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Posts Tagged ‘Labour-Green-NZ First Coalition’

Simon Bridges – out of touch with Kiwi Battlers

2 March 2019 2 comments

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As property investors/speculators; assorted financiers; and their  political-wing, the National Party,  ramp up their opposition to a capital gains tax to a stridency approaching hysteria, current party leader, Simon Bridges, has used the mainstream media to push his highly propagandised (and highly emotive and misleading) messages;

“What the Kiwi way of life is is a recognition that New Zealanders aspire, they understand that people who work hard, who save, who invest, who take risks deserve the fruits of their labour and there is nothing fair about a capital gains tax that fundamentally gets in the way of that.”

He makes it sound as if property investment in New Zealand is akin to carving out and building a railway through the Himalayas.

On social media, Mr Bridges has used blitzed Twitter and Facebook with isolated examples of supposedly “contradictory cases” where CGT might or might not apply and has even taken to mis-representing aspects of how such a tax might apply (though he was quickly called out by other social media users).

Anyone would think that the Four Harleyriders Of The Apocalypse are bearing down upon us.

But Bridges miscalculated badly when one particular message posted on Twitter caught the eye of several users;

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New Zealanders aspire & want to get ahead for themselves & their families. How is it right that an $8m home in Auckland won’t face a CGT but a couple scrimping and saving for a bach or crib for their family will get slammed with the top tax rate? That’s not the Kiwi way.

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The kiwi way“?!

Homeless people living in garages and vans; families crammed into over-crowded houses; and even the home-seeking kids of the middle-class who cannot afford their own first homes would hardly be “The Kiwi Way“.

They would hardly be sympathetic to property owners lamenting having to “scrimp and save for a bach or crib“. Not many tears would be shed over “a bach or crib“.

Especially when many, if not most, if these “baches” and “cribs” are now substantial constructions and no longer the rustic cottages we once knew as kids.

As several Twitter-users pointed out;

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“Because a primary home is a necessity; a beach house is a luxuary.”

Babes if you don’t understand how CGT works maybe don’t get into it. And your mate’s kids might be “scrimping and saving” for a Bach but most of nz are just struggling to get a house deposit together thanks to the mess which is the property market xox

If you are scrimping perhaps a holiday home should not be a priority?

I don’t know anyone scrimping and saving for a batch. Just to get by each week yes. You are so out of touch bro.”

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There were other criticisms made, with many pointing out to Mr Bridges that a capital gains tax would apply only to any profit made at the end of selling a bach/crib – not saving for it;

“It’s not profit unless you realise it by selling the asset, you mean”

But it speaks loudly that Mr Bridges is openly appealing to the propertied middle class – those who already hold assets.

He does not appear to be even remotely concerned at the homeless nor frustrated young home-seekers who have been forced out of the property market, and destined to forever rent. National could not even admit that a home ownership problem existed.

To do so would have been a tacit admission of failure.

The term “Generation Renters” exists for good reason, as economist Shamubeel Eaqub explained in 2015 (when National was strenuously  rejecting any suggestion of a housing crisis);

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Economist Shamubeel Eaqub calls the Auckland housing story “madness” – and his upcoming book Generation Rent captures the rising sense of hopelessness among young New Zealanders locked out of the home ownership dream.

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The number of households who own or part own their home has decreased by 75,000 since 2007, despite the total number of households increasing by 155,000 in the same period. The number of households renting has increased by 117,000 during that time.

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The facts, however, speak more clearly and truthfully than any rhetoric from the current leader of the National Party, desperate to shore up his waning support and struggling to remain relevent.  If Mr Bridges loses the CGT debate it will be another nail in his political coffin.

The data, however, is hard to dismiss:

In 1991 Home ownership had reached a peak of 73.8%.

By 2013, home ownership had fallen to 64.8%.

Last year’s census results are not yet available according to Statistics NZ, but they are hardly likely to show any improvement.

The numbers show the dire state of our plummetting home ownership rates. If Mr Bridges was truly concerned for the “ordinary Kiwi battler”, he would be focused on those locked out of owning their own home instead of those already owning property and ‘aspiring’ to buy holiday homes on top of their bricks-and-mortar assets.

Instead, Mr Bridges’ comments about “a couple scrimping and saving for a bach or crib” indicates how utterly divorced he and his National Party fellow MPs are from mainstream, non-propertied New Zealand. The fact that most of them own investment properties should not be lost on us. They epitomise privilege.

National was certainly not reluctant to raise GST, prescription charges, family court fees, and a whole raft of other charges in 2010. Where was Mr Bridges then, championing those who “scrimp and save”, only to be hit by increased GST, medicine costs, and government charges?!

Mr Bridges and his privileged colleagues appear clearly wedded to protecting the interests of those for whom property investments has created mostly tax-free wealth. If ever there was a party for entrenched privilege, it is National.

It is also clear that those wanting to “get onto the first rung of the property ladder” need look elsewhere than the National Party. “Aspirational” for  the homeless and first home-owners means something completely different to National.

When a party leader unashamedly declares that he backs existing owners of property; wanting more property; without paying their fair share of tax on unearned gain on property – then those without property should look elsewhere.

The real question is not whether Mr Bridges and National are on the side of the property-owners or home-seekers. That question has well and truly been answered by Mr Bridges’ revealing ‘tweet’ above.

No, the real question now is, which side does NZ First want to be on?

What will be Winston Peters’ legacy? Aspirational home seekers or paper-wealthy property owners looking to increase their assets?

I know which one I’d want to be remembered for.

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Note: This blog author is currently away from his main computer, so reference-links may not be as comprehensive as they normally are.

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References

Radio NZ: Capital gains proposal – ‘What we’ve got here is a tax on a tax’ – Simon Bridges

Twitter: Simon Bridges – oriental bay, ohariu, gorse – 25.2.2019

Twitter: Simon Bridges – auckland home, auckland home office, exempt – 25.2.2019

Twitter: Simon Bridges – couples, scrimping, saving, baches, CGT – 22.2.2019

Radio NZ: Housing ‘challenge’ still not a ‘crisis’

Fairfax/Stuff media: House price rises creating a generation of renters

Statistics NZ: Owner-Occupied Households

Statistics NZ: 2013 Census QuickStats about national highlight

Other Blogs

The Daily Blog: ’The laughable myth of the ‘Kiwi way of life’

The Standard: Spare a thought for our poor impoverished landlords

Previous related blogposts

A Capital Gains Tax?  (14 July 2011)

ACT intending a “serious assault”?  (17 July 2011)

National spins BS to undermine Labour’s Capital Gains Tax (31 May 2014)

A Claytons Capital Gains Tax? (13 September 2014)

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Capital gains tax labour NZ Politics Daily - Bryce Edwards Otago University liberation blog - www.liberation.org.nz

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 February 2019.

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The housing crisis: NZers deliver their verdict

21 September 2018 1 comment

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New Zealanders appear to have rejected National’s on-going carping at the Coalition government’s ‘Kiwibuild’ programme.

In a recent Ipsos Survey, 50% of respondants chose housing as the country’s most pressing problem facing New Zealand. (A similar question put to Australians yielded less than half – 24% – as being concerned about housing.)

A further 63% chose other social problems (healthcare 31%,  poverty 32%).

An Ipsos media release pointed out that New Zealanders generally trusted Labour to be better equipped to handle critical social problems;

Labour is also viewed as the political party that is most capable of managing five of the top six issues facing New Zealand today, especially the issue of healthcare – at 41%, Labour’s ability to manage the issue of healthcare is 19 points ahead of National (22%).

Labour is also positioned 26 points ahead of National with regards to managing poverty-related issues in New Zealand (43% believing Labour to be better than National, at 17%)…

Managing Director of Ipsos NZ, Carin Hercock, pointed out:

“The fact that housing is rated as the most important issue by 59% of New Zealanders who have an Income over $100,000, the highest importance rating across all income levels, demonstrates that housing is not just an issue for the poor. Addressing social issues has become more important to New Zealanders over the last 6 months, while the importance of factors such as the economy, unemployment, taxation and household debt have all reduced.”

Only 9% picked “the economy” as a trouble-spot. This appears in stark contrast to successive business confidence surveys which puts a more negative spin on the economy.

Some, like former Reserve Bank economist, Rodney Dickens, expressed skepticism about business confidence surveys. He “believes the survey has a major political bias. Basically business leaders are likely National Party supporters and this view biases them against the new Government more than any actual concrete business risk“.

Research Manager for Ipsos NZ, Dr Richard Griffiths, under-scored Ms Hercock’s assessment;

“We know from media coverage that many New Zealanders are facing challenges relating to the housing market. Other issues such as poverty and healthcare have also been widely reported which is likely to increase New Zealanders’ awareness of these problems.”

Dr Griffiths made the insightful observation that social problems eventually touched more and more people and/or their families;

“As these problems continue to escalate, the likelihood of our respondents being personally affected by these issues will also have been growing.”

Meanwhile,  National’s Simon Bridges has dismissed the Coalition’s Kiwibuild programme;

“[It’s] private developers doing stuff, they stop, Phil [Twyford] comes in, he pays them more with taxpayers’ subsidised money and then he sticks a stamp on it.

“That is a KiwiHoax.”

The previous National government – of which Mr Bridges was a senior cabinet minister – oversaw a massive sell-off of Housing NZ houses.

In 2008, Housing NZ’s state housing stock comprised of  69,000 rental properties.

By 2016, that number had fallen to 61,600 (with a further 2,700 leased) – a reduction of 7,400 properties.

Even former Prime Minister, John Key’s, one-time state house that he grew up in, was not to be spared privatisation;

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No one could accuse National of being “overly sentimental” on such matters.

As state houses were sold to private owners, the surge in homelessness was predictable, forcing National to put homeless people – including entire families – in motels. National spent $8.8 million in just three months on motel accomodation for homeless – $100,000 per night.

Even senior/retiring “baby boomers” were feeling the effects of growing homelessness in New Zealand;

Barry Mills, chairman of supported living facility Abbeyfield Nelson, said they had to turn away two men, who looked to be in their 60s, in the last year.

He said in both cases they were single men from out of town, living out of their car with no place to call home.

“We couldn’t do anything for them because we didn’t have any rooms vacant.

“Even if we did have a vacancy, we probably still couldn’t take them because we have a process to go through and a waiting list.”

He said Abbeyfield in Stoke had 12 rooms and the one in Nelson 11, which were both full, with about 16 people on a waiting list ready to move in.

By February this year, a report authored by economist Shamubeel Eaqub;, University of Otago Professor of Public Health, Philippa Howden-Chapman,  and the Salvation Army’s Alan Johnson revealed that homeless was far worse in New Zealand than had previously been revealed.

The report referred to “a burgeoning “floating population” – people without safe and secure housing, including in temporary housing, sharing with another household, or living in uninhabitable places“.

National’s response had been to invest in the motel market;

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The number of motel rooms purchased by National was a fraction of the 7,400 properties sold off from Housing NZ’s stock. It was a drop in the tsunami of homelessness sweeping the country.

Meanwhile, National’s current spokesperson on Housing and Urban DevelopmentJudith Collins – has lately been ‘busy’ on social media, disparaging the Coalition government’s ‘Kiwibuild’ programme;

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Two ‘tweets’ in particular appear to have constituted spectacular own-goals from Ms Collin,

On 13 September;

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The article Ms Collins reposted in her ‘tweet’ referenced a Labour government led by the late Norman Kirk. It had been in power less than a year, following twelve years of National government.

The pattern is similar; a housing crisis after success National governments, followed by voters rejecting the lack of focus on social problems and electing Labour to clean up the mess. Judith Collins inadvertently reminded her followers of this fact.

But her next ‘tweet’ was not only an own-goal but a candid – if subconscious – admission how National views homelessness;

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Her comment – “4. Are there alternatives to houses? Yes: cars, Motels, camping grounds, tents. Which would you choose?” – left some of her followers stunned and scrambling for a credible explanation. “Sarcasm” appeared to be their preferred excuse for the incredibly callous comment.

The Ipsos poll reflects the understanding of most New Zealanders that a fair, egalitarian, socially-inclusive country is not readily possible under a National government. That task is best undertaken by a left-leaning government.

For National, under-funding and cutting corners in core social services and privatisation is their number one priority.

Only when the consequences of their policies becomes to much for New Zealanders to stomach do they rebel at the ballot box and change tack by changing government.

Judith Collins’ ‘tweets’ and other public statements by her and other National MPs will ensure they remain in Opposition in 2020. They are not good stewards of our social services.

I doubt they even fully understand what our social services are for. Or the consequences of neglecting them.

But New Zealanders certainly do.

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References

Scoop media: New Zealanders’ concerns about housing issues grow

Fairfax media: Fact check – Business confidence surveys have little to do with actual economy

Radiolive: KiwiBuild a ‘hoax’ – National leader Simon Bridges

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2008/09

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2015/16

Mediaworks/Newshub: Homelessness on the rise in New Zealand

Fairfax media: Older people forced to sleep in car as housing crisis bites video

NZ Herald:  Prime Minister John Key’s childhood state house up for sale as Government offers 2500 properties to NGOs

NZ Herald: Homeless crisis – 80 per cent to 90 per cent of homeless people turned away from emergency housing

NZ Herald:   Govt to buy more motels to house homeless as its role in emergency housing grows

Parliament: Judith Collins

The Standard: Which National MP leaked Bridges’ expense details?

Twitter: Judith Collins 12 Sept 2018 2.25pm

Twitter: Judith Collins 12 Sept 2018 2.24pm

Twitter: Judith Collins 9 Sept 2018 6.19pm

Twitter: Judith Collins 13 Sept 2018 3.34pm

Twitter: Judith Collins 13 Sept 2018 11.34am

Twitter: Judith Collins 13 Sept 2018 8:13 AM

Wikipedia: Elections in New Zealand

Twitter: Judith Collins 8 Sep 2018 11.37 AM

Previous related blogposts

National’s blatant lies on Housing NZ dividends – The truth uncovered!

National continues to panic on housing crisis as election day looms

National’s housing spokesperson Michael Woodhouse – delusional or outright fibber?

The Mendacities of Ms Amy Adams – 2,000 more state houses?!

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 16 September 2018.

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Judith Collins wins a Hypocrisy Award

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On 8 June, Coalition government minister, Phil Twyford announced the formation of a new Ministry of Housing and Urban Development. In a media statement, Minister Twyford said;

Addressing the national housing crisis is one of the biggest challenges our Government faces. The new Ministry will provide the focus and capability in the public service to deliver our reform agenda,” Phil Twyford said.

Too many New Zealanders are hurting because of their housing situation. Many are locked out of the Kiwi dream of home ownership. Others are homeless or suffering the health effects of poor-quality housing.

The new Ministry will be the Government’s lead advisor on housing and urban development. It will provide across-the-board advice on housing issues, including responding to homelessness, ensuring affordable, warm, safe and dry rental housing in the private and public market, and the appropriate support for first home buyers.

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The Ministry will be set up by moving functions across from existing agencies, and look at utilising funding from their existing operational budgets.”

The new Ministry would have a small budget of $8 million and employ around two hundred people from existing agencies;

  • From the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment: the housing and urban policy functions, the KiwiBuild Unit and the Community
  • Housing Regulatory Authority.
  • From the Ministry of Social Development: policy for emergency, transitional and public housing.
  • From the Treasury: monitoring of Housing New Zealand (HNZ) and Tāmaki Redevelopment Company

Unfortunately, it does not appear that the new Ministry will be a re-creation of the former Ministry of Works and Development. The now-defunct MoWD was a hands-on government body that actually built much of the infrastructure that New Zealanders now take for granted, and which small government neo-liberalists conveniently ignore.

Amongst it’s many projects were;

– Waitaki Dam (Completed 1935)
– Roxburgh Dam
– Tekapo A (Completed 1951)
– Benmore Power Station (1965)
– Aviemore Dam (1968)
– Tekapo B
– Ohau A, B and C.
– Lake Ruataniwha
– Clyde Dam (Completed 1989)
– Tongariro Power Scheme (Completed between 1964 and 1983)
– Raurimu Spiral (1898)
– North Island Main Trunk Railway (Completed 1908)
– Otira Tunnel (Completed 1923)
– East Coast Main Trunk Railway (Completed 1928)
– Westfield deviation (Completed 1929)
– Auckland railway station (1930)
– Stratford–Okahukura Line (Completed 1932)
– Tawa Flat deviation (Completed 1935)
– Kaimai Railway Tunnel (Completed 1978)

By contrast, free enterprise – often touted as more efficient that state-owned enterprises – finds it difficult to build water-tight houses; keep up with housing demand; or even build a hotel.

The Ministry of Works and Development was split up into a consultancy group  (Works Consultancy Services) and civil construction (Works Civil Construction) and  privatised in November 1996 by the National government at the time.

National – which denied the existence of a housing crisis until it was forced to earlier this year – responded to Minister Twyford’s announcement with a jaw-dropping, eyebrow-raising statement of  naked hypocrisy.

National’s Housing and Urban Development spokeswoman and unofficial Chinese dairy liaison,  Judith Collins, lambasted the new Ministry as “really it’s a bit of a dud“. Ms Collins added;

“We’ve got a minister who’s desperate to look like he’s doing something. A new logo, and a new ministry is not going to build one more new house.”

Which is ironic, to say the least.

In July 2012, the then-National government  merged  the Department of Building and Housing, the Department of Labour, the Ministry of Economic Development, and the Ministry of Science and Innovation into one super-ministry – Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MoBIE).

According to Budget 2013, the cost of Establishment of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment was $119,993,000 – or $111,993,000 more than Minister Twyford’s $8 million Ministry of Housing and Urban Development.

When it comes to establishing new Ministeries, National goes for the deluxe, no-expense spared model.

This included a few optional extras;

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Despite throwing  $119,993,000 of taxpayers’ money at the new “super ministry”, a December 2014 report by the State Services Commission was damning of it’s inefficiencies and poor performance.  Jamie Tahana from Radio NZ summed up the report;

But quietly published on the State Services Commission website last Tuesday, was a 65-page report completed in February that said the ministry had significant and external problems.

Out of 32 areas of review, the report highlighted 22 that needed development, and five that were weak.

Only five areas were considered well placed for future performance, and none achieved the top rating of strong.

MBIE rated weak on leadership and governance; workforce development; improving efficiency and effectiveness, and financial and risk management.

Aspects that needed development ranged from leading economic growth – the core reason MBIE was established – to engagement with ministers.

This was the same MoBie that – according to the SSC report – was tasked with;

… tackling housing affordability and social housing reform, including through the Housing Accords and special Housing Areas, particularly in Auckland.

Even while the National government at the time stubbornly refusing to acknowledge the gravity of the housing housing confronting the country, the SSC report was matter-of-factly pointing it out to anyone who cared to read the document;

It is estimated that 20,000 to 23,000 new houses are required across the country over the next five years to keep pace with demographic changes. The current level of new housing construction is 17,000 per year.

As far back as 2014, the State Services Commission was ringing alarm bells.

Unsurprisingly, it pointed out  that “the housing and construction sector is the lowest productivity sector in New Zealand, while also being a major determinant of growth in the economy”.

$119,993,000 spent on a new super-ministry that was failing to meet the challenges of a shortage of housing – and Judith Collins has the colossal cheek to complain of an eight million dollar investment in a new Ministry of Housing and Urban Development?

Playing politics with social issues is nothing new. National has perfected the art with it’s “tough on crime” rhetoric. It has also demonised solo-mothers; the unemployed; young people, and Housing NZ tenants with it’s meth-testing/contamination moral-panic.

Now National has added housing to it’s list.

It is clear that Ms Collins’ fear is not that the new Ministry will fail. She is frightened it will succeed.

Playing politics with poverty-stricken homeless families and middle class young New Zealanders unable to afford their own homes is gutter-level politics. It reminds us yet again of the depths to which some politicians will go to claw victory as the expense of others.

For outstanding hypocrisy in criticising an eight million dollar new Ministry devoted to solving our housing crisis, whilst National did only the absolute minimum for nine years, including squandering $119,993,000 on a super-ministry that hoovered up cash even as Kiwi families lived and slept in cars, Ms Judith Collins is awarded the Paula Bennett Certificate of Hypocrisy.

Enjoy.

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References

Radio NZ: Stand-alone ministry will help fix housing crisis – Twyford

Beehive: New Housing and Urban Development Ministry

Wikipedia: Ministry of Works and Development

Fairfax media: Housing ministry to advise on house prices and homelessness will be ‘frugal’

Wikipedia: Ministry of Works and Development – Major projects

NZ Herald: Repaired leaky homes worth 1/4 less

Newsroom: Why Auckland can’t build enough houses

Treasury: Income from State Asset Sales as at May 2014

Radio NZ: New National leader says there is a housing crisis in NZ

NZ Herald: National gets $50k donation from Oravida founder

NZ Herald: New Ministry of Housing and Urban Development a ‘dud’, says National

Beehive: MBIE to proceed from 1 July

Treasury NZ: Budget 2013 (p78)

Fairfax media: MBIE admits stone sign cost $24,000 more than it originally claimed

Fairfax media: Ministry spends $140,000 on screen, installs hair straightener

State Services Commission: Review of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE)

Radio NZ: Super-ministry problems ‘inevitable’

NZ Herald: National, Act to get tough on violent crime

Fairfax media: Bill English describes some Kiwis looking for work as ‘pretty damned hopeless’

Additional

TVNZ: Opinion – Government’s handling of housing crisis lurches from chaotic to shambolic

Werewolf: The Myth of Steven Joyce

Other Blogposts

The Standard: Key finally admits there is a housing crisis but says it is all Labour’s fault

Previous related blogposts

National recycles Housing Policy and produces good manure!

Our growing housing problem

National Housing propaganda – McGehan Close Revisited

Housing; broken promises, families in cars, and ideological idiocy (Part Tahi)

Another ‘Claytons’ Solution to our Housing Problem? When will NZers ever learn?

Government Minister sees history repeat – responsible for death

Housing Minister Paula Bennett continues National’s spin on rundown State Houses

National’s blatant lies on Housing NZ dividends – The truth uncovered!

The “free” market can’t even build a bloody hotel?!

National’s housing spokesperson Michael Woodhouse – delusional or outright fibber?

The Mendacities of Ms Amy Adams – 2,000 more state houses?!

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 12 June 2018.

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The Mendacities of Ms Amy Adams – “hidden borrowing”?!

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National is at it again;  indulging in rank hypocrisy by criticising the Labour-NZ First- Green Coalition Government of policies that they themselves carried out.

This time, the National Party’s finance spokesperson, Amy Adams, has accused the Coalition Government of “hiding away debt” in SOEs. Speaking to Mediawork’s Newshub, she protested;

“…If you actually look at where Grant Robertson has hidden another six billion dollars of borrowing in Crown entities, total borrowing has actually gone up almost $17 billion. And if you look at it in that way, it’s going to take up our debt-to-GDP ratio to above the 20% target in 2022. So I think he’s being very tricky in fudging the numbers and hiding $6 billion more debt in that Crown entity space.”

Ms Adams has apparently “forgotten” that the previous National government did precisely what she is now alleging that the Coalition is doing.

By  2009, the Global Financial Crisis began to heavily impact on the National Government’s tax revenue. Except for GST, company, individual, duties, and other revenue were down;

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Despite the fall in taxation and other revenue, National proceeded  with it’s first tranche of tax cuts in April 2009. According to then-Finance Minister, Bill English, the 2009 tax cut represented a $1 billion loss of revenue to the National government;

“About 1.5 million workers will receive a personal tax cut, injecting an extra $1 billion into the economy in the coming year.”

This presented a serious problem for National, as it was borrowing $450 million per week, by December 2009, according to BNZ Capital economist, Craig Ebert.

This left National in dire straits. Government revenue was collapsing; borrowing was ballooning – and worse was to come. National had tax cuts planned for the following year. They would be estimated to cost government at least $2 billion in lost revenue.

National’s Cabinet came up with a novel ‘solution’: State-owned enterprises would be treated as ‘cash cows’. Each SOE would be instructed to borrow to their maximum limit and “… release all surplus capital to the shareholder as special dividends“.

In May 2009, then-SOE Minister, Simon Power, issued this letter to all relevant state owned enterprises. Note the red-highlighted portions;

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(Please note that the above version differs slights from the text provided in the NZ Herald version. Some of the redactions above re-appear in the NZ Herald version.)

By November 2011, a Treasuring scoping-study revealed that Solid Energy was experiencing severe financial problems. National’s Ministers were officially advised of Solid Energy’s precarious financial state, but this would not become public knowledge until two years later, in February 2013.

By August 2015, Solid Energy was placed into voluntary administration. By March this year, the liquidation process was near to completion.

Interestingly, the Herald story announcing the final stages stages of liquidation stated only;

Solid Energy first started its downward spiral in 2013 when global coal costs plummeted, exposing its commercial error in carrying substantial debt on its balance sheet.

There was no mentioned of the tens of millions of dollars expropriated by the National government after it’s letter-of-demand from Simon Power in 2009.

Neither was there a mention of the debt levels forced upon Solid Energy;

Solid Energy’s gearing ratio [borrowings] was 13.8 per cent in 2009, but that rose to 34.4 per cent in 2010 and 41.7 per cent last year [2012].

In fact, Solid Energy was bankrupted not only because of it’s high debt levels (four times higher than in 2008/09), but because National demanded 65% of cash reserves to be paid to the government as “special dividends”, as the CCMAU document below shows;

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Solid Energy had meagre cash reserves remaining when the international price of coal fell, reducing it’s income.

Neither did it help when  National abruptly reneged on it’s subsidy to Solid Energy to  generate bio-fuels. National implemented it’s subsidy in 2008 – and scrapped it in 2012.

That decision left Solid Energy with a bio-fuels subsidiary (Biodiesel New Zealand) that was suddenly uneconomical to produce.

Adding insult to injury, and perhaps one of former Dear Leader  John Key’s worst case of misdirected blame-gaming, he lamented the collapse of Solid Energy;

“The causes of the financial crisis at Solid Energy are the usual suspects in failing businesses – too much debt, unsuccessful investments and no reserves to weather a slump in coal prices.

Prime Minister John Key’s comments yesterday indicated these problems and pointed the finger at an imprudent amount of debt and investments that have not returned any cash yet.

Key said the debt had climbed to $389 million when “typically coal companies do not have a lot of debt on their balance sheets”.

Through incompetence;  election year tax bribes that sent sovereign debt soaring and government deficits ballooning; SOE management that failed to assert independence from Ministerial interference; a willingness to strip SOEs of their cash; and demanding that they ramp up their “gearing” (borrowing/indebtedness) – like a fiscal vampire, National sucked Solid Energy dry.

So that combined with the removal of biofuels subsidies and a collapse in international coal prices, the final ‘leg’ of the three-legged stool – unsustainable debt and depleted cash reserves – was enough to send Solid Energy spiralling down into bankruptcy.

It is against this backdrop of “hidden borrowing” by National, that undermined and destroyed one SOE, that Ms Adams is now accusing the Coalition government of the same thing.

National has a distinctly predictable habit of blaming it’s political opponents for behaviour that it itself is guilty off.

Accordingly, Ms Adams wins this dubious “merit award”…

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Postscript: Amy Adams was elected into Parliament on 8 November 2008. She therefore shares collective responsibility for the  demise of Solid Energy, along with her colleagues, Bill English, John Key, Tony Ryall, and Simon Power.

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References

Mediaworks/Newshub: Govt not honest about debt in new Budget – Amy Adams

IRD: Revenue collected 2008 to 2017

Scoop media: Rankin -Tax Cuts 2009-2011

Scoop media: Government delivers April 1 tax cuts, SME changes

Otago Daily Times: Government now borrowing $450 million a week – claim

NBR: Key again defends tax cuts

Scoop media: Govt’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting

NZ Herald: Simon Power letter to SOEs, May 2009

Treasury NZ:  Treasury Report T2011/2373: Solid Energy New Zealand Scoping Study Report

Fairfax media: Solid Energy in debt crisis talks

Fairfax media: Solid Energy announces voluntary administration ahead of sale

NZ Herald: Solid Energy enters final stages of liquidation process

Fairfax media: Ministers pressured Solid Energy, Parliament told

Treasury: Solid Energy Information Release March 2013 (Document 1875419)

Fairfax media: Biodiesel loses subsidy, prices to rise

NZ Herald: Solid Energy half year profit down as coal export price falls

Fairfax media: State miner to return to coalface

Additional

Other Blogs

The Standard: The real reason Solid Energy is failing

The Standard: Has John Key jumped the shark?

Previous related blogposts

Solid Energy – A solid drama of facts, fibs, and fall-guys

Solid Energy and LandCorp – debt and doom, courtesy of a “fiscally responsible” National Govt

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 21 May 2018.

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Simon burns his Teal Coalition Bridges

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Act I – Post-election, Dealing the Cards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not much, it would seem.

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

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

And;

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

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

And;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Act III – National plays the Green Card

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not so for this coalition government.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Act IV – Blue card trumps Green for Bridges?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[…]

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

Bridges attacked Auckland Mayor Phil Goff;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the environment be damned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Epilogue – Whatever the game, Physics Wins. Always.

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

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

[…]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The temperature for January normally averages 17.1°.

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

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

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

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

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

National is part of the problem.

The Joker in the pack

From April 2014;

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

 

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

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References

Radio NZ: NZ First to meet National and Labour today

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

Fairfax media:  The day after the election

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

Newsroom: National single-minded about its only option

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

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

NZ Herald: Grassroots petition calls for National-Green coalition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

National Party: 2017 Environment Policy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

National Party: Gas and petroleum decision is economic vandalism

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

NZ Herald: John Key willing to work with Phil Goff

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

Beehive.govt.nz: Regional fuel taxes replaced

Twitter: National – Sign our Petition

Ministry for the Environment: The Paris Agreement

Radio NZ: Farmers’ ETS exemption progresses

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

NIWA: Baring Head greenhouse gases

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

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

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

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

Additional

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

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

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

Other Blogs

The Standard: How a National/Green coalition could work

Previous related blogposts

As predicted: National abandons climate-change responsibilities

ETS – National continues to fart around

National’s moving goalposts on climate change targets

 

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

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Media bullsh*t vs the Bovine variety

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A case in point where the media can misrepresent what an elected representative  has stated occurred immediately after Corin Dann interviewed Environment Minister, David Parker, on 6 May, on TVNZ’s Q+A;

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David Parker and Corin Dann on TVNZ’s Q+A, 6 May 2018

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The interview itself was professional, with Dann asking pertinent questions and drilling down into Minister Parker’s stated objective to reduce agricultural pollution of our waterways.

Corin Dann asked;

“So an admirable goal, but the question is — how will you do it? Now, you have a— you’ve talked about beefing up the current guidelines, the national policy statement on water. How far will you go? And I guess the key question is here — will you cap the number of cows that can be in a certain paddock, depending on nutrient levels? In other words, potentially force farmers to destock?”

To which Minister Parker replied;

“Well, cow numbers have already peaked and are going down, but yes, in some areas, the number of cows per hectare is higher than the environment can sustain. That won’t be done through a raw cap on cow numbers; it will be done on nutrient limits, the amount of nutrient that can be lost from a farm to a waterway, because it’s not just a dairy cow issue.”

Note the Minister’s carefully chosen words;

“…the number of cows per hectare is higher than the environment can sustain. That won’t be done through a raw cap on cow numbers; it will be done on nutrient limits, the amount of nutrient that can be lost from a farm to a waterway, because it’s not just a dairy cow issue.”

Minister Parker flatly rejected “ a raw cap on cow numbers” – explaining “it will be done on nutrient limits“.

For a politician, it was a remarkable moment, providing a clear-cut answer to a crucial question. (How many National Ministers have ever given such an unambiguous response?)

How did the rest of the mainstream media report Minister Parker’s comments?

Dishonestly.

TVNZ – Q+A’s broadcaster – presented Minister Parker’s position on the same day as the programme was aired, with this stunningly inaccurate headline and lead-paragraph;

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Despite Minister Parker’s categorical statement that reducing effluent-pollution “won’t be done through a raw cap on cow numbers; it will be done on nutrient limits” – TVNZ chose to misreport the Minister’s position. Anyone who had not watched/listened to Minister Parker’s original interview would inevitably have concluded that cow-reduction was on Minister Parker’s main agenda.

Later that same day – 6 May – Radio NZ also misrepresented Minister Parker in an online article headline and lead-paragraph;

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However, the author of the Radio NZ write-up could not have been ignorant of Minister Parker’s stated position, because the second paragraph read;

Environment Minister David Parker said there wouldn’t be a direct cap on the number of cattle, but instead work was being done on restricting the amount of nutrients being lost from farm to waterway.

Two day later, the Otago Daily Times followed suit;

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– though in a stunning exercise in double-think, the un-named Editorial-writer presented two conflicting statements of Minister Parker’s position;

At the weekend, Mr Parker indicated he wants fewer cows per hectare because the number now is higher than the environment can sustain.

This will not be done through a raw cap on cow numbers. Instead, it will be done on nutrient limits, the amount of nutrients that can be lost from a farm to a waterway.

It was clear from on-line stories that the mainstream media were finding difficulty in reporting Minister Parker’s statements. After all, how could effluent be reduced with reducing cow numbers?

Despite the Minister stating without ambiguity that he was targetting “the amount of nutrient that can be lost from a farm to a waterway, because it’s not just a dairy cow issue” – the msm couldn’t seem to get their heads around that concept.

How could effluent be reduced without cutting cow numbers?

Canterbury dairy farmer, Willy Leferink, offered one solution;

Mr Leferink said he had built a large hangar-like barn on his land to house his cows at certain times during winter which would collect and treat their waste instead of it dropping straight onto paddocks.

It’s bad enough when a politician misrepresents a situation. Former Dear Leader John Key built quite a reputation around misrepresentation; omission; bending the truth; and some outright lies.

But we expect more from our media.

If an elected representative expresses a clear direction, the correct response of the media is to report it fairly to the public. Question; probe; and doubt, by all means. Look behind the facade. Follow-up. Do the stuff we expect from the Fourth Estate.

But do not misreport.

Misquoting or misreporting adds nothing to the sum total of informed discourse.  It only reaffirms suspicion that the media cannot be trusted.

For when the media that has exhausted its trust with the public, the road to political corruption and the rise of demagoguery becomes easier to travel.

Aesop’s The Boy Who Cried Wolf is a fable about loss of credibility that is as valid now as it was 2,600 years ago.

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References

Scoop media: TVNZ Q+A – Minister David Parker interviewed by Corin Dann (transcript)

TVNZ: Environment Minister admits some dairy farmers may have to reduce cow numbers under tough new waterway pollution rules

Radio NZ: Farmers may be forced to reduce cattle numbers

Otago Daily Times: Fewer cows no easy task

Radio NZ: Moves made to reduce runoff already – farmers

Wikipedia: The Boy Who Cried Wolf

Previous related blogposts

The GCSB law – Oh FFS!!!

When the mainstream media go feral

Only four years too late – TVNZ-Colmar Brunton catch up with The Daily Blog

Worse than “fake news” – sloppy news!

Syria: the mendacities of the mainstream media (part tahi)

Syria: the mendacities of the mainstream media (part rua)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 11 May 2018.

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National’s new-found concern for the poor

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There are times when National’s opposition to the Coalition government’s new policies leaves one shaking their head in utter dismay.  Jami-Lee Ross – a notorious union-basher and unrepentant enemy of workers – shedding crocodile tears for the poor of this country, is not a pretty sight…

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A response was called for, pointing out the crass hypocrisy of National to invoke the welfare of the poor to score a cheap political point;

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from: Frank Macskasy
to: NZ Herald <letters@herald.co.nz>
date: 29 April 2018
subject: Letter to the editor

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Letters to the editor
NZ Herald

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National’s transport spokesperson, Jami-Lee Ross, recently criticised the new Coalition government’s plans to promote the use of electric vehicles. On 27 April, Ross said;

“It would effectively be a tax on the poor, you’d see the poorest New Zealanders who are purchasing second-hand Japanese imports having to pay the levy which would go towards subsidising electric vehicles for those who are more likely to be wealthier – and more likely to be able to purchase an electric vehicle.”

The sheer hypocrisy for Ross to cry a river of crocodile tears for the poor when, for nine years, National caused great harm to the poorest families and individuals of our once egalitarian nation.

Specifically, National;

  • raised ACC levies for workers by a staggering 21%
  • increased GST from 12.5% to 15% – raising food prices 4% that year
  • announced increases for petrol excise duty of 3 cents per litre for 2013, 2014, and 2015*, with Road user charges increasing similarly
  • raised Family Court fees to $900
  • increased prescription charges from $3 to $5
  • implemented the infamous “paperboy tax” in 2012 by cutting children’s tax refunds
  • and other increases to government charges, fees, surtaxes, et al

Ross would do well to examine National’s own abysmal record. They hardly helped the poorest families struggling to make ends meet.

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-Frank Macskasy

[address and phone number supplied]

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* 9 cents/litre, spread over three years.

Ross also demanded that the Coalition government do more to purchase electric vehicles;

“I’d encourage this government to continue with what National did by exempting road-user charges, I’d encourage them to continue to purchase more electric vehicles as a government, so the government fleet is full of more electric vehicles.”

The new Labour-Green-NZ First government certainly could not do worse than their National predecessors. In 2016, National’s then Minister for Energy, Simon Bridges, dumped proposals to assist in the purchase EVs for  State agencies;

Cabinet has pulled the handbrake on its Electric Vehicles plan, pulling proposals to help agencies cover the extra cost, documents show.

Bridges’ excuse was about as pathetic as a Crown minister could possibly get;

But Transport Minister Simon Bridges says he canned the two proposals, in order to be “more ambitious” later.

This is the National Party lecturing the rest of us how to curtail greenhouse gas emissions.

They have nothing to offer except more of the same failed policies from the 20th Century that have led humanity to the abyss of cataclysmic climate change.

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References

Scoop Media:  Union biting the hand that feeds

Youtube: Ports behind bill

Radio NZ:  National – petrol car levy will hurt the poor

Fairfax media: Workers to pay large increase in ACC levies

Radio NZ: PM defends proposed GST increase

NBR: GST increase pushes food prices up

Fairfax media: Plans for Family Court attacked

Fairfax media: Prescription price rise hits vulnerable

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

NZ Herald: Budget 2012 -‘Paper boy tax’ on small earnings stuns Labour

Fairfax media:  Cabinet handbrake proves ‘government lack of leadership’ on electric vehicles – Greens

Radio NZ:  NZ’s summer the hottest on record – Niwa

Other Blogs

The Standard: National’s 18 new taxes

Previous related blogposts

National MP admits collusion with bosses to set up strike-breaking law!!

The many mendacities of Mr Bridges – a few volts short of an EV

2017: Parting shots from the Right: tantrums, bloated entitlements, and low, low expectations for our Youth – toru

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 3 May 2018.

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Worse than “fake news” – sloppy news!

31 March 2018 2 comments

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What’s worse than “fake news”? Sloppy news.

Sloppy as in: where a supposedly reputable mainstream media outlet presents a news story, but with a glaring error.  Case in point, TVNZ’s story on 25 March, reporting that “$1.7 million of taxpater’s money had been spent last year on airfares and escorts to deport overstayers – more than in any of the last five years“;

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The figures  presented were accurate enough.

The presentation, though, was misleading, with the intro statement reading;

The Government is spending a startling amount of money to get rid of overstayers in New Zealand, but few people are being deported and very little of that money is being recovered.

The most recent figure of $1.7 million related to 2017. (See image above).

The money had been spent by the previous, National government – not by the current Labour-NZ First-Green Coalition. By referring to “the government”,  TVNZ’s story suggested that responsibility for this spending lies with the current Coalition.

Silly slip-ups of this nature present an unfair critical picture of the newly elected Coalition government and let’s the National Party off the hook when it comes to owning their chronic mismanagement and waste of taxpayer’s money.

It may seem trivial to some, but it is inaccurate and misleading. It is sloppy news.

Not many people would have picked up on that error. The public may likely assume that the news reader’s reference to “the government” refers to the current Coalition.

The Coalition will have enough problems cleaning up nine years of National’s toxic legacies  without the msm trying to point responsibility to Labour, NZ First, and the Greens. (They’ll have their own stuff-ups to own up to in the future.)

Not good enough, TVNZ.

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References

TVNZ:   More than 10,000 overstayers in NZ and Immigration not actively looking for most of them

Previous related blogposts

How biased is the media? A Patrick Gower case study

When the mainstream media go feral

The GCSB law – Oh FFS!!!

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 26 March 2018.

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Labour and NZ First sign up to TPPA – “is this capitalism with a human face”?

17 March 2018 3 comments

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Frankly Speaking Frank Macskasy

 

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“Far too many New Zealanders have come to view today’s capitalism, not as their friend, but as their foe. And they are not all wrong. That is why we believe that capitalism must regain its responsible – its human face. That perception has influenced our negotiations.” – Winston Peters, 19 October 2017

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8 March, Wellington, New Zealand:  As Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker flew to Chile to  sign the TPPA in Santiago,  around a hundred people gathered in Parliament’s grounds to oppose the Coalition government’s decision to accept the deal;

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Frankly Speaking Frank Macskasy

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The message from speakers and the assembled people was best summed up with this message;

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Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking

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Grant Brookes, from the New Zealand Nurses Organisation was one of several speakers to address the protest. He was highly critical of the so-called “revised” agreement;

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He said;

“The NZ Nurses organisation objects to this government’s intention to sign the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement in Chile later today. We assert that despite some improvements, the CPTTP is not ready to be signed. Trade Minister David Parker  […]  acknowledges that the deal is not perfect. Speaking on Newshub last week he said he would give it a score of seven out of 10 for New Zealand.

Let’s imagine for one minute that that score is accurate, but what does seven out of ten mean when it comes to your health?

[…]

What if you turned up to the Emergency Department with a serious cut, and you were told you could have stitches to seven tenths of your wound? What does it mean if you were in pain and you were given a treatment that left you 30% sore?”

On 3 March, Minister David Parker was interviewed by Lisa Owen for TV3’s The Nation. He told Ms Owen;

Lisa Owen: Yes, exactly. Scale of 1 to 10 – 10 being out of this galaxy, deal of the century – what grade do you give it?

David Parker: Probably a 7 to good, improved access into Japan, where beef exports have been dropping; they’ve dropped by 38 per cent recently because of Australian competition with lower tariffs. That’ll be fixed. Not an especially good deal for dairy but better than nothing, and relatively more important than it was before the attacks on the World Trade Organization architecture that are happening because of some other countries who seem to want to blow the system up.

Though Parker defended the signing of the agreement, he appeared lukewarm to the deal, adding;

“I don’t think it’s the best trade agreement; that’s why I gave it a seven.”

Parker’s lack of enthusiasm echoed criticisms made by  Grant Brookes at the protest;

“Although there have been improvements, threats to population health and all that sustains it, remain in the text. There are, for example, intellectual property provisions which have been suspended but they are still there, and they could still delay access for new medicines.

The same is true for the Investor State Dispute Settlement provisions. They remain [in] the text. And these privileges benefit multinational corporations over our sovereign and indigenous interests.”

He specifically mentioned;

“The Treaty of Waitangi exception, as it’s called in the text, is not robust enough that indigenous rights are protected and is not consistent with the recommendations of the Waitangi Tribunal. This means that Maori efforts to address health disparities could be undermined.”

Perhaps one of the greatest criticisms of the trade agreement lay in it’s omissions;

“The environment chapter – it doesn’t even mention climate change which the World Health Organisation has called the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century.”

He added;

“The defenders of this deal […] point to possible economic gains, although no one is saying today these are going to be huge.”

Some estimates put any economic benefit to this country at around 1% of New Zealand’s economy – over time.

As if to underscore  Grant’s list of flaws with the TPPA, this protestor listed each one;

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Frankly Speaking Frank Macskasy

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Following Grant was Rick Zwann, from Action Stations;

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Frankly Speaking Frank Macskasy

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Rick pointed out the large number of Labour MPs who had attended anti-TPPA protests in previous years, and who were now nowhere to be seen. He also pointed out some fairly basic flaws in  the process by which National, Labour, and NZ First had signed up to the deal;

“When we did polling around this, 75% of New Zealanders wanted independent analysis of this agreement before it was signed. […] This is an issue that New Zealanders right across the board, no matter what political party they voted for, no matter their age, no matter their backgrounds, they want to know actually what this deal would do and mean for us.

They don’t trust the MFAT analysis that has happened which is basically a re-write of the analysis that happened for the initial agreement […] the analysis that many of the parties who now voting for it, heavily critiqued. It just makes sense that we should have some independent analysis so we’re able to really look at what this deal would mean for us.”

He added;

“It makes sense because if you’re buying a house […] you wouldn’t just trust what the real estate agent is saying. You’d go and get a builder to look at that house and give you an independent report on what that house would actually be like to live in. If you’re going to do that for an investment like a house, why wouldn’t you do that for something as massive as this agreement which affects all parts of our society and all parts of our economy?”

While Labour and NZ First were noticeably “missing in action” from the protest, the one party in Parliament to stay true to it’s pre-election commitments was prominent;

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Frankly Speaking Frank Macskasy

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One thing that can be said about the Greens – they rarely back-track on what they say.

Following Rick, Lisa McLaren spoke for Generation Zero;

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Frankly Speaking Frank Macskasy

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Lisa raised concerns how the TPPA would impact on climate-change legislation currently being drafted by the Coalition government. Her speech was brief but straight to the heart of the matter;

“We’re really lucky because the new government has come in and said they’re going to create this new climate law and they’re going to pass it through next year. In fact it’s being drafted across the road as we speak.

But we’re really concerned about what this new TPP deal will do to this new climate law. What policies are not going to be able to be put in place for future generations to reduce emissions. We’re really, really concerned that there hasn’t been any independent analysis […] We’re calling for the government if they do sign on, to go through that independent process before this deal is ratified. They have the opportunity to do that.”

Lisa raised the very real spectre of future generations being bound by a flawed international agreement;

“Personally, I’m worried about when my kids are in Parliament, I want them to aim for the stars and be the leaders. But I’m really really concerned by what they’re going to be bound by if we don’t get this right. So I’m calling on them to get it right, for my future.”

Other citizens had their messages for the Coalition government;

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Exclusions?

On 9 March, Trade Minister David Parker announced that “side letters” had been signed with five participating nations of the TPPA, prohibiting   investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) lawsuits. The five are;

  • Brunei Darussalam,
  • Malaysia
  • Peru
  • Viet Nam
  • Australia

Parker announced through a Beehive press statement;

I’m pleased we have been able to make so much progress in just a few months. We haven’t been able to get every country on board, but signing letters with this many CPTPP partners is a real achievement.

He added;

A further two countries, Canada and Chile, have joined New Zealand in a declaration that they will use investor-state dispute settlement responsibly.

A cynic (or realist) would immediately want to know the definition of what constitutes “using investor-state dispute settlement responsibly” ?

The real problem is that the TPPA has eleven signatories – not just the five listed above. The others are;

  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Japan
  • Mexico
  • Singapore

Five countries have not agreed to signing “side letters” prohibiting ISDS lawsuits.

It would be a simple matter for a company to relocate it’s Head Office from a signatory-state to a “side letter” (eg, Peru) to a non-signatory state (eg; Mexico).

As Green Party leader James Shaw said on 21 February;

There is the continued existence of the Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanisms for some countries and that allows large multi-national companies to what we call ‘jurisdiction shop’ and simply locate where they still have that possibility.”

This is precisely what took place in November 2011, when tobacco corporation Philip Morris sued the Australian government to prevent implementation of plain-packaging laws;

Tobacco giant Philip Morris is suing the Australian government over a new law making plain packaging mandatory for cigarettes from December 2012.

Australia’s parliament has passed legislation that means all tobacco will need to be sold in plain olive-brown packets with graphic health warnings.

Canberra said the law was “one of the most momentous public health measures in Australia’s history”.

But Philip Morris Asia  said the move breached a bilateral investment treaty.

It said it had served a notice of arbitration under Australia’s Bilateral Investment Treaty with Hong Kong.

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Philip Morris Asia said it wanted the legislation to be suspended. It said it would ask for compensation for the billions of dollars it said the new law would cost it.

To carry out it’s law-suit under the 1993 Australia-Hong Kong Bilateral Investment Treaty, Philip Morris first had to move it’s registered office from Australia to Hong Kong.

Once that step was accomplished, Philip Morris had the legal right to sue the Australia government using the ISDS provisions of the Australia-Hong Kong Bilateral Investment Treaty. Which it did so in 2011.

After a protracted four year court battle, Philip Morris lost its case. But not before the Australian government spent an estimated A$50 million in taxpayers’ money to defend it’s sovereign right to pass health-related legislation. Philip Morris is resisting paying legal costs incurred by the Australian government.

Now imagine a New Zealand government having to stand up against a billion-dollar corporation and spend tens of millions of taxpayers’ dollars dollars to pass legislation to protect the health of it’s citizens.

If the previous National government’s timidity in the face of it’s own proposed plain-packaging legislation in 2016 was any indication, our own politicians may be extremely “risk averse” when it comes to confronting multi-nationals.

When asked if  National would proceed with plain-packaging legislation in the face of potential billion-dollar lawsuits, then-Dear Leader, John Key responded;

Late last year I asked for advice on that matter, and the advice I got back was that they felt we were on very firm ground and didn’t feel there was really any issues.

“No real issues”? Yet Key was cautious enough to tread carefully on the fear-threat of possible litigation;

It was waiting, and I think the view I initially took was given Australia was in the middle of this court case it probably didn’t make sense for us to embark on that, and then potentially face exactly the same costs for the taxpayer in defending another legal action.

National revealed how risk-averse it was to litigation when it caved in the face of an alleged threat to be sued by Saudi Arabian businessman, Hamood Al Ali Al Khalaf ;

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully told Parliament that Saudi businessman Hmood Alali Alkhalaf had a potential $20m-$30m lawsuit against the New Zealand Government, after he lost money when a ban on live exports for slaughter was continued.

The Government then spent $11.5m setting up a demonstration farm in the Saudi desert, including a $4m facilitation payment to Alkhalaf.

(Side-note: There is now a very real question hanging over Murray McCully’s assertions that the New Zealand government was in fact facing a multi-million dollar  lawsuit from Al Khalaf . It has been suggested that McCully fabricated or exaggerated the whole story.)

New Zealanders have just cause to doubt whether their own government would have the intestinal fortitude to stand up to a multi-national with deep corporate pockets to launch a lawsuit against us.

We caved in the face of French demands to release two agents convicted of sabotage and murder.

We caved to (apparent) threats from Warner Bros to  move production of The Hobbit to another country. (The threat turned out to be baseless – but it nevertheless succeeded in ‘spooking’ the public.)

We (apparently) caved to demands from a lone Saudi businessman.

And then there was this curious event in June 2013, when the Chinese government may have exerted heavy pressure on the National government over a proposed fta with Taiwan – an island-state it considers a “renegade province”;

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The frightening possibility is that we, the public, might never even know if the threat of litigation under ISDS clauses forced a government-of-the-day to comply with demands from a multi-national.

When it comes to political self-interest and corporate “commercial sensitivity”, we have the makings of a toxic brew of secret back-door machinations.

After all, the entire TPPA negotiation was conducted in secrecy. Not exactly an auspicious start for such a supposedly beneficial trade agreement.

And not exactly a good start for Labour and NZ First.

Postscript

At the protest, Bryan Bruce of “Inside Child Poverty” fame, conducting an interview for his latest  documentary-project;

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Based on his past documentaries exposing poverty, homelessness, and growing inequality, an exposé on the TPPA should prove illuminating for middle New Zealanders.

Thank the gods for independent documentary-makers. It will be refreshing to see an investigative doco on the TPPA, even if ‘sandwiched’ between “reality” tv shows such as  My Kitchen Rules, Real Housewives of Eketahuna, The Block, Survivor ‘Wherever’, etc.

Refreshing indeed, to watch some real reality for a change.

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References

Scoop media:  Peters – Post-Election Announcement Speech

Radio NZ:  New TPP deal signed by NZ in Chile

Scoop media:  The Nation – Lisa Owen interviews David Parker

Radio NZ:  New TPP deal signed by NZ in Chile

Action Station

Generation Zero

Beehive:  New Zealand signs side letters curbing investor-state dispute settlement

Radio NZ:  Greens remain opposed to TPP

BBC:  Philip Morris sues Australia over cigarette packaging

NZDRC: 1993 Australia-Hong Kong Bilateral Investment Treaty

Sydney Morning Herald:  Australia versus Philip Morris. How we took on big tobacco and won

The Guardian: Secrecy over costs in Philip Morris plain packaging case stokes TPP fears

Fairfax media:  Tobacco plain packaging likely to be law by end of year – John Key

Fairfax media:  Govt accused of telling Saudi businessman to sue

Radio NZ:  Saudi sheep deal – MFAT didn’t provide legal advice on lawsuit risk

SBS News: NZ at risk of losing the Hobbit

NZ Herald:  Sir Peter – Actors no threat to Hobbit

NZ Herald:  Strong reaction to damning TV child poverty doco

Additional

It’s our Future

Other Blogposts

The Daily Blog: Let’s be clear – when Labour & NZ First sign the TPPA this week – it will be as cheap traitors for less than 30 pieces of silver

The Daily Blog: Open letter to Trade Minister David Parker

The Standard:  TPPA rally at parliament today

The Standard: March 8 2018 – the TPPA and our nuclear free moment

The Standard:  TPP2 – Electric Boogaloo

Previous related blogposts

Key’s TPPA Falsehoods – “We’ve never, ever been sued” ***up-date ***

Citizens march against TPPA in Wellington, send message to National govt: “Yeah, nah!”

Citizens march against TPPA in Wellington: Did Police hide tasers at TPPA march?

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 15: John Key lies to NZ on consultation and ratification of TPPA

What’s the beef, guv?

Taiwan FTA – Confirmation by TVNZ of China pressuring the Beehive?

Copyright (c) Notice

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

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

 

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 12 March 2018.

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The Mendacities of Mr English – No, I wasn’t told – Yes, I was told

9 February 2018 5 comments

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On 2 November last year – and still smarting from a colossal rebuff from NZ First – Bill English was unabashedly vindictive at losing out on coalition talks to form a fourth National-led administration;

“You should expect more tension and more pressure in the Parliament, and particularly through the select committee process. Because we are the dominant select committee party.

And that is going to make a difference to how everything runs – it’s not our job to make this place run for an incoming Government that is a minority.

You will get to understand that it is a minority Government with a majority Opposition, and the Greens as the support party. That is how we are going to run it…we have no obligation to smooth [Labour’s] path. None whatsoever.”

Just how difficult English intended for the new Coalition government has been made abundantly clear over the last three months. At every opportunity in front of a live radio microphone, tv camera, or any available passing set of ears, English has carped at every announcement and action undertaken by the Coalition.

National has gone so far as to create an attack-website in Labour-party colours, inciting resentment at the Labour-NZ First-Green Coalition;

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A noticeable feature of this website is a lack any  marker identifying it as a National Party construct. Aside from the authoriser – National’s General Manager, “G Hamilton”, the website shows no obvious affiliation to the Nats.

Not very honest of them, but it’s what we’ve come to expect from the National Party: deception to suit their agenda.

English’s  fixation on making National  a disruptive force and to deny the Coalition a “smooth path” landed him with egg on his face on 30 January this year, when he mis-led listeners to Radio NZ’s  Morning Report.

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Speaking to Radio NZ’s Susie Ferguson, English complained bitterly that he had not been consulted over the Coalition’s government’s Child Poverty Bill;

“ Well we haven’t seen the bill yet. We’ve been offered a official’s briefing today. The day the Bill’s been introduced. So we’ve no ability to influence it. That’s not a good way to influence bi-partisan approach. It’s pretty limited I have to say. So we’ll have a look at it, ah, we want to see it’s more than symbolism…

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Well, they haven’t gone about it in a very sensible way if they want concensus. First we’ve had no [unintelligible word] opportunity to influence the Bill…”

English desperately attempted to deflect the conversation to a purely fiscally-driven narrative;

“ This new government has used up all it’s spare cash according to it’s own limits. And they don’t have much ability actually over the next few years to do anything beyond the first of April this year.

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New Zealand has a fantastic opportunity here. Sustainable surpluses, the ability to lift incomes at the bottom end, the ability to dig in and do the long term investment in dealing with long – with deprivation, and the government is doing it’s best to mess that up.”

However, English’s claim that he and his Party had had no opportunity for consensus-building on this critical issue affecting New Zealand was convincingly demolished that very same afternoon.

Not only had Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern approached National last year, seeking consensus and feedback from National – she had done it in writing;

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[Image courtesy of Radio NZ]

There we have it: in black and white writing. And stamped with the Opposition Leader’s [currently Bill English – but subject to change very shortly] Office; 13 December 2017.

Prime Minister Ardern wrote to English requesting his support for the Coalition’s Child Poverty Bill – and seeking his feedback . She did everything feasible to engage English and his Party short of banging on his office door with her high-heels, demanding that he participate;

“ Damn you, Bill! Come out and engage with us!”

English’s obstructionism has either clouded his memory – or he was willfully not telling the truth. The former indicates that his memory is becoming unreliable. The latter, that he is a liar. Neither is a particularly comforting option.

Thankfully, Labour has learned not to trust National.That lesson was firmly driven home for Labour on 8 November last year when National disrupted the election of Trevor Mallard as Speaker of the House by threatening to put the issue to a vote and insisting they had the numbers to vote down Mallard’s nomination.

They didn’t. It was a sly bluff;

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Chris Hipkins and Grant Robertson negotiate with duplicitous and self-serving National Opposition MPs

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After that debacle, Labour’s Whip, Chris Hipkins promised;

Lesson learnt, they won’t catch us out on that ever again in the future.

Adding;

Perhaps when dealing with the Opposition, I’ll be a little more careful to make sure I get a specific undertaking from them in future.

Indeed. Lesson learned.

Thankfully, a simple little thing like a letter has shown up Bill English to be either unreliable – or willing to engage in outright lying to smear the Coalition.

Postscript1

Bill English condemned the Coalition government’s decision to scrap National’s “Better Public Service” targets, set in 2012, and revised in 2017. The initial targets were set to:

  • Reducing long-term welfare dependence
  • A good start to life for mothers and babies
  • Reduce assaults and abuse of children
  • Improve mathematics and literacy skills and upskill the New Zealand workforce
  • Reducing crime
  • Better access to social housing
  • Improving interaction with government

The Labour-led coalition has decided to do away with National’s “Better Public Service” targets and instead opted to focus on Child poverty. This did not sit well with Bill English, who complained bitterly;

[The targets] meant that when New Zealand’s public servants turned up to work they knew exactly what it was they should be doing to improve lives and to do their jobs better – and they, along with the Government, were held to account because their results were measured.

It’s a step backwards to lazy, dumb Government.

The public service was starting to get good at digging into our hardest long term social problems: child abuse, family violence, serious criminal offending, and long term welfare dependency.

Instead, we are likely to see a shift to higher-level longer-term targets that apply to no one in particular and for which no one in particular can be held accountable and that’s not good enough.

I think there will be a lot of public servants who are putting their feet up around the country because now they don’t have to worry too much about achieving much or being accountable. But I think there will be even more public servants disappointed because they had a sense of purpose.

Prime Minister Ardern responded;

“ We will in the longer term absolutely be replacing those Better Public Service targets. Our view always has been that those targets didn’t give us the systemic change that we need for some of those big issues that the country faces.

Unfortunately for English, the most devastating critique of his so-called “Better Public Service” targets came not from a left-wing Prime Minister – but from one of his own Cabinet Ministers in July 2016.

When asked on TV3’s The Nation  about National’s failure to move 65,000 people off the benefit within the next two years – one of the “Better Public Service” targets – then MSD Minister Anne Tolley replied;

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It’s a very aspirational target.

So Bill English is upset that targets – which are, at best, only “very aspirational” – are being dumped?

It is unclear why he is so wedded to targets when they are only “very aspirational“, according to one of his former Ministers. Minister Tolley was able to easily dismiss National’s  “Better Public Service” targets with barely an explanation.

Aspirational is meaningless if not backed up by legislation and measureable standards.

Such as the Coalition’s Child Poverty Bill.

Perhaps Bill English should become “more aspirational“?

Postscript2

English’s pathological opposition to the Coalition’s Child Poverty Bill can be better understood when one understands that National policies have actively contributed to growing homelessness and increasing child poverty.

In 2008, Housing NZ’s state housing stock comprised of  69,000 rental properties.

By 2016, that number had dramatically fallen to 61,600 (plus a further 2,700 leased) – a crucial shortfall of 7,400 properties.

In nine years, National sold off thousands of state homes – a policy that continued until a housing crisis forced families to live in over-crowded houses; run-down “boarding houses”  garages, and cars.

National’s desperate attempt to stave off increasingly horrifying stories of hardship and poverty forced them to enter… the motel business;

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If Mr English appears to have difficulty supporting the Coalition’s Child Poverty Bill, perhaps it’s because he knows his government is partly responsible for the current poverty-stricken state of the country today.

He knows National did not have to sell off 7,400 state houses.

He knows National need not have squeezed a staggering $664 million out of Housing NZ by way of annual dividends over a seven year period.

He knows that the tax cuts of 2009 and 2010 benefitted the wealthy predominantly, whilst increasing gst and raising user-pays part-charges for prescription medicines impacted disproportionately on the poorest people of this country.

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Those are amongst National’s legacies after nine years. Policies that benefitted the well-off; placated the comfortable Middle Classes; and made life harder for the poorest of our fellow New Zealanders.

His guilt must be so deep-seated that English is only able to deal with it by continually criticising those who are willing to clean up the mess left after nine years of National.

Christian guilt can be a terrible, debilitating thing.

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References

NZ Herald:  Bill English warns Labour: ‘it’s not our job to make this place run’

National Party: Lets Undo This

Beehive:  Taking action to reduce child poverty

Radio NZ:  English on government’s child poverty legislation

Radio NZ:  PM ‘saddened’ at claims Nats not consulted on poverty Bill

TVNZ:  Anne Tolley still gets nod as Deputy Speaker despite Nats ruthlessly attacking Labour

NZ Herald:  Labour and National face off in Parliament opening over Speaker vote

Beehive:  New Better Public Services targets

MSD:  Better Public Services

Fairfax media: Bill English slams Government for getting rid of public service targets

Scoop media:  On The Nation – Lisa Owen interviews Bill English, Anne Tolley and Hekia Parata

NZ Herald: Anne Tolley – Government’s benefits target ‘very aspirational’

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2008/09

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2015/16

NZ Herald:   Govt to buy more motels to house homeless as its role in emergency housing grows

NZ Herald:  GST rise will hurt poor the most

Fairfax media:  Prescription price rise hits vulnerable

Additional

Gordon Campbell on the battle over select committees

Other Blogs

The Standard:  Bill your pants may be on fire

Previous related blogposts

Foot in mouth award – Bill English, for his recent “Flat Earth” comment in Parliament

The Mendacities of Mr English – Fibbing from Finance Minister confirmed

The Mendacities of Mr English – Social Services under National’s tender mercies

The Mendacities of Mr English – The covert agenda of high immigration

National’s blatant lies on Housing NZ dividends – The truth uncovered!

National continues to panic on housing crisis as election day looms

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

Mr English: Where are National’s secret coalition negotiation papers?

“Fool me once”…

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 4 February 2018.

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Handouts to the Racing Industry? So no more homeless then?!

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Deputy PM, Racing Minister, and de facto godfather, Winston Peters  announced on Sunday (28 January) that the New Zealand racing industry was due for tax-cuts for horse breeders and a taxpayer-funded all-weather horse racing track;

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He’s promising the racing industry a multi-million dollar track that can be used even when its pouring with rain. Mr Peters says it is expected to cost around $10 million to construct.

It comes as several races throughout the country had to be abandoned.

The Minister says both taxpayers and the industry will be helping to pay for the new track.

Mr Peters is also promising tax relief for owners who are breeding horses for racing. He says the current legislation, which he delivered last time he was Racing Minister, isn’t working like it should.

This, at a time when homelessness in this country has been steadily rising since the 2006 Census;

The number of homeless people in New Zealand rose between the last two Census counts, a new study says.

The University of Otago study, which is based on Census data, said one in 100 were homeless in 2013, compared with one in 120 in 2006 and one in 130 in 2001.

The study used the Government’s official definition of homeless, which is people living in severely crowded houses, in motels, boarding houses, on the street or in cars.

Between 2006 and 2013, the rise in homeless people outstripped population growth.  New Zealand’s population grew by 4.8 per cent over this period, while the number of homeless grew by 25 per cent.

As Prime Minister Ardern said on TV3’s The Nation on 21 October last year;

“When you have a market economy, it all comes down to whether or not you acknowledge where the market has failed and where intervention is required. Has it failed our people in recent times? Yes. How can you claim you’ve been successful when you have growth roughly 3 percent, but you’ve got the worst homelessness in the developed world?”

For Winston Peters to be offering tax-breaks and taxpayer funded covered racetracks, at a time of critical need for boosting funding for housing, hospitals, mental healthcare, and other services is a return to the corporate cronyism we’ve experienced for the last nine years under National.

National’s corporate cronyism has included;

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There is probably more. National’s nine years in office has been less free-market and more corporate welfare than Muldoonism at it’s height. They’ve simply been more adept at hiding it.

In 2013, when it came to throwing taxpayers’ dollars at The Hobbit, Winston Peters was scathing at National’s corporate welfare  largesse;

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Peters even demanded that Warner Bros repay taxpayer’s money;

“Now the first movie has grossed more than $1 billion, Warner Brothers should repay the $67 million subsidy the movie moguls sucked from Kiwi taxpayers.”

After all the criticisms from Labour and NZ First at National’s corporate welfarism, the Coalition government has succumbed to the same folly of throwing money – our money! – at multi-million dollar businesses.

For an industry sector that turns over $1.6 billion, it beggars belief that they have their corporate hands out for taxpayer largesse and tax breaks. What other industry will be receiving tax breaks? Tourism? Wine and beer producers? Why not our nascent computer-gaming industry? Or Rocketlabs?

Key must be laughing his head off at this fiasco. After all the ‘stick’ given to Key and his National government for their corporate welfare, the Labour-led coalition have engaged in the same practice – only three months into their first term.

Was there no one with sufficient political nouse in Labour or NZ First’s Parliamentary offices to express reservations over this daft plan? That giving tax-dollars and tax-breaks to a “sport” enjoyed by predominantly affluent New Zealanders is not a particularly good idea? Especially when Labour and NZ First (and the Greens) made so much of New Zealand’s housing crisis during last year’s election campaign?

In effect, Peters has just handed the National Opposition a bloody big stick with which to whack the Coalition over their  heads. English and his minions will be gleefully strategising over how they can best use this corporate welfare to attack the Coalition.

National’s strategists have already started by launching this attack-website carrying negative messages;

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Side-note: Interestingly, the website is done in Labour Party colours – not National’s own blue livery. The National Party is not even directly mentioned anywhere on the main page. (Though the “Privacy Policy” link will take you to the National Party website. The authorisation statement is by “G. Hamilton”, National’s General Manager – though few people would know that.)

The racing industry has complained that a covered race-track is essential to allow all-weather events to be held. If so, let the racing industry pay for it. The “Sport of Kings” should not be paid from the taxes of hard-working New Zealanders who expect essential services in health, education, conservation, housing, mental health, policing, etc from their hard-earned tax-dollars. Not enhancing horse-racing facilities.

For perhaps the first (and hopefully the only) time, I find myself nodding in agreement with far-right blogger and former Libertarian/ACT candidate, Lindsay Mitchell, when she wrote her own critique of Peters’ plans;

Today [28 January] Racing Minister Winston Peters apparently promised an all weather track at the cost of $10 million (double it for starters) and either promised or called for tax breaks because the industry (breeding in particular) brings in so much money.

If tax breaks can make one industry stronger, then they can make any industry stronger.

Government picking winners is a recipe for corruption and injustice. We cannot expect New Zealanders who have not a skerrick of interest in the racing industry to disproportionately pay taxes to advance it.

Tax breaks are not subsidies if they are applied universally. Reduce tax period.

You are a guardian of public money Winston. Not a private investor.

On the upside, I am looking forward to our Prime anti-poverty crusader getting it in the neck today over her government’s support for “rich pricks”.

I, for one, will not be defending this policy from criticism from the Right. Because with thousands of New Zealanders homeless and struggling in poverty, it is indefensible. Absolutely, utterly, indefensible.

If the Coalition government wants to assist the racing industry, and they are incapable of raising their own funds, then a suitable compromise is  available. The State could easily borrow on behalf of the racing industry and on-lend to the appropriate racing club. Governments with good credit ratings can generally borrow at lower interest rates than from the commercial banking sector.

But it would have to be paid back.

The responsibility of this Coalition government is simple: Putting roofs over homeless families.

Not roofs over race tracks.

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References

NZ Herald:   Jacinda Ardern arrives at Ratana Pa in first visit by Labour PM since Clark

TVNZ:   Winston Peters announces a multi-million dollar all weather horse racing track is on the way

NZ Herald:  Homelessness rising in New Zealand

Mediaworks:  Homelessness proves capitalism is a ‘blatant failure’ – Jacinda Ardern

Fairfax media: Government denies MediaWorks loan

NZ Herald:  Filling the Cup – cost $500m and climbing

Radio NZ:  Farmers’ ETS exemption progresses

Fairfax media:  Federated Farmers say moving to ETS will cost primary industry $83m

Radio NZ:  Saudi sheep deal – MFAT didn’t provide legal advice on lawsuit risk

Interest.co.nz: Key says Government won’t add to NZ$30 million of support given to Rio Tinto to keep Tiwai Pt open

Fairfax media: $191m in public grants paid to Hollywood for Hobbit trilogy

Fairfax media:  Government called on to stand by existing irrigation contracts

Radio NZ:  Government defends Hobbit subsidies

Fairfax media:  Peters – Hobbit subsidy should be handed back

Otago Daily Times:  Peters signals intention to make ‘positive changes’

National Party: Let’s Undo This

Fairfax media:  Winston Peters back at helm of racing as a return to the old days is heralded

Youtube: Bad Taste

Other Blogs

Lindsay Mitchell:  Winston picking winners

Previous related blogposts

National Party Corporate welfare vs real welfare

National ditches environmental policies

ETS – National continues to fart around

“National Party Corporate welfare vs real welfare”

Corporate Welfare under National

The Corporate Welfare of Tiwai Point – An exercise in National’s “prudent fiscal management”?

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 31 January 2018.

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Professor Bill English lectures young New Zealanders on free education

25 January 2018 4 comments

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The new Labour-led Coalition is preparing to implement it’s election promise of one year free tertiary education, planned to start this year.  By 2024, Labour plans to increase free tertiary education to three years. As their website points out;

Government investment in tertiary education and training has fallen and so has participation. In 2010, 40 per cent of 18-24 year olds were in tertiary education or training, but by 2015 (the latest data) that had dropped to 35 per cent.

Despite Labour’s interest-free loans, cost remains a major barrier to post-school education. 65 per cent of parents list cost as a reason young people do not go into post-school learning, and 44 per cent of students report they do not have enough money to meet their basic needs. The cost barrier comprises both fees, which are up over 40 per cent since 2008, and rising living costs such as rent.

Study debt holds people back for years after they leave education. On average, people take eight years to clear their debt. Repayments make it harder to save and this is a contributing factor in plummeting home ownership among under 40s.

Education minister, Chris Hipkins has stated that apprentices and industry trainees will receive two years of fees-free training as their courses are not fulltime.

User-pays (even partially) in tertiary education has been  one of the cornerstones of neo-liberalism. Prior to 1990, tertiary education was mostly free. After 1990, Universities began charging fees for tuition. In 1992, the Student Loan Scheme was enacted.

Fees have even been rising in secondary school education – traditionally considered free for users –  under the guise of “donations”.  Under-funding of the education system has been so bad that schools have been “caught masking voluntary donations as school fees“. As  Palmerston North Boys’ High School rector, David Bovey, revealed in September 2016;

“We could not exist in our current form on the Ministry of Education Operation Grant. Thus, we really do rely on the goodwill of parents to support what we do.”

Between 2000 and 2015 “voluntary donations” to state schools amounted to more than  $1 billion.  Some schools  drew more than $2 million in so-called “voluntary donations” in a year.

The notion of free education in this country has become like our “clean and green” environment and “100% Pure” rivers: a fiction. New Zealanders are deluding themselves if they believe education is still free.

The Labour-led coalition’s policy of gradually increasing free tertiary education will be the un-picking of twentyeight years of neo-liberal user-pays in the education sector.

The Right are not happy.

Bill English – currently filling in his duties as Leader of the Opposition until he is rolled – was scathing and irrational in his condemnation of the Coalition’s free first year plans. On 17 January, on Radio NZ’s Summer Report, he responded to questioning regarding the Coalition’s planned education reforms, saying;

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@ 6.01:

“ The free first year of tertiary education that’s free was explained to us as, um, y’know being paid for by getting rid of what was the tax cuts that were on the books, was explained to us in Parliament as MPs didn’t need the thousand dollars a year. Well, in my case they’ve handed my household now six thousand dollars a year! Because we have someone eligible for the first year of free education. So it’s a very expensive, very poorly targetted policy that will have the effect of getting maybe a few thousand, a couple of thousand more people into tertiary education. I think that’s what the officials have said. So it would’ve been better if they didn’t implement it. ’cause it’s a hugely expensive way to get a few more people into polytech.”

“Poorly targetted”?

How can free tertiary education be “poorly targetted” when it will be focused on New Zealanders wanting further education; on-going training; to be better equipped for the rapidly evolving needs of the 21st Century?

How can it be any more “poorly targetted” than the tax cuts of 2009 and 2010 – and National’s planned tax cuts for this year – that gave massive windfalls of cash to the highest income earners? As Audrey Young reported in the NZ Herald in February 2010;

Herald calculations on the basis of one of the scenarios in the tax working group report (cutting personal tax rates to 30c, 19c and 10.5c) would see someone on $50,000 get about $12 a week net, taking into account higher prices with the GST increase.

A person on $90,000 would get about $50 more a week.

Mr Key has defended his plan against accusations it is skewed to the rich and is light on boldness.

On top of which, the tax-cuts for the wealthy and high-income earners was funded partly by raising GST from 12.5 to 15% – a move impacting on low-income earners the most. Increases in user-pays such as increased prescription charges in January 2013 (from $3 to $5) also hit low-income families and individuals the hardest.

According to research carried out by the Parliamentary Library, the 2010 tax cuts alone cost the country $2 billion.

But according to Bill English, helping young people to achieve academic and training goals is “poorly targetted”.

Bill English is the same politician who, in the last few years, has consistently  denigrated young people and workers in this country.

In 2016;

“ A lot of the Kiwis that are meant to be available [for farm work] are pretty damned hopeless. They won’t show up. You can’t rely on them and that is one of the reasons why immigration’s a bit permissive, to fill that gap… a cohort of Kiwis who now can’t get a license because they can’t read and write properly and don’t look to be employable, you know, basically young males.”

Last year;

“ One of the hurdles these days is just passing a drug test. Under workplace safety you can’t have people on your premises under the influence of drugs and a lot of our younger people can’t pass that test.”

And again in December year;

Government’s fees-free policy will ‘soak up staff out of McDonald’s’...”

English’s contemptuous disdain for workers and young New Zealanders is apparent for all to see.

It should be remembered though, that (according to Wikipedia) Bill English undertook his tertiary education prior to 1987. Student fees/loans did not start until 1991/92.

[Bill] English went on to study commerce at the University of Otago, where he was a resident at Selwyn College, and then completed an honours degree in English literature at Victoria University of Wellington.

After finishing his studies, English returned to Dipton and farmed for a few years. From 1987 to 1989, he worked in Wellington as a policy analyst for the New Zealand Treasury…

Bill English graduated with his Commerce and English Lit degrees without having to pay fees or take  out massive loans. His tertiary education was (near-)free.

This blogger wondered if his (near-)free tertiary education was “poorly targetted”? So I wrote to Mr English, seeking his clarification on matters that have arisen from his interview and comments;

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Bill English <bill.english@parliament.govt.nz>
date: 18 January 2018
subject: Radio NZ interview – some follow-up questions

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Bill English
Leader of the Opposition
Parliament
Wellington

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Kia Ora Mr English,

On 17 January, on Radio NZ’s Summer Report, you criticised the Coalition government’s programme to implement one year free university for students and two years free trades courses for apprentices, and industry trainees as “poorly targetted”.

You were highly disparaging of the policy, complaining that;

“ …Well, in my case they’ve handed my household now six thousand dollars a year! Because we have someone eligible for the first year of free education. So it’s a very expensive, very poorly targetted policy that will have the effect of getting maybe a few thousand, a couple of thousand more people into tertiary education. I think that’s what the officials have said. So it would’ve been better if they didn’t implement it. ’cause it’s a hugely expensive way to get a few more people into polytech.”

Can you confirm the following points relating to this issue:

1. That you yourself received a near-free university education whilst studying commerce at the University of Otago, and then completed an honours degree in English literature at Victoria University of Wellington?

2. That you received a student allowance whilst studying?

3. That subsequent to the economic “reforms” of the 1980s and 1990s, that you paid less and less tax through subsequent tax cuts in those decades as well as 2009 and 2010?

4. That the (near-)free university education you yourself enjoyed was poorly targetted?

5. That you have benefitted doubly by next-to-nothing university fees as well as increased income through multiple tax cuts? And no student debt to pay off?

6. That young New Zealanders have not enjoyed the same benefits of a (near-)free tertiary education that you yourself had in the 1980s?

I look forward to any response you may have to shed light on this issue.

Regards,
-Frank Macskasy

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Any response from Mr English will be reported in an up-date on this story.

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References

NZ Herald:  About 80,000 expected to get fees-free study in 2018

NZ Labour Party:  Making tertiary education and training affordable for all

Productivity Commission: History of tertiary education reforms in New Zealand (p3)

Fairfax media:  Under-pressure schools get dodgy with donations

Radio NZ:  Live – Opposition leader Bill English (alt.link)

NZ Herald:  Tax cuts – High earners set to benefit most

Fairfax media:  Prescription price rise hits vulnerable

Scoop media:  Govt’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting

NZ Herald:  Unions demand Bill English apologise for describing jobseekers as ‘pretty damned hopeless’

Fairfax media:  Bill English says employers are regularly telling him that Kiwis can’t pass drug tests

Twitter: Newshub – Bill English “soak up staff out of McDonalds”

Wikipedia:  Bill English

Previous related blogposts

Mr English: Where are National’s secret coalition negotiation papers?

2017: Parting shots from the Right: tantrums, bloated entitlements, and low, low expectations for our Youth – rua

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

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2017: Parting shots from the Right: tantrums, bloated entitlements, and low, low expectations for our Youth – toru

8 January 2018 2 comments

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Jamiebaby want Yum-Yums!!

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As  Parliament recently debated the new government’s Families Package Bill, some National MPs were increasingly upset that Urgency had briefly taken the debate into their precious lunch period;

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Jamie Lee-Ross became hysterical at the prospect of his ‘lunchies’ being delayed, and screamed at the Parliamentary Chair, Adrian Rurawhe;

“ Point of order, point of order, I have a right to raise a point of order, I have a right to raise a point of order, point of order. This is outrageous, I have a right to raise a point of order. We have gone past 1 o’clock. It is in the Standing Orders of this Parliament, that there is the break for the lunch break.”

As blogger  “Micky Savage” aptly put it for The Standard;

“ But with a late showing Moore’s antics were put to one side and National’s Jami Lee-Ross is this week’s doofus of the week. He earned this prize after putting on a huge hissy fit in Parliament after his lunch hour was delayed by 5 minutes. Refusing to accept Jacinda Ardern’s hope for a bi partisan effort to address child poverty is bad enough, trying to stonewall the enacting bill’s passage through the house was even worse, but throwing a temper tantrum because your lunch hour has been slightly delayed takes the cake.

Watch the video and marvel at the intensity of the temper tantrum thrown by him in raising the point of order. If my three year old behaved like this I would be embarrassed.”

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The  irony should not be lost on us all that the Families Package Bill – once passed – would help lift an estimated 88,000 families out of the trap that is poverty.  This trap being one of neo-liberalism’s most vile legacies.

385,000 families would receive an extra $75 a week for groceries, power, accommodation, and other necessities that make the difference between living in dignity – or desperation.

If successful, this one single policy will be a crowning achievement for Labour, NZ First, and the Green Party. The coalition would have done more in a couple of months what National failed to achieve in nine years.

It is true that National MPs’s lunch was indeed delayed. But only because of their own constant filibustering, to stall passage of the bill, as reported by Fairfax’s Laura Walters;

Rurawhe stopped MPs from delivering their points of order because he believed they were “repetitive and trivial”, and were being used by MPs to re-litigate the same points, in an effort to filibuster the Families Package (Income and Tax Benefits) Bill.

The obscenity of this ploy is hard to overlook; right-wing MPs obstructing a bill to alleviate poverty and then complaining their lunch was being delayed.

This is the soulless nature of the National Party. They are prepared to play political games and indulge in childish petty point-scoring – even though  it obstructs efforts to alleviate poverty in this country.

Even more scandalous is that no one in the mainstream media (including the much vaunted Radio NZ) has picked up this crass and utterly selfish abuse of parliamentary process.

But an even more twisted irony is Jamie Lee-Ross complaining about an industrial relations matter; a lunch break. More than one commentator on Fairfax, The Standard, and elsewhere have pointed out Lee-Ross’s hypocrisy on this issue. From  Fairfax’s comments section;

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From the Youtube comments;

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And from The Standard;

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And they’re all correct.  Jami-Lee Ross has a vindictive, hostile view of trade unions.In January 2012, Ross was scathing of the Maritime Union in it’s dispute with Ports of Auckland Ltd (POAL);

This is in fact a story of the Maritime Union biting the hand that feeds them. It is a story of industrial action that, if left to go on much longer, could have disastrous consequences for the Ports of Auckland…

[…]

Up until recently, cool heads and rational people sitting around negotiating tables have meant that little focus has been placed on the role that unions play in society. However, with the bare-faced mockery that the Maritime Union is making of civilised negotiations New Zealanders will soon begin to question what position unions should hold in the modern Kiwi workplace.

In 2013, during the POAL-Maritime Union dispute,  Ross admitted that he had been colluding with Ports of Auckland management to draft his proposed  strike-breaking legislative amendment, the Employment Relations (Continuity of Labour) Amendment Bill.The Bill would have permitted scab labour to be hired to replace striking workers.

On TV3’s The Nation on 22 June 2013, Ross confirmed that he had been in talks with employers during the height of the industrial dispute between the POAL and MUNZ (Maritime Union);

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The questioning from Rachel Smalley elicited revelations that Ross has discussed his Bill with Ports of Auckland, in direct response to the strike at the time;

@3.26, Smalley asked Ross,

Where does this Bill have it’s origins? 

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… is it on the wharves of the Ports of Auckland, is that where it’s origins lie?

Ross  deflected, obviously realising that his collusion with POAL management had been uncovered. @4.00 Smalley repeated her direct questioning, not willing to let Ross off-the-hook with mealy-mouthed platitudes about “protecting low paid workers” and “freedom of choice” bullshit;

Have you discussed this Bill with the Ports of Auckland?

Caught in the vice of her softly-spoken questions, Ross admitted the obvious;

Oh a long time ago, ah, that was an issue that was raised…

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… Oh might have been when the industrial dispute was in full swing. ”

When asked by Smalley , “What was the Port’s input into the Bill?“, Ross confirmed  POAL’s involvement;

The Ports indicated that during a strike like every organisation that is affected by a strike they’re unable to keep their business going, in the same manner that able to before.

It is hardly a mystery that National and big business connive together to suppress union activity in industrial relations. For the first time, though, New Zealanders watched  a Tory MP admit admit this collusion, in full public view. (For which Ross probably received a right royal bollicking from his Ministerial superiors.)

Unsurprisingly, as it became clear that Ross’s Bill was weaponised legislation,with the aim of curtailing union influence, it was defeated on it’s first Reading in November 2013.

However, National’s successor to Ross’s doomed Bill – the Employment Relations Amendment Act 2014 – passed through all stages of Parliament and made law by Assent by November 2014.

As well as the notorious  “Continuity of employment – Part 6A” section (which denied guaranteed continuity of employment for workers if a small/medium business changed ownership), the  new provisions attacked workers’ conditions such as meal breaks. The power to reduce or remove meal breaks was handed to the employer on a…well… plate.

Even MoBIE could not sugar-coat the “flexibility” of the so-called “reforms” and it became clear that employers could dictate when and how (if at all) employers had meal breaks;

The changes say:

  • when employers can make reasonable restrictions on rest and meal breaks
  • employers can specify when breaks are taken, if employees and employers cannot agree on when and how long breaks should be
  • that an employer is exempt from giving breaks – when employees agree to reasonable compensation or where the employer cannot reasonably give the employee rest and meal breaks

Given National’s anti-union legislation where bosses now call the shots on meal breaks, it appears that  the new work environment is not to Jamie-Lee Ross’ liking. He wants his dinner and was prepared to throw a full-blown screaming ‘tanty’ to get it.

But as ‘Mickeysavage’ pointed out on The Standard;

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Let’s not forget that the legislation being debated at the time was Labour’s Family Package – a package estimated to lift an estimated 88,000 families out of poverty.

It would mean thousands of children having more food to eat; not going to school hungry; able to learn better in the classroom; able to get ahead in life, and be given a decent chance to succeed.

But National was too busy playing political games – “filibustering”. Not only were they delaying their own dinner break – they were prepared to deny impoverished families additional income. This is the depths to which National’s members of Parliament are prepared to go: politicking at the expense of the poor.

But not to panic, folks.

Jamie-Lee Ross eventually had a very nice meal.

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References

IRD:  Families Package Bill introduced

Radio NZ:  Delayed lunch break brings out hangry MPs

Fairfax media:  Long days and busy schedules start to get to MPs

NZ Herald:  Tempers flare in Parliament as families’ package debate drags out

Youtube:  Families Package (Income Tax and Benefits) Bill- Committee Stage- Part 1 – Video 53

Scoop media:  Union biting the hand that feeds – Jamie Lee-Ross

Parliament: Bills Digest – Employment Relations (Continuity of Labour) Amendment Bill 2013 (Member’s Bill)

Youtube: Ports behind bill

Parliament:  Employment Relations (Continuity of Labour) Amendment Bill

MoBIE:   Amendments to the Employment Relations Act 2000 (March 2015)

Parliament: Employment Relations Amendment Bill [Act]

Parliament:  Continuity of employment – Part 6A of the Employment Relations Act

Parliament: Employment Relations Amendment Bill [Act] – Rest and Meal Breaks

Other Blogs

The Standard:  Doofus of the week – Jami Lee-Ross

Previous related blogposts

Harbour battles & casual fear

Confirmed: National welcomes low-wage economy

National MP admits collusion with bosses to set up strike-breaking law!!

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 3 January 2018.

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2017: Parting shots from the Right: tantrums, bloated entitlements, and low, low expectations for our Youth – rua

6 January 2018 3 comments

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Bill English has low hopes for young New Zealanders.

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Bill English – putting the peasantry in their place

When born-to-rule Tories – with a bloated sense of self-worth and entitlement – slip up and let us peasants know how they really view us – it is usually unsurprising to most on the Left.

Take, for example, Bill English’s candid admission that New Zealand’s lower wage rates were beneficial when it came to competing with Australia. On 10 April  2011, in an exchange with Guyon Espiner on TVNZ’s Q+A, English boasted of the benefits of low wages;

GUYON Can I talk about the real economy for people? They see the cost of living keep going up. They see wages really not- if not quite keeping pace with that, certainly not outstripping it much. I mean, you said at the weekend to the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum that one of our advantages over Australia was that our wages were 30% cheaper. I mean, is that an advantage now?

BILL Well, it’s a way of competing, isn’t it? I mean, if we want to grow this economy, we need the capital – more capital per worker – and we’re competing for people as well.

GUYON So it’s part of our strategy to have wages 30% below Australia?

BILL Well, they are, and we need to get on with competing for Australia. So if you take an area like tourism, we are competing with Australia. We’re trying to get Australians here instead of spending their tourist dollar in Australia.

GUYON But is it a good thing?

BILL Well, it is a good thing if we can attract the capital, and the fact is Australians- Australian companies should be looking at bringing activities to New Zealand because we are so much more competitive than most of the Australian economy.

GUYON So let’s get this straight – it’s a good thing for New Zealand that our wages are 30% below Australia?

BILL No, it’s not a good thing, but it is a fact. We want to close that gap up, and one way to close that gap up is to compete, just like our sports teams are doing. This weekend we’ve had rugby league, netball, basketball teams, and rugby teams out there competing with Australia. That’s lifting the standard. They’re closing up the gap.

GUYON But you said it was an advantage, Minister.

BILL Well, at the moment, if I go to Australia and talk to Australians, I want to put to them a positive case for investment in New Zealand, because while we are saving more, we’re not saving more fast enough to get the capital that we need to close the gap with Australia. So Australia already has 40 billion of investment in New Zealand. If we could attract more Australian companies, activities here, that would help us create the jobs and lift incomes.

Perhaps realising he had dug a hole for himself, English added at the end; “…  and lift incomes“. Though of course, if “incomes lifted”, New Zealand workers would no longer be competitive with their  Australian cuzzies, according to his Bizarro-world “logic”.

In 2016,  at a Federated Farmers meeting in Feilding, English probably felt “at home” and sufficiently comfortable in his surroundings to let his guard down. English attacked workers again, trashing them as “hopeless“;

“A lot of the Kiwis that are meant to be available [for farm work] are pretty damned hopeless. They won’t show up. You can’t rely on them and that is one of the reasons why immigration’s a bit permissive, to fill that gap… a cohort of Kiwis who now can’t get a license because they can’t read and write properly and don’t look to be employable, you know, basically young males.”

A year later, English took a further swipe at New Zealand workers, effectively labelling them en-masse as “druggies. On 27 February 2017, he told the Parliamentary press;

“One of the hurdles these days is just passing a drug test. Under workplace safety you can’t have people on your premises under the influence of drugs and a lot of our younger people can’t pass that test.”

English’s startling (and offensive) generalisation came as a response to questions why National was allowing a flood of immigrant workers when 140,000 local workers remained unemployed.

Blaming others is de rigueur for National when facing one of their countless failures;

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Some more blame-gaming;

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And yet more…

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Not satisfied with those digs at workers and the unemployed, English made it clear only four days before Christmas precisely what he thought of young people bettering themselves through higher education. Responding to Labour’s enactment of their election promise for one year’s free tertiary education – English lamented that “Government’s fees-free policy will ‘soak up staff out of McDonald’s’...”;

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That’s right, folks. Bill English’s ambition for young New Zealanders is to get a job at McDonalds; work hard; and  – stay there. No higher education for you mini-peasants!

McDonalds New Zealand realised immediatley the implications of English’s derisory comment and quickly fired out a statement countering the former-Prime Minister;

“We don’t expect to see much impact as a result of the Government’s free fees policy.”

When a major business contradicts National – the political party ostensibly representing the interests of business – you know Bill English has screwed up. Essentially his brain was in ‘neutral’ when his mouth opened and words tumbled out.

It should come as absolutely no surprise that English is so harsh in his criticism. Labour’s one year free tertiary education is only the beginning. It heralds a gradual return to what  New Zealanders once enjoyed: near-free tertiary education.

It is another cog removed from the creaking neo-liberal system as it is dismantled, piece-by-rotten-piece.

Postscript

According to Wikipedia;

[Bill] English went on to study commerce at the University of Otago, where he was a resident at Selwyn College, and then completed an honours degree in English literature at Victoria University of Wellington.

After finishing his studies, English returned to Dipton and farmed for a few years. From 1987 to 1989, he worked in Wellington as a policy analyst for the New Zealand Treasury…

Bill English undertook his tertiary education prior to 1987. Student fees/loans did not start until 1992.

That means Bill English graduated with his Commerce and English Lit degrees without having to pay fees or take  out massive loans. His tertiary education was (near-)free.

A job at McDonalds awaits him.

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References

Scoop media:  Guyon Espiner interviews Finance Minister, Bill English

Fairfax media:  Bill English describes some Kiwis looking for work as ‘pretty damned hopeless’

NZ Herald:  Unions demand Bill English apologise for describing jobseekers as ‘pretty damned hopeless’

Fairfax media:  Bill English says employers are regularly telling him that Kiwis can’t pass drug tests

Twitter: Newshub – Bill English “soak up staff out of McDonalds”

Mediaworks:  Government’s fees-free policy will ‘soak up staff out of McDonald’s’ – Bill English

Wikipedia:  Bill English

Other Blogs

The Standard:  Kiwi workers are pretty damned hopeless – says Bill English

Previous related blogposts

John Key – Practicing Deflection 101

When National is under attack – Deflect, deflect, deflect!

National under attack – defaults to Deflection #2

National under attack – defaults to Deflection #1

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 January 2018.

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2017: Parting shots from the Right: tantrums, bloated entitlements, and low, low expectations for our Youth – tahi

5 January 2018 2 comments

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Taking personal responsibility Mike Hosking-style

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Former ‘Seven Sharp‘ presenter and National Party stooge, Mike Hosking, recently gave us an illuminating insight into how seriously he takes personal responsibility.

On an episode of ‘Seven Sharp‘, on 23 August 2017, Hosking said to his co-presenter, Toni Street;

“…you can’t vote for the Māori Party because you’re not enrolled in the Māori electorate.”
The statement was factually incorrect, and people rightly objected. The following day, Hosking made a half-hearted “clarification”;

The fact that anyone can vote for [the Māori Party] as a list party I automatically assumed we all knew given we have been doing this for 20 years… and it went without saying. So hopefully that clears all of that up.

It didn’t “clear all that up”. Not by a long-shot.

After a complaint was laid with the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA), the finding was scathing of Hosking. On 19 December, the BSA found;

The Authority upheld a complaint that Mr Hosking’s comments were inaccurate and misleading, and that the alleged clarification broadcast on 24 August 2017 was flippant and too general to correct the inaccurate information for viewers. Voters not enrolled on the Māori electoral roll can cast a party vote for the Māori Party, or vote for one of the 18 Māori Party candidates representing general electorates in the 2017 General Election.

In reaching its decision, the Authority recognised the high value and public interest in political speech during the election period, but emphasised the importance of ensuring audiences were accurately informed about election matters. It said Mr Hosking’s inaccurate comments were presented at a critical time, when voters required accurate information to enable them to make informed voting decisions.

“This was an important issue, particularly during the election period, and had the potential to significantly affect voters’ understanding of the Māori roll and of New ealand’s electoral system”, it said.

In considering whether orders should be made, the Authority commented on the important and influential role held by programme hosts and presenters,particularly during the democratic election process.

Note that the BSA wasn’t commenting on an opinion held by Hosking. Hosking did not say,

“…you [shouldn’t] vote for the Māori Party because X-Y-Z.”

He stated an incorrect fact;

“…you can’t vote for the Māori Party because you’re not enrolled in the Māori electorate.”

An example of “fake news” some might say.

Furthermore, the BSA found that Hosking’s “clarification” was;

…flippant and too general to correct the inaccurate information for viewers“.

Quite clearly, Hosking made a mistake.  Whether he genuinely believed that “you can’t vote for the Māori Party because you’re not enrolled in the Māori electorate”, or he mis-spoke, is almost irrelevant. The fact is that his statement – made on prime time television, with an audience of several hundred thousand people – was untrue. It couldn’t be any more untrue.

The BSA demanded;

… it would be appropriate for the broadcaster to publicly acknowledge the breach of the accuracy standard to its audience by way of a broadcast statement on air.The Authority directed that the statement be broadcast before the 2017 summer holiday break.

Which, by 19 December, was about four months too late. The election had been ‘done and dusted’ by the time the BSA made it’s ruling. Any damage to voters – who were unfamiliar with the intracacies of MMP – had been done.

Hosking could have “taken it on the chin”. But he didn’t, and he broke the cardinal rule for those in public life; ‘when in a hole, stop f—–g digging’!

Hosking kept digging, getting deeper and deeper in the cesspit hole he had dug for himself. Writing for the Herald on 20 December – the day following the BSA’s findings released to the public – Hosking reacted with the equanimity of a spoiled, pinot-sipping, Maserati-driving, rich brat;

My Christmas gift from the BSA, the Broadcasting Standards Authority, is I misled the nation. Sorry nation, I misled you.

I didn’t of course, but they don’t have a sense of humour, or indeed any understanding of the realities of broadcasting, like you shouldn’t take everything literally.

[…]

But the BSA was having none of it. And so sadly, once again, we have paid for a bunch of humourless earnest clipboarders to sit around pontificating and writing reports.

The irony being they decided a statement had to be made rectifying my outlandish behaviour, and it had to be done before Seven Sharp took a summer break.

They released their report yesterday – five days after the show had gone off-air. And they might have known the show had gone off air, because the final show got quite a bit of coverage for other reasons.

Then he added, in a final shot of petulance that only a ten year old could appreciate;

So what has been achieved here? Nothing. The show is finished. The election is over. I’ve quit.

He left out this bit; “…so I’m taking my ball and going home.”

Hosking wondered “why we have a BSA that busies itself with such nonsense“.

Tim Watkin, writing for The Pundit, was unimpressed;

Suck it up, buttercup. Take your medicine. Don’t whinge and claim to be misunderstood, just take responsibility. That’s the sort of advice often offered on talkback radio, yet Mike Hosking seems to have missed that memo with his ill-advised Herald column this morning on a Broadcasting Standards Authority ruling against him.

Watkin added that Hosking’s whinge in his on-going NZ Herald column was, in itself, an abuse of power;

This is dangerous stuff and a rather worrying abuse of power. When someone is sentenced by the Court in New Zealand, they don’t get a newspaper column in which to vilify the judge. And for good reason. Hosking may disagree with the ruling, but you suck it up and take your dues. That is another of the realities of broadcasting, and Hosking should realise that.

Yes, standards bodies get to pontificate; it’s their job. I know, as the digital rep on the New Zealand Media Council (until recently, the Press Council). The bodies exist to protect free speech, balance the power between the media and the audiences it serves and ensure those people with the megaphone act according to agreed ethics. As with anything we do in society, there are rules. If Hosking doesn’t like the rules, he can argue to change them. He can cry into his pinot at home.

But he doesn’t get to whine about them in print when he gets pinged.

Watkins is on the nail on every point made.

But it is illuminating that the Right – which fetishises personal responsibility to the  nth degree – is the last to take personal responsibility seriously.  Hosking demands personal responsibility from just about everyone else;

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This is one the pitfalls of our hyper-commercialised mainstream media, when it sets up “media personalities” to pontificate to the nation on various issues. Such “media personalities” become an embarrassing liability when they get their feet firmly wedged in their oft-open mouths, having said something incredibly (a) stupid or (b) wrong or (c) both.

In this case, Hosking achieved (c): both. And worse still, his masters in the National Party must have been pulling their hair out in tufts. Hosking’s bullshit comment would have impacted badly on the Maori Party. How many votes did the Maori Party lose because of Hosking’s mis-information?

If they did lose a sizeable chunk of votes – was Hosking inadvertently responsible for the Maori Party losing their seats in Parliament? In which case, Hosking may have single-handedly denied National a fourth term in office by destroying one of their coalition partners.

“Own goal” doesn’t begin to cover Hosking’s incredible feat of self-destruction for his Party.

The role of  pundits  is to engage with the public and offer matters to think about and/or to inform us. On 23 August 2017, Hosking achieved neither of those admirable goals. Instead, he was sloppy. His “Maori electorate” comment was sloppy, and mis-informed viewers. His clarification was sloppy, treating viewers with thinly-disguised disdain.

And to make matters worse; it was abundantly obvious he couldn’t care less.

This should be an end to Mike Hosking’s career in broadcasting.

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References

Broadcasting Standards Authority: Seven Sharp presenter’s comments about voting for Māori Party inaccurate and misleading, BSA finds

NZ Herald:  Mike Hosking – ‘Pontificating’ Broadcasting Standards Authority humourless earnest clipboarders

Newstalk ZB:  Mike’s Minute – What about consumer responsibility?

Additional

Mediaworks:  BSA has no sense of humour – Mike Hosking

Mediaworks:  Mike Hosking officially broke broadcasting rules with false Māori Party comments

Other Blogs

The Pundit:  Mike Hosking – You do the crime, you do the time

Previous related blogposts

Mike Hosking as TVNZ’s moderator for political debates?! WTF?!

Mike Hosking – Minister for War Propaganda?

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 31 December 2017.

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Mr English: Where are National’s secret coalition negotiation papers?

8 December 2017 5 comments

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Bill English has been kicking up a shit-storm, demanding that Labour release what they have been describing as a “secret coalition agreement” between Labour and NZ First.

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English complained;

“This is a government that said it would be more transparent and more open. The document is clearly there somewhere, it must be important because it’s 38 pages and it’s come out of the agreement – people deserve to see it.

It sounds like there might be quite a lot more in this other piece of paper. If it’s at the core of how the Government’s going to run, it’s in the public interest.”

English defended his insistence that the coalition notes be made public by comparing the Coalition with his own previous administration “transparency”;

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“By any international standard the last government was open and transparent, and this government, as with many other things, has expressed these high-minded intentions and then fails to follow through.”

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Which is a patently dishonest claim considering that the last nine years of National governance has been one of secrecy; obstructing OIA requests; increased state surveillance; and misleading the public.

Former Dear Leader, “Sir” John Key was brazenly open only in one respect of the OIA. He openly conceded that his administration regularly and willfully delayed releasing OIA requested information for purely political purposes;

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“Sometimes we wait the 20 days because, in the end, Government might take the view that’s in our best interest to do that.”

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To which  Chief Ombudsman, Dame Beverley Wakem, responded by reminding Key and his cronies colleagues they were were not permitted to flout the OIA legislation by deliberately delaying up to the  twenty-day deadline;

“It’s pretty clear. It couldn’t be much clearer than that… As soon as you have made a decision as to whether you’re going to respond to the request or how you’re going to respond to it, you ought to convey that.”

During it’s nine years in office, National has widened the powers of the GCSB to permit it to spy on all New Zealanders; mis-used GCSB surveillance to secure leadership of the World Trade Organisation; spied on our Pacific neighbours; and unlawfully harassed National’s critics such as Nicky Hager and Martyn Bradbury.

But when challenged on whether the GCSB was conducting mass surveillance on New Zealanders, Key simply point-blank refused to comment.

Who can forget National’s obstruction and prevarication – including contradictory statements – over the SAS-led attack on two villages in the Tirgiran Valley in 2010 which caused fifteen injuries and the tragic deaths of six innocent Afghan civilians, including a young child;

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Lest we forget: Fatima, aged 3

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Just recently, it was revealed that an OIA request by Radio NZ, for details regarding the business case for a proposed new multi-million dollar Auckland City rail-line, was met with deliberate stone-walling from then-Minister, Simon Bridge’s “office“;

Transport Minister Simon Bridges has been caught trying to block an official information request for details about a proposed new $50 million Auckland railway line.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters tabled an email trail in Parliament yesterday showing that Mr Bridges’ office repeatedly urged KiwiRail last week not to release a business case on Auckland’s proposed third main railway track.

Initially, his officials opposed the document being released, saying it was part of an unsuccessful budget bid, but were told by KiwiRail on Thursday that the law was clear it should be released.

After consulting its legal team, KiwiRail told Mr Bridge’s office it would struggle to justify not releasing it.

But on Friday Mr Bridges’ office again urged KiwiRail not to release the business plan.

This time it used a scatter-gun approach – arguing the report was only a draft, was on a misleading template and that its proposed release was making them “extremely uncomfortable”.

Writer Harriet Gale…

[…]

… said KiwiRail made it clear the business case did not need to be kept secret and that the minister’s behaviour was worrying.

Chief Ombudsman, Peter Boshier, was obviously frustrated and disturbed by National’s attempt to suppress the Kiwirail Report and their continual flouting of the OIA;

“It’s so important that we get this Act flowing better than it has been and it hasn’t necessarily flowed that well.

And that’s why I’ve used this as an opportunity to exhort the Prime Minister to help me and support me in getting the roles crystal clear.

We are coming down increasingly heavier where we see instances where the Act is not being compiled with – and in some cases, where it’s been flouted.

I think there’s an understanding that we mean business.”

Hardly the hallmarks of an “open and transparent” government when a Minister’s “office” is prepared to conspire to break the law by circumventing the Official Information Act. Also not helped when the ombudsman’s office has to write a scathing letter to the Prime Minister demanding they obey the law.

As if to underscore National’s mania for secrecy, in 2011/12, New Zealand’s ranking in media freedom by Reporters Without Borders fell from eighth place  in 2010, to  thirteenth, in the world.

The Herald’s senior reporter, Matthew Backhouse, wrote at the time;

The report did not say what was behind the fall – but it comes after a year in which newsrooms were searched by police, the New Zealand Herald was temporarily banned from the parliamentary press gallery and a proposed new law sought to give police greater powers to enter newsrooms.

Another story by Fairfax media’s Susan Edmunds, in May this year, also reported on New Zealand’s fall in World Press Freedom Index, citing Government secrecy;

The report said journalists were struggling with the Official Information Act, which gives government agencies long periods of time to respond to requests. Sometimes journalists were asked to pay for information.

“In August 2016, the government revealed a grim future for whistleblowers, announcing a bill that would criminalise leaking government information to the media and would dramatically increase the surveillance powers of the intelligence services. Journalists, bloggers, and civil society representatives would be among the potential targets of the proposed law, which could be adopted in 2017.”

Catherine Strong, from Massey University’s School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing, said;

“Our lower standing is due to the growing list of government agencies trying to hide information by thwarting the Official Information Act, and these agencies are ruining our reputation.”

What is even more grimly ironic is that having been thrown out of office, National persists in refusing to disclose information to the public.

Remember that National Party leader, Bill English, recently demanded;

“This is a government that said it would be more transparent and more open. The document is clearly there somewhere, it must be important because it’s 38 pages and it’s come out of the agreement – people deserve to see it.

It sounds like there might be quite a lot more in this other piece of paper. If it’s at the core of how the Government’s going to run, it’s in the public interest.”

Following coalition negotiations,  and Peters’s subsequent  announcement on 19 October that NZ First would coalesce with Labour and the Greens, Radio NZ’s Susie Ferguson spoke with National’s Bill English on Morning Report.

On at least two occassions, Ms Ferguson asked Bill English if he would be releasing the text of coalitions negotiations with NZ First. English first replied;

@1:57

“Well again, I’m not going to be discussing that. It was part of the negotiations and New Zealand First actually required, rightly, confidentiality about those negotiations.”

When pressed, English was adamant that there would be no public disclosure;

@2:28

“I’m honour bound to stick with the confidentiality agreement. As are the other parties.”

Note English’s reference to “the other parties“.

That would be Labour. No one else was in the room with Peters and NZ First. So when it suited English, he was more than willing to point to “the other parties” to validate his refusal to release National’s own coalition discussion papers.

A month later, on 28 November, TVNZ’s talented Jack Tame interviewed Bill English on Breakfast TV. After English repeated his demands that Labour publish all coalition documents, Tame pointed out  the apparent hypocrisy of demanding Labour make public their coalition papers whilst English refused to disclose National’s;

@1:13

TAME: “So are you prepared to release what your coalition negotiations with NZ First if the government does the same?”

ENGLISH: “Well, look, I don’t know if it’s a record of negotiations. We conducted ours under a confidentiality agreement. That was very clear right at the start.

So according to English, National operated under a “confidentiality agreement“.  He failed to explain how that differed from Labour’s confidentiality agreement with NZ First. As English insisted on 19 October, Labour was “honour bound to stick with the[ir] confidentiality agreement.”

Tame put the story on Twitter;

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Kudos to Jack Tame for being the only journalist (to my knowledge) to recognise and point out English’s double standard on this issue.

English’s refusal to come clean with the New Zealand public whilst demanding “transparency and openess” from Labour is a stark reminder of National’s toxic track record of paranoia, secrecy, and do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do arrogance. Every time English or one of his National Party parliamentary colleagues opens their mouths, we are reminded of their own hypocrisy.

They are political charlatans not to be trusted.

For the first time in our political history, it has become the role of the Government to hold the Opposition to account.

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And now…

Introducing the first (but not the last!) Paula Bennett Award for Hypocrisy. Named for the National party politician who used the Training Incentive Allowance to gain a free, tax-payer funded university education when she was a young mother on the domestic purposes benefit. Later, in 2009, as Minister for Social Welfare, one of her first actions was to  scrap that Allowance, thereby denying other solo-parents the same opportunity for advancing their lives.

The first Award goes to Bill English, for saying one thing and doing another. Congratulations, Mr English!

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Acknowledgement

My thanks to a Radio NZ producer for locating specific audio that provided much-needed information for the completion of this story. I am indebted for the significant time and effort it took to assist me on this project.

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References

TVNZ News:  ‘It’s in the public interest’ – Bill English calls for release of coalition document

Radio NZ:  New govt has ‘no follow through’ – National

NZ Herald: John Key, mass surveillance and what really happened when Edward Snowden accused him of spying

Radio NZ:  Spy agencies come under scrutiny

Fairfax media: Killed girl’s parents demand NZ Government inquiry

Radio NZ:  Transport Minister tries to block official information request

Radio NZ:  Ombudsman urges ministers to follow OIA rules

NZ Herald:  NZ slips out of top 10 for freedom in the media

Fairfax media:  Press freedoms stifled by cynical use of Official Information Act – Report

Fairfax media: Labour finally retakes power after Winston Peters gives Jacinda Ardern his support

Radio NZ: Bill English faces first caucus since defeat (alt. link)

Twitter: Jame Tame – 28 November

NZ Herald: Bennett rejects ‘hypocrite’ claims

Additional

NZ Herald: OIA tension raises questions over minister’s request for information

Other Blogs

The Standard:  Key and Mass Surveillance – Was this the reason for the Golriz distraction?

TDB:  Now we know Key lied about mass surveillance – let’s remind everyone what our msm said at the time

Previous related blogposts

Once upon a time there was a solo-mum

“Fool me once”

Judith Collins owes an explanation to voters

National whines about Cullen’s appointment – they should know about cronyism

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

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

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Roy Morgan poll confirms blogger’s prediction – National is in freefall

2 December 2017 4 comments

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On 12 November, I made the following observation;

Polling Decay in Opposition

The longer the Nats remain in Opposition, the  faster their public support will erode. Post 2008, Labour’s polling continued to plummet, whereas National’s ascendancy continued to build on it electoral success…

[…]

The longer National stays in Opposition, the further it’s public support will fall. It is hard to imagine that it’s election night result of 44.4%  will be maintained to the next election in 2020.

In short, the Nats risk growing irrelevancy the longer they stay out of government.

It’s taken faster than I thought possible, but the first post-election poll – from Roy Morgan – has the Labour-led coalition rising  whilst National’s support is falling;

In November support for the newly elected Labour/NZ First/Greens Government was 54.5% (up 6% since early October) ahead of National/Act NZ on 41% (down 5.5%) with minor parties outside Parliament attracting the remaining 4.5% of support.

  • Support for Labour/NZ First is at 44.5% (up 7% since early October), a slight increase from their election result of 44.1% while coalition partners the Greens are on 10% (down 1%).
  • Support for National is at 40.5% (down 5.5%) and down 3.95% from their election result of 44.5% while their right-wing colleagues Act NZ are stuck unchanged on 0.5%.

Hence why National’s chief party strategist, shit-stirrer, and head-kicker – Steven Joyce has been so vocal lately. His on-going carping about the new government is a desperate attempt for his party to stay relevant.

The longer the Coalition has to implement it’s reforms and fix up thirty years of neo-liberal mis-management, the harder it will be for the Nats to offer themselves as a viable alternative in 2020 or 2023. Or 2026.

Who would vote for a party whose nine years in office saw nothing of any practical value except a cycleway (that failed to deliver promised 4,000 new jobs) and bloated house-values for a minority of middle class property-owners in Auckland and Wellington?

Who would vote for a party whose former Dear Leader smiled and waved his way through eight years in office; who bullied a powerless waitress; wasted $26 million on a pointless referendum; and left a legacy of Kiwi families living in cars, garages, or crammed into mouldy, delapidated housing?

And then there’s this;

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rivers too polluted to even swim in.

Nine years of National has proven to be an expensive exercise  in futility for this country.

But more so thirty years of a dogmatic neo-liberal experiment which has failed on almost every level (unless you are the 1% or an Auckland property owner).

TV3’s ‘The Nation‘  on 25 November emphasised the grim problems we face, as the entire episode was taken up with the socio-economic problems faced by Northlanders.

That one, single, episode was award-winning journalism. It was Reality TV unlike the inane bullshit we get from “The Block“, “Home Improvement“, “Survivor Whatever/Wherever“, “The Bachelor/ette“, “My Kitchen Cooks“, etc, etc, et-bloody-cetera.

It made for grim watching and deserves to be re-broadcast at prime time.

It is against this back-drop that National’s strategists should understand one thing very clearly: people’s expectations over the last three decades have been low. The pressing social and economic problems we face have been accepted with a shrug from a sizeable chunk of the voting population.

It was presented for a generation that this was as good as it gets.

But if Labour, NZ First, and the Greens can prove that a better alternative exists – then watch National’s poll rating plummet even further. The Roy Morgan Poll gave us a hint of this;

Government Confidence increased substantially during November after New Zealand First chose to form Government with the Labour Party installing Jacinda Ardern as New Zealand’s new PM.

The Roy Morgan Government Confidence Rating jumped 15.5pts to 146.5pts in November (the highest for nearly eight years since January 2010 early in the reign of Prime Minister John Key) with 66.5% of NZ electors (up 8% from October) saying NZ is ‘heading in the right direction’ cf. 20% of NZ electors (down 7.5%) that say New Zealand is ‘heading in the wrong direction’.

The Nats are on borrowed time. Their relevancy will continue to diminish.

And it is when the Right have their backs against the wall that they will be most dangerous.

Labour, Green, and NZ First Ministers and MPs need to be on-guard at all times. Stay focused on what needs to be done.

The Roy Morgan poll shows we are on track…

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Sunday Star Times <letters@star-times.co.nz>
date: 26 November 2017
subject: Letters to the editor

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The editor
Sunday Star Times

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The latest Roy Morgan poll must be sending shivers down the backs of the National Party hierarchy.

Not because support for the newly elected Labour-led coalition was up 6% to 54.5%, with National/ACT free-falling 5.5% on 41%.

But because the same poll revealed that “66.5% of NZ electors (up 8%) said NZ is heading in the right direction”.

This is a clear message from the people that they have had enough of a market-led, minimalist-government regime that has seen growing child poverty; widening income/wealth inequality; stagnating wages; corporates rorting the tax system; worsening housing affordability; growing homelessness with entire families living in garages or cars; degraded rivers; and a grossly under-funded health system.

National was quick of the mark cutting taxes in 2009 and 2010, for which they had to borrow from overseas to fund, despite assurances that would not happen.

But not so quick to address the critical problems that really matter to New Zealanders.

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-Frank Macskasy

[name and address supplied]

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References

Wikipedia:  Opinion polling for the New Zealand general election, 2011

Electoral Commission:  2017 General Election – Official Result

Roy Morgan Poll:  New PM Jacinda Ardern drives surge in New Zealand Government Confidence

NZ Herald:  Cycleway jobs fall short

Mediaworks:  New Zealand housing most unaffordable in the world – The Economist

Fairfax media: Prime Minister John Key pulled waitress’ ponytail

Radio NZ:  Flag referendum ‘waste of money’

Fairfax media:  New Zealand’s poor housing is making our children sick

Fairfax media:  ‘Serious pressures’ facing rivers, Government report finds

Mediaworks: The Nation – Turning around the far north

Mediaworks: The Nation – What happened to Moerewa?

Mediaworks: The Nation – Fixing Northland

Other Blogs

The Standard:  Latest Roy Morgan Poll – Labour and Greens surge as National flounders

Previous related blogposts

The Legacy of a Dismantled Prime Minister

“Fool me once”

St. Steven and the Holy Grail of Fiscal Responsibility

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That was then…

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This is now…

 

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 November 2017.

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Judith Collins owes an explanation to voters

25 November 2017 6 comments

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National’s narrative continues

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The National Party is continuing with it’s strategy to question and undermine the legitimacy of the  Labour-Green-NZFirst coalition government.

On 24 October,on Radio NZ’s Morning Report,  Bill English questioned whether or not Labour had a mandate to govern;

“ The voters at large probably expected that if you got 44 and a half percent of the vote, you were some part of the government or the big part of it.

[…]

How to hold to account a government that’s been put together in an unusual way.

[…]

Just remember this is a prime minister who’s the first one in a hundred years who lost the popular vote and lost it by quite a bit.

… It didn’t win the vote.

[…]

when an election is lost, a larger party captured the direction New Zealand wanted to go in.

On further questioning, English was forced to concede that Labour had a mandate;

I accept that, absolutely… It’s a legitimate result…

Well, I’ve been saying all year that the… all the other parties put together can beat you on the day. And that’s what happened on Thursday. So that’s MMP. That’s how it works.

On the 10th of November, Judith Collins took up the narrative, questioning whether or not Peters had been conducting coalition negotiations in good faith;

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Collins complained that because Winston Peters had filed legal action against several National MPs and their staff, that this constituted “bad faith” bargaining;

At the time, we were very much convinced on our side there were genuine negotiations going on. But I’ve got to say, it’s not looking like it was quite so genuine anymore.

She further demanded an explanation from the NZ First leader;

“ I think Winston Peters should really explain himself to the public because there were a lot of voters who were disappointed in his decision.  I think New Zealanders are owed an explanation. Was he being genuine, or was it just a play?”

Now this is richly ironic on several levels.

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Bargaining in good faith

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Firstly, I am reminded of National’s legislative changes to workplace collective bargaining in 2014. As MoBIE reported at the time, “good faith bargaining” was watered down to the extent that “the duty of good faith does not require collective agreement to be concluded“;

Before the law change, parties bargaining for a collective agreement were required to conclude that agreement unless there was genuine reason not to. The change means that a collective agreement does not have to be concluded, however parties must still deal with each other in good faith.

The Employment Relations Amendment Act 2014 came into effect on 6 March 2015 and passed provisions in the Bill that “providing that the duty of good faith does not require parties to reach a collective agreement“.

So providing that employers could show they “acted in good faith“, there was no onus on them to conclude bargaining to achieve a collective agreement.

Sound familiar?

It should. It’s what Judith “Crusher” Collins has complained about;

At the time, we were very much convinced on our side there were genuine negotiations going on. But I’ve got to say, it’s not looking like it was quite so genuine anymore.

The richest irony of all; National complaining that bargaining to establish a “collective agreement” for a National-NZFirst Coalition was not conducted in good faith.

“Good faith bargaining” and the “National Party” – not words we usually associate together in the same sentence.

My heart bleeds.

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New Zealanders owed an explanation?!

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Collins was engaging in some loud, toy-tossing whining when she demanded “I think Winston Peters should really explain himself to the public because there were a lot of voters who were disappointed in his decision.  I think New Zealanders are owed an explanation”.

While we’re about who is owed explanations by whom, let’s re-cap on some matters that arose  in the last nine years of National’s governance – and remain outstanding ;

2009 – Paula Bennett releases personal details relating to two solo-mothers, after they challenged the Minister’s decision to cease the Training Incentive Allowance (which Bennett herself used to gain a free tertiary education);

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Not only did  Bennett not apologise  for misusing personal information for political point-scoring – she hinted she would do it again;

 …it would depend on the circumstances.

Paula Bennett: New Zealanders are owed an explanation.

2013 & 2014 – Judith Collins was revealed to have close connections with Oravida, which her husband was also a director of. Collins;

  • opened Oravida’s new Auckland headquarters in October 2013
  • whilst on a tax-payer funded trip to China, Collins had a private  dinner-function  with Oravida bosses and an un-named senior Chinese border official
  • on the same tax-payer funded trip to China,  Collins “stopped by”  Oravida’s Shanghai offices “on the way to the airport” – despite Oravida’s offices being   thirty kilometres in the opposite direction
  • prior to Collins’ dinner at Oravida’s Shanghai offices, Oravida  sought assistance from the NZ Government on Chinese border control problems
  • received donations totalling $86,000 for the National Party coffers
  • received thousands of dollars of donations from other Oravida-linked sources

The perception of a severe conflict of interest where Collins may have mis-used her Ministerial position to further Oravida’s interests remain unanswered.

Judith Collins: New Zealanders are owed an explanation.

2014 – Judith Collins (again) was uncovered sharing information – including personal information, leaks, and gossip – with far-right blogger, Cameron Slater.

In his book ‘Dirty Politics‘, investigative journalist Nicky Hager Mediaworks outlined how Collins had;

  • … discussed details of the Bronwyn Pullar ACC case with Mr Slater and she may have been behind the leak;
  • … fed Mr Slater a constant stream of gossip, for example, anecdotes about Labour MP Trevor Mallard making a fool of himself;
  • … may have been involved in a prisoner transfer requested by Mr Slater, while she was Corrections Minister;
  • … emailed Mr Slater the name of a ministerial services staff member who he went on to attack on his blog.

Collins was also accused of running a vendetta against then Serious Fraud Office Director, Adam Feeley, and working with Slater to destroy the SFO boss’s career.

In 15 August 2014, then-Dear Leader Key refused categorically to  sack or even investigate Collins for alleged mis-use of ministerial power;

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most corrupt politicioan in NZ's history - judith collins

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Two weeks later, she was gone-burger. Collins had “resigned”;

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(Unsurprisingly, Collins was later “cleared” of allegations that “she was working with Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater to get rid of former Serious Fraud Office  boss Adam Feeley”.  Evidently, despite several fifteen minute telephone calls between Slater and Collins, Justice Lester Chisholm insisted that the “Whaleoil” blogger had ” over-embellished” when he sent emails saying Collins was “gunning for Feeley”. Yeah, right.)

Yet, questions still persist surrounding Collins’ dealings with Cameron Slater and people she allegedly tried to destroy.

Judith Collins: New Zealanders are owed an explanation.

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Conclusion

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It is unquestionably the role of the Parliamentary Opposition to question the government and hold it to account. Along with the media (as flawed as it sometimes is), a strong Opposition is a necessary function of a healthy democracy.

But having someone like Judith Collins, who has so many unanswered questions hanging over her, demanding accountability undermines the effectiveness of the Opposition.

Collins’ time has come and gone. She should resign from Parliament altogether and let her place be taken by someone untainted by dubious associations; questionable conflicts of interest; and allegations of mis-use of ministerial power.

Other MPs have resigned for less.

 

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References

Radio NZ:  Bill English faces first caucus since defeat (alt.link)(audio)

Mediaworks:  Winston Peters ‘not genuine’ in coalition talks – Judith Collins

Mediaworks:  Winston Peters takes legal action against National Party over leak ‘plot’

MoBIE:  Law changes to collective bargaining

MoBIE:  Amendments to the Employment Relations Act 2000 (March 2015)

NZ Herald: Bennett gets tough with outspoken solo mums

Dominion Post: Minister defends releasing private details

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

Mediaworks: Timeline – Judith Collins and Oravida

Mediaworks: Key won’t investigate Collins claims

Interest.co.nz:  Judith Collins resigns after revelation of Slater email saying she was “gunning for Feeley”; Collins denies campaigning to oust SFO Director; Key says Collins had to go

Mediaworks:  Judith Collins cleared of colluding with Whale Oil blogger Slater

Fairfax media: How did Key mislead Parliament?

Other Blogs

The Paepae:  The Judith Collins Chisholm inquiry – Who was actually on trial?

The Standard:  Collective bargaining? Yeah right

Previous related blogposts

Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How (Part # Toru)

Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How (Part # Rua)

Hon. Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy

“Dirty Politics” and The Teflon Man

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign… (Iwa)

“Fool me once”…

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 20 November 2017.

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“Fool me once”…

17 November 2017 5 comments

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Fool me once, shame on you.

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Fool me twice, shame on me!

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That was then, this is now (1)

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So what was National’s problem with the number of committee members on Select Committees? “Shadow leader of the House“, Simon Bridges, accused the new Labour-Green-NZ First coalition government of “ trying to limit scrutiny of its actions by attempting to cut the number of Opposition MPs on select committees because it is short on numbers itself ”.

Bridges claimed;

One of the most important ways to do that is through the select committee process. But rather than fronting up to that scrutiny, Labour is now saying it wants to allow fewer elected representatives to carry out that vital function – that’s undemocratic.

While the number of positions on select committees has traditionally matched the number of MPs in Parliament, Labour wants to restrict the number because it doesn’t have enough members of its own.”

It’s true. The new Coalition government was going to reduce Select Committee numbers from 120 to 96.

But Bridges was not being truthful with the public when he blamed Labour for wanting to  “restrict the number because it doesn’t have enough members of its own”.

In fact, that decision was made by the Standing Orders Committee in July of this year, when National was in government.  National’s David Carter was Speaker of the House and Chairperson of the SOC.

The National government SOC report stated;

“We do not favour specifying the number of seats in the Standing Orders. The Business Committee should retain the ability to determine the size of each committee. We propose instead that the Business Committee adopt a target of 96 seats across the 12 subject select committees. We considered models based on 108 committee seats, which would have little impact given the decrease in the number of committees, and 84 committee seats, which would leave too many members without permanent committee seats—a matter considered below. A total of 96 seats will result in most committees having seven, eight, or nine members.”

Bridges belatedly admitted that the reduction in Select Committee numbers was a decision made by National when it had been in government. But he complained that National had made the decision because they were trying to be ‘nice’ to Labour and other opposition parties;

We were a Government [in July] … trying to accommodate the Opposition who wanted that. But now the Opposition doesn’t want it. Because back then, it is such a disadvantage to us.”

“Disadvantage”?

David Carter’s July 2017 report was clear in its intent;

“We believe there would be some merit in decreasing the overall number of select committee seats while retaining the proportionality requirement. Committees are generally larger than is necessary for them to be effective, and some members have too many committee commitments. With a decrease in the number of subject committees from 13 to 12, committees would become even larger if the overall membership remained around 120.

A decrease in committee seats would provide more flexibility for parties to manage committee attendance and absences. This flexibility would also allow members to attend committee meetings according to their interests, expertise, and availability. Government backbench members would not be expected to be on more than two committees each, allowing them to be more focused in their committee work. There could also be greater scope to arrange extended sittings at the same time as committee meetings, as fewer members would be required to attend those meetings.”

No mention made of “trying to accommodate the Opposition”. Carter’s report was more concerned with  National backbench MPs  being over-worked. “Making nice” with Labour is not mentioned.

National’s modus operandi of dishonesty appears not to have changed as they begin their long twilight Decade of Opposition.

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Hypocrisy, National-style

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National’s Simon Bridges also said on 6 November;

The role of the Opposition is to hold the Government to account, to scrutinise its actions and to advocate for the views of the people they are elected to represent. One of the most important ways to do that is through the select committee process. ”

Curiously, the role of Select Committees to “hold the Government to account, to scrutinise its actions and to advocate for the views of the people they are elected to represent” did not seem to tax Mr Bridges’ noble views when National forced through the so-called ‘Hobbit Law’ in 2010.

The “Hobbit law” – aka the Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Act 2010 – was enacted under Urgency from First Reading to Royal Asset in under 48 hours!

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Such unheard of rapidity to pass legislation – even under Urgency – was the political equivalent of a starship travelling at near-light velocity. Needless to say there was no Select Committee over-sight.  There was no scrutiny. And MPs did not get an opportunity to “advocate for the views of the people they are elected to represent“.

According to right-wing National apparatchik and blogger, David Farrar, and then Opposition Labour MP, Grant Robertson, the National government used Urgency to pass seventeen laws during it’s first two yours in office. There was no public consultation permitted. No public submissions sought.

National’s (mis-)use of Urgency during it’s nine years in office  shows Bridges to be hypocritical when he preaches;

 The Government must let parliamentary structures fully reflect the decisions of voters and allow its ideas to be tested – that’s in the interests of all New Zealanders.”

But when Simon Bridges was Minister for Labour in 2014, his view on passing health and safety legislation was in stark contrast. As I reported three years ago;

Helen Kelly accused Minister of Labour, Simon Bridges of slowing progress of the passing of the Health and Safety Bill, and actively interfering and restricting the terms of a Worksafe NZ review of safety practices in the forestry industry. She said,

We know the minister has restricted right down what they’re allowed to look at. They’re not looking at fatigue. They’re not looking at weather. They’re not looking at hours of work. Simon Bridges has said, ‘no, wait for the review’.

Bridges response on Radio NZ’s Morning Report, on 28 April [2014], did nothing to allay fears that he was  taking the side of forestry operators and doing everything within his power to stymie reform of the industry, and resist implementation of a stricter safety regime.

When Morning Report’s Susie Ferguson pressed Bridges on  when the Health and Safety Reform Bill would be passed into law, his response was derisory and dismissive,

We can’t simply, ah,  because Helen Kelly sez so, do something in two days.

...  But I don’t think it’s a position where we can simply snap our fingers and change  systemic, ah, ah, deep  problems overnight. Indeed it would be entirely wrong for us to do that.

Hypocrisy on so many levels… where does one even start with the National Party?!

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Treachery, National-style

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In holding to ransom the election of Trevor Mallard as Speaker of the House, National bluffed it’s way to increase the number of their MPs that can be appointed to Select Committees. This was despite a clear understanding between the new Coalition government and National that Trevor Mallard would be elected unopposed as Speaker, and National’s Anne Tolley as Deputy Speaker.

By demanding a vote be taken, National reneged on their agreement.

The threat from the Opposition Benches was a  dire  warning to the new Coalition government that National was prepared to play dirty.

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Chris Hipkins and Grant Robertson negotiate with duplicitous and disloyal  National Opposition MPs

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The  Coalition has been taught a clear lesson. As Leader of the House, Chris Hipkins said after the fiasco;

Lesson learnt, they won’t catch us out on that ever again in the future.

Adding;

Perhaps when dealing with the Opposition, I’ll be a little more careful to make sure I get a specific undertaking from them in future.

Indeed, Chris. Be very careful.  The lesson of National’s willingness to engage in dirty tricks; double dealing; and other obstructionist tactics should not be lost on any Labour, Green, or NZ First MPs.

National MPs lack honour.

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National’s desperation to remain relevant

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For National, the stakes are high and they will do everything within their power – perhaps pushing as close to the edge of legality as humanly possible – to achieve the destruction of this Coalition government, and spark an early election.

Make no mistake. National realises two crucial things are in play;

#1: Polling Decay in Opposition

The longer the Nats remain in Opposition, the  faster their public support will erode. Post 2008, Labour’s polling continued to plummet, whereas National’s ascendancy continued to build on it electoral success;

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The longer National stays in Opposition, the further it’s public support will fall. It is hard to imagine that it’s election night result of 44.4%  will be maintained to the next election in 2020.

In short, the Nats risk growing irrelevancy the longer they stay out of government.

#2: Dismantling the Neo-liberal Paradigm

Chris Trotter wrote on 26 October;

“ We face an economic system without the slightest idea how to solve the problems created by its discredited policies and practices. Nevertheless, the Neoliberal Establishment remains very strong, and just as soon as it settles upon an effective strategy of resistance, the fightback will begin.

[…]

The Labour-NZ First-Green Government will be presented by these hard-line rightists as an illegitimate and dangerously anti-capitalist regime. Its anti-business and anti-farming policies, they will argue, are not only incompatible with genuine Kiwi democracy, but also constitute a direct attack on the sanctity of private property. As such, it will not be enough to merely oppose this far-left government; it will be necessary to fight it head-on.

Brexit. Donald Trump. Justin  Trudeau. Jeremy Corbyn. Emmanuel Macron. Whether on the Left or Right, or Mad Populist; whether in office or not; there is a mood for change sweeping the globe. The promises of neo-liberalism; the “free” market; and globalism have failed to materialise for the many – whilst amassing vast wealth for the few.

“Trickle down” has become a sick joke that offers opportunities for cartoonists…

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… but not much else for the unemployed; the low-paid; and the precariat. It’s hard to be a cheer-leader for globalisation when your job has been “exported” to Shanghai; outsourced to Manila; or replaced by a robot.

It is against that back-drop of growing public resentment against the neo-liberal orthodoxy that National understands it is living on ‘borrowed time’. The longer they remain in Opposition, the more time the Coalition government has to un-pick the strands of neo-liberalism and reinstate the role of the State in commerce, workplace relations, housing, education, health, and elsewhere.

The more that neo-liberalism is unravelled, the harder it will be for National in the long-term to re-build. Especially if a resurgent State succeeds in housing the homeless; fully funding public healthcare and cutting back waiting lists; and all the other cuts to social services that National sneaked through gradually, without being noticed except by a few.

Expect desperation to be the motivator for everything National does in the next three years.

They know the clock is ticking.

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That was then, this is now (2)

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On 24 October,  Bill English was interviewed on Radio NZ’s Morning Report by Susie Ferguson. He was asked about his earlier comments  about the current coalition being a “minority government”;

English began by voicing that the incoming coalition government had not won the “popular vote”. First he complained that his Party should have been the government simply because of it’s size;

“ The voters at large probably expected that if you got 44 and a half percent of the vote, you were some part of the government or the big part of it.

Then he suggested that the formation of the coalition was somehow “unusual”;

“…How to hold to account a government that’s been put together in an unusual way.

English did not fully explain why the coalition formation was “unusual”.

Then he hinted that the Coalition government might not be legitimate;

Just remember this is a prime minister who’s the first one in a hundred years who lost the popular vote and lost it by quite a bit.”

… It didn’t win the vote.

English’s comments might make sense under a First Past the Post system – but under MMP his arithmetic doesn’t add up.  Added together, Labour, NZ First, and the Greens won more votes than National and ACT. More people voted for change than the status quo.

Which prompted Ms Ferguson to remind English that the new Coalition government is made up of three parties, so how was that different to the National-led government that he (English) led?

English’s response again reflected First Past the Post thinking, by referring to National as the larger party and thereby somehow entitled to rule;

“…when an election is lost, a larger party captured the direction New Zealand wanted to go in.

Ms Ferguson had to remind Mr English that 44% is not a majority. The arithmetic simply did not support the National leader’s expectations of a “right to govern” based on size. Perhaps because he understood the nature of Radio NZ listeners, he was forced to admit;

I accept that, absolutely… It’s a legitimate result…

Well, I’ve been saying all year that the… all the other parties put together can beat you on the day. And that’s what happened on Thursday. So that’s MMP. That’s how it works.

But despite claiming to understand how MMP works, he couldn’t result a further dig at the Coalition;

Put it this way, if the Labour Party got 44% of the vote, I think anyone would argue they’d be in a stronger position to start a government than they are today.

But Ms Ferguson was having none of English trying to have a bob-each-way and put to him a simple question; did the National Party have a moral mandate to be the leading party of government?

To which English could only reply:

We accept, like everybody else should, that’s its a legitimate result of MMP. No contest about that. That’s how the rules work, we all knew that.

Nine days later, and English was back on the warpath, threatening to de-stabilise the Coalition government under the pretext of Opposition;

We are the dominant select committee party and we’re not the government, and that is going to make a difference to how everything runs.

It’s not our job to make this place run for an incoming government that’s a minority.

Remember this, we are the opposition with a minority government, it’s a term the media don’t use but you’ll get to understand that it is a minority government with a majority opposition and the Greens as the support party, and that’s how we’re going to run it.

The constant reference to “minority government” and National being the “dominant party” carries on the narrative being run by English’s party strategists; that this new coalition is a “minority” (it’s not); that National was denied it’s rightful position as government (it wasn’t); and that the election results were somehow “stolen” (not true).

With 65% of NZ First supporters showing a strong preference to coalesce with Labour, Winston Peters’ decision was sound and democratic. Any other decision – such as allying with the Nats and ACT – would have had destructive consequences for NZ First.

Which, of course, would have suited National perfectly. The Nats have already  destroyed two political parties (United Future and Maori Party) and neutered a third (ACT). Another notch on their belt would not have concerned them greatly.

Indeed, look on National as the Planet Jupiter – drawing in debris such as asteroids and comets with it’s massive gravitational field; effectively “scouring” the solar system of small objects.

National draws in smaller parties with it’s massive political-gravitational pull, and consumes them.

No wonder the Green Party exercised caution and ensured their trajectory carried them safely away from National’s crushing embrace. A “Teal Coalition” would have torn apart the Greens as effectively as Jupiter smashed  Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 in 1994.

But if English and his cronies in Her Majesty’s ‘Loyal’ Opposition believe that “it’s not our job to make this place run for an incoming government that’s a minority” – then they had best tread carefully.

The voting public are not all gullible fools and they do take notice.

As does the media.

On 9 November and 10 November, Fairfax media ran two consecutive editorials on the incoming coalition government and National’s role as Parliament’s newest Opposition.

On 9 November, an editorial writer cautioned National;

Oppositions whose sole aim is to sabotage the government, however, risk alienating the voters. In the United States, the Republican Party repeatedly tried to shut down the government altogether by denying it the money it needs to function.

The long-term risk is that this strategy will be tried by the other side when the roles are switched. The result could be the kind of paralysis of government too often seen in the United States. Oppositions don’t gain in the long term by making the country ungovernable.

In New Zealand, there is also a strong tradition of giving a new government a “fair go”. Voters traditionally allow some leeway, and even grant it a kind of temporary political honeymoon…

And on 10 November, similar warnings were issued;

The opposition has already signalled that it intends to make life more difficult than usual for the Government, but it must be very careful not to alienate the public as it does so. ”

The greatest irony may soon become apparent: it is not the new Labour-Green-NZ First coalition that will be scrutinised during this Parliamentary term.

It may be the National Opposition that is held to account.

 

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Postscript
As National’s webpages tend to disappear from their website, along with their statements, they have been saved for future reference.

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References

Parliament: Simon Bridges

NZ Herald:  National’s list of laws passed under urgency

National Party:  Government trying to limit scrutiny

Parliament: Review of Standing Orders – Report of the Standing Orders Committee – Rt Hon David Carter, Chairperson – July 2017 (p19)

NZ Herald:  National clashes with Labour – ‘erosion of democratic rights’

Legislation: Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Act 2010 – Legislative history

Radio NZ:  Unions seek prosecution over deaths

Radio NZ: Minister of Labour responds to criticism (audio)

Parliament: Health and Safety Reform Bill

TVNZ:  Anne Tolley still gets nod as Deputy Speaker despite Nats ruthlessly attacking Labour

NZ Herald:  Labour and National face off in Parliament opening over Speaker vote

Wikipedia:  Opinion polling for the New Zealand general election, 2011

Electoral Commission:  2017 General Election – Official Result

Time:  The Richest People in the World

Radio NZ:  Bill English faces first caucus since defeat (alt.link)(audio)

Electoral Commission: New Zealand 2017 General Election – Official Results

TVNZ:  Bill English warns of stubborn opposition to new government – ‘It’s not our job to make this place run’

NBR: Majority of NZ First supporters want party to ally with Labour – Colmar Brunton

Fairfax media:  Talk of a teal deal is speculation, nothing more, says James Shaw

America Space:  Remembering Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9’s Impact on Jupiter, 23 Years Ago This Week

Fairfax media:  Editorial – National wins a battle but winning the war is different

Fairfax media:  Editorial – the prime minister’s positive way forward

Other Blogs

Bowalley Road:  Strategies Of Right-Wing Resistance – It CAN Happen Here.

Bowalley Road:  Settling The Stardust – The Grim Logic Behind National’s Opposition Tactics

The Daily Blog:  How dare National claim an ‘erosion of democracy’

Previous related blogposts

National, on Law and Order

Muppets, Hobbits, and Scab ‘Unions’

John Key’s track record on raising wages – 1. The “Hobbit Law”

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

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Land banking – capitalism’s weeping sore

10 November 2017 Leave a comment

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Halloween came early for parasitic land bankers. On 30 October, new Housing Minister, Phil Twyford,  issued a bold statement that has barely been reported or commented on: land bankers are firmly in the laser-sights of the new Labour-Green-NZF coalition government.

At the same time  that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced an impending ban on the  sale of existing homes to foreign investor/speculators – Minister Twyford  issued a clear warning to land bankers that the recently elected Coalition Government would be prepared to seize their land under the Public Works Act;

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“You don’t want to have one land banker holding out a massive new development that’s going to deliver thousands of new homes.”

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Minister Twyford was unequivocal;

“We’ve got a Housing Minister now that accepts there is a housing crisis. You don’t want to have one land banker holding out a massive new development that’s going to deliver thousands of new homes.

…You might want to have it in your back pocket, but you’d use it very, very sparingly.”

He said that the new government recognised the reality of the housing crisis and was  “going to throw everything at it“.

The National Business Review highlighted land banking in 2013, when Leith Van Onselen offered his “less regulation is best” ideological response to over-coming the  problem (I refuse to sugar-coat it by calling it an “issue”). His mantra consisted of freeing up more land; the removal of regulatory constraints on the supply of land, along with more permissive planning policies;

“…land banking – an especially baneful form of rent seeking at the current time – is more prevalent in situations where land supply is constrained and planning approval processes are slow and uncertain. Land banking is also only profitable where the value of land is rising faster than the cost of capital. And in the absence of physical barriers to land supply, land price increases above the level of inflation are driven primarily by policies and regulations that artificially restrict the supply of land.

It stands to reason, then, that the removal of regulatory constraints on the supply of land, along with more permissive planning policies and infrastructure provision, would increase competition amongst both developers and land owners, thereby driving down the cost of land/housing. The existence of high levels of competition would, in turn, make land banking particularly risky, as another nearby owner would always have the opportunity to move to the market ahead of the land banking firm.”

Whilst Van Onselen recognised the “baneful” nature of land banking, his proposed more-market “solution” is not without dire consequences.  In the “absence of physical barriers to land supply” by “the removal of regulatory constraints on the supply of land“, urban sprawl into valuable food-producing rural land creates new problems through unintended consequences. Interviewed on TVNZ’s Q+A on 29 October, Horticulture New Zealand CEO, Mike Chapman warned;

Horticulture New Zealand is calling on the new Government to protect locally-grown food as urban sprawl threatens valuable growing land. Its CEO, Mike Chapman, says the impact is already “quite extreme”.

“If we don’t, we’ll be increasing our imports – fresh, nutritious locally grown food will not be available, and at the moment, we don’t have country of origin labeling, so the consumers won’t know where they’re buying their food from. It could be from anywhere in the world,” says Mr Chapman.

Reliance on the “marketplace” to solve our housing problem can be a dubious proposition.

This is especially the case when commercial firms actively exploit a problem  for greater profits. This property-brochure from Guardian First National Real Estate  in Johnsonville, Wellington, illustrates that (some) companies are not above exploiting a problem for purely personal gain;

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Guardian First National real estate johnsonville wellington

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Note the reference to “Do up, develop or landbank?”

Perhaps one of the worst cases of land banking and profiteering was reported in 2013 by the NZ Herald;

A land banking business with a big piece of residentially zoned real estate on Auckland’s outskirts has made more than $6 million a year for almost two decades – doing nothing.

QV records shows Yi Huang Trading Company owns 39 Flat Bush School Rd, which it bought in 1995 for $890,000.

Now, this 29ha block is listed on the market for $112.6 million, promoted as “the land of opportunity, vacant but close to Barry Curtis Park”.

[…]

The sale has left developers fuming. They say land bankers are ruining the city and that the sale will be tax-free because the company has held the land for so long.

Conversely – and with some justification – land banking is also a necessary tool by those developers who actually intend to build on them.  As one project is completed, and another begins, the developer must ensure a constant supply of readily available land “in the pipeline”.

As Van Onselen reported in 2011, quoting from work by Professor Alan Evans, Director of the Centre for Spatial and Real Estate Economics at the University of Reading (United Kingdom);

…as well as causing delay and increasing uncertainty, the process of seeking planning permission lends itself to strategic thinking and behaviour… the lack of certainty created by [such] a system is that it encourages the possession by large developers such as volume house builders of land banks… which can be developed at some future time. A developer such as a volume house builder will seek to ensure continuity in the supply of sites for development so as to ensure that management, equipment and labour can be used efficiently… without being laid off or idle. Commentary on the financial pages of newspapers would suggest that a land bank of at least 3 years supply seems to be regarded as necessary for the financial health of a house builder… not having a site available for development at the right time can mean that a exorbitant price will have to be paid to buy one, in order to keep the firm in business…

Speaking on The Nation on 4 November, Housing Minister Twyford appears to be fully cognisant of this particular problem and showed little reticence to proactively intervene in the “market”;

“Because of capacity problems in the industry, particularly workforce issues, it is going to take us a little while to ramp up. And our modelling has always been based on the idea that in the first three years, we’ll probably deliver about 16,000 homes, and in the third year, we’ll start to hit the average of 10,000 a year. There are three main ways that we’re going to deliver KiwiBuild. So, the first is that we’re going to say and are already saying to the private sector, to developers and builders, if you’re doing a development and you think that some of the properties in that development – might be a set of townhouses, for example, somewhere – would meet the KiwiBuild affordability criteria and design specs, then come to us. We’ll look at them, and we could buy them off the plan, speeding up your development, taking some of the risk out of it, and ensuring that we get a supply of high-quality affordable homes for first home buyers.

[…]

One of the problems at the moment, actually, is that many of the apartment projects that are underway are having real problems with financing. So by the government willing to underwrite or buy units off the plan, that actually takes away some of the risk and uncertainty and will speed up those developments.”

This is precisely the kind of market-intervention which many progressives have been demanding.  Minister Twyford even spelled it out;

“So we’re going to intervene in the market to fix that market failure by building large numbers of affordable homes. That’s the job of government, to do that.”

The alternative? To do nothing as National allowed the free hand of the market to run it’s course, and unsurprisingly our housing crisis worsened. Journalist and commentator, Tim Watkin, painted an increasingly bleak picture of urban life in New Zealand in the early 21st Century;

“… what social service agencies are now reporting is a growing – yes, growing – group of Kiwis living in their cars or renting garages. Social workers in South Auckland to a person say they can’t remember it being this bad. Rents have risen 25 percent in five years and emergency houses are full.

If you can’t afford the rent, there’s nowhere to go. Except your car, or perhaps someone’s garage.

And this isn’t just extended families bunking down in a garage while they wait for a house, as we’ve seen for years. This is a new rental property market; people paying strangers to live for months, even years, in a garage. You won’t see it on TradeMe, but we’re talking about $300 or more a week. One family had been living in a garage for two years and are paying $380/week.

Wesley-Smith was taken to Bruce Pulman Park in Takanini by Manuaku East MP Jenny Salesa, where families and individuals can be found most nights near the public toilets, sleeping in their cars. Salesa says one car-dwelling family a week turns up at her office seeking help; half aren’t engaged with the Ministry of social Development.”

Watkins was merciless in his criticism of the capitalist exploitation of the housing crisis for selfish ends. Firstly with “mum and dad property investors”;

So it’s time for mum and dad property investors to ask themselves a few hard questions. If the cost of your borrowing is forcing people to pay rents they can’t afford, maybe you shouldn’t be in the landlord business. Even if you are only one stone in the mountain, have you borrowed too much to morally justify your investment?

But he reserved his most trenchant ire for parasitic land-bankers;

But even more in the gun are the property developers, especially those who are land banking in this market. It’s time to call out those land bankers and say enough.

Financially, it’s a no-brainer for them. Especially if they’re lucky enough to own land in a Special Housing Area with all the privileges of accelerated consents and greater intensification attached. You’re quids in, the government has put a premium on your land and land values are skyrocketing. So why go to the risk and hassle of actually building?

The answer: Because your land banking is making kids sick. It’s driving families into their cars. It’s increasingly immoral to fiddle while Auckland burns.

Auckland desperately needs houses and if you’re a developer sitting on land, then you’re putting your own finances ahead of the need of families to have a roof over their heads.

Watkins pointed out then Housing Minister Nick Smith’s response to land-banking;

Housing Minister Nick Smith denies that land banking is a problem in his Special Housing Areas.

Watkins was on the button; Nick Smith is in full Denial Mode when it comes to land-banking.

On 3 June last year, I lodged a OIA request with Nick Smith, asking;

1. Does the government keep a record of how much land is “landbanked” in New Zealand?

2. If the answer to Question 1 is “yes”, how much land has been landbanked in Auckland, Wellington, Hamilton, Christchurch, and Dunedin?

3. Please provide any Ministerial, Ministry, or Cabinet papers that relate to the issue of landbanking.

After nearly two months and reminders sent to Smith’s office, the Minister finally responded on 20 July. His response to my three questions consisted of  one paragraph;

“The problem with your request is that ‘land banking’ is a loosely used phrase a bit like ‘speculation’ that has no agreed definition. A person or company  may own a section of land and not build on it for some time for all sorts of reasons and there is no definition  of how long this is for it to be deemed land banking. We do keep track of the progress made on developments in Special Housing Areas and I refer you to the publicly available reports  that set out the progress on development of these areas (http://www.mbie.govt.nz/info-services/housing-property/housing-affordability).”

Remarkably, Smith added at the end;

“I can confirm that no information can be found within the scope of your request.”

Smith either has a badly-flawed, John Key-like memory – or he was being economical with the truth. Two years earlier, on 30 November 2014, Housing Minister Nick Smith had referred specifically to land banking, expressing his frustrations at the practice;

“The Government and the Council are determined to release sufficient land supply and we’re not going to allow land price inflation of the sort we’ve seen over the last decade.

I want the land owning development community to realise that the Government is serious with Council about freeing up land supply, and they cannot bank on ongoing high land price appreciation that has encouraged land banking over the last decade.”

As with the previous National government refusing to define and measure poverty, by claiming that “‘land banking’ is a loosely used phrase a bit like ‘speculation’ that has no agreed definition” Smith was clearly hoping/praying that public/media attention on this issue would fade away.

It was a forlorn hope/prayer. Pressure was mounting on Smith.

Indeed, three weeks prior to  writing to me insisting there was “no agreed definition” on land banking and “no information can be found within the scope of your request” –  he was threatening land bankers with seizure;

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Despite insisting he had “no information” or  “definition” of the problem, Smith was considering seizing property from land bankers – something he recognised as running counter to National’s pro-capitalist kaupapa;

“If you look at many of the other governments in other parts of the world that have used those powers, they have worked effectively.

Yes, we are the National Party, but we have responded in a very pragmatic way to the challenges in Christchurch. And that has involved overcoming some of those pure views about property rights.

 We are pragmatic, and pragmatic answers are needed to the housing challenge that New Zealand has.”

Even Wellington’s Dominion Post – not a socialist ‘rag’ by any means – was vocal in it’s criticism of land banking and National’s inability to act. Their editorial on 28 March this year was scathing;

Smith himself once said it was “offensive” that an investor in Auckland could buy land in 1995 for $890,000 and put it on sale in 2016 for $112 million. “The biggest problem is Auckland is the issue of landbanking,” Smith said.

Smith’s approach to the problem was to rely on the special housing areas in Auckland, which allow for faster consents for large housing developments. Developers can face a “use it or lose it” clause which penalises them if they don’t lodge consent applications. His critics, however, argue that this rule doesn’t guarantee house completions.

And that is the problem with land-banking, it seems. It is merely a symptom of a deeper malaise, and fixing it might require radical changes. It remains to be seen what one city council can do by way of encouraging or scaring developers into building more affordable houses.

Some such as economist Arthur Grimes have suggested that the Government should use the Public Works Act to buy land for housing. This is a reasonable suggestion, draconian though it might seem. The housing crisis is so serious that radical measures of this sort have to be considered.

The National-led Government, however, with its deep allegiance to property rights and its natural sympathy for the business class, would never accept such a proposal.

Nick Smith’s  heresy to the most basic capitalist tenet – the supremacy of property rights – did not go unnoticed by Anthony Robins. Blogging on The Standard on 4 July last year, he astutely pointed out;

“I don’t often agree with the Nats, but I think there are (rare) circumstances where land bankers could be paid off, moved on, and the land put to use. But – the extinguishing of private property rights? Seizure of land? Just imagine if Labour had proposed it. There would have been an instant orgy of political and media outrage. Because it’s National though, there will be barely a whisper.

Robins’ comment had a prescient quality to it. A Labour Minister – Phil Twiford – has now threatened to do precisely what Nick Smith threatened (but never had the guts to actually follow through on).

By brandishing the Public Works Act as a ‘stick’, Twyford has put land bankers on notice. Either develop the land or have it seized by the State to house the homeless.

In a civilised society, for land bankers to sit on empty, buildable land whilst families are packed in over-crowded houses; in garages, or survive in vans and cars – is an affront to any notion of fairness and decency.

It would be like someone hoarding food in times of famine, to get a better price later.

And if Minister Twyford invokes the Public Works Act to seize land, the National Party should think twice before screaming in outrage. It would be sheer hypocrisy on their part.

For one thing,  former Housing Minister Nick Smith threatened precisely the same thing.

Secondly, the housing crisis is a legacy of the previous National government.  It’s their mess we’re cleaning up.

Use it or lose it, land bankers. The party is over.

Minister Twyford – let’s do this.

 

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Postscript: Speaking of “legacies”

Meanwhile, National persists in it’s exercise in futility, maintaining their fantasy-charade of the “great gains made over the past 9 years“;

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National’s denial is partly to blame why our horrendous housing crisis spiralled out of control.

During it’s nine years in office, National continued to point-blank deny  the social problems it faced. This continuing denial will ensure they remain in opposition for the coming decade.

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References

Mediaworks:  Government prepared to seize land for housing projects

Radio NZ:  Foreign home buyers to be banned – PM

NBR: Auckland – the land bankers paradise

TVNZ: Q+A – Horticulture New Zealand CEO, Mike Chapman

NZ Herald:  Land bought in 1995 for $890,000 – owner will sell for $112m

Macrobusiness:  Why developers land bank

Scoop media:  The Nation – Lisa Owen interviews Phil Twyford

Interest.co.nz:  Bernard Hickey argues the Government and Auckland Council should ramp up their attempts to change the expectations of land bankers about constantly rising prices

NZ Herald:  Bennett slammed over child poverty claim

NZ Herald:  Government look at hardline measure to seize property for development

Dominion Post:  Editorial – Landbanking is a big part of the housing crisis

Twitter: National – “great gains made over the past 9 years

Additional

NZ Herald: Key admits underclass still growing

NewstalkZB: Demand for food banks, emergency housing much higher than before recession

Morgan Foundation:  How Minister Smith Could Deal with Land Banking

Morgan Foundation:  Would it be Crazy to Reduce House Prices by 40%?

Other Blogs

The Pundit: How Special Housing Areas are failing & the immorality of land bankers

The Standard:  National to seize privately owned land

The Standard: So there was a housing crisis after all

The Daily Blog: On calling out the excesses of capitalism

Previous related blogposts

Can we do it? Bloody oath we can!

Another ‘Claytons’ Solution to our Housing Problem? When will NZers ever learn?

National’s blatant lies on Housing NZ dividends – The truth uncovered!

National continues to panic on housing crisis as election day looms

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 5 November 2017.

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Dollars and sense – Joyce’s hypocrisy

7 November 2017 5 comments

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You’d think that after the humiliation of being dumped from government, that National’s ex-Ministers would keep a relatively low profile in the next few months.

You’d think that National’s former ministers and backbenchers would be familiarising themselves with their newly-appointed roles as impotent  Opposition MPs.

You’d think that National’s members of parliament would be nursing massive, Jupiter-sized hang-overs after drowning their collective sorrows at being turfed out of office by the ungrateful peasantry.

Not so.

Former Economic “Development” Minister in the Former National Government, Steven Joyce, has been busying himself  critiquing the recently-elected, newly-sworn-in, Labour-Green-NZF coalition.

Even before the dust settled on the recent election; the subsequent swearing-in ceremony at the Governor-General’s residence on 26 October, and only three days since the new government ministers have barely moved into their new offices, Joyce has been making mischief like a spoiled brat.

On 30 October, Joyce demanded;

“Mr Robertson has done two long-form interviews over this weekend and yet New Zealanders are still none the wiser about the cost of the coalition’s programme and the impact on their back pockets.”

He added,

“They also have a right to know whether the new Government’s spending plans in actual dollars will match the cast-iron commitments Labour repeatedly made before the election.”

Now bear in mind that this is the same National (ex-)government that, in 2008, campaigned on tax-cuts despite the Global Financial crisis already impacting on New Zealand’s economy that year.

On 6 October 2008, Key was only too happy to dangle the tax-cuts carrot in front of a gullible electorate, to win power;

John Key has defended his party’s planned program of tax cuts, after Treasury numbers released today showed the economic outlook has deteriorated badly since the May budget. The numbers have seen Treasury reducing its revenue forecasts and increasing its predictions of costs such as benefits. Cash deficits – the bottom line after all infrastructure funding and payments to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund are made – is predicted to blow out from around $3 billion a year to around $6 billion a year.

The rest is history. National won the 2008 election. Tax-cuts were enacted in April 2009 and October 2010.

All that despite a massive budget blow-out deficit of $15.4 billion by March 2009;

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The tax cuts were (and still are!) costing us around $2 billion per year, according to figures obtained by the Green Party from the Parliamentary Library.

New information prepared for the Green Party by the Parliamentary Library show that the estimated lost tax revenues from National’s 2010 tax cut package are between $1.6-$2.2 billion. The lost revenue calculation includes company and personal income tax revenues offset by increases in GST.

“The National Government said that their signature 2010 income tax cut package would be ‘fiscally neutral’ — paid for increased revenues from raising GST. That hasn’t happened. The net cost for tax cuts has been about $2 billion,” Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman said today.

“Borrowing $2 billion in 18 months to fund upper-income tax cuts is fiscally irresponsible.

“National’s poor economic decisions have led to record levels of government debt and borrowing.

“They have also broken a promise to the electorate when they said their tax cut package was going to be fiscally neutral.”

Whilst it can be justifiably argued that New Zealand’s debt increased because of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis and two Christchurch earthquakes – both of which were out of National’s control – the loss of revenue through two unaffordable tax cuts in ’09 and ’10 were of it’s own making.

Against this backdrop of gross fiscal irresponsibility, Steven Joyce has  pontificated that “New Zealanders are still none the wiser about the cost of the coalition’s programme and the impact on their back pockets“.

It could also be argued that “most New Zealanders are still none the wiser about the cost of National’s tax-cuts and the impact on their social services“.

Steven Joyce lecturing the incoming coalition government on fiscal integrity and transparency would be like Robert Mugabe advising the U.N. on human rights.

Or like Steven Joyce telling the “truth” about a non-existent $11.7 billion “hole”.

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Postscript – A letter to the Editor

from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: 31 October 2017
subject:Letter to the editor

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The editor
Dominion Post

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Opposition MP, Steven Joyce, has been busying himself attacking the recently elected Labour-Green-NZ First Coalition government.

Despite barely moving into their new offices on 27 October, three days later Joyce was complaining;

“…New Zealanders are still none the wiser about the cost of the coalition’s programme and the impact on their back pockets. They also have a right to know whether the new Government’s spending plans in actual dollars will match the cast-iron commitments Labour repeatedly made before the election.”

Mr Joyce should settle down and take a deep breath. The coalition government has only been sworn in since 26 October.

The new government’s policies will be better costed than National’s unaffordable tax-cuts of 2009 and 2010. Those tax-cuts cost this country $2 billion p.a. according to the Parliamentary Library.

John Key happily over-looked NZ’s growing budget deficit, as reported on 6 October 2008;

John Key has defended his party’s planned program of tax cuts, after Treasury numbers released today showed the economic outlook has deteriorated badly since the May budget. The numbers have seen Treasury reducing its revenue forecasts and increasing its predictions of costs such as benefits. Cash deficits … is predicted to blow out from around $3 billion a year to around $6 billion a year.

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-Frank Macskasy

 

 

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References

Fairfax media: Jacinda Ardern’s new government sworn in

Radio NZ:  550 staff move office at Parliament this weekend

NZCity:  Ardern won’t budget on coalition costs

Mediaworks:  Spending plans ‘totally affordable’ – Jacinda Ardern

NZ Herald:  Recession confirmed – GDP falls

NZ Herald: Key – $30b deficit won’t stop Nats tax cuts?

Interest.co.nz:  Budget deficit worse than forecast – debt blows out by NZ$15.4 bln

Infonews:  Government’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting

Fairfax media:  Which side of the fiscal hole debate are experts standing on?

Additional

Frankly Speaking: Time-line

NZ Herald:  National and Labour’s nine years in charge – what the data shows

NZ Treasury: Debt

Previous related blogposts

“Less Debt and Lower Interest Rates” – Really?

Solid Energy and LandCorp – debt and doom, courtesy of a “fiscally responsible” National Govt

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

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

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 November 2017.

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

3 November 2017 1 comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

[…]

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

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

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

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

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

[…]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He deliberately evaded the question.

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

This poses some serious questions for the new Coalition government…

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

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The editor
Dominion Post

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

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

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

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

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

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

What other “legacy gifts” has Joyce left us?

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-Frank Macskasy

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[address and phone number supplied]

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References

National Party:  Labour must explain where the money is

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

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

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

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

Other Blogs

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

Previous related blogposts

Weekend Revelations #1 – Dr Jonathan Coleman

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

Dollars and sense – Joyce’s hypocrisy

St. Steven and the Holy Grail of Fiscal Responsibility

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

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Tracey Martin – The Children’s Champion

1 November 2017 1 comment

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From a blogpost I wrote on 31 December 2013;

Tracey Martin – one of Parliament’s best kept “secrets”. One to watch out for as her career in politics is on the rise. Recently elevated to Deputy Leader of NZ First, she has the potential to increase her Party’s public approval

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NZ First’s Tracey Martin, Minister for Children

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Nearly four years later, and my prediction has become reality. On 25 October, incoming Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, announced that NZ First’s talented Tracey Martin would be appointed to the new Labour-NZF-Green cabinet as a full-ranking Minister;

Tracey Martin (NZ First): Minister for Children; Internal Affairs; Seniors; Associate Minister of Education

… Ms Ardern said New Zealand First’s Tracey Martin would be a strong advocate for children in her ministerial position, which also oversees Oranga Tamariki, the Ministry for Vulnerable Children.

I fully endorse Ms Martin’s appointment to this position. In this blogger’s own experience, Ms Martin should prove to be a dedicated champion to lift children out of the poverty-trap created after thirtythree years of the failed neo-liberal experiment.

In April 2012, Jazmine Heka took a petition to then Opposition MP and NZ First spokesperson for Children, Tracey Martin. The petitions called for;

  1. To provide free healthy school lunches to all children attending schools
  2. To provide free healthcare for all children including prescription costs
  3. To introduce warrant of fitness’s for all rental homes

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Jazmine Heka, anti-Poverty campaigner, meets with Tracey Martin, Member of Parliament.

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There was wide-ranging discussion between Jazmine and Ms Martin with the MP treating her guest with respect. She listened to Jazmine for a full hour, discussing dental treatment in schools; food in schools; a warrant of fitness for all rental housing, and poverty in general.

As I reported at the time;

Ms Martin recalled when, in her youth, every school had a dental nurse and clinic-room on school-grounds, and children’s teeth were properly looked after,

Our policy is that all children must have access to free dental healthcare for the period of their schooling.”

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In depth discussion surrounding the nature of school meals drew constructive discussion from Jazmine and Tracey.

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This blogger also reported Ms Martin’s willingness to draw from other political parties;

Ms Martin agreed and referred to a “brilliant speech” by Russell Norman (Green Co-Leader), where he revealed that government had lost $2  billion of of last year’s tax-take. She said, “three years of that and we wouldn’t have to sell any state assets“.

Had those tax cuts [2009 and 2010]  not happened, we could afford free healthcare for all children.

Ms Martin referred to the Mana Party’s financial transactions tax, which she said  Annette Sykes called “the Hone Heke” tax, and which “was worth looking at, and worth taking really seriously“. It was understood that such a FTT would have to be internationally implemented, as it might otherwise risk causing a capital-flight.

The strength of the Labour-NZF-Greens coalition are the core values which each constituent party has to offer. All three have constructive, forward-looking policies and dedicated, intelligent people willing to deliver them for a better future for our country.

If the willingness of a member of parliament to sit and listen to a sixteen year old is any indication, then our new Minister for Children has been an encouraging,  positive first step for our new government.

Somewhat presciently, I wrote five years ago;

The discussion moved to a related issue, and Ms Heka asked about NZ First’s policy regarding having a high-ranking minister – or even the Prime Minister – as the Minister for Children. The premise being that if the Prime Minister was also the Minister for Children, then it would give extra impetus to policies as they might impact on his portfolio; the nations young people.

Ms Martin agreed saying,

“Well, to keep that in the view, I would have thought. To make sure that it’s part of every conversation; how will this, downstream, affect children.“

If the Prime Minister was Minister for children, it was suggested, then as with US President, Harry Truman,  “The Buck Stops Here” on child poverty issues.

Jacinda Ardern has appointed herself Minister for Child Poverty Reduction. Hopefully, Ms Ardern and Ms Martin will create a powerful partnership with which to combat and eradicate the scourge of child poverty in this country.

Postscript: Meanwhile, back in Rabid Rightwing Ratbag Land…

Right-wing idiocy and mis-information has reached new depths in West Australia with the publication of a scurrilous piece of fake news/opinion, by conservative  so-called journalist and former The West Australian editor, Paul Murray.

In an error-laden, ratbag opinion piece on 25 October, Murray  suggested that homelessness and child poverty did not exist in New Zealand. He dismissed poverty and homelessness;

Well, I’d describe it as hyperbole. If they haven’t got enough to survive they would be dying.

[…]

An inquiry by the New Zealand Herald found Labour was using a very broad definition of homelessness by international standards and judged that claim “mostly fiction”.

While Labour used a university study showing 41,000 people were “severely housing deprived” — meaning sleeping rough, living in cars or garages, or in emergency or temporary shelters — official government figures for those “without habitable accommodation” was about 4000.

Which would be  inexplicable, considering  that  Bill English promised to cut child poverty by 100,000 during the election campaign last month;

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If poverty and homelessness was a “fiction” as Murray asserted, then the Leader of the National Party promised on 5 September, in front of hundreds of thousands of viewers, to raise 100,000 non-existent children out of poverty. And the mainstream media bought it.

Quite a ‘trick’.

He also derided Winston Peters’ decision for his choice in coalition partner;

These themes were echoed by Peters when justifying his decision to bypass the Nationals who won 44.45 per cent of the vote and to install Labour which polled just 36.89 and only 43.16 when combined with the supportive Greens.

Murray omitted to mention that a Labour-Green-NZ First bloc represented 50.4% of the popular vote. Obviously basic arithmetic is not his strong point because 50.4% beats 44.45% every time.

But his outright misrepresentation of facts reached it’s nadir when he shamelessly claimed;

The NZ Nationals got debt down to 38 per cent of GDP compared to Australia’s 47 per cent. Watch that figure skyrocket.

Either Murray is woefully ignorant of recent New Zealand history – or he is wilfully lying. Anyone with even a basic knowledge of facts should  know that by 2008  Labour had paid down net debt to 5.4%;

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National did not pay down debt. They grew it massively, fuelled by two unaffordable tax cuts (2009 and 2010) and shameless corporate welfare.

Never let facts get in the way of a right-wingers flight of fantasy.

This is the sort of rubbish that Labour, NZ First, and the Greens will have to deal with in the coming years.

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References

Radio NZ:  New government ministers revealed

The West Australian:  Opinion – Why the New Zealand poll experiment matters to Australia

Mediaworks:  English says new poverty reduction target was planned

Trading Economics:  New Zealand Government Net Debt to GDP

Other blogs

The Standard:  After nine long years National discovers there is child poverty in New Zealand

Previous related blogposts

2013 – The Year that Was

Ms Heka Goes To Wellington.

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 October 2017.

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The Neverending Story in Mainstream Media Fairytale Land

27 October 2017 1 comment

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“Public backlash grows against pointless media speculation on coalition talks”

— is, unfortunately, not a headline we’ll be seeing  any time soon.

The media role is reporting post-election politics has not been an edifying spectacle to watch. Put simply, the most exacerbating aspect of three weeks of coalition negotiation has not been the length of time – remarkably short by international standards – but the interminable, inane,  media commentary we’ve had to endure.

As  reported on 7 October, in lieu of any actual news-worthy stories, the msm (mainstream media) has taken to either parroting National Party propaganda on a non-existent “Teal Coalition” – or engaged in an onanistic beat up on the length of time needed for coalition negotiations.

National Party de-facto spokesperson, Maserati-owner, and legend-in-his-own-mind, Mike Hosking, waxed lyrical about a so-called “Teal” arrangement;

The concept of a grand coalition? Naive in theory yes, in reality not the slightest chance.

The best suggestion for the deal that never was – but could so easily have been – was the teal coalition, the Nats and Greens.

The Greens held themselves to ransom by tying themselves to Labour.

[…]

A teal coalition could well have worked and the Greens would almost certainly have got more out of it than they will get if the nod goes their way tomorrow (or whenever Winston decides).

Although why Hosking considers a “Grand Coalition between National and Labour as “naive” without “the slightest chance” and a National-Green coalition as something that “could so easily have been” – is never explained by him. But that’s the thing with public displays of  political-porn – it requires no internal logic or consistency.

On 14  October, I watched TV3’s The Nation – expecting a one-hour long exercise in pointless navel-gazing as to who Winston Peters will “go with”.

To my pleasant surprise, adults had taken over the programme and the viewer was treated to more pressing issues;

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In segment one, Lisa Owen discussed workers’ rights and workplace safety with Richard Wagstaff, Hazel Armstrong, and Jackie Blue. It was a critical look at the grim stats surrounding workplace accidents; deaths; injuries, and maimings.

Former National Party MP – and now Human Rights Commissioner – Jackie Blue, made the startling  admission that low unionisation in the workforce was part of the problem of workplace accidents;

I also think a fact in the forestry deaths is that they have very low rates of unionisation. They don’t have anyone speaking for them. There’s no voice for forestry workers. And I listened to an interview Helen did a year before she died, and she said she got to know the forestry workers, and once they understood the concept of a union, they wanted to be part of one.

The second segment featured an interview with BNZ CEO, Anthony Healey, supporting the Left’s call for a capital gains tax. Some of Healey’s comments would have come straight out of The Daily Blog;

“It’s really about equity in the tax system.

[…]

Well, I think you can take a very broad based approach to it, but one of the things that I think is really important in this discussion is we’re not talking about, and my opinion is we need to tax in aggregate more; it’s about redistributing tax. So if you were to apply a broad based capital gains tax, that gives you the ability to address other things in the tax system, like company tax, like income tax, especially for those that are more needy.

[…]

Well, I think where we really need to address tax is at the lower end of the taxation system. If you were to apply a capital gains tax where you see a lot of wealth accumulation as opposed to income, then you have room to move, and you can look at the lower income tax rate, particularly for those who are struggling to make ends meet.”

When bank CEOs are advocating Labour and Green Party tax policies, you just know that the neo-liberal paradigm has lost it’s 1980s/90s gloss.

The last segment featured a good look at how Artificial Intelligence (AI) would be impacting on jobs in the coming years and decades. People closely connected with the AI industry – Greg Cross, Grant Straker, and Ben Goertzel shared their insights as to where we were heading with increasingly advanced technologies.

Then came the panel – Tracy Watkins from Fairfax media; former National Party parliamentary researcher, Chris Simpson, and political pundit,  Vernon Tava.

What came next in the following ten to fifteen minutes was not a word uttered to discuss any of the three issues raised in The Nation. Even Lisa Owen’s opening remarks on the one year anniversary of trade unionist Helen Kelley’s death and the role she played in highlighting workplace  accidental deaths was not discussed.

Instead, Owen led the panelists down the garden path to discussing… the coalition talks and “the mysterious NZ First Board”.

It was ten to fifteen minutes of pointless pontificating and using up valuable oxygen as Fairfax political reporter Tracy Watkins lamented that Winston Peters  “ just doesn’t look like he’s enjoying it very much“.

The obligatory cliche of “the tail wagging the dog” was trotted out by Watkins and Owen. Watkins description of the coalition talks as a “circus” suggests she has been too long in politics and jaded cynicism has coloured her view of things.

Only Vernon Tava’s comments struck home when he pointed out;

“…Media, who are becoming increasingly desperate standing around in cold lobbies in Wellington shouting questions at people as they walk briskly from one hallway to another…”

The only “circus” has been a media one.

Meanwhile,  broadcast and print media have been going nuts with their ongoing speculations. For example, the 16 October edition of The Dominion Post had no less that seven distinct pieces in that edition, including an editorial headedTime for Waiting to end“;

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(Curiously, the very same editorial was republished in Christchurch’s The Press, and headed, “New Zealand needs to know who will govern it“.)

The opening statement was so ludicrously dripping with sanctimony that it beggared belief anyone could write it with a straight face;

“The New Zealand public is to be congratulated for it’s extraordinary patience over the last three weeks since the general election.”

The New Zealand public is not only patient – but a darned sight more mature than the children who currently work in our mainstream media, and who constantly pester their Uncle Winston from the back seat of  the family stationwagon;

“Are we there yet?”

“No.”

“Are we there yet?”

“No!”

“Are we there yet?”

“NO!!!”

The public are patient. They fully understand  the complexities of forming a government and that it must be done carefully. As Labour leader Jacinda Ardern explained on Radio NZ’s Morning Report on 17 October with pained patience for the benefit of the media, ;

“…The ability of a government to be both  stable and durable ultimately comes down to whether or not you have enough commonality to form a government that’s going to  last the distance.”

In the same edition of the Dompost, Tracy Watkins had a front-page piece beneath the paper’s banner, entitled, “Is the coalition deal a crown or a poisoned chalice?” She stated matter-of-factly;

“After weeks of secrecy and the bizarre silence of the two major party leaders…”

“Secrecy”? “Bizarre silence”?!

Another way of  phrasing Watkins’ prose could be;

“After weeks of  nothing to write about by the two major newspaper chains…”

As a political blogger, I write often and passionately about transparency in government; government departments; NGOs, etc.

On coalition negotiations, however, confidentiality is a prerequisite for meaningful dialogue between the parties, unfettered by pressure from pious media pundits.

Case in point, TV3’s  Patrick Gower passing judgement in 2014 on an electoral arrangement between Mana Movement and the Internet Party;

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Second case-in-point; numerous media commentators (Mike Hosking, et al) calling for the Green Party enter into coalition dialogue with National. As if such a scenario were remotely possible (or desirable).

On 11 October, Radio NZ’s Tim Watkin (former Producer of TV3’s The Nationexpressed his own personal frustration in a way that was verging on the farcical;

“Well, I hate to say ‘I told you so’. But as frustration builds over the way our new government is being built – amid casual abuse, secrecy and over-reach – we really only have ourselves to blame, for the way this administration is being born in darkness, at least. Its mother is our own complacency.

[…]

Yet many New Zealanders fell in behind the parties’ spin, complaining that journalists were wasting time asking coalition questions and pushing for answers the poor party leaders couldn’t possibly give. ‘Focus on the issues,’ they cried.

How many of them are now among those bemoaning the lack of transparency in these negotiations and the deals being done behind closed doors?

We are left with little idea of which policies are being traded for which and have next to no notion about the priorities of whichever government might emerge, because we failed as a public to demand answers before the election.

I have no problem with these negotiations being conducted in confidence. I don’t mind New Zealand First shuttling back and forth between parties and being able to handle this process in secret. This is a time for a veil, of sorts.

But we should know, from reportage and interviews pre-election, what’s being traded.”

Tim demanded that “we should know, from reportage and interviews pre-election, what’s being traded” – seemingly forgetting that any post-election agreement would eventually reveal precisely “ what’s being traded“.

The rest of his intemperate commentary is symptomatic of political journos and commentators venting their impatience. In the meantime, the public went about their daily lives, content with leaving coalition-building to those who had been elected to carry out that task.

This is not how the Fourth Estate should be behaving. This is not reporting unfolding political events. It is not even analysis of unfolding political events. This was a naked move to artificially generate political events.

No news?  No problem.

Make some up.

The impatience of the msm was highlighted when, on several occasions, TV3’s news led with the length of time being taken for coalition talks – complete with this melodramatic graphic;

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It takes a remarkable talent to create a story out of simply… waiting. This desperation of the msm for any political activity to report  was remarked on by Auckland University political scientist, Jennifer Curtin on 15 October;

Associate Professor Curtin said the amount of time being taken was reasonable and in Nordic countries such as Sweden taking two to three weeks to form a government was the norm.

“So asking for something to happen since October the 12th in four or five days is probably a little bit unrealistic and a little bit first past the post really, in the way we’re thinking about government formation.”

Four days later, as if further illustration was required, on 19 October Mediaworks presented us an updated report that… well… there was nothing to report;

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When Tracy Watkins referred to a “circus” on The Nation, she was almost right. There has been a circus in this country since 23 September. But this time  it hasn’t come from our  political representatives.

Lisa Owen from The Nation on 21 October was honest when she admitted on behalf of the Fourth Estate;

“We’re impatient. We are impatient.”

The ‘Devil finds work for idle hands’, it is said. More so for idle children and  journalists with nothing to do, and too much time to do it in.

Let’s hope that all these well-paid, well-resourced journalists will be devoting equal air-time or column-inches to scrutinising the attacks-to-come from the Neo-liberal Establishment. Those attacks have already started.

That is where the real reporting, analysis, and commentary should be focused on.

What are the chances?

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References

NZ Herald:  Mike Hosking – Reading the coalition tea leaves

Mediaworks: The Nation (14 October 2017)

Scoop media: The Nation – Workers’ Rights Panel

Scoop media:  The Nation – Lisa Owen interviews Anthony Healy

Mediaworks:  Panel – Tracy Watkins, Chris Simpson and Vernon Tava

Radio NZ:  Labour, Greens ‘ready to go’ – Ardern

Fairfax media:  It’s difficult to know if Winston Peters is offering a crown or a poisoned chalice

Twitter: Patrick Gower

Radio NZ:  Negotiation secrecy a snub to democracy

Mediaworks: Newshub Live at 6pm (18th October 2017)

Radio NZ: NZ First board set to consider possible coalition deal

Mediaworks: Newshub webpage 19 October

Scoop media:  The Nation – Lisa Owen interviews Jacinda Ardern

Other Blogs

Cut Your Hair:  Don’t blame MMP for bad king/queenmakers

Sciblogs:  For a teal coalition

The Standard: “Reporters”

Previous related blogposts

How biased is the media? A Patrick Gower case study

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign… (tekau)

An Open Letter To Winston Peters

Once Upon a Time in Mainstream Media Fairytale Land

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 22 October 2017.

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RIP Neo-Liberalism in New Zealand: 1984 – 2017

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Peters has called it: NZ First will go into coalition with Labour-Greens.

In reality, it was the only decision he could possibly make.

Firstly, National has a scary reputation for devouring it’s coalition partners:

  • Peter Dunne – falling electoral support at each election until he faced a potentially humiliating defeat by Labour’s Greg O’Connor. Instead, he chose to resign and leave Parliament voluntarily rather than being turfed out by the voters of Ōhāriu.
  • ACT/David Seymour – a shadow of it’s hey-day in 2002, when it had nine MPs, it is currently hooked up to perpetual political life-support. Seymour is  tolerated by the Nats as a cute mascot rather than as a useful partner. No one has the heart to flick the “off” switch to end Seymour’s tenacious grip on parliamentary life.
  • The Maori  Party – it’s close alliance with successive National governments took it from five seats in 2008 to losing everything at this election. Coalition with the Tories was the proverbial “kiss of death” for the Maori Party.

NZ First has dodged that party-killing-bullet by declining to join with the National ‘Black Widow’ Party.

Secondly, a National-NZ First Coalition would have meant taking on the baggage of failed policies; knee-jerk rush from crisis-to-crisis,   and bad headlines from the last nine years of mis-management from the Key-English Administration;

  • increasingly polluted waterways
  • families living in cars
  • under-funded health system
  • stretched mental health services
  • increasingly unaffordable housing
  • rising greenhouse gas emissions
  • low wages
  • economic growth predicated on housing speculation and immigration
  • etc, etc, etc.

A coalition with National would have meant taking ownership of nine years of worsening statistics and bleak media headlines.

How would that benefit NZ First? The answer is self-evident.

National has had nine years to address the critical problems confronting us as a nation. The sight of families with children living in cars or rivers that are toxic with urban and rural pollution and unfit to swim in is not the New Zealand we wanted to leave future generations. Yet that is precisely the legacy bequeathed by the Nats and their neo-liberal, market-driven ideology. That would have been the poisoned chalice from which Peters would have supped from.

As Shakespeare might  have said, “fuck that shit!”

A coalition with Labour and the Greens offers a fresh start. It puts NZ First into a brand new government, with a fresh  leadership, new ideas, and none of the baggage offered by a tired government that had simply run out of ideas.

It also accords Winston Peters with the legacy he sought: the Kingmaker who put the sword to thirtythree years of the neo-liberal experiment.

The nightmare of Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson is over. Neo-liberalism is dead.

Thank you, Winston Peters.

And as I promised: I offer my apologies for doubting that you would make the right decision. This is one of those occasions where I am happy to have been proven 100% wrong.

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Related blogposts

Once Upon a Time in Mainstream Media Fairytale Land

An Open Letter To Winston Peters

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 20 October 2017.

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