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Posts Tagged ‘Labour Government’

The Virus, the Bubble, and the Trap

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In case people missed it, National’s de- facto 2023 election campaign was launched on 15 March this year.

The campaign – in the form of a petition to open a Trans Tasman bubble without need for MIQ – was uploaded onto National’s twitter account, and twentyfive minutes later onto Caretaker Leader, Judith Collin’s account:

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Pressure mounted from the business community. The usual vocal business, tourism, and hospitality industry lobbyists made their voices heard loud and repetitively to the point of being cliched “broken records”:

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Even state-owned, non-commercial RNZ was prodigious in platforming the clamour from business interests.

Voices calling for caution were few and far between. Apparently, calls for caution were not nearly as news-worthy and exciting as the prospect of re-opening our borders to our nearest neighbour after nearly a year cut off from the rest of the world.

One voice of caution came from Stuff Media’s travel journalist, Brooke Sabin. In October 2020, Mr Sabin posed five critical questions pertaining to any proposed travel bubble. One such question asked:

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One of the key questions around a travel bubble with Australia is what happens if a community case pops up? For example, if we have flights to Adelaide and a single mystery case popped up there, would flights to and from New Zealand be cancelled? If not, would we adopt Australia’s hotspot definition and stop travel if there were more than three cases for three days in a row? The New Zealand public may find that hard to stomach, but that’s why debate is needed now, before the election, to try and settle on a risk we’re happy with.

Travellers, airlines, insurers and the tourism industry need this certainty. We could see cases pop up once a bubble is underway, and nobody quite knows at what point travel would continue, or if tens of thousands would have travel plans disrupted by widespread cancellations.

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Events nine months later were to answer his questions, with grim, dramatic effect.

Ironically, Brook Sabin’s article was picked up and republished by a merchant banker, Fifo Capital. The financiers at Fifo obviously recognised the inherent danger posed to the Aotearoa New Zealand’s economy should covid19 – especially the highly infectious Delta Strain –  break through our borders. It was a pity other businesses did not share Fifo’s wise caution.

The strident calls to open a Trans Tasman bubble succeeded.

On 6 April this year, PM Ardern announced that “quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and Australia will start on Monday 19 April“.

However, she also issued a clear, stark warning:

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“Quarantine free travel will not be what it was pre-COVID-19, and those undertaking travel will do so under the guidance of ‘flyer beware’. People will need to plan for the possibility of having travel disrupted if there is an outbreak.”

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It was a warning that many either did not heed or understand.

University of Auckland epidemiology professor, Rod Jackson, who recently appeared on Newshub Nation (2 October), and who has a reputation for clear, unvarnished, truth stated with crystal clarity:

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“I’ve seen some things in the newspaper and the media about people complaining they are not being helped by the New Zealand government when they’re stuck in Australia and can’t come back.

I think that they need to suck it up, that anyone who wants to go to Australia needs to be aware that at a moment’s notice they could end up being there for weeks, if not months.”

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Again, people took no notice.

Eighteen days late, on 23 July, PM Ardern announced the closure of the Trans Tasman bubble. The Delta Strain was spreading through Australia and the risk that a traveller could bring it back to this country – as happened in June this year – could no longer be ignored.

PM Ardern pleaded with New Zealanders:

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“There is considerable pressure on our managed isolation facilities at the moment and my strong urging to everyone is do not travel to Australia in the next eight weeks.”

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Returnees were put in two weeks isolation upon return to Aotearoa New Zealand, putting a strain on availability of MIQ rooms. New Zalanders were now not only trapped throughout the world, trying to get home, but thousands were now also trapped throughout Australia.

Returnees demanded access to MIQ rooms. There were insufficient rooms. Calls became strident. The media shamelessly gorged itself on amplified stories of misery, stress, and hardship. There were emotive headlines and interviews. There were clicks to be gained; advertising to sell; and careers to build.

A few in the media bucked the stampede to exploit this human crisis. Writing in his column, Q+A presenter, Jack Tame, pointed out the blindingly obvious:

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“Remember – this is the way the bubble was designed to function. From the word go, there was risk for anyone who decided to go to Australia. You bought a ticket. You chose to travel. You assumed that risk. I actually think the people who’ve come back from New South Wales and into MIQ should consider themselves very lucky they haven’t had to pay for the privilege when everyone else does.”

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The truth is that business and political agitation for a trans tasman bubble generated considerable media stories. Once the bubble collapsed and New Zealanders were trapped overseas, there were yet more “human interest” stories to be made. The more tragic the story, the better the headline.

24 hours a day, seven days a week, the media feasted.

Critics of the Labour government; political opportunists; those dissatisfied with travel restrictions; and detractors of the MIQ system were quick to weaponise “human interest”, “heart-string” stories for their own ends. Where reasoned argument fell short against our covid19 and MIQ policies, emotive invective took over. That weaponisation of PM Ardern’s plea to Be Kind was turned back against the government and those who understood the danger which covid19 posed to us collectively.

And then, finally, our luck well and truly ran out.

On 17 August – four months after the Trans Tasman bubble had opened – a community case of the Delta Strain was detected in one person, in Auckland. The PM wasted no time, and the entire country was thrown into Level 4 Alert lockdown at 11.59PM that very night.

Since then, Delta has infected 1,420 people. Two have tragically died (as at 6 October 2021).

The response from National, amplified by the media, has been scathing:

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Voxy: ‘Short and sharp’ lockdown will be the longest ever - Judith Collins, Chris Bishop   http://www.voxy.co.nz/politics/5/392524   National:  Time has run out on Government’s incoherent Covid strategy  https://www.national.org.nz/time-has-run-out-on-governments-incoherent-covid-strategy    Newshub: Sparks fly in Parliament as Jacinda Ardern, Chris Hipkins deny pace of COVID-19 vaccine rollout meant inevitable lockdown  https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2021/09/sparks-fly-in-parliament-as-jacinda-ardern-chris-hipkins-deny-pace-of-covid-19-vaccine-rollout-meant-inevitable-lockdown.html   National: Government has choices and needs to make them now  https://www.national.org.nz/government-has-choices-and-needs-to-make-them-now    National: New Zealand at Covid crossroads  https://www.national.org.nz/new-zealand-at-covid-crossroads   National: What is the Government’s Covid strategy?  https://www.national.org.nz/what-is-the-governments-covid-strategy    Newshub: Coronavirus: Judith Collins says 'no point worrying' about source of COVID-19 outbreak, Ardern should 'deal with it' or accept she can't change it  https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2021/09/coronavirus-judith-collins-says-no-point-worrying-about-source-of-covid-19-outbreak-ardern-should-deal-with-it-or-accept-she-can-t-change-it.html        National: No mention of Delta strain in Government plans  https://www.national.org.nz/no-mention-of-delta-strain-in-government-plans    National: South Island should drop now to alert level 2    https://www.national.org.nz/south-island-should-drop-now-to-alert-level-2    National: Labour has dropped the MIQ ball  https://www.national.org.nz/labour-has-dropped-the-miq-ball   Stuff media: Covid-19 NZ - Judith Collins says level 4 should be all but ruled out, Government lacks mandate to lock people down  https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/300412630/covid19-nz-judith-collins-says-level-4-should-be-all-but-ruled-out-government-lacks-mandate-to-lock-people-down     National: No mention of Delta strain in Government plans  https://www.national.org.nz/no-mention-of-delta-strain-in-government-plans       National: Labour recklessly delayed vaccine shipments  https://www.national.org.nz/labour-recklessly-delayed-vaccine-shipments    RNZ: New level 2 rules a 'bitter pill to swallow' for South Island, Collins says  https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/political/450975/new-level-2-rules-a-bitter-pill-to-swallow-for-south-island-collins-says    National: Minister won’t say how much more taxpayers will be up for  https://www.national.org.nz/minister-wont-say-how-much-more-taxpayers-will-be-up-for

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Every morning, afternoon, and throughout the evening, from Monday to Sunday, National and their fellow-travellers from business and right-wing media  excoriated the government for the current outbreak. The relentless headlines – of which only a small sample is presented above – does not even  include radio, television interviews and social media propaganda.

Demands for a Trans Tasman bubble was a carefully laid trap from National.

If the bubble  was successful, Chris Bishop and National’s current (?) Leader, could loudly proclaim success and claim credit for loosening restrictions and ‘liberating’ New Zealanders from our isolation. It would be a valuable, vote-grabbing ‘coup’ to take to the 2023 general election.

“See? This is what a competent government looks like! This is what a National does! Vote for us!”

If the bubble failed, Chris Bishop and National’s current (?) Leader, could blast the government for incompetence and every other ‘misdemeanour’ imaginable.

“See? This is what an incompetent government looks like! This is what Labour does! Vote for us!”

Truly, it was a win/win, no-lose, cunning gambit.

The Government fell for the trap. Delta got loose. Country forced into lockdown. Delta all but impossible to contain.

Checkmate.

If there is a lesson for Labour, it is this: As Opposition, National can demand whatever it can dream up. But as Opposition, it has zero accountability for consequences when things go horribly wrong.

Never listen to National. They are the the party of responsibility, except when National has no responsibility.

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References

National Party: Open the Trans Tasman Bubble Now (archived)

Twitter: National Party – Sign the Trans Tasman bubble petition

Twitter: Judith Collins – Sign the Trans Tasman bubble petition

RNZ: Tourism New Zealand forecasting billion-dollar economy boost if trans-Tasman bubble opens

Stuff media: Crack open the border, mate – Waikato tourist towns’ plea for trans-Tasman bubble

Stuff media: Tourism disappointed over delay in trans-Tasman bubble date

Newshub: Coronavirus: – Pressure mounting on Government to open trans-Tasman bubble soon to save tourism businesses

RNZ: Business community wants quick decision on trans-Tasman bubble

Newshub: COVID-19 – Concerns some small tourist towns will be gone before trans-Tasman bubble opens

Stuff media: Government pushed to act on trans-Tasman travel bubble

Stuff media: Covid-19  Five big problems with the proposed trans-Tasman travel bubble

Fifo Capital:

Beehive.govt.nz: Trans-Tasman bubble to start 19 April

Newshub: Coronavirus – Expert’s blunt message to the Govt as it ponders level 2 for Auckland – ‘How brutal do you want to go?’

Stuff media: Trans-Tasman travel: Prepare to be stuck ‘for weeks’ if you travel under re-opened bubble, expert says

RNZ: NZ government suspends quarantine-free travel with Australia for at least eight weeks

RNZ:  Australian traveller who visited Wellington has Delta variant

Stuff media: Covid-19 – A timeline of the Delta outbreak

Ministry of Health: 39 community cases of COVID-19; two border cases; more than 63,000 vaccines doses administered yesterday

Voxy: ‘Short and sharp’ lockdown will be the longest ever – Judith Collins, Chris Bishop

National: Time has run out on Government’s incoherent Covid strategy

Newshub: Sparks fly in Parliament as Jacinda Ardern, Chris Hipkins deny pace of COVID-19 vaccine rollout meant inevitable lockdown

National: Government has choices and needs to make them now

National: New Zealand at Covid crossroads

National: What is the Government’s Covid strategy?

Newshub: Coronavirus – Judith Collins says ‘no point worrying’ about source of COVID-19 outbreak, Ardern should ‘deal with it’ or accept she can’t change it

National: No mention of Delta strain in Government plans

National: South Island should drop now to alert level 2

National: Labour has dropped the MIQ ball

Stuff media: Covid-19 NZ – Judith Collins says level 4 should be all but ruled out, Government lacks mandate to lock people down

National: Labour recklessly delayed vaccine shipments

RNZ: New level 2 rules a ‘bitter pill to swallow’ for South Island, Collins says

National: Minister won’t say how much more taxpayers will be up for

Additional

The Spinoff: New Zealand urgently needs a serious opposition leader

Al Jazeera: New Zealand grapples with Delta – and Tucker Carlson

Reference sources

MIQ: History and origins of MIQ

Covid19: History of the COVID-19 Alert System

MBIE: Managed isolation and quarantine data

RNZ: Timeline – The year of Covid-19 in New Zealand

Stuff media: Covid-19 – A timeline of the Delta outbreak

Other Blogs

The Knightly Views: Media lessons from a pandemic

The Standard: Smug hermit king

Previous related blogposts

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 4 – Caretaker Leader Collins, another rare mis-step

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 15 (@L3)

The Microbiologist, the Caretaker Leader, and some Nasty Germs

One thousand dead New Zealanders per year?

The Virus, the Media, and John Key

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Acknowledgement: Rod Emmerson (15-21 March 2021)

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Liked what you read? Feel free to share.

Have your own thoughts? Leave a comment. (Trolls need not bother.)

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Labour: the Economic Record 2000 – 2008

16 November 2011 49 comments

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There has been considerable commentary made by Labour’s critics and political opponents that Labour was an incompetant economic manager, during their nine year term in office. The reality, though, is somewhat different. There are many things that Labour did well and some not-so-well.

But the records speaks for itself.

The following is data, in the form of easily understandable graphs, from Trading Economics, an American website. They collect data from the IMF, World Bank, Statistics NZ,  the Reserve Bank of NZ, etc,  (the usual motley crew of subversive, left wing organisations) to compile their finished presentations.

Each category will be presented via two graphs. Eg,

“New Zealand GDP Growth Rate”

Graph 1: 2000 – 2011

Graph 2: 1990 – 2011

National was in power from 1990 to the end of 1999.

Labour governed from the beginning of 2000 to the end of 2008.

National took office After November 2008.

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New Zealand Population 1960 - 2011

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New Zealand Unemployment Rate

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New Zealand Unemployment Rate 2000 - 2011

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New Zealand Unemployment Rate 1990 - 2011

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Long-term unemployment (% of total unemployment) in New Zealand

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Some politicians use long-term unemployed as an election weapon, to win electoral support. However, despite their mis-use of the facts and figures, long-term unemployment was dropping in the last ten years. Not that certain politicians would admit it, though.

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Long Term Unemployment (% of Total Unemployment) in NZ 2000 - 2008

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Note how long-term unemployment rose in the late 1980s and spiked in the early to mid 1990s. Can we remember what happened to New Zealand in that time? The terms “Rogernomics” and “Ruthanasia” might jog our memories.

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Long Term Unemployment (% of Total Unemployment) in NZ 1990 - 2008

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New Zealand Employment

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New Zealand Employment 2000 - 2010

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New Zealand Employment 1990 - 2010

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New Zealand Government Debt To GDP

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Despite claims that Labour “spent up large” during their nine year term, the truth is completely different.  As the IMF data shows with crystal clarity, Labour paid down debt. It was not until National came to office that debt levels took of again.

It could be said, with considerable truth, that Finance Minister Michael Cullen ran the government accounts with a fiscal discipline that would make Scrooge sit up and take notice.

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New Zealand Government Debt To GDP 2000 - 2011

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The IMF data shows fairly well why Labour had such massive debt kevels to pay down. It was an inheritance from the previous Bolger-led National Government of the 1990s. (Though National were addressing that debt, the reduction slowed from 1997 onward.)

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New Zealand Government Debt To GDP 1990 - 2011

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New Zealand GDP

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One of the many “charges” made by neo-liberals against the Labour Party is that centre-left governments are poor stewards of the economy and are anti-business. Yet, the World Bank data below shows quite dramatically how well New Zealand’s economy fared in the 2000s. Our growth was such that a common complaint from business was a lack of skilled, experienced staff.

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New Zealand GDP 2000 - 2010

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The early 1990s were marked by “Ruthanasia” – a continuance of Roger Douglas’s extremist neo-liberal, free market policies. All socio-economic indicators worsened during Ruth Richardson’s tenure as Minister of Finance. The World Bank data below shows how New Zealand’s economy was practically crippled under the tender mercies of the New Right.

It was not till 2003, under Labour’s governance, that the economy began to grow.

As an aside, there were took tax cuts during the 1990s. Result: minimal benefit for the economy.

Labour increased taxes for top income earners in the early 2000s. Except for a short-term ‘dip’, the tax rise doesn’t seem to have impacted on the economy.

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New Zealand GDP 1990 - 2010

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New Zealand GDP per capita

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New Zealand GDP per capita 2000 - 2009

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New Zealand GDP per capita 1990 - 2009

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New Zealand Interest Rates

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New Zealand Interest Rates 2000 - 2011

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New Zealand Interest Rates 1990 - 2011

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New Zealand Inflation Rates

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New Zealand Inflation Rate 2000 - 2011

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New Zealand Inflation Rate 1990 - 2011

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New Zealand Current Account

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This is the bit which shows how much we sell overseas (export), compared to what we buy (import). Exports can be wool, timber,  fish, dairy products, company profits, etc. Imports can be fuel, consumer products, vehicles, raw materials, heavy machinary, etc. The shaded gray should be above the ‘O’ line, instead of below it.

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NZ Current Account 2000 - 2011

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NZ Current Account 1990 - 2011

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New Zealand Government Budget

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This graph is an interesting bit. When John Key and Bill English refer to the previous Labour government expanding State expenditure, this is what they are referring to. And they are correct – but only half correct. As per usual, they are telling you only half the truth – and leaving out the  next, important bit.

Look at the next graph below, 1990 – 2000.

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New Zealand Government Budget 2000 - 2011

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In the graph below, it is clear that the National government from the early to mid 1990s (commonly referred to as “Ruthanasia”) and in the late 1990s, consistantly cut back on expenditure. Some of you may recall horror stories of those times; ex psych patients living rough, in toilets, with no State-community support; market housing rentals; and hospital waiting lists far longer than anything we have today.

On 3 April 1998, Southland dairy farmer Colin Morrison (42) died on a waiting list, awaiting a triple heart bypass surgery. In death, Mr Morrison symbolised everything that was terribly wrong with the health system in the late 1990s.  Public anger mounted as an unpopular government seemed unable to respond to concerns that our public services were being run down in the name of “efficiency”.

Little wonder that there was a 11.55% swing toward Labour in the 1999 General election – the electorate had had a gutsful of neoliberal policies resulting in growing inequality and social problems that seemingly went unheeded.  Contrasts

That is the reason why Labour spent so much during it’s term: to make up for the lack of social spending in the 1990s, and to meet growing public clamour for social services to be better resourced.

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New Zealand Government Budget 1990 - 2011

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Cash surplus/deficit (% of GDP) in New Zealand

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Contrary to the fantasies of some history-revisionists, trying to paint the previous Labour Government as “bankrupting the country”, Cullen actually posted some fairly respectable surpluses.

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Cash surplus-deficit (percent of GDP) in New Zealand

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New Zealand Sovereign Credit Ratings

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The following data-sheet shows New Zealand’s credit downgrades from 1977, when Rob Muldoon was Prime Minister, to the present.

Note that three credit downgrades happened duting three National governments; 1991, 1998, and this year. And if you include the Rogernomics period – that makes FOUR neo-liberal governments that were downgraded.

Do credit ratings agencies  seem “risk averse” to new right governments? Do they prefer centre-left governments?

First, look at 10 September 1998 (National government) – AA+ (negative outlook)

But when Labour came to power – 7 March 2001 – AA+ (stable outlook)

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Source

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New Zealand Prison Population trend since 1980

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The prison sentenced population demonstrates continuous and steady growth since 1986. The seasonal pattern of reduced numbers toward the end of each year is well established, and reflects the influence of the prisoner Christmas release policy 1 , as well as cycles of activity involving Police and the Courts. Notable is the sharp upturn in numbers which commenced in mid-2003, continuing through to June 2007.

Source

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A closer look at the period 1962 to 1996. Note the huge ‘spike’ in the prison population from 1986 onwards. Except for occassional dips, the prison population has continued to rise steadily since the mid-1980s.

It cannot be a coincidence that New Zealand’s entire socio-economic fabric was unravelled and “reformed” in a process commonly referred to as “Rogernomics”. The process of “economic reform” continued  into the 1990s, referred to as “Ruthanasia”, up until 1996.

The prison population, though, continued to rise.

The ongoing effects of “Rogernomics/Ruthansia” are ongoing to the present day.

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Total prison population 1962 to 1996

Source

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[This page still under construction – more data to follow. Keep checking back for more info.]

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That was Then, this is Now #5

25 August 2011 1 comment

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Previous Blog post

That was Then, this is Now #4

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