t risks.  But the key question is are those risks a deal breaker or can they be mitigated? I think they can be mitigated.”

See: TPP risks can be mitigated – expert

Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he? He’s a trade lawyer specialising in international investor-nation disputes.

Interestingly, Mr Kalderimis also commented that,

While people pointed to the possibility that Philip Morris could sue New Zealand over tobacco laws, “Philip Morris can already sue New Zealand“.

See: IBID

Yes, that is true. Just as Philip Morris Asia Ltd  sued the Australian government last year.

The one difference that Mr Kalderimis conveniently forgot, in a John Key brain fade moment, is that such corporations can only currently sue within our own jurisdiction, under our own laws.

Under the TPPA, an investor-nation lawsuit will be conducted using  secret, foreign tribunals.

This is what National is negotiating to achieve.

And this is what 50 short-sighted, self-serving, and misguided people are supporting.

Addendum II

The TPPA is perhaps the single most important political policy National is undertaking.

If anything in this blogpost concerns you, I encourage you to do the following,

(1) Write to the Prime Minister and express your concerns. Email him at: john.key@parliament.govt.nz

(2) Share this blogpost with your friends, family, workmate, etc. The more folk who know what is going on, the more chance we have of stopping this dead in it’s tracks.

(3) Write a letter to your local newspaper and demand to know why the TPPA negotiations are being held in secret. What are they hiding? Why are they hiding it? If it’s so good for us – wouldn’t the Prime Minister be the first to tell us?

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nikki kaye - yeah right

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Sources

NZ Herald: Businesses launch PR campaign to fight TPP ‘scare-mongering’

NZ Herald: Open letter to Prime Minister

NZ Herald: TPP risks can be mitigated – expert

NZ Herald: Jane Kelsey: Pacific deal masks bigger plan

Additional

U.S. To Consult Internally On Ag Export Competition; Next TPP Round Set For New Zealand

Groups

Pro TPPA: Trade Works

Anti TPPA: It’s Our Future

Office of US trade Representative: Outlines of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

NZUS Council: Kiwi businesses out in support of TPP negotiations

Wikipedia: New Zealand–China Free Trade Agreement

Wikipedia: North American Free Trade Agreement

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From the Pot-Kettle-Black files: John Banks (1997)

12 November 2012 4 comments

Retrieved from my files, this little item from the Otago Daily Times in March 1997,

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I wonder what Bolger might have to say to Mr Banks now? Perhaps they could arrange a chat over a cuppa tea in a cafe in Epsom…

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= fs =

The National Party, common sense, and sausage sizzles

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

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I’ve been involved in politics, in one form or another, for much of my life. I think I have a fairly good ‘handle’ regarding politicians; their ideologies; and their Parties.

I’ve seen Muldoon come and go; Bolger and Richardson; Shipley and English; and now Key and English, try their hand at managing our economy and spending our tax dollars.

Without exception, folks, every single National Government, from Robery Muldoon onwards, has been an apallingly bad fiscal manager.

National’s modus operandi,

  1. Cuts short term spending, worsening long-term social problems, which will become more expensive eventually, as social ills remain unaddressed,
  2. Cuts state sector employees and services, then realises that essential issues still remain,
  3. Cuts taxes when we can least afford it,
  4. Implements fiscal, political, and social policies that impact negatively on economic and social indicators,
  5. Borrows from overseas lenders when it was never necessary in the first place (or reduced borrowing, had tax cuts not been implemented)
  6. And generally makes bad choices that, long term, will cost the taxpayer more.

So – how on Earth has National ever built up a reputation of being a “sound fiscal manager” of our economy?!?!

Because every time National has been in office, it has left the country in an absolute economic shambles.

From Ruth Richardson’s “Mother of All Budgets”, to Jenny Shipley’s and Bill English’s “slash and burn” of the health sector,  state housing, Police force, and other essential state services in the late 1990s – National  has proven time and again it’s ineptness.

This Party is utterly clueless when it comes to simple matters of cause-and-effect.

One thing, though, has escaped me utterly.

How have they  sucked in the public to effect a (undeserved) reputation of sound fiscal management?

Whilst National runs deficits,  Labour, in the 2000s, ran surpluses. (A fact National attempts to hide by clumsily  persisting in re-writing history.)

See previous blogpost: Labour: the Economic Record 2000 – 2008

Case in point; Dear Leader and his minions has made a great deal about slashing the state sector. National has made deep cuts into state sector services and sacked over 2,500 much-needed employees,

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

Full Story

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As 2,500 people were sacked from their jobs – all for a grand saving of $20 million,  National belatedly realised that their slash-and-burn was little more than a false economy.

It soon became apparent that many of the sacked workers were much-needed experts in their field, and essential personnel to make the State function smoothly.

National took “appropriate action”,

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

Full Story

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

Full Story

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

Full Story

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Two thousand, five hundred of our fellow kiwis lost their jobs for “savings” of $20 million.

The Economic Development Ministry alone  increased spending on consultants, contractors, etc,  from $6.7 million in 2008-09 to $19.2 million in 2010-11. Other ministries most likely spent several million on their consultants, contractors, advisors, and Uncle Tom Cobbly.

See: ‘Consultancy culture’ cost $525m last year – Labour

So much for “savings” of $20 million.

One can only try to imagine what those 2,500 people who were sacked by National, must be feeling right now.

So the question remains; how has National managed to paint itself as a “responsible steward” of the country’s economy? Especially when a cursory study of their real performance reveals otherwise?

Tracey Watkins, writing in today’s (19 May)  ‘Dominion Post‘, may have  offered a clue,

But while these sorts of measures might be an annoyance, they do not cause widespread pain.

And in a perverse way, Europe helps Bill English’s cause. It maintains a sense of crisis while the sight of workers marching in the streets only underscores the gentle and low-fuss nature of our own austerity drive.

This is why Labour has struggled so far to run a coherent argument against National’s management of the books – the danger has always been that protesting any cuts to date look not only shrill, but profligate. To voters, less is more at the moment.

See: Kiwis are tolerating moderate austerity

A sense of crisis “. It may well be that the Middle Classes have been panicked by overseas events. There may be an under-lying fear that – like households in tough times – the country needs to cut back on spending, to avert a Greece-like melt-down in our own economy.

There may be an underlying belief  within the collective consciousness of New Zealanders that, in “tough times”, National is better at cutting than Labour. In “tough economic times”, cutting expenditure may appear to the public as more of a priority than, say, job creation.

Such feelings are not necessarily based on any reality or logical analysis of the country’s true economic situation; nor of the side-effects of cutting back on State expenditure. These may be deep-seated feelings based on how people may view the economy.

Generally speaking, people have very little experience with macro-economics; Keynesian-vs-Friedmanite economic systems; nor any real understand of how government economic policies work.

For most folk, their only experience is running the finances of their own households. Doing a household budget; paying bills;  and balancing the chequebook is the extent to most peoples’ exposure to finances.

And yet, government finances is not like household finances at all. The former is more complex, with control over fiscal and taxation policy; revenue streams;  and policies that can work to generate income for the state. The State has access to borrowings (if necessary) not open to ordinary households. By widening the tax-base, the State can increase its revenue – no easy task for ordinary households.

In short, the State has options not readily available to households.

But  through a dumbed-down media which focuses mostly on superficial political issues; mindless entertainment; and on the Here-And-Now, the public have become low-information voters.

By not being aware of the true extent of the State’s abilities, the public are trapped in a narrow paradigm of  the State being akin to “household budgets”.

So when National cuts expenditure, services, and jobs – it appears to the public to be a “common sense” plan to follow.

The public are not so aware that austerity measures can have negatives impacts on our economy and society, even in the short-term. Cutting back on government economic activity means a drop in all-round economic activity.

It is no coincidence that following Ruth Richardson’s “Mother of all Budgets“, that unemployment, company liquidations, economic growth, and other indicators worsened.

This is a Party that I would barely trust to run a sausage sizzle. They’d get rid of the volunteers; sell the barbeque; pay themselves a hefty fee; and claim success,

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The ‘mother of all budgets’

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking Mother of all budgets

Prime Minister Jim Bolger and Finance Minister Ruth Richardson make their way to the House of Representatives for the presentation of the 1991 budget. Richardson was from the radical wing of the National Party, which promoted individual liberty and small government. This was reflected in the budget, which severely cut government spending, including on welfare. Richardson proudly proclaimed her plan as the ‘mother of all budgets’, but such was its unpopularity among voters that it – along with high levels of unemployment – nearly cost National the next election.

Source

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

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In the above graph, note the two ‘spikes’ in unemployment. The first in the early 1990s, after cuts (through the “Mother of all Budgets”)  created a rise in unemployment. The second rise occurred in the late 1990s, when the Shipley/English government again cut government services.

However, unemployment fell after the election of a Labour-led government in late 1999.

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

Source

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Source

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The implications of austerity policies should be crystal clear to everyone:  reducing government expenditure and activity in the economy dampens overall economic activity.  Everyone is affected – no one escapes the inevitable downturn.

Hence why the new French President, Francois Hollande, has rejected austerity policies for his country. President Hollande understands full well that cutting government expenditure will result in reduced state services; more unemployment; and a drop in economic activity and  growth.

As long as the public are aware of these facts, then they can make decisions accordingly.

Ignorance of these facts will be painful, as anyone with memories of the 1990s will attest to.

In this case, ignorance is not most definitely not ‘bliss’. And no one will be exempt.

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Additional

Dominion Post: Public service cuts get deeper

Bloomberg:  Hollande Vows to Fight Austerity After Beating Sarkozy

References

Te Ara: Story – Business failures and corporate fraud

Te Ara: Story – National Party

Trading Economics: New Zealand

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National – The End is Nigh (Part #Rua)

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

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As this blogger has been predicting over the last few months, National is continuing to slide in the polls, and will most likely face electoral defeat at the next elections.

National’s drop in popularity can be attributed to several, distinct factors,

  1. Economic factors continuing to worsen; rising unemployment; stagnant economy; ballooning government debt
  2. No obvious plan from National to create jobs and get the economy moving again
  3. Constant cuts which seem to achieve nothing, and which are beginning to impact of social services
  4. Unpopular policies such as asset sales
  5. A growing perception that National is demonising unemployed workers and solo-mothers, and treating them as scapegoats for government-failures
  6. Scandal after scandal after scandal – with the John Banks-Dotcom affair being the worst example of political pragmatism trumping ethical decision-making by Key

All of which happened in the late 1990s, with the previous Bolger/Shipley-led National governments,

See previous blogpost:  Learning from history?

See previous blogpost:  Learning from history?

See previous blogpost:  History Lesson – Toru – Jobs

See previous blogpost:  History Lesson – Rua – Police

A Roy Morgan poll released today (Friday 18 May)  shows a distinct drop for National and rise for Labour.

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2011 Election Results

National: 47.31%

Labour: 27.48%

Greens: 11.06%

Mana: 1.08%

Maori Party: 1.43%

United Future: 0.60%

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Roy Morgan Poll for 2 April 2012 – 15 April 2012

National: 49.5%

Labour:  26.5%

Greens: 12.5%

NZ First: 6.5%

United Future: 1%

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Current: Roy Morgan Poll for 30 April  – 13 May 2012

National: 44.5%

Labour:  30%

Greens: 15%

NZ First: 5.5%

Maori Party: 1%

Mana Party: 0.5%

ACT: 0%

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A Labour-Green-NZ First Coalition would equal 50.5%, giving 61 seats in a 120 seat Parliament (no allowance made for potential overhangs). With Hone Harawira winning Te Tai Tokerau, and giving his vote for Supply & Confidence to a Labour-led, government, a possible coalition would have a two seat majority.

This blogger believes that National will continue to trend down in further polling, and a Labour-led coalition will increase it’s majority.

Furthermore, this blogger predicts,

  • ACT will not return in the next election
  • Colin Craig’s Conservative Party will not break the 5% threshold
  • Peter Dunne has a less than 50/50 chance of  holding his Ohariu electorate if he votes with National to privatise state owned corporations

We are seeing the decline of National, and the last term of John Key as Prime Minister.

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References

NZ Herald: Key says he’ll quit politics if National loses election

NZ Herald: National support slips further – poll

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Oh the irony…

27 February 2012 2 comments

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From National’s website, I found this little “gem”,

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Source

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Now, considering that the whole sorry saga of the  Leaky/Rotting Homes fiasco began with the  Building Act 1991 – when the then Bolger-led National government de-regulated the New Zealand building industry – it seems that National has not learnt a single, damned thing about that failed experiment in de-regulation.

As Auckland Mayor John Banks says, “It was a previous Government that put in the legislation that allowed for untreated timber, cavity-less walls, chicken wire and plaster. So they should at the least accept an equal liability with local government.”

Mr Banks should know. He was a member of the Jim Bolger-led National Cabinet that passed the permissive 1991 Building Act which was naively based on the premise that National’s developer mates could be trusted not to cut corners.” – Source

Fast forward from 1991 to 2012,

Fast-track building consents for standard, multiple-use building designs ” ???

Make building law changes to allow more do-it-yourself building, and to make a broader range of minor and low-risk building work consent-free “???

It is appropriate that #55 – “Leaky Homes: Develop a $1 billion financial package to help owners of leaky homes get their homes fixed” – follows on from #53 and #54. Because de-regulating Building Consents and making DIY easier, without professional over-sight, will probably end up with yet more dodgy building; more rotting  homes; and more New Zealanders having to pay thousands of dollars to repair shoddy workmanship.

Nice one, Mr Key, Mr English, Mr Brownlee, et al.

Never let it be said that you guys “waste any time”  learning from your previous mistakes…

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Additional

Wikipedia: Leaky Homes Crisis

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Kiwirail – back on track, on the sea

22 September 2011 3 comments

Full story

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It’s nice to see more investment in the up-grading of our rail and inter-island ferry service.  Kiwirail is fast being brought back up to standard, after 15 years of neglect under private ownership.

Railways was privatised in 1993, by the then-Bolger-led National Government.  (Source)  The new owner, Tranz Rail Ltd,  paid $400 million to the government and was made up of  a consortium consisting of  Fay, Richwhite & Company (40% ),  the American railroad Wisconsin Central (40%), and Berkshire Partners (20%).

From then, until 2008 – when railways was re-nationalised by the then-Clark-led Labour government – the asset was owned by a variety of private owners. In 2003, one of the major institutional shareholders was AMI – now facing insolvency after several major earthquakes in Christchurch.

Continuing losses, such as $346 million lost in the half-year ended December 2003, did not help the companies viability, despite carrying considerable amounts of freight such as 2.1 million tonnes of coal on the Midland line in the South Island.

The rail network was badly run-down by 2008, with many urban lines and stations dilapidated, vandalised, and in need of urgent maintenance.

In the Hutt Valley, for example, very few stations had any identifying signage which indicated which stop it was. They had all been mostly vandalised beyond recognition or destroyed totally. It was not until post-2008, and with State investment, that suburban rail began a programme of considerable improvements and upgrades. New passenger carriages; freight wagons; and locomotives were purchased, and Kiwirail began a slow progression back to a modern service, that is fit-for-purpose and a valuable asset for the 21st century.

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The privatisation of railways has been a stark and expensive reminder that privatisation is not a guarantee for better service. In the case of railways, the taxpayer is now footing the bill for fifteen years of neglect – even when the directors and managers of Tranz Rail walked away with $6 million in severance payments. Not exactly a good look,  one might think.

In fact, the only pirece of major capital investment in 15 years of private ownership was the sub-charter of the new inter-island ferry,  ‘Kaitaki, in 2005. No other capital investment, rolling stock, or improvements were made to the rail system during the period of private ownership.

As the price of fossil-based fuels continues to rise, transport based on alternative systems such as railways will become more and more critical to a modern, functioning economy.  Railways is simply too vital to be rested in private ownership which – as recent history has demonstrated – is not capable of managing such a strategic asset.

In the coming decades, this author predicts that railways will assume a greater role in our economy and society.  As petrol and diesel escates in price, rising on an almost weekly or monthly basis, rail will once again become profitable. It may also reverse the primacy of the internal-combustion automobile, making rail a preferred option for long-distance travel.

In the decades to come, it may become apparent that the decision of the  Labour Government in 2008 to re-nationalise railways was perhaps the single most prescient act on their part.

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In retrospect

Lack of ongoing maintainance reached critical levels in the summer of 2002/03, when high temperatures resulted in tracks buckling and the LTSA ordering Tranz Rail to reduce train speeds and to re-hire track de-stessing crews,

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Broken-down trains… unmaintained tracks… disgruntled passengers. Sound familiar?

It is fairly evident that the current maintenance and purchase of new rolling-stock are things that should have been carried out over the last couple of decades. The neglect of our rail system allowed private owners to attempt to make short-term gains, over long-term necessary expenditure.

The tax-payer is picking up the ‘tab’ for this misguided experiement in privatisation.

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Greed is good?

28 August 2011 54 comments

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As we look back on the last 25 years of neo-liberal “reforms”, including User Pays; the canning of “Labour’s” superannuation savings plan in 1975 (by Muldoon – after being elected into office with his infamous “Dancing Cossacks”  TV ad); and National’s continuing high popularity in the polls, despite their avowed proposal to sell-down 49% of several State assets,  – it seems abundantly clear who has been  pulling the “strings”.

No, it’s not Washington. Nor the Bilderbergers. Nor the UN/New World Order/Illuminati.

The answer is mind-numbingly far more prosaic:  it’s us – the Baby Boomer generation. The 1960s and 1970s rebellious youth  weren’t just an “aberration” – they were a clear signal that the Baby Boomers had arrived; could be inclined to  incredible selfishness (hence the term the “Me Generation”); and we voted individually for personal gain – on a collective basis.

Yep. We have seen the “enemy” – and it’s us; graying; self-centered; resentful of the young (who we’ve well and truly shafted);  and looking back at ourselves in the mirror, wondering where it all went wrong.

The case of  Surgeons Ian Penny and Gary Hooper, who tried to rort the tax system using Trusts  and companies – even though they had graduated BEFORE student loans and fees were implemented in 1992 – is the clearest example ever of our collective unbridled selfishness.

To re-cap;

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A court battle is over for two surgeons who challenged Inland Revenue over claims they tried to avoid tax bills worth tens of thousands of dollars.

The Supreme Court has ruled unanimously against Ian Penny and Gary Hooper, saying they underpaid themselves from their own businesses to avoid the top personal tax rate.

The issue arose after the previous Labour-led Government raised the top personal tax rate to 39%, compared to the company rate which was then 33%.

The orthopaedic surgeons openly paid themselves a lower salary than the market rate, arguing that they had a choice about how they operated their business.

They tried to challenge a Court of Appeal decision that found in favour of Inland Revenue, which said the surgeons had paid themselves salaries too small to be commercially realistic.

It said they were therefore able to avoid paying the top tax rate, while the balance of their businesses’ profits went as dividends to family trusts.

The trusts funded items such as a loan for one surgeon, and a holiday home for the other.

Inland Revenue said using those business structures to create artificially low salaries amounted to tax avoidance, saving each man between $20,000 and $30,000 a year for three years, beginning in 2002.

Supreme Court Justice Blanchard on Wednesday delivered a judgement supporting that argument, ordering Mr Penny and Mr Hooper to pay Inland Revenue $25,000 in court costs.

Mr Hooper told [Radio New Zealand ]Checkpoint the court has created a salary benchmark that is higher than the one countless private practitioners have been using.

He says they have been following Inland Revenue advice and calculating their salaries based on public hospital rates.

An Inland Revenue deputy commissioner welcomed the ruling, telling Checkpoint it clearly states and reaffirms what the department’s commissioner felt was the case all along. Carolyn Tremain says IRD has yet to fully absorb the implications and consequences of the ruling.

PricewaterhouseCoopers John Shewan, who appeared as a witness for the surgeons, said the case is important for individuals and firms. He said tens of millions of dollars may now be claimed by Inland Revenue from cases it still has open on this matter.

Source:  Radio New Zealand

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Specifically,

Surgeons Ian Penny and Gary Hooper set up companies, owned indirectly through trusts, to buy their surgical services and paid themselves artificially low salaries.

After 2000, Hooper’s personal income fell from $650,000 to $120,000 a year. Penny’s dropped from $302,000 to $125,000, and then to $100,000, while the income of their companies grew.

Source:  Dominion Post

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What makes this case of case of tax avoidance stand out is that none of it was ever necessary in the first place.

Dr Ian Penny received his Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor (MB ChB) of Surgery from Otago University in 1981.  He became a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in 1990.

Dr Gary Hooper received his Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor (MB ChB) of Surgery  from Otago University in 1978 and became a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in 1985.

In simple terms, they graduated as doctors in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Tertiary education then was still nominally free. Plus,  student allowances were available to most students,

“Up until 1992, nearly every student (86.4 percent) studying at a public tertiary education institution in New Zealand received a living allowance or grant while they studied.

 Prior to the mid 1970s, student support was based on a system of bursaries and scholarships. In 1976, a new system of government-funded tertiary bursaries was introduced. This included a study or living costs grant that was available to most students.”

Source: NZUSA

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Student fees and student loans came into effect in 1992, during the Bolger-led National Government, when Ruth Richardson was Minister of Finance (and coincidentally the same year that Shortland Street came on air).

In simpler terms, Dr Penny and Dr Hooper enjoyed the benefit of near-free tertiary education before fees were raised in 1992. They had no student loans to repay, as  medical students currently do, and may well have benefitted from receiving a Student Allowance.

Contrast their free tuition with that of medical students, in the 21st Century:  “on average medical students will graduate with around $80,000 of debt and nearly 90% will have a student loan“, according to the  New Zealand Medical Students’ Association in April, last year.

So with a free education; in receipt of student allowances; and no student loan; Dr’s Penny and Hooper were, as Revenue Minister Peter Dunne stated;

… the important thing about this decision is to bear in mind the scale of what was happening. This wasn’t people minimising their income because they were reinvesting in their business. This was people minimising their income because they were actually minimising their tax liability but still enjoying the full benefits of the income they were in reality earning.

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So not only did these gentlemen benefit from a free education – but they were now minimising their income because they were actually minimising their tax liability [whilst] still enjoying the full benefits of the income they were in reality earning.”

God, you’ve no idea how sick this incident has  made me.  Let me explain why.

Prior to the introduction of “Rogernomics” in 1984 (and National’s addition from 1990 onward),  education in this country had been free (or as close as possible to free) to nearly all New Zealanders. Education whether at Primary School or University was funded by the previous generation; our Mums & Dads; Grandmothers & Grand dads. The idea was terribly simple; education was a right, and not to be determined by ability to pay.

In turn, as we graduated from schools and Universities, we – my generation, the “Baby Boomers” – were to fund our children through their education, through our taxes.

Except, it did not quite happen that way.

In 1984 we unknowingly elected a Labour Government that had been taken over by a secret cabal of neo-liberals, conservatives, and proponants of the Free Market. A raft of  radical changes were implemented throughout the economy and impacting directly on society.

Despite public objection; mass protests; and even vocal opposition from within the Government by some Labour MPs such as Jim Anderton, Labour was re-elected in 1987.  Curiously, they had increased their majority from 55 to 57.

During Labour’s two terms (1984 to 1990), they cut taxes twice, and implemented a new tax in 1986, called GST.

National followed, implementing User Pays in tertiary education whilst  cutting taxes in 1996 and 1998.

In 2008, despite evidence that the world was plunging into a global recession, John Key promised that National would again cut taxes. As New Zealand went into deep recession; unemployment rose; businesses closed down – National cut taxes in April 2009 and October last year.

Most of the public, it seems, will swallow User Pays if they stand to reap a benefit from tax cuts.

The social contract therefore, was well and truly broken between our (the Baby Boomers) generation, and our parents/grandparents.

We had taken their gift – that of free education which they had paid for – but we decided not to pass it on to our children. Instead, we accepted one tax cut after another. And social services were either cut or User Pays applied, to pay for those tax cuts.

To my generation of fellow Baby Boomers, I say this; we’ve well and truly  shafted our own children. We denied them the very same opportunities of a free education that our parents had bequeathed to us. Instead, we voted ourselves seven  hefty tax-cuts; instigated User Pays; and left our children saddled with $13.9 billion in student debt.

Is it any wonder that our children our leaving New Zealand in greater and greater numbers? They’re not just emigrating to seek better paying jobs – they’re sticking it to us for our unmitigated greed. Whether consciously or sub-consciously, our children realise what our generation has wrought, and by god, they are not happy.

No doubt there are some folk who will cheer on Drs Penny and  Hooper. These people  feel that paying taxes is “unfair” and that it is unreasonable for the State to take the money that they have worked hard for.

Perhaps I should take a moment to remind these people what their taxes were, and in many cases  are still, used for…

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Inter-island Ferry, Aramoana

Dams and other power generation projects

Our first television broadcast system

Roading and highways

Hospitals

University education

Dental care for our Children

Our Police and justice system

Railways and other public transport

Schools

State Housing

Infrastructure such as power transmission lines

Social welfare and superannuation

Bridges

Postal and telecommunications systems

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Many of these assets no longer reside in public ownership – but they were originally built and maintained by previous generations of taxpayers; our parents, grandparents, et al.

As the Baby Boomer generation, what have we built and left our children?

$13.9 billion in student debt?

No wonder they are departing our shores…

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But I leave the last word to this expat Kiwi, now living in Australia,

A Victorian-based Kiwi with a student loan debt, who did not want to be named because he did not want to be found by the Government, said he did not intend to pay back any of his student loan.

The 37-year-old’s loan was about $18,000 when he left New Zealand in 1997. He expected it was now in the order of $50,000. The man was not worried about being caught as the Government did not have his details and he did not want to return to New Zealand.

“I would never live there anyway, I feel just like my whole generation were basically sold down the river by the government. I don’t feel connected at all, I don’t even care if the All Blacks win.

“I just realised it was futile living [in New Zealand] trying to pay student loans and not having any life, so I left. My missus had a student loan and she had quite a good degree and she had paid 99c off the principal of her loan after working three years.”

Source: Dominion Post

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Further Reading

Greed of boomers led us to a total bust

New Zealand’s wealth gap widens

Over-55s own most of NZ’s wealth

 

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From “Nanny State” to “Daddy State”…

I don’t think there’s much question that  serious social problems in this country  are not being addressed in any meaningful way by this current government…

So is the Prime Minister, John Key, really  aware of what is actually going on in New Zealand right now?  Well, judge for yourself…

So what is National doing about soaring youth unemployment?

At their recent Conference, held in Wellington, they came up with this…

(Article abbreviated)

They’re going to clamp down on booze and cigarettes?!?!

That’s it?

Oh good lord! And people thought that Labour was “Nanny Statist”?!?!

I wonder who will be next to feel the iron fist of National’s Polit-buro state control? The retired? Civil Servants? Anyone using state hospitals???

Congratulations, my fellow New Zealanders: we have gone past Nanny State to Big Brother.

It might be worthwhile considering that,

  • Not all unemployed youth smoke
  • Not all unemployed youth drink
  • Even if they do,  Key says that they will still receive “a limited amount of money for young people to spend at their discretion“.  Like… on booze and ciggies?!
  • Even if they won’t have enough “discretionary pocket money” – what is to stop them stealing it? Or selling their Food Card for cash, and then buying ciggies and booze?

In the meantime, how many jobs will this piece of neo-Nanny Statism create?

The answer, I submit, is:

Even the NZ Herald was quick to acknowledge this simple fact in their August 16 editorial,

Yet there is also nothing in the Prime Minister’s announcement that creates jobs for young people. There, the Government still has work to do.”

Meanwhile, as National blames the young unemployed of this country for the world recession, and proposes to penalise them by tinkering with their only means of survival – the problem continues unabated,

The last time youth unemployment was this high was in 1992…

1992?

Wasn’t that the previous National government led by Jim Bolger, with Ruth Richardson as Minister of Finance? And didn’t she implement a slash and burn economic policy in her “Mother of All Budgets” that resulted in unemployment reaching over 10%?!?!

Why, yes. It was.

Are we starting to see a pattern develop here, folks?

It is abundantly clear that National has no clue how to address this problem. Attacking welfare benefits which keep people from starving to death, or more likely, breaking into our homes to find food, is not an answer. It is a cheap shot geared toward winning votes from uneducated voters who hold the illusion that living on a benefit is a cosy arrangement (it is not).

There are no policies being announced to create jobs, or to train young people into a trade or profession.

National should be throwing open the doors of our polytechs to train young people into tradespeople that the community desperately needs. With the re-building of Christchurch shortly to commence – where are the necessary tradespeople going to come from? (Most have buggered of to Australia.)

If this is the best that National can come up with, then, my fellow New Zealanders, we are in deep ka-ka.

Meanwhile…

Dr Mapp said the research science and technology was the way to create jobs, economic growth and a higher living standard for the country.

“To that end, it is vital that high-tech, exporting companies maintain their competitive edge in global markets.”

The grants range from $300,000 to $5.9m and run for three years.

They are valued at 20 per cent of the research and development spend in each business and provide a maximum $2.4m a year for three years.

Dr Mapp said they provide the businesses involved with more financial security over that period.

Businesses to get grants in the latest round were involved in  software development, biotechnology, manufacturing and electronics.

Wellington companies which received grants:

Core Technology: $629,400

Open Cloud: $2,394,920

Xero: $4,040,000

Xero was founded by Rod Drury in 2006,  who made $65 million in the same year after selling his email archiving system AfterMail. Xero purchased Australian online payroll company,  Paycycle, in July of this year for A$1.5 million.

Which begs the question as to why the government has given away $4 million of tax-payers money when the owner is ‘flush’ with $65 million and has enough capital to buy off-shore  companies elsewhere.

Is this a prudent use of tax-payers’ money,  especially when,

* government is cutting back on social services?

* government has cut back on youth training programmes?

* government is borrowing $380 million a week, and telling the rest of us to “tighten our belts”?

At a time when government is berrating unemployed 16 and 17 year olds for being on the dole and  “smoking ciggies”, instead of  providing meaningful training and/or employment, it seems that National is still “picking winners” in the field of commerce.

$4 million could go a long way in providing training, and a future, for many 16 year olds.

By contrast, how much do young people, living away from home, recieve from WINZ? It must be a grand sum, to earn the Prime Minister’s stern attention. The answer is:

It’s a shame they’re not “picking winners”  with our unemployed youth.