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

27 September 2017 1 comment

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The final day of campaign is upon us. Tomorrow is the “official” Election Day and nine years of National government is about to either end – or win a rare fourth term.

Polling does not look good for an outright win for the Labour-Green bloc.

National’s dirty politics of lies has apparently entered the subconsciousness of mainstream New Zealand. Despite being rubbished by every economist, commentator, media, and Uncle Tom Cobbly, Bill English continued to repeat Joyce’s lie about Labour’s “$11.7 billion fiscal hole”;

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Or National’s lie about tax “increases” under a Labour-led government;

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English seems to be “relaxed” about borrowing from our former Prime Minister’s handbook to bend the truth – or just outright lie when it suits his selfish needs.

National’s willful lying on this issue is classic Crosby-Textor manipulation; throw mud and some of it will stick in the minds of poorly informed voters. Or voters who know it’s a lie – but want to feel validated voting for a party that promotes the lifestyle of the  Cosy, Comfy Middle-class.

An artificially bloated home valuation can be a powerful inducement for some voters to go with the status quo that maintains the illusion of wealth. Especially when those same Cosy, Comfy Middle-class have no contact in their lives with child poverty, homelessness, over-stretched mental health services, people suffering on lengthening hospital waiting lists…

This has been borne out with comments I’ve heard during my door-knocking and market-stalls campaigning for the Green Party. A few from the Cosy, Comfy Middle-class seemed eager to voice derogatory opinions about Metiria Turei, but when questioned what experiences they’ve had  trying to survive on welfare, the response has been either to deflect to “get a job” or a complete lack of understanding.

Orwell knew precisely what he was telling us when he insisted that “Ignorance is Strength”.;

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Being willfully ignorant means not doubting; not questioning; and enjoying support from fellow Cosy, Comfy Middle-class to maintain the illusion.

That is the problem with the property-owning Cosy, Comfy Middle-class. Until a “market correction” strips away their over-inflated valuations, they are happy to live the mirage of “wealth”.

Which leads to why we will likely see a fourth National term after Saturday.

First, some recent history.  Radio NZ’s 2014 Poll of Polls; predicted the following outcome for the 20 September 2014 election;

National: 46.4%

Labour: 25.7%

Greens: 12.5%

[Combined Labour/Green: 38.2%]

NZ First: 7.6%

The 2014 General Election final results were as follows;

National: 47.04%

Labour: 25.13%

Greens: 10.70%

[Combined Labour/Green: 35.83%]

NZ First: 8.66%

The Radio NZ poll-of-polls was fairly close, with only the Greens suffering a major drop in actual votes.

Post 2014 election, National’s votes translated to 60 seats and was able to gain Supply & Confidence from “rats and mice” minor parties; ACT, Maori Party, and Peter Dunne.

The most recent Radio NZ Poll of Polls has the following results;

National: 45.1% (up from 41.9%)

Labour: 37.2% (down from 41.6%)

Greens: 7.2% (up from 5.5%)

[Combined Labour/Green: 44.4%]

NZ First: 6.6% (no real change from 6.8%)

This time the National and red/green bloc are almost identical.

The smaller parties will be unable to be the deciding factor. That role will go to NZ First, with the following permutations;

National (45.1%) + NZ First (6.6%) = National-NZF (51.7%)

Labour (37.2%) + Greens (7.2%) + NZ First (6.6%) = Labour-Greens-NZF (51%)

In May this year, Peters confirmed his belief that  “constitutional convention” required his party to approach the largest party, post-election, for coalition talks;

Corin Dann: Let’s go back to 2005, in Rotorua, where you gave a pretty famous speech about your– You were being harried by media – probably like myself, because I was there – about who you were going to go with in 2005. And you stood up and said, ‘According to constitutional convention, the party which gains the most seats is the party which must first try and form a government. We will support this constitutional convention in the first instance.’ Can you give New Zealanders an assurance that that’s your position today and come September 24th?

Winston Peters:  All it means is what I said. ‘In the first instance’, that’s what you’d expect to happen, not just in this country but in every country. However, it’s only the first instance. It’s not a binding rule that says ‘In this first instance, this is clearly going to fail, therefore we should look elsewhere. That’s all it means.

That would be National.

In July this year, Peters’ issued one of his many “bottom lines”; a binding referendum on abolishing the Maori seats;

“My strategy is to tell everybody out there that you won’t be talking to NZ First unless you want a referendum on both those issues at the mid-term mark of this election.”

Both Labour and the Greens have resolutely ruled out any such referendum. Only one other major party has ever had a policy of doing away with those seats.

That would be National.

It is common knowledge that there is considerable animosity between the Green Party and NZ First.  Peters is unlikely to sit in a three way coalition involving the Greens (or a four-way, involving the Maori Party). His preference would most likely be as one of two in a dual-party coalition.

That would be National.

Will Winston Peters join in formal coalition with National? If so, he would be repeating a mistake he made twentyone years ago;

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For which he had to eventually apologise;

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Winston Peters

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To coalesce or not to coalesce, that is the question…

Of course, Peters could simply offer Supply & Confidence to “the largest party”.

That would be National.

But what would be in it for him and NZ First? What gains could he achieve if he’s not “at the table”?

In deciding whether to join in Coalition or simply offer Supply & Confidence to a fourth term National government, Peters would do well to remember that with the Nats at 45.1%, 54.9% of voters want change. That’s a clear majority.

So the question Peters should be asking is , “which party is leading the 54.9% wanting change?”

That would be Labour.

Choose wisely, Mr Peters. Choose wisely.

 

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References

TVNZ:  TVNZ Debate – Bill maintains Labour has $11b budget black hole in face of stern grilling from Jacinda

Mediaworks:  Patrick Gower – National playing ‘post-truth politics’

Radio NZ: Poll of Polls – 19 September 2014

Electoral Commission: New Zealand 2014 General Election Official Results

Radio NZ: Poll of Polls – 21 September 2017

Scoop media:  Q+A – Winston Peters interviewed by Corin Dann

Fairfax media:  Winston Peters delivers bottom-line binding referendum on abolishing Maori seats

Radio NZ:  Labour rules out Māori seat referendum

NZ City:  Greens promise to protect Maori seats

NZ Herald:  National to dump Maori seats in 2014

Additional

NZ Herald:  Homeless people sleep under National billboard outside the Auckland City Mission

Wikipedia:  New Zealand 2014 general election

Mediaworks:  Patrick Gower – National guilty of biggest campaign lie

Mediaworks:  Patrick Gower – National playing ‘post-truth politics’

Previous related blogposts

Election ’17 Countdown: The Promise of Nirvana to come

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 22 September 2017.

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

11 September 2017 2 comments

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Who paid for the Budget surplus?

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The 2017 Pre-Election Fiscal Update (PREFU) revealed that the Nats had achieved a respectable $3.7 billion surplus – contrasting sharply  with the $1.6 billion forecasted surplus in the May 2017 Budget.

How did National achieve such a remarkable feat, despite reduced revenue from tax cuts in 2009 and 2010 and the re-build after the Christchurch and Kaikoura earthquakes?.

One doesn’t have to search far to find one possible answer where cuts were made to achieve their much-vaunted surplus;

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The answer has been revealed in an editorial in the New Zealand Medical Journal last year;

New Zealand’s health budget has been declining for almost a decade and could signal health reforms akin to the sweeping changes of the 1990s, new research claims.

Six prominent industry health leaders and researchers contributed to the editorial in the latest edition of the New Zealand Medical Journal, after several months analysing Government documents and data.

Their analysis showed Government spending in health had steadily tracked downward since 2009, despite constant reassurances from health ministers that spending was increasing year-on-year.

The $16.1 billion 2016 Health Budget, announced on Thursday, was $170 million more than last year, including $124m for Pharmac, $96m for elective surgery and $39m for a new bowel screening programme.

However, the researchers’ analysis of Budget data from 2009-10 found the country’s health budget had fallen short of what was needed each year to cover new services, increasing costs and the Ministry of Health’s cost-weighted index, which accounted for population growth and ageing.

The accumulated “very conservative” shortfall over the five years to 2014-15 was estimated at $800 million, but could be double that, Canterbury Charity Hospital founder and editorial co-author Phil Bagshaw said.

Writing for Fairfax,  Ashleigh Stewart  pointed out;

Vote Health’s operational expenditure decreased from 6.32 per cent to 5.95 per cent as a proportion of GDP in the same five years.

Government expenditure was set to continue falling overall, with New Zealand ranked 26th out of OECD countries for spending as a proportion of GDP in 2013.

This meant further cuts for health spending, which was estimated to drop by about 4 per cent a year.

“The continued under-resourcing of our health services . . . is not owing to unaffordability; it is a policy decision to reduce government expenditure overall and introduce tax cuts,” the editorial said.

Anyone who  harbours illusions that tax cuts are beneficial should think twice. Especially if  they have to face  waiting months or years on hospital waiting lists for critical surgery, or turned away because the system is stretched to breaking point;

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Then again, those like Bill English – who stands to gain the most from tax cuts – are also the most likely to be able to afford private health insurance.

National’s tax cuts should come clearly labelled;

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Because they really are.

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Steven Joyce – Pot. Kettle. Hypocrite.

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In the Dominion Post on 5 September, Steven Joyce was ‘doubling down’ and digging his hole deeper, as he steadfastly maintained National’s spin (aka, lie) that Labour’s Budget had a “$11.7 billion hole” in it;

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Joyce’s claims have since been rubbished by various economists – including, surprisingly, the right-wing think-tank, the NZ Initiative (formerly Business Roundtable);

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Acknowledgement for above graphic: Newshub

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More damning still was another remark Joyce made about Labour’s fictitious $11.7 billion “hole”;

“That level of spending and increased debt can only lead to one thing – higher interest rates for Kiwi mortgage holders.”

Which is risable as National has borrowed  eight times Joyce’s figure of $11.7 billion;

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That’s right;

“Government annual operating expenditure in these forecasts increases from $77 billion to $90 billion over the next four years, which is sufficient for significant ongoing improvement in the provision of public services,” Mr Joyce says.

And interestingly, during National’s massive borrowing-spree, interest rates have remained low. Joyce’s contention that borrowing leads to higher interest rates for mortgage holders doesn’t seem to have happened (yet) – and National has borrowed like there’s no tomorrow.

By making up outright lies about Labour’s budgetary plans, Joyce has not only revealed himself as as deceptive  – but drawn unwanted attention to National’s own irresponsible borrowing over the last nine years.

Well done, Steven;

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Peter Dunne. Ohariu. Coat-tailing.

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If it hasn’t been said already, the seat of Ohariu has become irrelevant.  Whether Brett Hudson or Greg O’Connor wins is now academic. Once again, it is the Party Vote that counts.

When Dunne was standing, the coat-tailing provision made him a valuable asset to National. If Dunne breached the 1.2% threshold as well as winning Ohariu, he would’ve dragged in another MP off the United Future party list.

It is the same reason National offered patronage to David “H” Seymour to gift him Epsom: the possibility of an extra ACT MP via MMP’s coat-tailing rule.

This is why Judith Collins doubled-down and stubbornly refused to implement the Electoral Commission’s recommendations in 2013  to eliminate the coat-tailing provision.

The Green Party was thus correct to stand a candidate in Ohariu. Whilst the Greens are not seeking to win the electorate, they are chasing Party Votes – and Ohariu is another opportunity to remind voters that the Greens are vital for this country’s environmental well-being.

Simply put; to be healthy we need our Greens.

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National’s fiscal hole?

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Bill English’s announcement on 4 September on TV3’s Leader’s Debate that his party would raise 100,000 children out of poverty in the next three years appears to have been policy made-on-the-hoof.

Because it’s not a matter of simply raising incomes for poor families. As English pointed out in the Debate, it is far more complex, requiring support from an array of social services;

“There’s two things you need to do, one is lift incomes the other is get inside the very toxic mix of social issues which we know are family violence, criminal offending and long-term welfare dependency. We’ve got the best tools in the world now to support rising incomes with cracking the social problems.”

This comes on top of National’s other pledges to improve access for social services;

National have pledged 600,000 low-income New Zealanders will have access to $18 GP visits. 

National will also expand the community services card to an additional 350,000 people, with low incomes and high housing costs.

Alongside free GP visits for under 13s and the Very Low Cost Access (VLCA) scheme for GP visits, which were already in place, National’s new policy would mean more than half of New Zealanders would be eligible for either free or cheap doctors visits. 

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman also chucked in a few more lollies from Labour’s lolly-jar;

“As well as getting access to cheap GP visits, 350,000 more New Zealanders with lower incomes and high housing costs, will receive cheap prescriptions, free emergency dental care and free glasses for children through their new community services cards.”

Plus National’s $10.5  billion “Roads of National Significance”.  (Called that, because those Roads are Significant for National to be re-elected.)

The obvious question is: has Steven Joyce checked if  it’s all been costed?

Are there any lurking micro-Black Holes in National’s Budget?

Wouldn’t it be ironic if…?

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References

Radio NZ:  Govt’s books show one-off $2bn boost

NBR:  Budget 2017 – Government forecast surpluses narrow on family package, capital spending

NZ Herald:  Report shows 170,000 people who need surgery are not on waiting list

Radio NZ:  Patients suffering because of surgery waits – surgeon

NZ Herald:  700 surgeries postponed as Auckland hospitals struggle to cope

Fairfax media:  Southern patients may be dying while waiting for surgery – Labour

Radio NZ:  Prostate cancer patients face wildly varying wait times

Radio NZ:  Southern DHB in a ‘slow motion train crash’

Scoop media:  280,000 New Zealanders waiting for surgery, wait times up

Fairfax media:  Thousands left off surgery waiting lists suffering indefinitely – study

Fairfax media:  Who is missing out on surgery? Government releases first figures of ‘phantom waiting list’

Fairfax media:  Researchers claim NZ health budget declining, publicly-funded surgery on way out

Fairfax media:  Busy Hamilton clinics turn away ambulances

Newsroom:  Election 2017 Live – Leaders clash in fiery debate

Dominion Post:  National accuses Labour of $11.7b spending plan error, Labour says National got it wrong

Mediaworks:  Economist consensus – there’s no $11.7b hole in Labour’s budget

National Party:  Pre-Election Fiscal Update 2017 (alt. link)

Fairfax media:   Government’s MMP review response slammed

Mediaworks:  Newshub Leaders Debate – Bill English commits to poverty target

Fairfax media:  National pledges $18 doctors visits for an extra 600,000 New Zealanders

Fairfax media:  National announce $10.5 billion roading plan

Previous related blogposts

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

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

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

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 6 September 2017.

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The Labour interns – ACT exposes hypocrisy!

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The headlines!

A few days ago, headlines appeared supposedly “exposing  a rort” by the NZ Labour Party to exploit American interns for electoral campaigning purposes;

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The “Shock! Horror!” story occurred at the worst possible time for Labour and  the Opposition, as National was being held to account for attempting to  cover up the Todd Barclay Tape scandal and possibly perverting the course of justice;

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The facts behind the “headlines”

However, as the initial media frenzy subsided and gave way to a closer look at the allegations, the narrative soon changed from “slave labour conditions“; “substandard conditions“; and “a cramped marae with no working shower” – to some actual facts.

Awataha marae‘s spokesperson, Anthony Wilson rejected  suggestions that his facilities were “substandard”;

“ We don’t know what the organizers promised our guests but we are like any other marae we only have the facilities we currently have.

We don’t think our facilities are substandard although we are not a five-star hotel. We are working on developing our marae facilities to cater for the influx of schools, community and internationals.

Our role is to manaaki and awhi our manuhiri. If the organizers choose better accommodation that’s fine by us, we wish the young people all the best for the future as many of them have become our friends.”

Anthony Wilson appeared on TVNZ’s Q+A on 25 June, and further rejected the smears against his marae;

“ What was not being told was we’ve got eight showers. It’s not like that we only had one shower. And the other thing – the broken cabinet. We get broken things all the time when we have groups of this sort of size and nature using our facilities all the time. So we kind of resent the implications of disgruntled students trying to make a point out of this. I believe it’s quite good now that some of those stories have been outed. I’ve seen a few articles just recently now where the students have actually come out and defended the marae and saying that they had a wonderful time and also the facilities were adequate for what they required.”

The Politik story seemed bemused by the tasks expected from volunteers;

“They were told that they are broken down into teams- they will be either phone soliciting ( they’ve bought 30-ish Alcatel phones, and they sit in a room and call, from this marae, very disorganised, many of these people have been called already ) , door knocking in regions in Auckland, or approaching universities and “unions” to recruit votes ad more volunteers. They have one day of ‘training’ tomorrow. There is nothing else planned for these guys as far as I am aware.”

The complaints regarding campaign work are fatuous. Political volunteer work is never paid. Volunteer work consists precisely of “drudge” activities such as door-knocking, phone calling, leafletting, putting up billboards, staffing stalls; etc.

As a volunteer for the Alliance in the 1990s, this is precisely the work that this blogger, and thousands of others around New Zealand, carried out in the 1999 and 2002 election campaigns; “drudge” activities such as door-knocking, phone calling, leafletting, putting up billboards, staffing stalls; etc.

Unpaid volunteer work is not restricted to parties on the Left.  This is a page from the National party website* outlining what work unpaid volunteers are asked to carry out;

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The Maori Party – which slammed Labour’s use of  volunteers as “slave labour” – also has a webpage touting for unpaid volunteers;

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The ACT Party’s website is even more specific and wide-ranging in the expertise it demands from unpaid volunteers;

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Considering the financial support ACT enjoys from its wealthy donors, it seems almost scrooge-like in it’s unwillingness to pay for services.

Interns and volunteers

The American volunteers were described as “interns” by the media;

A group of 85 interns flew to New Zealand from around the world expecting lectures from Helen Clark and real world campaign experience.

They arrived to a cramped dormitory, no pay, no lectures, and a broken shower.

Aside from the one broken shower out of eight (which – according to some breathless media pundits – pushes New Zealand automatically into Third World status), complaints that interns were not paid appears contradictory.  Internship NZ suggests that interns are paid at aleast the minimum wage in New Zealand, to avoid exploitation;

The only cost to the employer is the intern’s wage. We ask that the interns get paid what workers doing the same job are being paid (we do not want the interns exploited). We advise our interns that the minimum wage in New Zealand is $15.75 per hour, and that in most cases they will be paid more than this. We ask that the interns get between 30 – 40 hours per week (or enough for them to “live” comfortably).

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One broken shower out of eight – a fact missing from most msm coverage of this “story”.

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However, when taken in conjunction with political volunteer work, the very definition of internship can involve paid or unpaid work;

Internships for professional careers are similar in some ways but not as rigorous as apprenticeships for professions, trade and vocational jobs, but the lack of standardisation and oversight leaves the term open to broad interpretation. Interns may be college or university students, high school students, or post-graduate adults. These positions may be paid or unpaid and are usually temporary.

Generally, an internship consists of an exchange of services for experience between the student and an organization. Students can also use an internship to determine if they have an interest in a particular career, to create a network of contacts, to acquire a recommendation letter to add to their curriculum vitae, or to gain school credit. Some interns find permanent, paid employment with the organizations for which they worked upon completion of the internship.

Unpaid work is not only recognised in New Zealand – Statistic NZ even counts it toward employment data;

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A revelation

Following  complaints from some interns, others came forward with  more positive experiences. And there was a revelation of what might have pricipitated  the complaint(s);

An American student taking part in a “fellowship” programme for the Labour Party campaign has defended it, saying most of the 85 interns on it are happy.

The student spoke on the condition of anonymity because most in the programme had signed non-disclosure agreements before starting on the programme.

She believed the complaints and leaks to the media were driven by one or two interns who had a beef with the programme. She claimed one was dropped from a leadership position on the programme after allegedly taking bottles of wine from Labour MP Jenny Salesa’s house after Salesa hosted a meal for them.

“We sat down, we ate and he walked away with two bottles of wine. The organisers called him out for it. Since then it’s been a simmering pot.”

She said it was disappointing to read comments in the media about “sweatshop” conditions and “slave labour”.

“Three meals a day, every single day, were provided. The care they have provided is comprehensive. The one thing that has cause a bit of chatter is the cubicle situation, which I understand is not ideal. But the sweatshop conditions, where we were rallied into a line and forced to work, that’s not true at all.”

She defended Awataha marae, saying most were moved into proper living quarters on the marae which are “more than ideal”.

“The food is great and they are very accommodating.”

ACT exposes hypocrisy

Perhaps the most outrageously hypocritical response to this non-story came from the ACT Party. On 23 June, ACT tweeted;

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ACT is hardly known as a champion of workers’ rights.

ACT’s policy toward the minimum wage, for example, is anything but positive as former party-leader Jamie Whyte expressed three years ago;

“The economists in the National Party aren’t stupid, They know that this will have adverse effects for New Zealand workers and the economy. Yet they continue to intervene in wage rates, in an attempt to position themselves as moderates,” says Dr Whyte.

“In doing this, National perpetuates the myth that minimum wages protect the poor.

“John Key has skimmed over the inevitable consequences of this intervention, saying job losses will be ‘relatively negligible’. What Key doesn’t acknowledge is the unseen effects of minimum wages — those businesses which don’t directly lay off workers will be discouraged from employing more, or replacing those who leave voluntarily in future.

“The best thing that low skilled workers can do is get work experience. It’s hard to think of a more cruel policy than passing a law that bans the people most in need of work experience from getting any.

“Furthermore, many businesses will pass on their increasing employment costs to the consumer, contributing to the rising price of living which many New Zealanders have come to accept as normal.

“ACT doesn’t think it’s okay for the state to put up barriers to employment. Nor does ACT think it’s okay for the state to intervene to drive up the cost of living.”

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“Hero of the Working Class” and former ACT leader, Jamie Whyte

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Whyte’s successor, David Seymour,  gave ACT’s support to the Employment Relations Amendment Bill, which  further eroded worker’s rights and promoted neo-liberal employment ideology;

“  Why, then, do the opponents of flexible labour markets in general, and this bill in particular, not see the futility in trying to legislate a different outcome in the labour market and the damage it is likely to do? Why, indeed, has the National Government compromised on the vulnerable worker clause and the requirement to conclude bargaining when these should be removed entirely?

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I support this bill because it is a step in the right direction towards more flexible markets. Like all attempts to improve public policy, this amendment is imperfect. Economic reality and experience suggests it should have gone further.”

The only hypocrisy exposed in this non-story is the willingness of an amoral Right to seize an opportunity, to leap on an issue in a lame attempt to gain the moral highground.

A closer examination reveals a somewhat different  picture. Instead of skewering the Labour Party with a sloppily-written “exposé“, based on half-truths from a few disgruntled individuals, we are reminded that the ACT Party is no friend of the working class (or even the Middle Classes, who would suffer higher and more intrusive user-pays under a punitive ACT-style neo-liberal system).

Perhaps Laurie Fleming summed it up best on Twitter, when he posted this response to ACT’s faux tears about fabricated worker exploitation;

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Yes indeed, ACT has exposed hypocrisy on this issue: it’s own.

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* National Party webpages are saved and retained, as National regularly removes pages from its site.

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References

Radio NZ:  Labour Party intern programme ‘got out of control’

Radio NZ:  Awataha Marae rejects ‘substandard’ housings claim

NZ Herald:  Mystery funder behind Labour intern programme – and party doesn’t know who

The Wireless:  Unpaid, unhappy and over here – Labour’s intern scandal explained

Maori TV:  Labour Party intern scheme “slave labour” – Marama Fox

Newstalk ZB:  Labour’s ‘looking into’ their unpaid internships

Fairfax media:  Labour Party brings in unpaid overseas students

NZ Herald:  Taping scandal: National Party board member who advised Glenys Dickson to withdraw Todd Barclay complaint named

Mediaworks/Newshub: Todd Barclay tape scandal – More allegations of false statements emerge

Radio NZ: Todd Barclay – ‘I’ve made some mistakes’

Radio NZ:  Barclay apologises for ‘misleading’ answers

Fairfax media:  Todd Barclay fronts after revelations of secret recording

NZ Herald:  Glenys Dickson breaks silence over Todd Barclay secret tapes scandal

Fairfax media:  Todd Barclay invented complaints on staffer Glenys Dickson – allegations

Mediaworks/Radiolive:  Patrick Gower – Todd Barclay’s admission means police must reopen case

The Spinoff:  All the untruths, evasions and, um, bullshit in the Todd Barclay debacle

Scoop media: Q+A – Anthony Wilson and Andrew Little

Politik:  Labour Party volunteer workers rebel over living conditions

National Party: Volunteers

Maori Party: Volunteers

ACT Party: Join

Electoral Commission: 2014 party donations and loans returns – ACT Party

Fairfax media: Internal docs on Labour intern scheme ‘wishful thinking’

Internship NZ:  Information for Employers

Wikipedia:  Internship

Statistics NZ:  Labour Market Statistics Quarterly Concept set – Employed

NZ Herald:  US intern defends Labour’s ‘fellowship’ campaign programme from ‘sweatshop’ claims

Twitter: ACT – Labour interns

NBR:  National bows to minimum wage myths – ACT

Parliament:  Employment Relations Amendment Bill – Third Reading – David Seymour

Twitter: Laurie Fleming – ACT – workers rights

Additional

NZ Herald:  Audrey Young – No comparison between Labour’s intern strife and National’s crisis

Other Blogs

The Daily Blog:  Q+A review – Has anyone contacted slave pen crusader Matthew Hooton yet?

The Daily Blog:  Why the Labour Party Student Intern ‘scandal’ is a smear

The Daily Blog:  At some point people are going to admit this 2month old story about a Labour intern slave scandal was just a distraction from Bill & Todd

The Jackal:  No comparison in substandard housing

The Standard:  Racist attack on marae living

The Standard:  Over egging the scandal soufflee

Previous related blogposts

A great business opportunity, courtesy of ACT

ACT leader, Jamie Whyte, refutes cliched stereotype of solo-mothers?

National-ACT supporters – not the brightest lights in the night sky, eh?

ACT Party candidate David Seymour – revealed

It’s official: ACT’s Jamie Whyte is several-sandwiches-and-a-salad short of a picnic

Today’s irony was brought to you courtesy of former ACT MP and Govt Minister, Rodney Hide

Foot in Mouth award – Former ACT MP exposes flaw in free-market system

Foot in Mouth award – another former ACT MP plumbs new depths of dumbness

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 26 June 2017.

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Rebuilding the Country we grew up in – Little’s Big Task ahead

17 July 2016 1 comment

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1949-state-house-in-taita b

 

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2007: John Key says Housing is in crisis

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On 20 August 2007, National’s new leader, John Key, made a stirring speech to the  Auckland branch of the New Zealand Contractors Federation. In it, he lambasted the then-Clark-led Labour government;

“Over the past few years a consensus has developed in New Zealand. We are facing a severe home affordability and ownership crisis. The crisis has reached dangerous levels in recent years and looks set to get worse.

This is an issue that should concern all New Zealanders. It threatens a fundamental part of our culture, it threatens our communities and, ultimately, it threatens our economy.

The good news is that we can turn the situation around. We can deal with the fundamental issues driving the home affordability crisis. Not just with rinky-dink schemes, but with sound long-term solutions to an issue that has long-term implications for New Zealand’s economy and society.

National has a plan for doing this and we will be resolute in our commitment to the goal of ensuring more young Kiwis can aspire to buy their own home.”

(Hat-tip: Bert)

In 2007, Key described “home affordability and ownership” as a “crisis”.

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2016: John Key says Housing is a more like a “challenge”

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Almost exactly five years, one of my first blogposts involved the looming housing crisis. On 3 August, 2011, I wrote;

The shortage of state housing is a serious matter, though. This critical problem of decent, affordable housing is not helped by the fact that the Fourth National government (1996-1999) sold around 13,000 State Houses in the 1990s.  These properties were supposedly made available to tenants – but actually went mostly to property speculators (who later sold them for tax-free capital gains).

When Labour was elected to power in November 1999, they immediatly placed a moratorium on the sale of state housing. According to HNZ, they currently ” own or manage more than 66,000 properties throughout the country, including about 1,500 homes used by community groups”

This government has re-instated the sale of state houses.  It does not take rocket science to work out that selling of state housing reduces the availability of housing stock.   Housing Minister Phil Heatley said that,

“… about 40,000 of the 69,000 state house stock will be available for sale,”  but then added,  “that the vast majority of tenants do not earn enough to be required to pay market rent means relatively few will be in a position to buy“. (Source.)

There seems to be nothing stopping tenants from buying their state house and immediatly on-selling it to a Third Party.

Is it any wonder that the shortage of state housing is not being addressed in any meaningful way?

That was five years ago.

The housing crisis appears to have only recent dawned on National ministers. As Social Housing Minister, Paula Bennett  said on 25 May this year;

“Certainly what we’ve seen is it has been more acute in the last two years.”

It is most certainly not a recent problem.  It is only “new” if you are a well-paid National minister, living in a tax-payer-funded residence.

In my blogpost five years ago, I offered a solution to the housing crisis confronting this country;

Solution: build more houses.

This may seem like a ‘flippant’ answer to a desperate problem – but it is not.

The building of 10,000 new state houses may seem an outrageously expensive idea.  But it would address at least three pressing problems in our economy and society;

1. Persistantly high unemployment.

2. Low growth.

3. Inadequate housing for the poorest of our fellow New Zealanders.

At an average housing cost of $257,085 (calculated at DBH website @ $1,773/m for a 145 square metre, small house), the cost (excluding land) is $2.57 billion dollars,  including GST (approximate estimate).

By contrast, the October 2010 tax cuts gave $2.5 billion to the top 10% of income earners.

For roughly the cost of last year’s tax cuts, we could have embarked on a crash building-programme to construct ten thousand new dwellings in this country. …]

It would be a boom-time, as two and a half billion dollars was spent on products and services.

Would it actually end up costing taxpayers $2.57 billion dollars? The answer is ‘no’.  Government would actually re-coup much of that initial outlay through;

  • gst
  • paye
  • other taxes
  • reduced spending on welfare for unemployed
  • and investment re-couped by rent paid for new rentals

Would it work?

Yes, it would.  An NZIER survey expects a strong pick-up in 2013 when the rebuilding phase hits full-flight, with 3.9% annual growth predicted from a previous forecast of 2.6%.

[…]

There is no reason why a determined government cannot adopt a bold programme for economic growth.

Instead of borrowing to pay for tax cuts we can ill afford, we should be investing in jobs.  The rest will almost invariably take care of itself.

We have the resources. We have the money. We have the demand for new housing. What else is missing?

The will to do it.

National has been half-hearted in it’s will to address this crisis. It has implemented a few lukewarm, ad hoc measures, but they are five years too late and too little.

Some of National’s announcements have been panic-driven;

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Paula Bennett announces plan to offer $5,000 to homeless Aucklanders - interest

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At other times, National has indulged in it’s favourite past-time of “blame-gaming”;

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housing crisis - national - blame game

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By 2016, under Key’s watch, homelessness has increased; housing affordability has worsened, and home ownership has plummeted. Our esteemed Dear Leader no longer calls it a “crisis“. It is now just a “challenge“;

“I don’t think it’s a crisis, but prices are going up too quickly.”

“There are plenty of challenges in housing, and there have been for quite some time.”

Make no mistake, this is a direct consequence of National’s laissez-faire approach and an opportunistic reliance on mass immigration to keep the economy afloat at a time when dairying is no longer the main driver of economic growth.

By any definition, National’s “hands off” approach to housing – whether social housing for the poor or affordable housing for the Middle Classes – has been an abject failure.

The mood for change has never been as palpable since the dying days of the Shipley-led National government in 1999.

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The Labour Response

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On 10 July, Labour leader Andrew Little congratulated Labour on it’s 100th year birthday. He also put the boot firmly and fairly up National’s backside for it’s hopeless track record on housing.

If the supply of food were in short-supply and expensive as is housing for poor and middle-class New Zealanders, there would be rioting in the streets by now. By morning there would be a revolutionary government sitting in the Ninth Floor of the Beehive and Key and his ministerial cronies would be in hiding, exile, or under arrest.

Little began with a brief, but accurate refresher course in New Zealand history;

“We’re here to celebrate Labour’s creation of the welfare state, the achievements of widespread home ownership and the creation of state housing, a free health system and a free education system.

In short, we celebrate the building of a nation.

We celebrate and we remember the image of Michael Joseph Savage carrying the very first furniture into the very first state house.

Offering hope to people that the years of depression were over and there were brighter days ahead.

We’re here to celebrate the beginning of the reconciliation between Maori and Pakeha and the restoration of the mana of the Treaty of Waitangi.

We’re celebrating the decision to make New Zealand nuclear free. We celebrate the courage shown by thousands of New Zealanders who marched against the Springbok Tour.

We’re celebrating KiwiBank. Kiwisaver. Working for Families. The Cullen Fund.

We celebrate Homosexual Law Reform and we remember the scene of the packed galleries in Parliament rising in song after we passed Marriage Equality.

These are Labour achievements.

This is the legacy of our party.”

Little omitted Labour’s de-railing in the 1980s at the hands of a small cadre of Neo-liberal fifth columnists. They who delivered our country into the hands of  global finance. They who were the  authors of a failed economic experiment that caused generations of misery, and rewarded the top 10% with unearned wealth. They whose names will pass into history and be quietly forgotten.

This was a moment where Little – like his predecessor David Cunliffe –   turned his back on neo-liberalism and announced to the country that the experiment was over. Labour would take back the reigns of responsibility for ensuring housing for all;

“After eight years, this government’s lost touch.

And nowhere, nowhere, is this government more out of touch and out of ideas than on housing.

Housing is at the core of a good life.

It provides security and stability.

It helps families put down roots in their communities and save for retirement

It is one of the most common sources of capital for people setting up their own small business.

The ambition of widespread homeownership sits at the heart of our social contract. It is at the heart of the Kiwi Dream.

The promise that if you work hard and do the right thing, you can earn a place of your own.”

A few salient statistics drove home the worsening crisis to anyone who needed convincing;

“Since 2008, when this government came to office, the average house price in Auckland has nearly doubled.

But over the same period, incomes have increased by only 24%.

In the last year, house prices in Auckland have increased by $2600 a week.

Twenty six hundred dollars a week.

It’s crazy. How on earth do you save enough to keep up with that?

[…]

The proportion of Auckland houses being bought by investors has now reached 46% – around twice the level of first home buyers.”

Little went on to explain how the housing crisis went in tandem with other worsening social indicators;

“And then there is the hard edge of the crisis.

The rising poverty and homelessness that National turns a blind eye to.

We’ve all heard the stories of Kiwi kids admitted to hospitals with respiratory illnesses because the cold damp homes they have to live in are making them sick.

We’ve all seen the awful media reports in the last few weeks about what life is like for those who can’t find any home at all.

Of the 42,000 people living in overcrowded conditions or in garages or in cars.

Of children sleeping under bushes in South Auckland.

We’ve seen the story of the 11 year old girl, whose mother has a job, but whose family spent months living in a van before they were taken in by Te Puea Marae.

She said that the hardest part is actually not being able to read in the van, because you don’t have space. And there’s not much light because it would waste the battery.”

These are matters raised that Labour’s opponants on the Right cannot easily dismiss or explain away. These are real events from real New Zealanders living under the currently all-too-real neo-liberal system.

Increasing child poverty; income/wealth disparity; and a worsening housing crisis – all of which are the spawn of thirty years of neo-liberalism.

Those who maintain that poverty has deepened because the “market” has not been sufficiently de-regulated, nor government reduced, nor taxes sufficiently cut, need to ask themselves; “At what point does an experiment that is showing no signs of positive improvement have to be concluded as an abject failure”?

As Little demanded from the party-faithful;

“When did this become the New Zealand we lived in?”

Little then laid out what he called Labour’s comprehensive plan to take to the  election next year. He said that a Labour government would;

 

  • …urgently address the shortage of emergency housing – with $60 million to provide 1400 new beds in emergency accommodation – enough for 5100 extra people a year. With the existing support that will take the number of people helped each year to over 8,000.

 

  • …reform housing New Zealand – so that instead of being run like a corporation making a profit off the most vulnerable, we can invest hundreds of millions of dollars in building thousands of new, modern, high quality state houses instead.

 

  • …will build 100,000 new affordable homes to be on sold to first home buyers.

 

  • …will set up an Affordable Housing Authority to deliver ambitious new urban development projects, at scale and at pace. We are going to change the face of our towns and cities, and fix this housing crisis. The Authority will have a target to meet: 50% across all of the homes in its developments will have to be affordable. The Authority will look after the Government’s urban land holdings, and will make sure there is a pipeline of land for future needs – for housing, business, schools, parks and hospitals.

 

  • …ban offshore buyers from the market unless they are willing to build a new home and add to the stock..

 

  • …will extend the bright line test so that if you sell an investment property within five years, you’ll pay the full tax on it. That means the short term speculators won’t be able to get away tax free anymore. It means ending the tax incentives to speculate in short term property gains at the expense of families trying to get into a home.

 

  • …will begin consulting on how to end the loop hole of negative gearing.

 

Perhaps Labour’s most audacious plan is to set up a new “Affordable Housing Authority”.

If one reads his speech a certain way, he is planning on reviving a newer, 21st century version of the old Ministry of Works (which was privatised by National in late 1996.) If so, it could be the most direct  way to build houses for people in desperate need.

Considering that most of this country’s infra-structure was built by the old Ministry of Works (or similar state bodies), including the telecommunications systems being used to upload this blogpost onto this website, it would not be a far-stretch of the imagination that it could be done again.

If so, this wasn’t just a speech – it was a Manifesto for the Last Rites of Neo-liberalism.

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Property Investors throw their toys out of the cot

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The reactionary response from the NZ Property Investors Federation was utterly predictable. They were miffed. All of a sudden, their tax-free pot of gold was about to be denied to them

The Federation’s executive officer, Andrew King, bleated like a spoiled brat who had just been told to share his toys;

“In one part of his speech, he said there were homeless people and people living in overcrowded conditions and they wanted to do something about that.  How does making it harder to provide rental homes to these people achieve it? Unbelievable.”

It may have escaped King’s somewhat narrow-attention, but homelessness and over-crowding has worsened during the time that his members have enjoyed spectacular tax-free gains. What were they doing in the last eight years?

He also compared businesses, shares, and farms with housing;

“No other investment is like that. If you do the same with a farm, with shares, with a business, all of those wouldn’t be affected, just rental properties – it’s just wrong.”

Generally speaking, people do not live in “shares”,  “businesses”, or farm paddocks (yet). People live in houses. That is the critical difference.

On top of which, astronomical rents are directly contributing to homelessness and over-crowding;

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High Auckland rents forcing people onto the streets - Sallies

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So to whine that, all of a sudden, Labour’s housing policies will “ make it harder to provide rental homes to these [homeless] people” is contemptible.

His members should be held to account for their part in our housing crisis. The sooner that a capital gains tax is introduced at the same rate as New Zealand’s company tax (28 cents in the dollar), the better.

Mr King’s absurd “pity me” comments have crossed the borderline into territory commonly known as;

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hypocrisy definition

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National discovers Problem & Solution!

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Last year, as stories of homelessness; over-crowding; fewer available  Housing NZ homes; and worsening housing affordability began to make headlines around the country,  National was grabbing money from a government department tasked with caring for the most vulnerable people in our society;

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Housing NZ to pay Crown $118m dividend

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In all, National has raked in over half a billion dollars from Housing NZ;

Housing NZ dividends under National

HNZ Annual Report 2009-10 – $132 million   (p86)

HNZ Annual Report 2010-11 – $71 million   (p66)

HNZ Annual Report 2011-12 – $68 million   (p57)

HNZ Annual Report 2012-13 – $77 million   (p47)

HNZ Annual Report 2013-14 – $90 million –  (p37)

HNZ Annual Report 2014-15 – $108 million –  (p33)

HNZ Statement of Performance Expectations 2015/16 – $118 million – (p12)

Total: $664 million (over seven years)

See more here: National’s blatant lies on Housing NZ dividends – The truth uncovered!

Labour took dividends as well, around a third of National’s figure. The difference between the two is that Labour builds State housing, whilst National continually flogs them off.

This amounts to looting a critical government organisation that is akin to thieving from a charity.

This year’s 2016 Budget indicated that Housing NZ would pay a  dividend  of $38 million  and $54 million next year, for 2017.

Twenty four hours after Andrew Little gave his speech to the country, Housing NZ suddenly announced no dividends would be paid for the next two years;

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RNZ - Housing NZ confirms it will not pay govt dividend

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Labour’s Grant Robertson offered his rationale for National’s policy U-Turn;

“The first we hear from National that they suddenly believe Housing New Zealand needs to retain that money to invest in state houses is the morning after an announcement by the Labour Party that Housing New Zealand will never be required [by Labour] to provide a dividend to the government.

This is not a coincidence, this is a panicked, desperate response from the government.

What we know is that National has extracted dividends from Housing New Zealand over recent years and it’s quite clear that National has seen Housing New Zealand as a cash cow in the past.”

Bill English refuted allegations that National was panicking over Labour’s housing announcement only 24 hours previously;

“It’s nothing to do with Labour and the Greens. This is a $20 billion entity – you don’t come up with capital plans for the next five years because Labour puts out a press release.”

He also denied that National was  looting Housing NZ;

“We don’t accept that taking the dividend is stealing from state housing, because the dividend is not the constraint on what gets built…

…If there was less dividend, we’d just put in more capital – it’s not driven by the availability of the cash.”

National takes money in the form of dividends and taxes  from Housing NZ – whilst non-government charities are tax-free? And he earnestly claims it is not “stealing”?!

English then issued the most ridiculous explanation ever heard, that the figures in this year’s May 26 Budget “appear to be based on older HNZ numbers dating from almost a year ago“.

Yeah, right, Bill.

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flying-pig-clipart-1

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Is the Finance Minister really expecting New Zealanders to believe that the government’s May 2016 budget was full of inaccurate figures?

What is really galling is that Bill English, Steven Joyce, and other National Ministers expect us – the public – to believe this rubbish. It is revealing just how stupid they think we are.

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Who is in charge anyway?!

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Whenever National implements unpopular legislative changes, they often point to Labour having carried out similar policies.

In 2014, National “borrowed” Labour’s policy by implementing free health-care for children under 13.

Last year, National raised benefits by $25 (to take effect this year) for people on welfare.

This year, having their ‘hand forced’ by Labour’s housing policy, the Nats have cancelled dividends from Housing NZ for the next two years.

National seems to be highly influence by Labour.

Which  raises the question; who is actually setting policy and governing the country? Because it appears we almost have a de facto Labour Government pulling the strings.

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A Cautionary Note for Labour

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On TVNZ’s Q+A on 10 July, Corin Dann quizzed Andrew Little on Labour’s policy toward Housing NZ tenants. Corin  Dann specifically asked Little about whether or not tenants should have state houses for life;

Corin Dann: You talk about state houses – an extra thousand state houses. Does Labour believe that someone should have a state house for life?

Andrew Little: I think we think when people are in circumstances where they can’t afford to buy their own home, can’t afford to rent, they’ve got to have a home. They’ve got to have a home, get their life on track, underway.

Corin Dann: Do they have it for life?

Andrew Little: If they’re at a point in their life where their circumstances have changed, and actually, they can afford to buy, my view is I would rather work with them to get them to buy that house so we could then release some funds to build the next state house.

Corin Dann: So you keen National’s policy? They don’t keep them for life?

Andrew Little: Well, I don’t agree with the policy that says we’ll target elderly people on fixed incomes in a state house and see if we can toss them out. That’s not a solution to anything. But what I would say is people who have gone into a state house early, got their lives sorted out,…

Corin Dann: They should move on if they can.

Andrew Little: …the circumstances are right, if we can sell that house to them, why wouldn’t we? And use the funds then to build the next state house for the next vulnerable person.

Selling State houses to tenants is text-book privatisation policy for National, and was a prime plank for the Bolger and  Shipley-led governments in the  1990s.

It is a dangerous road for a Labour government to go down.

Selling a state house to a tenant may seem a kindly gesture from a  benevolent left-wing government.

But eventually a National-led government will be elected back into power. Their track record on selling State houses is evident and they would have no hesitation in taking a Labour policy of selling State housing to tenants and expanding on it.

This is thin-edge-of-the-wedge, slippery-slope stuff.

This is mis-guided to the extreme, and will provide a future right-wing government a ready-made policy to act upon. And not in a nice way.

If Labour is serious in returning to it’s social democratic roots, it would do well to think carefully before embarking on such a naive policy.

Instead, it should consider the following;

[1] Transience

Transience is one of the greatest problems affecting low-income, poverty-stricken families. Moving from one house to another is debilitating to such families – especially for children.

A government report states that transience for children can have extreme, negative impact on  their learning;

Nearly 3,700 students were recognised as transient during the 2014 year. Māori students were more likely to be transient than students in other ethnic groups.

[…]

Students need stability in their schooling in order to experience continuity, belonging and support so that they stay interested and engaged in learning.

All schools face the constant challenge of ensuring that students feel they belong and are encouraged to participate at school. When students arrive at a school part-way through a term or school year, having been at another school with different routines, this challenge may become greater.

Students have better outcomes if they do not move school regularly. There is good evidence that student transience has a negative impact on student outcomes, both in New Zealand and overseas. Research suggests that students who move home or school frequently are more likely to underachieve in formal education when compared with students that have a more stable school life. A recent study found that school movement had an even stronger effect on educational success than residential movement.

There is also evidence that transience can have negative effects on student behaviour, and on short term social and health experience

Encouraging families to stay long-term in State housing not only creates a sense of community amongst tenants; stability for fragile, vulnerable families,  but assists in the long-term stability and education of children.

Not only is a state house “for-life” fair, it provides real, tangible, long-term benefits.

[2] Guaranteed Tenancy

Low-income, vulnerable families in State housing must be given guaranteed, protected security-of-tenure.

Currently, tenants are exposed to the winds-of-change whenever there is a change in government. Their tenure is at the pleasure of right-wing governments, and mass-evictions have been commonplace under John Key’s administration;

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state housing insecurity

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A progressive government must do all within it’s power to protect such vulnerable families. Otherwise what is the point of throwing out right-wing regimes when their ideologically-driven policies no longer palatable, and well past their Use-By date?

Tenancies must be secured. Either by the use of long-term contracts, enforceable in Courts of law, or by some other means such as entrenched legislation.

Labour-led governments come and go.

But tenancies for our most vulnerable must be protected from the whims of others.

[3] State Housing Protected

As well as protection for tenants of state housing, state houses themselves must be entrenched and protected from the rapaciousness of right-wing governments.

In modern, First World societies, the power of contract is supposedly sacrosanct.

It should not be beyond a progressive government to use some means of contract-law to safe-guard state housing. Once this is accomplished, it should make it near-impossible for a right-wing regime to wreak havoc with the lives of the poor.

Perhaps it is time to look at how we can make the concept of contract-law work in the favour of those who have least wealth to lose.

There is much more work to be done.

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References

Scoop media: Key – Speech to New Zealand Contractors Federation

theyworkforyou.co.nz: State Houses—Sale and Disposal

NZ History: Construction and sale of state houses, 1938-2002

Housing NZ Corporation: Rent, Buy or Own – overview (archived page)

Beehive: State houses available to buy from today

TV1 News: First home buyers set to be disappointed with Budget

Department of Building & Housing: Estimated building costs (archived page)

Dominion Post: Inequality report ignores tax cuts for rich – Goff

NZIER: Home

TVNZ News: NZ economic outlook grim until 2013 – NZIER (archived page)

Interest.co.nz: Paula Bennett announces plan to offer $5,000 to homeless Aucklanders

Hive News: Hive News Tuesday – Key blames ‘Dirty Politics’ for lack of state house sale debate

Reuters: NZ Prime Minister says central bank should get on with housing measures

Parliament Today: Housing NZ’s Woes Blamed on Labour

TV3 News: Housing blame game flares up in Parliament

NewstalkZB: Govt accused of blaming Auckland Council for its own failings on housing

Sharechat: Key blames Labour for barrier to foreign buyer ban

Youtube: Bill English Blames Greens for Housing Crisis

Otago Daily Times: Homelessness increasing in NZ

NZ Herald: Auckland has the fifth least-affordable houses in the world

Fairfax media: NZ home ownership at lowest level in more than 60 years

TV3 News: Key – No housing crisis, foreign buyers’ influence ‘minor’

Labour Party: Andrew Little’s Centenary policy speech

Treasury: Income from State Asset Sales as at May 2014

Fairfax media: Labour’s plan to tax property investors slammed as ‘attack’ on rental property providers

Radio NZ: High Auckland rents forcing people onto the streets – Sallies

IRD: Company Tax Rate

Radio NZ: Housing NZ to pay Crown $118m dividend

Radio NZ: Housing NZ confirms it will not pay govt dividend

Fairfax media: Bill English denies U-turn after Steven Joyce reveals Housing NZ won’t pay dividend

National Business Review:  Govt blames outdated Budget figures for Housing NZ dividend U-turn

Metro mag: Opinion – Is John Key the finest actor of his generation?

NZDoctor.co.nz: Free care for the under-13s features in growth Budget

Radio NZ: Welfare increases – what $25 buys you

TVNZ: Q+A – Corin Dann and Andrew Little (video)

TVNZ: Q+A – Corin Dann and Andrew Little (transcript)

Te Ara NZ Encyclopedia: Housing and government – Total Housing Stock

Education Counts: Transient students

Dominion Post: Housing policy will destabilise life for children

Fairfax media: State tenants face ‘high need’ review

NZ Herald: Elderly, disabled included in state house review

NZ Herald: State tenants to make way for workers

Previous related blogposts

Can we do it? Bloody oath we can!

Budget 2013: State Housing and the War on Poor

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)

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

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

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

Letter to the Editor – How many more children must die, Mr Key?!

National under attack – defaults to Deflection #1

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

State house sell-off in Tauranga unravelling?

Upper Hutt residents mobilise to fight State House sell-off

Park-up in Wellington – People speaking against the scourge of homelessness

National and the Reserve Bank – at War!

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wheel estate

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 12 July 2016.

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= fs =

Letter to the editor: Setting it straight on user-pays in tertiary education

19 February 2016 4 comments

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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Labour’s promise of a return to (limited) free tertiary education appears to be unsettling some, for whom the last thirty years has been dominated by the implementation and bedding-in of  user-pays (often gradually, so as not to spook the punters) ; reduced-tax; and minimalist-government ideology;

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letter to editor - the wellingtonian - sue usher - student debt

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I replied to Ms Usher’s public expression of “guilt twinges”…

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: The Wellingtonian <editor@thewellingtonian.co.nz>
date: Sat, Feb 13, 2016
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
The Wellingtonian

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Sue Usher defends user-pays in Universities, asserting, “anyone who takes out a loan on anything surely knows that there’s no such thing as a free lunch; you are not given money, you are lent it”. (letters, 11 Feb)

Prior to 1992, there were no student loans/debt. Tertiary education was paid from taxes, with the expectation that graduates would, in turn, pay for following generations.

That was the social contract.

That contract dissolved when successive governments introduced user-pays, with seven tax cuts in 1986, 1988, 1996, 1998, 2008, 2009, and 2010. The burden of higher education shifted from society, onto individuals. By 2014, student debt reached $14.8 billion.

Ms Usher admits this unfairness, “I acknowledge that repaying a loan and trying to buy a first home is a mighty challenge and feel slightly guilty that my generation did not have any such system”.

John Key and Tertiary Education minister, Steven Joyce, should also feel a twinge of guilt. Both obtained their University degrees free, paying almost nothing.

Those who parrot the cliche that education is a “private good” should consider if our doctors, scientists, engineers, teachers, et-al, all decided to pack up and move overseas.

Or if none of us could read and write.

Education benefits us all, which user-pays fails to recognise.

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-Frank Macskasy

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[address and phone number supplied]

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Additional

Salient: A short history of tertiary education funding in New Zealand

Ministry of Education: Student Loan Scheme Annual Report 2014

IRD: Student Loan Scheme Amendment Act 2014 – Arrest at border

Fairfax media: Joyce defends student loan crackdown

Fairfax media: Student loan arrest could prompt others to address debt

NZ Herald: ‘I don’t think I’m a criminal’

Teara.govt.nz: National Party – The ‘mother of all budgets’

Sunday Star Times: Politics – John Key – A snapshot

Wikipedia: Steven Joyce

National Party: Steven Joyce

Related blogposts

Letter to the Editor: Steven Joyce – Hypocrite of the Year

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 16: No one deserves a free tertiary education (except my mates and me)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 14 February 2016.

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= fs =

Letter to the editor – In response to Orwellian National Supporters

16 February 2016 2 comments

 

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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I see that National Party apparatchiks are up to their usual disingenuous tricks, trying to suggest that Labour was a worse manager of the New Zealand economy than National;

 

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Roger Mitchell

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As many are already aware, quite the opposite is true. I replied, presenting  a few salient facts to the Tory fan-boi;

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: Thu, Feb 11, 2016
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
Dominion Post

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I see that Roger Mitchell of Clive is parroting the right-wing myth that Helen Clark “must have wised up considerably since steering New Zealand on to the rocks, with Labour’s help, of course, and we have been going full astern ever since”. (Letters, 9 Feb)

In fact, during Labour’s administration, from 2000-08, their economic track record was enviable by today’s standards;

* paying down sovereign debt to around $15 billion, in the mid-2000s, to National’s debt-splurge of $54.7 billion as at June last year. (Much of it to pay for tax-cuts in 2009 and 2010)

* Government Debt-to-GDP was 14.5% in 2007, and is now at 38%,

* Labour’s Finance Minister Michael Cullen posted nine surpluses. Bill English has posted one, and even that was achieved by cutting state services.

* unemployment stood at 78,000 (3.5%) in 2007/08, compared to 133,000 (5.3%) today.

* GDP growth reached 5.5% in July 2004 – whilst reaching a temporary peak of 3.5% in January last year.

* According to Statistics NZ, home ownership fell from 54.5% in 2006, to 49.9% in 2013.

* Meanwhile, those renting increased from 33.1% in 2006 to 35.2% in 2013. Housing affordability has worsened in the last few years.

It may suit the agenda of National Party loyalists to indulge in fanciful Orwellian re-writing of recent history, but the facts speak for themselves; Labour was the more effective manager of this country’s economy.

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-Frank Macskasy

[address and phone number supplied]

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References

NZ Productivity Commission: Housing affordability

NZ Herald: Investment data shines spotlight on debt

Statistics NZ: 2013 Census QuickStats about national highlights – Home ownership

Trading Economics: Unemployment Rate

Trading Economics: Unemployed persons

Trading Economics: New Zealand Government Debt to GDP

Previous related blogposts

Labour: the Economic Record 2000 – 2008

A Tale of Two Track Records: Labour vs National #1: New Zealand GDP

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 11 February 2016.

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The Mendacities of Mr Key # 16: No one deserves a free tertiary education (except my mates and me)

11 February 2016 9 comments

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student-loans-debt

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Prologue

As reported in a previous blogpost last year (Steven Joyce – Hypocrite of the Week);

Fun Fact #1: Student loan stood at $14.235 billion, as at 30 June 2014 – up from 9.573 billion in 2008.

*Up-date* – Student loan stood at  $14.837 billion as at 30 June 2015 – up from $14.235 billion in 2014.

Fun Fact #2: As at 30 June 2013, 721,437 people had an outstanding student loan, registered with Inland Revenue. That’s roughly 16% of the population.

Fun Fact #3: Approximately 1.2 million people – roughly a quarter of the population –  have taken out  student loans.

Fun Fact #4: Students have borrowed $20.119 billion of which  $9.157 billion has been collected in loan repayments.  More than 415,000 loans have been fully repaid.

Fun Fact #5: $1.031.7 billion in loan repayments were received, $22.2 million less than last year. The total number of students completing formal qualifications reached 144,000 in 2013 – a decrease of 0.6% from 2012. The number of people enrolled in tertiary education has dropped, from  504,000 in 2005 to  about 420,000 (in 2014).

Fun Fact #6: The student fees/debt system began in 1992. Prior to that, students  had access to Bursaries and Student Allowances and tuition fees were minimal.

Fun Fact #7: “The median borrowing increased – from $7,441 in 2013 to $7,708 in 2014. The median loan balance also increased – from $13,882 in 2013 to $14,421 in 2014. Both were driven by higher fee borrowing: fees are rising and students are more likely to take more expensive courses. In the 2014 academic year, 72.4% of eligible students took out a loan, down from 73.8% in 2013… The number of borrowers in default has declined slightly on 2013/14, but the amount in default has increased.”

Fun Fact #8: On 17 May 2013, National announced new legislation would give the IRD powers to arrest loan defaulters at “the border” (ie, airports) if they are “about to leave or attempt to leave New Zealand after returning from overseas”.

Fun Fact #9: On 18 January this year, the first person arrested at the border for non-payment of a student debt was a 40-year-old with  an  outstanding debt that, with interest,  had ballooned from $40,000 to $130,000.

Fun Fact #10: The Prime Minister, John Key, and Tertiary Education Minister, Steven Joyce, both received near-free tertiary education, paid nearly entirely by the New Zealand taxpayer.

Sources: Ministry of Education, Beehive, NBR, and The Wireless

Some Recent History: 1972 – 1992

Prior to 1992, tertiary education at Universities was mostly free, with minimal course fees. On top of which, a student allowance plus part-time paid employment, was usually sufficient for students to graduate with minimal debt hanging over them.

This allowed graduates to start their adult lives, careers, and families with only as much debt as they chose to take on. This was usually in the form of a mortgage and business start-up costs (if they elected to be self-employed).

Those that earned more in a professional capacity, paid a higher rate of tax. This ensured that those who stood to gain the most, financially, from a near-free tertiary system, paid more in taxation. This – in part – assisted funding for future generations to move through the tertiary education system.

Those that did not achieve high income-brackets could contribute in other ways.

When National’s Ruth Richardson became Finance Minister in 1990, the social contract between generations “paying it forward” was broken. University fees were increased; student loans were made available to cover payment for increasing user-pays;

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

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

Acknowledgement of image: NZ Herald

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Ironically, Ruth Richardson herself was a beneficiary of New Zealand’s then near-free tertiary education system. In 1972, she graduated from the University of Canterbury with a Bachelor of Law  (Honours).  She immediately went to work – debt-free – for the NZ Department  of  Justice  (NZ).

She has made herself a Limited Liability Company, ostensibly to minimise her tax “liabilities”.  According to her website, her husband is General Manager of “Ruth Richardson Ltd”.

Some Recent History: 1986 – 2010

Though the tertiary education system was far from perfect – for example polytechnics could charge higher student fees – it offered near-free higher education and taxpayers were ultimately beneficiaries of a system that produced doctors, engineers, scientists, and other skilled professionals to take New Zealand into the 21st Century.

Even those who went overseas in pursuit of lucrative work gained valuable experience which benefited the country as a whole, upon their return.

Unfortunately, the social contract between generations was broken as the Lange-Douglas Labour Government implemented neo-liberal policies that included user-pays as a new concept upon which to base State/individual transactions.

Labour did not implement user-pays in tertiary education – but it laid the fertile ground for the following Bolger-Richardson National government to radically change University funding for course fees.

For the right-wing Labour (of the 1980s) and National, smaller government meant tax-cuts, and from 1986 there were no less than seven cuts to taxation;

1 October 1986 – Labour

1 October 1988 – Labour

1 July 1996 – National

1 July 1998 – National

1 October 2008 – Labour

1 April 2009 – National

1 October 2010 – National

Each cut to taxation has meant less revenue for the government and resulted in either reductions to social services, and/or increases in user-pays.

The ballooning of “voluntary” school fees to over a billion dollars since 2000 is the clearest example yet of  tax-cuts making way for the covert rise in user-pays for what is supposedly “free” schooling in this country.

The under-funding of schools and desperate need for parents’ “donations” has become such a pressing problem that Patrick Walsh, of the Principals Association of New Zealand,  has openly suggested that the ideal of  free education should be abandoned;

“I think the basic principle is you undertake a study … of what it costs to actually run a school, all the operational costs including staffing, and you either fund it to the level it actually costs, or you say the pie isn’t big enough to support that and we will now allow schools to charge parents for some of the services.”

Perhaps Walsh has a point. It would at least acknowledge the current semi-user-pays system as a reality, rather than fooling ourselves with dishonest and quaint notions of “school donations”.  Only then might New Zealanders clearly comprehend how we have arrived at a toxic mix of tax-cut bribes and implementation-by-stealth of user-pays in education, and other state services.

Education is not the only state service suffering from lack of adequate funding, as recent media reports from Canterbury and Waikato DHBs indicate. The increasing waiting times for public operations, and painful suffering of people with debilitating medical conditions,  is a telling indicator that our health care system is ailing through lack of funding.

A September 2012 Treasury paper,  “Average Marginal Income Tax Rates for New Zealand, 1907-2009“, revealed;

In 1900 tax revenues were approximately 8% of GDP. They rose to 28% of GDP during WWII and to a high of 37% in 2006. Currently tax revenues make up around 29% of GDP.

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government-tax-revenue-by-source-1903-2011

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Source

Taxation has fallen – as have once-free services which New Zealanders took for granted. At the same time, population growth has put pressure on (reduced) government revenue and spending.

In 1984 the population stood at 3,175,737 (as at 1981 Census).

By 2013: our population had swelled by over a million to 4,242,048 (as at 2013 Census).

We are spending less, for more people, to meet expectations that are simply unrealistic after seven tax cuts.

Rather unsurprisingly, the consequences of successive tax-cuts have been predictable, and well-reported in the media;

According to the most recent data, taken from the 2013 Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook, 44,000 Kiwis – who could comfortably fit into Eden Park with thousands of empty seats to spare – hold more wealth than three million New Zealanders. Put differently, this lists the share of wealth owned by the top one per cent of Kiwis as 25.1 per cent, meaning they control more than the bottom 70 per cent of the population.

New Zealand’s wealthiest individual, Graeme Hart, is ranked number 200 on the Forbes list of the world’s billionaires, with US$7 billion. That makes his net worth more than the bottom 30 per cent of New Zealanders, or 1.3 million people. 

The Progressive Response

January 31st marked a giant step Kiwi-kind that – if endorsed by voters – could prove to be the the first nail-in-the-coffin for user-pays.

Labour leader, Andrew Little, announced a policy that, while seemingly radical in the 21st century, was common-place policy in this country pre-1980s.

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Labour's announcement welcomed and slammed

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Little proposed;

“… that the next Labour government will invest in three years of free training and education after high school throughout a person’s life.

[…]

Three years of free skills training, of apprenticeships or higher education right across your working life.”

He then pointedly explained not just where the money would come from – but that bribes in the form of  successive tax-cuts had under-mined our once-proud cultural expectations of state-provided services;

“The money is there – the Government just has it earmarked for tax cuts. We will use that money instead to invest in New Zealand’s future.”

In effect, this would be a massive admission of failure in user-pays, and the beginning of rolling back thirty years of New Right doctrine.

The Neo-Libs Strike Back

The response of the National Party and it’s front-organisation, the so-called “Taxpayers’ Union“, has been utterly predictable.

From Tertiary Education minister, Steven Joyce, came these two ‘clangers’ via Twitter;

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Steven joyce - tertiary education - hypocrite

Source

Source

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Judging by the angry responses on Joyce’s Twitter account, his comments were more provocative and self-defeating, than achieving any ‘hits’ on Labour’s policy-announcement.

John Key fared little better after his jaw-dropping gaffe on this issue;

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John Key draws flak after questioning why waitresses' taxes should fund students

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Aside from the usual tactic of playing on low-paid workers’ dire plight to criticise free education (or free anything provided by the State), links were quickly drawn to Key’s on-going assault on waitress Amanda Bailey, in Auckland’s Rosie Cafe;

Prime Minister John Key has drawn a barrage of criticism after questioning if Labour’s fee free study policy was fair on waitresses who would be paying tax to subsidise students.

His comments also drew a quick response from some critics on social media who drew the link with Key’s repeated pulling of Auckland cafe waitress Amanda Bailey’s ponytail.

Key’s rhetorical question attempted to paint free tertiary education as unfair on low-paid workers;

“How much should the waitress.. how much of her taxes should go to a student who will absolutely earn a lot more?”

The question could equally be put;

“How much should the waitress.. how much of her taxes should go to…”;

  • National Ministers  gifting themselves 34 new BMWs. The last batch – bought in 2011 – are to be replaced only after about three years’ use. Cost? Unknown. According to National, the price is “commercially sensitive”. (Code for *politically embarrassing*.)
  • Subsidies and special tax concessions to Warner Bros for ‘The Hobbit‘, and to other movie companies? Cost – ongoing.

But the main question should be;

“How much should the waitress.. how much of her taxes should go to paying for tax-cuts for the top 1% of  New Zealanders.”

When National cut taxes for high-income earners in 2010, and raised GST from 12.5% to 15%, this was essentially a transfer of wealth from low-income earners to the uber-wealthy. Low income earners pay disproportionately more in GST than the wealthy.

People like Ruth Richardson can structure their tax-affairs by registering as a limited liability company (or using Trusts and other accounting trickery) – which allows her to claim back on GST – this puts the rest of us at a distinct disadvantage.

Other companies such as Facebook and Apple have made big profits in New Zealand, but paid minimal tax. Facebook paid $23,034 in 2013/14 (out of alleged revenue of just $846,391), whilst Apple paid $5.5 million in 2012/13 (out of $571 million revenue).

As for criticisms from the so-called “Taxpayers Union” – this is a front-organisation for National. It’s organisers are party apparatchiks from National and ACT;

Jordan Williams is closely connected to the likes of David Farrar, Cameron Slater, and Simon Lusk – all of whom are hard-Right National/ACT supporters and apparatchiks.

Right-wing blogger, David Farrar, is one of the  Board members of the Taxpayers Union. He has been a member of the National Party since 1986, as his candid Disclosure Statement on Kiwiblog reveals.

John Bishop; businessman; columnist for the right-leaning NBR; and authored a “puff piece” on National’s Deputy Leader, Bill English; Constituency Services Manager,  ACT Parliamentary Office, April 2000 – August 2002, “developing relationships with key target groups and organising events”.

Gabrielle O’Brien; businesswoman; National Party office holder, 2000-2009.

Jordan McCluskey; University student; member of the Young Nationals.

Jono (Jonathan) Brown; Administrator/Accounts Clerk at the Apostolic Equippers [Church] Wellington, which, amongst other conservative policies,  opposed the marriage equality Bill.

See: A Query to the Taxpayers Union – ***UP DATE ***

Publishing criticisms from the “Taxpayers Union” is simply another PR statement from National, masquerading as independent analysis.

People’s Exhibit #1 – The Case for Key’s and Joyce’s Hypocrisy

Undeniably the worst aspect of National’s condemnation of  free tertiary education rests with our esteemed Dear Leader, John  Key, and Tertiary Education minister, Steven Joyce.

Both men were recipients of free, tax-payer-funded, University education.

In Key’s case, his  was obtained at Canterbury University, from 1979 to 1981;

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POLITICS - John Key - A snapshot - tertiary university education - free education

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Has Key re-paid any of his University education? One suspects the answer is a firm “no”.

And with seven tax cuts, neither did he pay for it with taxation, as high-income earners paid less and less since 1986 – five years before graduating.

In Joyce’s case, as first reported on 6 August 2015, in a previous blogpost;

  1. Steven Joyce, born: 1963.

  2. After completing a zoology degree at Massey University, Steven started his first radio station, Energy FM, in his home town of New Plymouth, at age 21 (1984).

  3. Student Loan system is started: 1992.

Joyce completed his University studies and gained his degree eight years before the Bolger-led National government introduced student fees/debt in 1992.

One wonders how Joyce reconciles his free tertiary education – as well as benefiting from seven tax-cuts, along with John Key – with justifying National’s  issuing warrants-to-arrest for loans defaulters;

Just because people have left New Zealand it doesn’t mean they can leave behind their debt.  The New Zealand taxpayer helped to fund their education and they have an obligation to repay it so the scheme can continue to support future generations of students.

Key and Joyce never paid for their free University tuition.

Yet they expect other New Zealanders who followed in their foot-steps to pay for theirs.

Or face arrest.

What does it say about us as a nation, when we elect hypocrites as our elected representatives, who bludge of the tax-payer?

If this does not fly in the face of New Zealanders’ values of fairness and giving everyone a fair go – then we are not the same people we once were.

Postscript

Tweet from Steven Joyce, condemning Labour’s policy for free tertiary education;

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Steven joyce - tertiary education - hypocrite - achieving nothing

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Can we take it from the Tertiary Education Minister that his own university education “achieved absolutely nothing”?

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References

National Business Review: Budget 2015 – student loans – does the government dare to act?

Ministry of Education: Student Loan Scheme Annual Report 2014

Beehive.govt.nz: Celebrating student support under Labour

Ministry of Education: Student Loan Scheme Annual Report 2015

The Wireless: Getting by on a student budget

IRD: Student Loan Scheme Amendment Act 2014 – Arrest at border

Fairfax media: Joyce defends student loan crackdown

Fairfax media: Student loan arrest could prompt others to address debt

NZ Herald: ‘I don’t think I’m a criminal’

Teara.govt.nz: National Party – The ‘mother of all budgets’

Statistics NZ: Annual unemployment rate has increased from 1987

Ruth Richardson NZ Ltd: Ruth Richardson CV

Ruth Richardson NZ Ltd: Home page

Fairfax media: ‘Free’ education cost set to mount to more than $1 billion

Fairfax media: ‘Human scandal’ as Christchurch elderly refused access to surgeries

Fairfax media: ‘Painful wait’ for surgery

NZ Treasury:  Average Marginal Income Tax Rates for New Zealand, 1907-2009

NZ 1984 Yearbook: 3A – General Summary – Increase of population

Statistics NZ: 2013 Census Usually Resident Population Counts

Oxfam NZ: Richest 10% of Kiwis control more wealth than remaining 90%

Radio NZ: Labour’s announcement welcomed and slammed

Andrew Little: State of the Nation speech

Twitter: Steven Joyce

Twitter: Steven Joyce

Fairfax media: John Key draws flak after questioning why waitresses’ taxes should fund students

NZ Herald: Govt backtracks on limo statements

NZ Herald: Complaints laid against Murray McCully over Saudi farm deal

Radio NZ: Saudi abattoir deal will proceed – PM

Fairfax media: NZ government shells out $11m on New York apartment for UN representative

Fairfax media: NZ diplomat involved in decision to buy $6.2m luxury Hawaiian mansion

Otago Daily Times: Smelter gets Meridian, Govt lifeline

Rio Tinto.com: Rio Tinto announces a 10 per cent increase in underlying earnings to $10.2 billion and 15 per cent increase in full year dividend

NZ Herald: GST rise will hurt poor the most

Fairfax media: Time to pay some tax, Facebook?

NZ Herald: Apple’s NZ unit coughs up 0.4pc tax

Kiwiblog: Disclosure Statement

Sunday Star Times: Politics – John Key – A snapshot

Wikipedia: Steven Joyce

National Party: Steven Joyce

Fairfax media: IRD monitoring 20 for possible arrest in student loan repayment crackdown

Additional

Salient: A short history of tertiary education funding in New Zealand

NZ Herald: Minister to students – ‘keep your heads down’

Other bloggers

The Daily Blog: John Key said WHAT about waitresses’???

The Daily Blog: Why does Steven Joyce hate education so much?

Previous related blogposts

A Query to the Taxpayers Union

A Query to the Taxpayers Union – ***UP DATE ***

Know your Tory fellow travellers and ideologues: John Bishop, Taxpayers Union, and the NZ Herald

Greed is good?

It’s official: Political Dissent Discouraged in NZ!

Shafting our own children’s future? Hell yeah, why not!

Hon. Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy

Budget 2013: How NOT to deal with Student loan defaulters

Budget 2013: Student debt, politicians, and “social contracts”

Steven Joyce – Hypocrite of the Week

Anne Tolley’s psycopathy – public for all to see

Letter to the Editor: Steven Joyce – Hypocrite of the Year

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

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*Note: For New Zealand audiences, simply replace "Social Security" with Superannuation, and "Medicare" with public health system.

*Note: For New Zealand audiences, simply replace “Social Security” with Superannuation, and “Medicare” with public health system.

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 7 February 2016.

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Letter to the Editor – Steven Joyce, Hypocrite of the Year

2 February 2016 7 comments

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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Labour’s recent policy announcement regarding re-introducing free tertiary education met with predictable knee-jerk hysteria from the Right;

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Labour's announcement welcomed and slammed

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Though why the media still seeks comment from the so-called  “Taxpayers Union” escapes me, as they are a well-known front-group for the National Party, and are run almost exclusively by National and ACT party apparatchiks.

National’s Tertiary education minister, Steven Joyce, was somewhat frothy-mouthy with his panicky tweeting;

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Steven joyce - tertiary education - hypocrite

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Image courtesy of The Daily Blog

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Which prompted me to write letters to the editor to remind New Zealanders of a certain salient fact…

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: Sun, Jan 31, 2016
subject: Letters to the editor

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The editor
Dominion Post

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Immediatly after the release of Labour’s new tertiary education policy, which promised three years of free education, National’s Minister for Tertiary Education, Steven Joyce tweeted,

“Labour Party wants to take more than a billion dollars a year off taxpayers to achieve absolutely nothing #desperate”

Which is an irony, considering that Steven Joyce received a free university education, courtesy of the New Zealand taxpayer, before user-pays was implemented in 1992.

Even more ironic is that whilst National is unleashing the Police to arrest graduates who have not re-paid their student loans, neither Steven Joyce nor John Key have ever repaid their free University educations.

The only ones desperate are Joyce, Key, and other National ministers, who have rorted the system; gained personal benefit; and now displaying a level of hypocrisy that can only be described as breath-taking.

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-Frank Macskasy

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: NZ Herald <letters@herald.co.nz>
date: Sun, Jan 31, 2016
subject: Letter to the editor

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The Editor
NZ Herald
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Soon after Labour leader Andrew Little released their “new” policy advocating free tertiary education for the first three years, National’s own Tertiary Education Minister was quick to respond on Twitter;

“Labour more desperate than we all thought.Stealing massively expensive InternetMana policy on “free tertiary education from last election”

Which is astounding, for two reasons;

1. New Zealand once had free tertiary education and was readily affordable until seven tax cuts since 1986 gutted taxation-revenue, making social services less affordable and increasingly more user-pays.

2. Both John Key and Steven Joyce benefitted from a free tertiary educatyion. Yes, folks, Both Key and Joyce had their University tuition paid by the taxpayer. Neither men have ever repaid a single cent of their education.

Now Joyce is issuing comments on social media condemning the concept of free education? The same free education he personally benefitted from?!

The man’s hypocrisy is boundless.

Education was wasted on him.

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-Frank Macskasy

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[address and phone number supplied]

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References

Radio NZ: Labour’s announcement welcomed and slammed

The Daily Blog: Why does Steven Joyce hate education so much?

Previous Prize Hypocrites

Identifying a hypocrite in three easy steps.

Judith Collins – Hypocrite of the Week

Key & Joyce – competing with Paula Bennett for Hypocrites of the Year?

Steven Joyce – Hypocrite of the Week

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Andrew Little: if you want to send a really strong message to New Zealanders…

14 November 2015 4 comments

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Andrew-Little

 

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Palmerston North, 8 November 2015 – E nga mana

E nga tapu

E Te whanau o te roopu reipa

Tena koutou katoa

Talofa lava

Kia orana

Malo e lelei

Nǐ hǎo

Namaste

Thank you so much for that welcome.

Can I acknowledge party president Nigel Haworth, our new senior vice president Virginia Andersen, our Māori vice president Nanaia Mahuta and all of our hard working New Zealand Councilors.

I also want to acknowledge our outgoing General Secretary Tim Barnett. Tim, thank you so much for everything you’ve done for this party and the huge effort you have made.

Thank you to everyone in our caucus, especially my Deputy Annette King and our Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson.

And can I also acknowledge and say thank you for your patience to the two most important people in the world to me: my wife Leigh and my son Cam.

Why We Fight

Over 100 years ago, a group of miners gathered in a small union hall in Waihi and voted to take a stand against a company that was exploiting them.

The dispute had gone on for months already.

The miners’ hopes were simple.

They wanted to be treated well at work, to be paid fairly, and they wanted to know that when they went to work they would come home safely.

So the miners went on strike to press their case.

The response was immediate and devastating.

The full power of a corrupt and cosy establishment was unleashed against them.

The Prime Minister of the day branded them “enemies of order.”

One miner was beaten to death.

A young union organiser, a recent immigrant from Scotland, was helping the miners with their cause, travelling the country to raise money and give speeches in support.

He saw first hand the lengths that the powerful would go to in order to cling on to their position.

He saw that if the dreams of ordinary people were going to be possible, they needed more than a voice — they needed to have their hands on the law-making power of Parliament.

That young man’s name was Peter Fraser.

The party that he helped found, our party, has been on the job for nearly 100 years.

  • 100 years of fighting for a more just New Zealand.
  • 100 years of standing up to the smug and the self-contented.
  • 100 years of making life better for all New Zealanders;

All the people who organised together and campaigned together over the last century, people like you and me; they’ve left us an awesome legacy.

Just think of what our party has achieved:

  • Think of Joe Savage, who built our modern social safety net, our health care, our pensions, and who carried the furniture into the very first state house.
  • Think of Peter Fraser fighting for a state education system at home, and a lasting peace abroad.
  • Think of Walter Nash and his fight for affordable home loans.
  • Think of Norman Kirk walking onto the grounds at Waitangi hand in hand with a young Māori boy, sending the powerful message that it was time to restore mana to the Treaty of Waitangi.
  • Think of David Lange and the courage it took to stand up to a superpower. To assert what he called the power of humanity, the power of decision, over the madness of nuclear war.
  • And, just a few years ago, think of all the good Helen Clark did to lift New Zealand families through the Cullen Fund, KiwiSaver and Working for Families.

Our party has never been afraid to take on the big fights:

  • To lift New Zealanders up.
  • To restore opportunity.
  • To help us live our dreams.

You know, as New Zealanders, we don’t ask for the world. We have some simple aspirations.

Owning a home; having security for the people we love; a chance to enjoy the outdoors and the environment we love; and a job that gives us the time and the money to lead a fulfilling life.

These are the aspirations that we all share.

Together, they’re the Kiwi Dream, a dream that’s central to our country’s identity.

We’ve always been a progressive, big hearted people.

We believe in looking out for each other and doing the right thing.

We believe everyone should have the same opportunities to make the most of this life.

Our forebears in this great party put these values at the heart of the Labour project.

Whenever the Kiwi dream has been threatened, Labour championed it.

Whenever the rights of New Zealanders needed defending, Labour defended them.

That’s what previous generations did.

Now it’s our turn. Now it’s our turn.

We’ve come together this weekend to begin the work of rebuilding the Kiwi Dream.

I came to this party because Labour has always stood up for a fair go — for opportunity for everyone.

It’s an enormous honour to have been elected your Leader — I don’t underestimate the responsibility I hold.

But I’m not one of those people who can say I was born to Labour.

In fact, it was quite the opposite.

The first time my Mum voted for a Labour candidate was when she voted for me.

My Dad was another story altogether. He was a staunch National supporter.

He used to yell at the TV whenever political opponents came on the telly.

The people who most got under his skin? Union leaders, and pretty much everyone in the Labour Party.

So, “Andrew Little, Leader of the Labour Party and former union leader” probably isn’t the ambition he had for his son.

He’s probably up there right now going “god, look at my boy, where did I go wrong?”

But the truth is, he did a great job.

He and mum taught me some basic values.

Think for yourself. Make up your own mind. Stand up for other people and never be afraid to lend a helping hand to someone who needs it.

So Dad, you did the right thing, you were just in the wrong party.

My own political views were forged in the era of the Springbok Tour, and of the controversies over justice for Arthur Allan Thomas and justice in the Erebus Disaster.

I watched these events unfold and discovered in myself an intolerance for injustice.

When I see injustice, it sticks in my craw and I am compelled to stand up to it, and fight it.

The injustice I speak of is when the powerful and the privileged abuse their position to take advantage of the weak.

Here’s what I believe:

  • I believe in dignity. The dignity of the person matters most; and every person must have the opportunity to realise their full potential;
  • I believe in equality. A system that shuts people out because of where they live, or who they are, or who they love, or who their parents are is unjust and cannot stand;
  • I believe in the great freedoms that make us who we are. Freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom of association.

I know that the freedom I cherish cannot come at the expense of other people’s freedom. And I am very clear: there is no freedom in poverty and deprivation.

And I believe in fair rewards, too. Everyone who works to make this country great should share in the rewards.

It’s those values that I have carried with me my entire life.

The experiences I’ve had in my working life have taught me the type of leadership you need if you want to fight and win for progressive causes.

I learnt that it isn’t about making everyone happy or trying to avoid confrontation and disagreement.

Instead it’s about taking a stand because it’s the right thing to do.

I learned that real change — lasting change — change that’s worth fighting for takes patience, and resolve and determination.

It takes a long term view, keeping your eyes on the prize, not being drawn into every battle and skirmish and never giving up on what matters.

It’s these values and a lifetime of fighting for them that’s led me to believe we need to change the direction of our country.

Because right now this government isn’t living up to our values.

We aren’t being true to who we are, and that means more people are being shut out of the Kiwi Dream.

Most Kiwis believe that hard work should bring fair rewards.

But our economy is increasingly weighted in favour of those already doing well, while putting up barriers that stop other people getting ahead.

That’s why the incomes of the top 10 percent of New Zealanders are now ten times the income of the bottom 10 per cent. Ten times.

Most New Zealanders used to grow up believing they would be able to own their own home if they worked hard and saved hard.

But our houses have become playthings for speculators, many of whom live offshore — putting home ownership out of reach of ordinary New Zealanders.

That’s why in Auckland last year, the average house made more than three times as much as the average worker.

That’s right, the average Aucklander made $58,000 last year, but the average house price went up by more than $180,000.

That’s just crazy.

And now home ownership rates have hit their lowest level in 64 years.

We have to turn that around.

Most Kiwis also expect New Zealand to be a force for good on the world stage.

But this government is ducking its obligations and turning us into a lightweight in the international community.

We enlisted the support of many countries to get onto the UN Security Council.

We promised we would be the conscience of the world — that we would provide moral leadership.

But when we were faced with a real question of moral leadership: a humanitarian crisis engulfing millions of Syrian refugees, New Zealanders looked on in horror as the government dithered and prevaricated because they were waiting for a poll.

This is not the legacy of our great internationalist leaders: Fraser, Kirk, Clark.

And what about health?

Most Kiwis believe when you get sick, the public health system will be there to help you get well.

But our health system is stretched to breaking point, slashing services and denying Kiwis the care they need.

That’s why when Graham Higgins from Northland needed a procedure to diagnose his cancer, he had to wait over 6 months — by which time his cancer had become terminal.

I’ve battled cancer myself.

I know what it’s like to wait for the results of that test that could change your life.

So I’m making this commitment right now: when I’m Prime Minister I’ll make sure Kiwis get the care they need when they need it and I’ll give our doctors and nurses and health workers the funding they need to do their jobs.

But these aren’t the only values we’ve lost in the last few years.

Most Kiwis believe we owe it to our kids to give them a better life than we had.

But this government has turned a blind eye to appalling rates of poverty in this country.

That’s why the children’s wards of our hospitals are seeing Kiwi kids sick with third world diseases.

It’s why Emma-Lita Bourne died in a state house because her home was mouldy and unhealthy and no one was willing to help.

We must never let anything like that happen again.

New Zealand, we are a better country than that.

We’ve got to turn the page on the last seven years;

We’ve got to turn the page on rising inequality, on child poverty, on the housing crisis and on cuts to our health system,

If we want to restore the Kiwi Dream then we have to change the government.

And, once we’ve done that, we have to change the way we govern, too.

Right now, it seems the government is more interested in slapstick and personal sledging than in genuine leadership;

It’s more interested in flags and pandas than in serious issues.

It seems like the latest political sideshow is often more important than what is happening to you or your family.

I didn’t become an MP to play parliamentary parlour games.

I came into politics to help people.

To change lives for the better.

To take this country forward.

I ran for the leadership of our party because I want to lead a Government that makes a genuine difference.

Today, I want to give New Zealanders a clear idea of the shape and character of the sixth Labour Government.

I want to show you how we’ll put Kiwi values back to work in our government, so everyone can live the Kiwi Dream.

The Economy

It starts with restoring the values that should underpin how we run our economy.

We need to remember who we run the economy for.

People. New Zealanders. Their families.

This government’s forgotten that.

They’ve been rewarding property speculators, tax dodgers and big corporates at the expense of Kiwi families.

And here’s the truth: it’s not working.

The economy is slowing.

Just when we should be soaring, we’re stalling again.

Just this week we’ve learned the economy lost 11,000 jobs in the last three months.

Unemployment has hit 6% and is expected to reach 7% by the end of next year.

That’s the highest level since the height of the GFC.

The economy is actually going backwards in half of our regions.

If we’re going to restore the Kiwi Dream of opportunity for everyone, we need a stronger economy

That starts with getting more New Zealanders into higher skilled, better paid jobs.

Ask me my three priorities as Labour Leader?

Jobs. Jobs. Jobs.

You can ask me my top ten as well but I think you get the gist.

A job is about more than just a pay packet, it’s about the dignity of work. It’s about a place and a purpose in your community.

Every Kiwi who can work should be able to work.

Every business that needs a skilled worker should be able to find one.

And where people can’t work, the government should support them because we won’t allow Kiwis to be thrown on the scrap heap.

From day one, we’ll kick-start the economy.

  • We’ll bring forward major infrastructure projects like the City Rail Link in Auckland and passenger rail in Canterbury.
  • We’ll build better schools so every Kiwi kid can learn in a modern, high quality building.
  • We’ll set up a Regional Infrastructure Fund for major development projects to create jobs and boost our regions.

We will be relentlessly focussed on the future. That’s why I’m proud of Grant Robertson’s Future of Work Commission, which is showing us how to build a better economy for the future.

We’ll create thousands of new jobs in new industries by restoring research and development tax credits — giving our businesses a tax break on every dollar they spend on innovation.

We’ll modernise our education system so our kids are better prepared for jobs that haven’t even been invented yet.

And we’ll tackle climate change, because the only way our economy has a future is if our planet has a future.

That means aiming higher on renewable energy — we should be bold enough to say we want to see 100% renewable energy in New Zealand.

That also means doing better on reducing emissions. I want us to reach across the political divide, bring parties together and agree on ways to make New Zealand a leader on climate change. We don’t want to be a shirker on this issue.

Labour’s proposal for the Paris conference is a 40% CO2 reduction below 1990 levels. That’s the kind of ambition we need on this issue.

We also need to improve our social safety net so it works better in a world where people change their careers more often.

And today, I want to add the next element of Labour’s economic plan.

As you might have guessed, it’s about jobs.

It’s about the government lifting its game and living its values.

There are 151,000 New Zealanders out of work already and that number is increasing. 151,000.

On top of that, there’s 90,000 underemployed New Zealanders, and another 200,000 who can only find temporary work.

For everyone to have a fair shot at the Kiwi Dream, everyone needs a chance at a decent, secure job, and the government should be doing its bit to make that happen.

But it isn’t.

Not even on the most basic decisions.

The government spends $40 billion a year purchasing goods and services.

That’s huge buying power but, currently, government bodies only consider their own bottom line when they make purchasing decisions. Not the country’s bottom line, just their own.

They buy ‘cheaper’ options, often from overseas, regardless of the impact on New Zealand, even if it means Kiwis will lose work.

That’s the kind of dangerously short sighted thinking that has been behind some of the biggest government botch ups in the last few years.

  • the Hillside workshop closure in Dunedin and asbestos in imported rail wagons;
  • The Novopay debacle
  • Kiwi businesses shut out of the $1.9 billion IRD computer system contract.

At a time when our economy is stalled and our regions are struggling, there is a better way.

So today I’m announcing the first part of our jobs plan.

We’ll use the government’s buying power to create jobs here at home instead of sending them off overseas.

We will make job creation and the overall benefit to New Zealand a priority in how the government chooses its suppliers.

No more shipping tax-payers’ money offshore and starving our own companies of opportunities.

No more sending jobs overseas when we could be supporting a stronger economy here at home.

That’s billions of dollars that we will focus on creating jobs here in New Zealand.

And because we are putting existing money to better use, this policy has little to no fiscal cost.

Our plan, which we’re calling “Our Work, Our Future,” will put people to work, boost our businesses and it won’t break the bank.

Rebuilding the Kiwi Dream also means restoring opportunity to the thousands of New Zealand kids who are missing out — robbed of their future by the circumstances of their birth.

It means shining a light into dark corners of our country where people are trapped.

We still have 305,000 children living in poverty. 305,000.

2 out of 5 of those children have a parent who is working.

This can’t continue. It is unjust and it’s not who we are.

We all know this, but we’ve turned our backs for far too long.

Well, that ends today.

I’m committing our party to a new principle:

We will not tolerate poverty in New Zealand in the 21st century.

We won’t tolerate the poverty of the human spirit that means we choose to leave hundreds of thousands of children languishing in deprivation.

We won’t tolerate the poverty of imagination that means we stop thinking of creative ways to bring that poverty to an end.

Because I know that when this speech is over we will hear the usual chorus of jaded and cynical voices. They’ll say:

“It can’t be done. It’s too ambitious. You’re dreaming.”

To the cynics I say this:

Even if you’ve given up, I haven’t. I won’t. Ever. It’s not who I am.

New Zealanders are sick and tired of a politics that’s defined by cynicism and devoid of ambition.

It’s time to do better.

New Zealand, I’m asking you to join with me in a concerted effort to eradicate poverty in our country.

In government, we will put action on poverty at the heart of everything we do.

We’ll increase the number of hours people can work without having their benefit cut — to give more people a pathway back into full time work.

We’ll work towards 100% qualified teachers in ECE centers so every kid can get the best start in life.

We’ll feed hungry kids with our food in schools programme and we’ll make sure every child grows up in a warm, safe, dry home with our Healthy Homes Guarantee.

And we will get serious about lifting wages by working with unions and employers on modern and progressive workplace relations that boosts wages and lifts productivity and shares the gains fairly.

Every decision my government makes will be checked against its impact on child poverty.

So, every Budget, every year, we won’t just report on GDP growth or how much money we’ve spent, we’ll front up and tell the country how many children a Labour government has lifted out of poverty.

Standing up for Kiwis

The final part of rebuilding the Kiwi Dream is having a government that stands up for Kiwis again.

For many of us in this room, I know the TPPA is very important.

There are many things we still don’t know about what’s in the agreement.

But there is one thing we do know.

The National Government has signed us up to a clause that says we will not be able to make laws restricting the sale of land or housing to non-resident foreigners.

That’s what they’ve done.

They’ve signed us up to a commitment to other governments, and other people who don’t live in New Zealand, who don’t want to live in New Zealand, who don’t care about New Zealand.

That commitment limits what our democratically elected representatives in parliament can do.

And it’s wrong.

It’s wrong.

It’s an attack on democracy.

It’s selling out our democratic right to make our own laws.

And this matters to me because I’ve had some fights for New Zealanders under some very bad laws.

I started my law career under the Employment Contracts Act — a terrible law that cut the wages of thousands of New Zealanders.

The reason I came to Parliament was to make sure that we had laws that were good for New Zealand.

And I’m not giving that away to anybody.

But I’m not the only one with that view.

Remember Peter Fraser — one of the founding voices of our party. He saw what was happening to the Waihi Miners and he saw that for ordinary people to have a shot at their dreams they needed a democratic government on their side.

That’s what is at stake here.

Can we hold on to our democratic rights? Not if we let National trade them away.

So, I’m telling you, when it comes to undermining our democracy and our sovereignty in the TPPA, I am totally opposed and I will fight with every fibre in my body to stop it, to resist it, to make sure it never happens in New Zealand.

Our party has always backed the Kiwi Dream.

For nearly 100 years Labour has been fighting for New Zealand.

And today, it’s our turn to continue that fight.

Today, too many people feel like their dreams are slipping away.

And this government isn’t standing up for Kiwis or for what we believe.

It’s our job to turn this around.

In just two years, we can change the government and we can change this country.

We can restore opportunity.

We can create jobs.

We can end poverty and help Kiwis get ahead again.

Together, we can rise to the challenge of a new era, and chart a better course of our country.

I’m asking all of you today to make your voice heard.

I’m asking you to join our campaign, to talk to your neighbours and your friends and your family, to show them there is a better way.

Let’s send the message out from this hall today that the days of doing the easy thing are over.

It’s time to do the right thing.

The days of cowering to powerful vested interests are over.

It’s time to stand up for New Zealand.

The days of shrugging our shoulders and tolerating poverty and inequality are over.

It’s time to aim higher and do better.

It’s time to raise our sights.

We can do this.

We must do this, and we will do this.

New Zealand, together, it’s time for us to rebuild the Kiwi dream.

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[Re-published verbatim via the Labour Party website]

Comment: Andrew Little said;

Most Kiwis believe we owe it to our kids to give them a better life than we had.

But this government has turned a blind eye to appalling rates of poverty in this country.

That’s why the children’s wards of our hospitals are seeing Kiwi kids sick with third world diseases.

It’s why Emma-Lita Bourne died in a state house because her home was mouldy and unhealthy and no one was willing to help.

We must never let anything like that happen again.

New Zealand, we are a better country than that.

We’ve got to turn the page on the last seven years;

We’ve got to turn the page on rising inequality, on child poverty, on the housing crisis and on cuts to our health system…

[…]

We still have 305,000 children living in poverty. 305,000.

2 out of 5 of those children have a parent who is working.

This can’t continue. It is unjust and it’s not who we are.

We all know this, but we’ve turned our backs for far too long.

Well, that ends today.

I’m committing our party to a new principle:

We will not tolerate poverty in New Zealand in the 21st century...

[…]

We’ll work towards 100% qualified teachers in ECE centers so every kid can get the best start in life.

We’ll feed hungry kids with our food in schools programme and we’ll make sure every child grows up in a warm, safe, dry home with our Healthy Homes Guarantee.

Fine words. Words conveying a strong message.

Now Andrew Little needs to follow up those words of hope by doing something simple and at little cost to the tax-system; announce a new role of Minister for Children, and take on the position himself.

John Key has allocated the portfolio of Minister for Tourism to himself, and takes his role ‘seriously’ by regularly holidaying on the sun-drenched, warm-sands, of a Hawaiian beach. Nice for him. He gets a very nice tan out of it.

Andrew Little should do the polar opposite; take on the role of Minister for Children, and show the people of New Zealand where the priorities of a real Prime Minister should be.

Come the day after the next election, the plaque on the Ninth Floor PM’s office should read;

Rt. Hon. Andrew Little
Prime Minister
Minister for Children

He’ll miss out on the suntan, but his reward will be true legacy-making stuff.

And better than a new flag, any day.

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What's Done to children they will do to society

 

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 9 November 2015.

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= fs =

Letter to the editor – Annette King on the TPPA

8 October 2015 6 comments
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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Sunday Star Times <letters@star-times.co.nz>
date: Wed, Oct 7, 2015
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor

Sunday Star Times

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From a sound-bite aired on  TV1 News on 7 October,  Annette King criticised the recently-agreed TPPA for denying New Zealand the right to choose it’s own destiny with regards to land and house ownership. She said that as a future Labour-led government;

“We retain the right under any trade deal to put the sovereignty of New Zealand first.”

Those are powerful words.

Question is; will a Labour-led government exercise that right?

After Helen Clark’s recent disappointing performance, I am not reassured.

Frank Macskasy

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[Address & phone number supplied]

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= fs =

To Annette King – we’ll hold you to that!

7 August 2015 1 comment

 

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no-tppa

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Right up until last week, National’s ‘spin’ on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) was that it would not be permitted to impact on Pharmac or it’s ability to buy cheap, generic medicines.

Four years ago;

We have laid down the fundamentals of a position which says our public health system is not up for negotiation, not part of any trade negotiation, and I can’t conceive of any New Zealand government that would change that view.

Pharmac is an incredibly valuable institution that provides high quality medicines to many New Zealanders at very, very highly subsidised, reasonable prices. The fundamentals of that model are not up for negotiation. ” – Tim Groser, 16 November 2011

Three years ago;

If the Government agreed completely with the demands of American pharmaceutical companies, the negotiation would probably be over. It is not. It is a long, complex negotiation, and the New Zealand Government’s position is to preserve the role and effectiveness of Pharmac. ” – Bill English, 6 December 2012

Two years ago;

I think it’ll have a very marginal impact, at the end of the day.  It certainly won’t result in higher prices for pharmaceutical products for New Zealanders.  This is really about protecting the model of Pharmac to ensure that they’re in a tough negotiating position with international pharmaceutical companies, and we’ve got some very good negotiators who are doing just that. ” – Tim Groser, 

Last year;

There will be no fundamental change in Pharmac’s operations as a result of the trade agreement.”

You’ll have to wait to see the final agreement but any decisions we take in terms of trade-offs will protect the essential public health system of this country.” – Tim Groser, 22 October 2014

And this year, only a week ago;

“…yes, I can guarantee that we’ve made it absolutely clear that we are not going to dismantle the fundamental of Pharmac. The provisions that guarantee affordable medicines – we don’t want to change the system of health we’ve got in our country so that people can get medicines only if they can afford it. We’ve got a very good system, and we’re not going to let any trade agreement interfere with that.” – Tim Groser, 25 July 2015

Barely three days later, there was this startling admission from our esteemed Dear Leader, John Key,  that all was not quite so ‘rosy’ in the Land of Free Trade Deals;

That means the Government will have to pay for the original drug rather than the generic for a little bit longer. But for consumers that won’t make any difference because, you know, on subsidised drugs you pay $5 for your prescription so the Government may incur slightly more costs there.

Which vividly illustrates how, for the past four years, National has been lying to us, the New Zealand public.

It was only as TPPA negotiations drew to a close, that Key had to finally concede that there would be an impact on Pharmac and it’s ability to purchase low-cost generic medicines. The same TPPA will also impact on non-subsidised medicines purchased by New Zealanders, as not all attract subsidies by Pharmac.

On 29 July, Labour’s response was damning of the TPPA, and Health Spokesperson, Annette King stated matter-of factly;

Some people are going to pay with their lives because if they extend the patent, particularly on drugs for cancer and heart disease, and we can’t get access to the generic drugs for longer, then people are not going to get that access and they won’t have the opportunity to extend their lives.

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“Some people are going to pay with their lives.” - Labour's Health Spokesperson, Annette King

“Some people are going to pay with their lives.” – Labour’s Health Spokesperson, Annette King

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In which case, an incoming Labour Government has two options;

1. Raise taxes for those New Zealanders who voted National last year.

This is their responsibility, and should foot the bill for any increases to Pharmac’s purchasing budget. After all, National maintains itself as the “Party of Personal Responsibility“, so National voters should bear the costs of this mess; ie, ‘You voted for it, you pay for it’.

But since it is difficult to ascertain who voted for National last year, this option may not be practical.

2. Withdraw from the TPPA.

We simply cannot be party to an international trade agreement (or any other agreement for that matter) where “some people are going to pay with their lives”. That is simply untenable – especially for a Labourled government.

The seriousness of the TPPA’s effects on Pharmac (and non-subsidised medicines) is such that Labour must not be allowed to back-track on it’s criticisms, and has a duty to  withdraw from this appalling “trade” agreement.

If “some people are going to pay with their lives because … they extend the patent, particularly on drugs for cancer and heart disease”, then the TPPA must go. No New Zealander’s life is worth a “trade” agreement, no matter how much milk-powder we might sell overseas.

National ministers such as John Key, Tim Groser, Bill English, et al, have consistently, unashamedly, lied to us over the years. I do not expect Labour to follow in those footsteps.

This will be an issue I will be following, and I will be relentless in pursuing it, post-2017 (or earlier).

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TPPA action 8 august 2015

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Wednesday, August 12
at 12:00pm
New Zealand Parliament Buildings
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Friday, August 14
at 5:00pm
Palmerston North City Library
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Saturday, August 15
at 1:00pm
Midland Park, Lambton Quay
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Saturday, August 15
at 1:00pm
Napier
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Saturday, August 15
at 1:00pm
Timaru
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Saturday, August 15
at 11:00am
Kohukohu Village Green

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Saturday, August 15
at 1:00pm
School of Dentistry, Great King Street, Dunedin (near the Museum)
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References

Interest.co.nz: Pharmac fundamentals not on TPP table, Trade Minister Groser

Parliament: Hansards – 5. Trans-Pacific Partnership – Forecast Economic Benefits, Potential Effect on Pharmac, and Investor-State Dispute Provisions

Scoop media/TV1: Tim Groser adamant Trans-Pacific Partnership good for NZ

Radio NZ: Medicines ‘won’t cost more under TPP’

TV3: The Nation – Transcript – Trade Minister Tim Groser

Radio NZ:  TPP – Key admits medicine costs will rise

Radio NZ: Govt warned TPP could put lives at risk

National Party: About National

Previous related blogposts

Citizen A – 29 Nov 2012 – TPPA Special

TPPA: Business launches propaganda campaign

TPPA: Doomsday scenarios, Critics, and flights of fancy

Open message to the Middle Classes about the threat of the TPPA

Nationwide Rally Against the TPPA – Day of Action!

They marched against the TPPA and the threat to our sovereignty (part tahi)

They marched against the TPPA and the threat to our sovereignty (part rua)

The Mendacities of Mr Key #5: Has Tim Groser shown the P.M. to be a liar on the TPPA?

Nationwide Day of Protest Captures Public Attention on TPPA

Opposing the TPPA – the Heavens hold their deluge ’till the People speak

Letter to the editor – More reassurances from our esteemed Dear Leader?

Action

Facebook: Lunchtime rally against TPPA WELLINGTON

Facebook: It’s Our Future – Kiwis concerned about the TPPA

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Trust me fellow kiwis - John Key

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 August 2015.

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= fs =

Frank Macskasy: Who I voted for…

18 September 2014 8 comments

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20-september

 

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On the road today, this news story caught my attention;

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Peters backs Davis in Te Tai Tokerau

 

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I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

This is a deliberate attempt by NZ First and elements within the Labour Party to undermine and destroy the Mana-Internet Alliance.

Which is utterly crazy, and beggars belief.

At current polling, if Hone wins his electorate, he could bring in one or two extra MPs on his “coat-tails”. (The rules as set by this National Government.)

If Labour loses to a National-led coalition by that slim margin – two or three seats – and we face another three years of this damnable regime, because of their unmitigated, self-serving, colossal stupidity,  I will be mightily f****d off.

I will hold the Labour leadership responsible.

And, by the gods, I will give them such grief that Slater and Farrar will be the least of their worries.

This little dirty deal between Labour and NZ First has sealed my Party Vote. I encourage everyone to vote, and I offer my personal endorsement for  the Mana-Internet Alliance.

And Winston  Peters, Kelvin Davis, Stuart Nash, et al,  can go kiss my well-padded, hairy [Anatomical description deleted on good taste grounds – Chief Censor, GCSB]!

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References

Radio NZ: Peters backs Davis in Te Tai Tokerau

Previous related blogpost

The secret of National’s success – revealed.

 

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Harre -Harawira

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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= fs =

National spins BS to undermine Labour’s Capital Gains Tax

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bull shit

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The Nats have been at it again; spinning their misleading bullshit to discredit Labour policy.

This time, Revenue Minister Todd McClay, has been busy issuing media statements that there is no need for Labour’s proposed Capital Gains Tax because, well, evidently, we already have one.

On Sunday 25 May, McClay was quoted as stating,

“Where somebody buys a property or buys shares with an intention of the capital gains being accrued … if their intention is to make a gain from the capital, their normal income tax rules apply, and therefore there is a capital gain.”

Earlier in the month, McClay had made the same assertion,

“When people say New Zealand doesn’t have a capital gains tax on property it’s not true – we do have a capital gains tax, and it applies to speculators.”

Which is strange, because when Labour first released it’s CGT (capital gains tax) policy in  2011,  the following were in favour;

The Dominion Post
NBR
Herald on Sunday
Gisborne Herald
Waikato Times
The Greens
The IMF
The OECD
and columnists and commentators,

Paul Little
Mike Hosking
Gordon Campbell
Anthony Hubbard
Patrick Smellie
Vernon Small
Corin Dann
Andrea Vance
John Hartvell
Matthew Hooten
John Roughan
Duncan Garner
John Armstrong
Bernard Hickey
Gareth Morgan

plus 
Academics,  tax experts, economists, and Treasury.

Those opposed to a CGT were National, ACT, and Landlords.  Unsurprisingly, really, when you think about it. National, ACT, and Landlords represent the capitalists and speculators in our society and they would welcome a tax on capital gains like turkeys look forward to Christmas.

So if we already have a Capital Gains Tax – why were so many in favour of introducing a law specifically for it?

This blogger would  hazard a guess that National and ACT oppose a CGT because it would make up for the seven tax cuts since 1986. These seven tax cuts have seriously reduced government revenue and constrained center-left governments from implementing social policies that would return this country to being a decent social democracy.

Imagine if a CGT in five or ten years would deliver sufficient revenue to fully fund a free tertiary education system in this country. It would drive another nail into the coffin of the neo-liberal policy of user-pays.

Hence why National and ACT absolutely loathe Labour’s policy.

If a CGT was introduced, the catch-cry of right wingers – “but where will the money come from!?!?” – will be muted – if not silenced forever.

But is McClay correct? Do we currently have a Capital Gains Tax?

The answer is, ‘Yes’. And ‘No’.

The current taxation policy on capital gains is haphazard; ill-defined; and open to interpretation. This IRD web-page  illustrates how vague the law is on this issue,

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Residential property Whare nohoanga

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Mistaking property dealing for property investment

Property investor is a collective term for property speculators, dealers and investors. However, they are each treated very differently under tax law.

  • Factors to consider when determining your status
  • What is an investor, a speculator and a dealer?
  • If you are not clear on your intentions for buying a property
  • How long do I need to hold the property to make it a capital gain?
  • How many properties can I sell before it is considered taxable?

Factors to consider when determining your status

Three main factors can determine your status as a property buyer for tax purposes:

  • your intention when you buy a property
  • the patterns of your previous property transactions
  • your association to a builder, property dealer or developer.

The category you fall into isn’t determined by what the property is called or how the activity is described. For example, it may be marketed as a “rental investment” with strong “capital gain” potential, but your firm intention or prior pattern is the factor that determines its tax treatment or if you’re involved in or associated with someone in the business of building, dealing, developing or dealing with land.

If you’re an investor you buy a property to use it to generate ongoing rental income and not with any firm intent of resale. The property is a capital asset and any later profit or loss from selling the property is capital and isn’t taxable (apart from clawing back any depreciation, which is now recoverable).

The rules may be different if you’ve been associated with a person or entity involved in the business of building, dealing, developing or sub-dividing land.  

If you buy a property intending to:

  • resell it, or
  • you intend to sell it after making improvements to it

you’re likely to be a speculator or a dealer. Renting your property temporarily doesn’t change your tax treatment either – you’re still a speculator or a dealer.

What is an investor, a speculator and a dealer?

Investor

If you’re an investor you buy a property to use it to generate ongoing rental income and not with any firm intent of resale. The property is a capital asset and any later profit or loss from selling the property is capital and isn’t taxable (apart from clawing back any depreciation, which is now recoverable).

Property investors sometimes refer to a “buy and hold” strategy. This approach is most likely to mean you are a property investor for tax purposes.

Investors will investigate and analyse future revenue streams, and any gain made on the sale of the property is incidental. Their investment is soundly based on a return from the rental income.

Investors pay income tax on their net rental income but generally not on the eventual sale proceeds of the property.

Note

The rules may be different if you’ve been associated with a person or entity involved in the business of building, dealing, developing or sub-dividing land.

Find out about special tax rules for associated persons.

Speculator

You might think profits from selling property are always capital gains so you don’t have to pay tax on them.  But, this isn’t always true. If one of your reasons for buying a property is to resell it, whether you live in it or rent it out, you’re speculating in property and your profit is likely to be taxable. And, if you sell that property at a loss, the loss may be tax-deductible.

If you’re a speculator you buy a property always intending to sell it. The property is treated like “trading stock” and your profit or loss from selling the property is taxable. Speculating can be a one-off purchase and sale of a property.  Speculators may also receive rental income from the property before they sell it.  

Property dealers or speculators will try to determine and analyse the property’s future price movements because that’s what the deal rests on. Any rental income is secondary.

To be a speculator, you need buy only one property with the firm intent of resale.
Dealers and speculators must pay income tax on any gain they make from reselling their property. If they declare a loss, it may be tax-deductible. They must also pay tax on rental income they may earn from the properties.

Dealer

If you’re a dealer you are similar to a speculator buying properties for resale, but you have established a regular pattern of buying and selling. This includes rental properties.

Some property buyers refer to a “buy and flick” strategy. This approach is most likely to mean you are a property speculator or dealer for tax purposes.

Dealers and speculators must pay income tax on any gain they make from reselling their property. If they declare a loss, it may be tax-deductible. They must also pay tax on rental income they may earn from the properties.

If you are not clear on your intentions for buying a property

Read our guide Buying and selling residential property (IR313)

If you’re buying and selling property other than a private family home, we recommend you get advice from a tax advisor with expertise in this area.

How long do I need to hold the property to make it a capital gain?

There is no time limit. If you buy a property with the firm intention of resale, it doesn’t matter how long you hold it – the gain on resale will be taxable (and any loss may be tax-deductible).

Example

You buy a property with a firm plan to resell it for a profit. The property market falls and you decide to hold onto it instead. You rent it out for 15 years and then sell it when the prices are again rising rapidly. Any gain on that sale 15 years later is likely to be taxable.

How many properties can I sell before it is considered taxable?

There is no set number of properties you can have before they become taxable. In some cases the first property bought and sold may be taxable if you bought it for resale. In other cases there could be a number of factors to take into consideration, such as having a regular pattern of buying and selling property, before a property is taxable.

The factors that may be looked at will vary because each taxpayer’s circumstances are different. For example, buying one property every two years may be considered a regular pattern for one individual and not another.

Find out more about what tax you should be paying

 

Date published: 30 Jul 2010

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Note the difference between Investor, Speculator, and Dealer;

  • Speculators and Dealers  are liable to pay tax on gains made from selling property.
  • But an Investor is not liable to pay tax on realised gains.

The difference is open to interpretation, behaviour, and intent. Though how an IRD official can know the intent of someone purchasing a  property remains a mystery. Telepathy? Time travel? A hot-line to one of our gods?

The issue is not made any clearer on another IRD web page;

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Selling property

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The things you need to consider when selling your investment property, selling your rental property or selling the family home.

What happens when you sell your family home

Selling a family/private home usually has no tax consequence. However there are some circumstances where you may have to pay tax.

What happens when you sell your investment property

Generally, you don’t need to pay tax when you sell your investment property except for any depreciation recovered. However, each time you sell a property it is important to consider if you are still a residential investor or are now a dealer.

What happens when you sell your rental property

Generally, you don’t need to pay tax when you sell your rental property except for any depreciation recovered. However, each time you sell a rental property it is important to consider if you are still a residential rental investor or are now a dealer.

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Obviously, there is no one-law-for-all.  (Something which the ACT Party might like to consider, in it’s “one-law-for-all” policy, as it insists on dumping  Treaty of Waitangi  settlement claims.)

When John Key gave justification to amend statutes governing the GCSB, and extended the spy agency’s powers so it could spy on all New Zealanders and Permanent residents, he claimed that the original  Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003 was “not fit for purpose“.

When a tax law is so ill-defined that it is open to interpretation of “behaviour” and “intent”, then I submit that the current law on capital gains is “not fit for purpose”.

The National government can squeal all it likes, but the time has come for a capital gains tax and to close the Homer Tunnel-sized loop-holes that bedevil  the current law.

After all, if we already have a Capital Gains Tax as Revenue Minister Todd McClay insists – then he won’t mind terribly much if the law is tightened up. We’d be formalising what McClay says already exists.

Right?

That’s making it “fit for purpose”.

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References

Radio NZ:  Parties at odds over capital gains tax

MSN News: IRD targets `high end’ tax dodgers

Tumeke: John Key’s dagger and his 4 Horsemen of the Capital Gains Tax

IRD: Residential Property – Mistaking property dealing for property investment

IRD: Residential Property – Selling property

National Party: Draft intelligence community legislation released

 

Previous related blogpost

A Capital Gains Tax?  (14 July 2011)

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

 


 

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 26 May 2014.

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Annette King confirmed as Labour’s candidate for Rongotai

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20 September

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NZ, Wellington, 3 May –  The Rongotai Branch of the NZ Labour Party has confirmed current MP, and former minister, Annette King, as Labour’s candidate for the 2014 General Election.

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annette king - labour candidate for rongotai -  wellington - 3 may 2014

Rongotai Labour Party members and invited guests, attending the electorate-selection meeting at Mornington Golf Club.

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In a speech to a packed hall at Mornington Golf Club, in the south Wellington suburb of Berhampore, Ms King was introduced by former Deputy Leader of the Labour Party and MP for Wellington Central, Grant Robertson. His opening comments drew applause and laughter from party members, supporters, and public;

“I get to sit next to Annette in Parliament which is a huge pleasure. One of the things I’ve noticed is that Annette is one of the best multi-taskers in politics. She can simultaneously complete a Soduku and eviscerate Tony Ryall, all at the same time.”

He added,  “the committment that I have seen from Annette that is reflected in the twenty one years as the MP here is without peer, in politics in New Zealand, in my view.” Grant Robertson spoke of her “compassion, true heart, and Labour values”.

Robertson said “she is true to what we believe is a movement that it’s our job to lift the spirits and the prospects of every New Zealander.” Turning to Ms King, he added, “we need you in the  next Labour[-led] government, we need your wisdom, and your experience… and your core values.”

He then seconded her nomination as the Labour candidate for the Rongotai electorate.

With no other nominations, Annette King’s nomination was put to the floor, and was passed unanimously by voice vote.

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Wellington Central MP,  Grant Robertson, discussing issues with Labour Party rank and file members.

Wellington Central MP, Grant Robertson, discussing issues with Labour Party rank and file members.

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A little later, I had a brief one-on-one with Grant Robertson.  I asked him,

“Grant, what is your personal number one for this election?”

He replied,

“The biggest issue for me is jobs. As the Labour Party’s employment spokesperson, I go around the country and I see too many New Zealanders who don’t have work, who want to work, and we have an economy that doesn’t have jobs at the center.

We’re an economy at the moment that’s driven by the bankers and the speculators and what we need is an economy that’s driven by and for people and that will have jobs at the center. So that’s what you’ll hear me talking [about] all through the election.”

I asked Grant Robertson about Labour’s buy-local procurement policy,

“Government procurement is one of the best ways you can stimulate the economy and most of the countries in the world do it and don’t worry about the so-called committments that they’ve got under international agreements… But absolutely, a procurement policy that focuses on encouraging companies that will employ New Zealanders is vital.”

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Annette King, addressing Labour Party members with a good-natured speech.

Annette King, addressing Labour Party members with a good-natured speech.

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Following on, Annette King, addressed Labour Party members with a good-humoured speech, and reaffirmed her determination to promote Labour Party policy and ideals. Ms King said “there was work to be done” and that she “had the passion, the feeling, and the committment” to follow through. She also paid tribute to “new blood” coming through in the Labour Party,

“I do believe that a party needs new talent, we need to bring in the new and rejuvenate. And we’re doing that with members like Grant [Robertson], and Jacinda [Ardern], and David Clark, and Megan Wood, and many of those young people who are coming through showing such talent.”

Ms King also reaffirmed the need for people with institutional memory;  “an experience of knowing what it’s like to be in government. What we want, at this election, is to lead the government again.”

Ms King added,

“The value of fairness to New Zealanders; ensuring that everybody is looked after in this country. Not just the privileged few we see under this government.   There does need to be access to good healthcare; education for our children; and really important, the ability to have a warm, dry, affordable, home. These are some of the  values of our party and so much more.”

In reference to National’s latest scandals, she said,

“We’re going to take the fight to this government, in the next few months. We’ve got twenty weeks to make sure we lead the next government and I believe that we can. What a difference a week makes in politics! Last week a few of us were down at the Newtown market… we were down there and people were walking past us, and looking at us sideways and walking on.

We’d just suffered the fallout of the Shane Jones departure from the party. Today, down at the market, we were surrounded by people. People wanted to talk about policy, to talk about the Labour Party. They wanted to join the Labour Party.  In one week we have seen some really innovative policy coming out of the Labour Party, and people [were] saying ‘Hey, that is the Labour Party we know. A progressive Party that comes up with the real ideas [for] change for New Zealand’.”

There was more than an element of truth when Ms King pointed out,

“All the progressive change in this country came from the Labour Party. This government, and the National governments before, are governments of the status quo. And when you need change, you have a Labour party [government].

And what I could not bear is the thought of three more years of National, and neither could most working people in New Zealand.”

 

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Current MP for Rongotai, Annette King, discussing policy matters with Labour Party stalwarts.

Current MP for Rongotai, Annette King, discussing policy matters with Labour Party stalwarts.

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Annette King is one of the longest-serving MPs in Parliament, having been in office for twentyseven years – twentyone of which have been in the Island Bay/Miramar electorate alone.

In 2000, she was Minister for Health, over-seeing the re-building of the Health portfolio which had been badly under-funded by the previously National-led government. Chronic under-funding in the late 1990s was having a deleterious effect on patients requiring critical life-saving surgery. Many failed to survive the growing waiting lists under Bill English’s watch.

National’s health minister at the time – Southland MP, Bill English – tried to stem the increasing deaths by belatedly injecting extra money for surgery. It failed to address the crisis that had been building over several years of National’s cost-cutting; tax cuts (1996, 1998); and slashing of the public service sector.

One of Ms King’s first moves was a  cash-injection of $1.5 billion into the health sector in December 2001. She said, at the time,

“Unashamedly, the first lot of money will go to those with the greatest need – low income, poor, sick, Maori, and Pacific [people].”

National’s health spokesperson at the time, Roger Sowry, responded with a statement which could only be described as jaw-dropping for it’s sheer hypocrisy.

With National cutting back on funding for services; increasing user-pays; two tax cuts (2009, 2010), and slashing the public service sector, it seems that – unlike the Split Enz song, history does indeed repeat.

Ms King will have her work cut out for her when a new Labour-Green government takes office after 20 September.

Below, Paul Eagle, chatting with Labour Party members;

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    Shrewd strategist and local City Councillor, Paul Eagle (in red shirt), was announced as Annette King's campaign manager.

Shrewd strategist and local City Councillor, Paul Eagle (in red shirt), was announced as Annette King’s campaign manager.

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This blogger took a moment for a brief interview with Annette King, asked her what her priorities would be when a new Labour-Green government took office post 20 September.

I asked Annette King, “what’s really important to you?”

Ms King replied,

“The most important thing for me, and it’s the number one that runs through everything we do, and that is reducing inequalities…”

“Health inequality; housing inequality; education inequality. Inequality in New Zealand is the biggest I’ve experienced in all my years. And I mean, I wasn’t here for the Depression, I’m not that old, but inequality in our society is so great now, that we need a progessive government that’s going to address them. And then you go through the areas. If you take health inequalities; who dies earlier; who dies younger; who has less access.

And you go to low income, Maori, and Pacifica. So that’s my priority.”

Interesting – Annette King’s priorities were remarkably similar to her comments in December 2001 (see above).  Grant Robertson seems to have been correct when he said that her “core values” had not changed.

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(L-R) Paul Eagle, Annette King, and Grant Robertson

(L-R) Paul Eagle, Annette King, and Grant Robertson

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Ms King’s successful nomination was followed by a final ceremony; the awarding of a recognition to long-serving Party members for their contributions to the labour movement.

LEC Chairperson, Peter Franks, presented a gold pin, and life-membership, to Peg Collett and Reatha McInnes (not pictured), for long-term service to the NZ Labour Party;

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LEC Chairperson, Peter Franks, presenting a gold pin,  and life-membership, to Peg Collett and Reatha McInnes (not pictured), for service to the NZ Labour Party.

LEC Chairperson, Peter Franks, presenting a gold pin, and life-membership, to Peg Collett and Reatha McInnes (not pictured), for service to the NZ Labour Party.

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One hopes that people like Ms Collett and Ms McInnes are with us to see the return of this country to the social democratic values for which we were once internationally reknowned for.

We once led the way in women’s rights; anti-atomic bomb testing in the South Pacific; anti-apartheid campaigning; a nuclear-free status; and many other progressive movements for which we can be rightly proud.

The term “punching above our weight” doesn’t even begin to cover the impact that we, as a nation, have had on global affairs.

Today, as the current government would have it, our “reputation” seems fixed on making money from tourism; making money selling logs and dairy powder; and making money with the production of fantasy movies.

“Making money”

Not quite “up there” with engendering the right of women to vote; saving the planet from atomic weapons; and supporting an entire nation to be free from apartheid.

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References

Wikipedia: Annette King

ODT/NZPA: Public Hospital ills blamed on funding

ODT: Acute heart surgery list nearly 400

The Press: Four forced off waiting list die

Sunday Star Times: Anger on heart op delay – English wants answers on cash use

The Dominion: $1.5b injection for Health

NZ Herald:  Prescription fees increase

Fairfax media: 2400 more state sector jobs could go

Metrolyrics: History Never Repeats Lyrics

NZ Herald: NZ inequality at highest level

 

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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I'm a leftie voting left - join me

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 5 April 2014.

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Letter to the Editor: Labour’s cunning plan (v.2)

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old-paper-with-quill-pen-vector_34-14879

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FROM:   "f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT: Letters to the editor
DATE:    Wed, 30 Apr 2014 21:33:36 +1200
TO:      "The Listener" <> 

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The Editor
THE LISTENER
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David Parker's Reserve Bank-Kiwisaver Variable Savings Rate
is a very clever piece of policy which is so elegantly
simple but so wonderfully clever at the same time. The
question I keep asking is why no one has thought of it
before!

It's intriguing that thus far the only criticism seems to be
based on Labour-bashing rather than any serious analysis.

Although it's interesting to note that Federated Farmers 
and the Northern Employers and Manufacturers' Association 
are open minded about it  - which is  all anyone can ask,
really.

For the Nats - they are panicking. The common spin is that
Labour's policy is "confused". Not exactly a resounding
rebuttal of the Variable Savings Rate - but expect their
Party strategists to get into high gear very shortly.

The funniest thing though, is the number of right wingers
who seem to prefer their cash to be siphoned off to overseas
banks - rather than invested and returned to them. I know
right-wingers are blinkered and see the world in Black &
White terms but this is a whole new  level of dogmatic
dumbness even for them.

If Labour can come up with more initiatives like this -
September 20th will see a new government. 



-Frank Macskasy
[address & phone number supplied]

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References

Radio NZ: Labour makes monetary policy change

Federated Farmers of NZ: Federated Farmers keen on Labour’s monetary policy detail


 

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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Letter to the Editor: Labour’s cunning plan

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old-paper-with-quill-pen-vector_34-14879

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FROM:   "f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT: Letters to the editor
DATE:    Wed, 30 Apr 2014 12:13:21 +1200
TO:     "Dominion Post" <letters@dompost.co.nz> 

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The Editor
Dominion Post

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Labour's new policy to replace OCR interest rates with a
variable Kiwisaver rate is ingenuous and common sense. It
beggars belief that it hasn't been thought up before.

Instead of higher interest rates which force mortgage rates
rises, New Zealanders will make higher payments to their
Kiwisaver account.

The difference is obvious - paid to Kiwisaver, we get to
keep our money. Paid to banks, that money disappears off to
Australia  as billion-dollar profits.

Bill English's criticism that Labour's plan would impact
unfairly on the poor and low/fixed income families is
laughable. When has National ever been concerned about the
welfare of the poor?

English forgets that when the OCR rises, so do mortgage
rates. And rents follow. So low/fixed income families cannot
escape the current RBNZ policy of restraining inflation
through interest rates. 

Australia has over A$1.6 trillion saved in their compulsory
savings account. Had we kept own own savings scheme,
implemented by the Kirk-led government in 1973, NZ would
have saved NZ$278 billion by now. We would not be so reliant
on overseas capital.

But Muldoon scrapped it shortly after the 1975 election, and
we have been "captive" to foreign banks ever since.

Let us not make the same mistake twice.





-Frank Macskasy
[address & phone number supplied]

 

 

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References

Radio NZ: Labour makes monetary policy change

Fairfax media:  Bob each way on effects of a lower dollar


 

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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Letter to the Editor: The power of the vote

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old-paper-with-quill-pen-vector_34-14879.

FROM: "f.macskasy"
SUBJECT: Letters to the editor
DATE: Sun, 20 Apr 2014 14:38:19 +1200
TO: "Sunday Star Times" <letters@star-times.co.nz> 

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The Editor
SUNDAY STAR TIMES

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This year, if every Labour, Green, Mana, and Internet Party
supporter finds just one person who didn’t vote in 2011,
and supports them to go to the ballot booth on 20 September
– we will have a new government as our Christmas present.

Then we can have a government that focuses on more jobs;
building homes for young New Zealanders; alleviating child
poverty; protecting the environment, and all the other
critical problems confronting our nation.

Those should be our priorities - not endless scandals;
corporate welfare; tax breaks for the rich; dodgy deals
behind closed doors; rising inequality; falling home
ownership whilst speculators profit; farms sold of to
foreign investors; threats to our coastline through
unconstrained deep sea drilling; polluted rivers and lakes;
and not enough jobs for the 168,000 unemployed in this
country whilst National allows cheap foreign labour for the
Christchurch re-build.

To every Labour, Green, Mana, Internet Party supporter; find
one person who did not vote in 2011 and encourage him/her to
vote for change. The power of the Vote is greater than many
realise - which is why so many dictators around the world
fear it.

We can have the country we want. But we're going to have to
work hard to achieve it.

-Frank Macskasy

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(Address & phone number supplied)

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

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A Tale of Two Track Records: Labour vs National #1: New Zealand GDP

12 March 2014 4 comments

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party-logos - which

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As the election campaign for 2014 heats up, citizens can expect a deluge of dis-information, distortions, and  lies from the enemies of the progressive Left. Their constant repetition will be that Labour left the economy is a shocking state in 2008, with the most pernicious  outright lie that the Clark-Cullen government left New Zealand with a “decade of deficits”.

None of it is true. It is part of a meme-construction by the Right, with zealous followers who are willing and able to spread their mis-information on the internet.

Spreading lies is easy.

Discovering the truth is that much harder – you need to know where to look.

This series of reports will hopefully make things easier for those who want a clearer picture of events over the last two or three decades.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

  • Introduction

Most graphed information is taken from Trading Economics, a US-based, on-line, economics-information website.

Trading Economics provides its users with accurate information for 196 countries including historical data for more than 300.000 economic indicators, exchange rates, stock market indexes, government bond yields and commodity prices. Our data is based on official sources, not third party data providers, and our facts are regularly checked for inconsistencies. TradingEconomics.com has received more than 100 million page views from more than 200 countries.

In turn, the site uses information from Statistics New Zealand, the World Bank, NZ Treasury, etc.

The reader can set dates for specific time-parameters  (indicated with red arrows) to search the site’s data-banks by years. It is extremely user-friendly and informative.

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field parameter searches

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Other sources for data will be clearly referenced.

National governance is marked with a blue line.

Labour governance is marked with a red line.

  • New Zealand GDP

“The gross domestic product (GDP) measures of national income and output for a given country’s economy. The gross domestic product (GDP) is equal to the total expenditures for all final goods and services produced within the country in a stipulated period of time.”

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New Zealand GDP

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In the 1990s, under National and Ruth Richardson’s (1990-1993) economic stewardship, GDP dropped from $43.9 to $40.3 billion and unemployment skyrocketed to 11.2%. For much of the 1990s, GDP see-sawed up and down, peaking at $67.9 billion in 1997 before falling away again.

Note: National implemented two tax cuts, in 1 July 1996 and 1 July 1998. Neither seemed to help grow GDP, and many public services were cut back in the late 1990s.

For Labour, except for a dip in 2001, GDP rose every year from 2002 to 2008. The rise in percentage terms is outlined below.

From 2009 to 2013, despite the GFC, GDP increased from $117.8 to $169.6 billion, though the rise in percentage terms, outlined below, was not so encouraging. GDP growth, per capita, was also lack-lustre, as demonstrated below.

  • New Zealand GDP per capita

“The GDP per capita is obtained by dividing the country’s gross domestic product, adjusted by inflation, by the total population.”

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New Zealand GDP per capita

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Except for two recessionary periods (early 1990s and 2007/08 Global Financial Crisis and recession), New Zealand’s GDP, per head of capita, has grown every year, until the GFC/recession, when it dropped from$28,168.1 per capita in 2008 to $27,383.8 in 2009.

Curiously,  the 2009 and 2010 tax cuts did not seem to contribute greatly to per capita GDP.

  • New Zealand Real GDP

Real Gross Domestic Product (real GDP) is a macroeconomic measure of the value of economic output adjusted for price changes (i.e., inflation or deflation). This adjustment transforms the money-value measure, nominal GDP, into an index for quantity of total output. GDP is the sum of consumer Spending, Investment made by industry, Excess of Exports over Imports and Government Spending. Due to inflation GDP increases and does not actually reflects the true growth in economy. That is why inflation rate must be subtracted from the GDP to get the real growth percentage called the real GDP.

The raw data for the Reserve Bank  graph (see below) is available in an XLS spreadsheet containing all key figures.

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reserve bank of nz real gross domestic product 1990_2013

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  • Main Stats
  1. Average GDP, 1990 to 1999:     2.4%
  2. Average GDP, 2000 to 2008:   3.5%
  3. Average GDP, 2009 to 2013*:  1.2%

* 2013 figure averaged over three Quarters only.

(Calculations based on RBNZ raw data spread sheet)

  • Impactors on GDP growth
  1. Recession, 1987/91
  2. Ruth Richardson’s “Mother of all Budgets” in 1991, which deepened the recession,
  3. Recession, 1997/98
  4. GFC/recession, from 2007/08 onward.
  • Conclusion
  1. Whilst GDP figures “bounce” around, Labour’s stewardship of the economy between 2000 and late 2008 has been more consistant in GDP growth and with less extremes shown in the 1990s and post-2008.
  2. GDP dipped into negative growth in the early 1990s and post-2008
  3. GDP remained in positive growth between 2000 to 2008
  4. Allegations that the economy did not perform well under Labour are clearly wrong, and the evidence does not sustain those claims.
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 5 March 2014.

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References

Trading Economics:  About Us

Trading Economics: New Zealand GDP

Trading Economics: New Zealand GDP per capita

Wikipedia: Real Gross Domestic Product (definition)

Reserve Bank of NZ: Real GDP

Reserve Bank of NZ: Real GDP Raw Data spreadsheet

NZ Treasury: New Zealand Economic Growth: An analysis of performance and policy

NZ Treasury: Recent Economic Performance and Outlook

Te Ara: The ‘mother of all budgets’

Ministry of Business, Innovation, & Employment/Dept of Labour:  How bad is the Current Recession? Labour Market Downturns since the 1960s

Colin James: Ruth amid the alien corn

Previous related blogposts

Labour: the Economic Record 2000 – 2008

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The trouble with capitalism is that you run out of money

There, fixed it.

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WTF? Is John Key having a melt down?!

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Key_cunliffe_mccarten

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On Radio NZ’s “Nine To Noon” programme, ex-Labour Party president, Mike Williams described the appointment of veteran political campaigner, Matt McCarten, as “either an act of lunacy or a stroke of brilliance“.

This blogger opts for the latter – this was a strategic master-stroke by Cunliffe and the Labour Party hierarchy. In one move, Cunliffe has;

  • appointed one of the most skilled veteran political campaigners in the country,
  • sent a message to Labour members that the Party is moving away from the corporate-driven neo-liberal concensus,
  • chosen a political figure with a wealth of experience  and who has contacts across the political spectrum,
  • is highly respected by those on the Left and Right of the political spectrum.

It is hard to see who could have filled this role any better.

Judging by comments from National’s leader, John Key, the appointment has struck a raw nerve. Key is obviously worried, as his comments across the media clearly suggest,

Fairfax media;

“He [McCarten] is hard-Left.”

TV1;

“The reality is that Matt McCarten comes from the hard left, he’s been deeply involved with the Unite Union…”

Radio NZ;

 “They’ve taken a long time to get their press team together, they’ve gone through now a couple of chiefs of staff, their caucus is not at all united, it’s very divided, and I think they’re going to struggle to keep control of that caucus.”

TV3;

“The tone for Labour will be much more aligned with what we see from the Greens.  They’ll have a certain appeal to a small audience of New Zealanders, but most New Zealanders will know that means bad news when it comes to jobs, when it comes to economic growth, and to a competitive economy.

[…]

David Cunliffe was put into his job by the unions and this is the unions getting an even tighter grip on the direction of the Labour Party.

I really don’t think he’ll have a dog show of unifying the Labour Party.”

Key is most definitely worried. If he wasn’t, he would have shrugged his shoulders at media questions and dismissed the issue as trivial and none of his concern.

When Matt McCarten was an organiser for the Alliance Party in the 1990s, he achieved the near impossible; taking a relatively new political movement from two to 13 Members of Parliament in the first MMP election in 1996.

No wonder the Nats are worried. And no wonder right-wing zealots on Kiwiblog and elsewhere are staining their underwear in anxiety. They fully understand the implications of Matt’s  new role and influence in this year’s election. This is a serious  (excuse the cliche) game-changer.

But more than winning the election, Matt’s appointment indicates that Labour is no longer wedded to the neo-liberal policies of the last 30 years – policies which even Helen Clark only tinkered with around the edges, such as reforming the Employment Contracts Act into the Employment Relations Act.

It also sends a clear, unequivocal signal to any remaining “ABC” elements within the Labour Parliamentary caucus – do not mess with the Leader.  As our American cuzzies like to phrase it, “Matt’s got his back”.

For John Key, two words – Game On.

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References

Radio NZ:  Matt McCarten tipped to be Labour’s new chief of staff (audio)

Fairfax media: Matt McCarten new Labour chief of staff

Radio NZ: McCarten taking Labour hard left – PM

TV3: Labour leans to left with McCarten – Key

TV1: Key tips Labour to go ‘careering to the left’

Wikipedia: 1996 General Election

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If I can get of my arse to work in a crappy underpaid job

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 February 2014.

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National, The Economy, and coming Speed Wobbles

1 March 2014 4 comments

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The Nationalmobile

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For a while, the news seemed dire for the Left, and impressively positive for National;

  • A recent Fairfax Media-Ipsos poll put National on 49.4%  versus  31.8% and 10% respectively for  Labour and the Greens.
  • The latest Roy Morgan Poll had National at 48%, compared to 30% and 12% for Labour and the Greens respectively.
  • Annual average economic growth  was 2.6% to September 2013.
  • The Household Labour Force Survey for the December 2013 Quarter showed a drop in unemployment, from 6.2% to 6%.
  • Dairy prices (and thusly export reciepts) continued to rise.
  • The trade deficit continued to slowly improve.
  • And there was just enough ambiguity around recent child poverty statistics to allow National, and its drooling sycophants,  to claim that it was no longer a  growing problem (it was simply a constant problem).

However, is everything as it really seems? Is the news all rosy and are we rushing head-first toward the “promised land“, the much heralded, Neo-liberal Nirvana?

Or, are dark clouds beginning to appear on the horizon?

New Zealand’s economic recovery is predicated mostly on the Christchurch re-build, and piggy-backing on the global economic situation picking up. As Treasury reported in 2012;

The Canterbury rebuild is expected to be a significant driver of economic growth over the next five to ten years. The timing and speed of the rebuild is uncertain, in part due to ongoing aftershocks, but the New Zealand Treasury expects it to commence around mid-to-late 2012.

As predicted,  the ASB/Main Report Regional Economic Scoreboard recently revealed that Canterbury had over-taken Auckland as the country’s main center for economic growth.

Meanwhile, the same report outlines that Auckland’s “growth” is predicated on rising house prices. Economic “growth” based on property speculation is not growth – it is a bubble waiting to burst.

The other causal factor for our recovery is international. The IMF reported only last month;

Global activity strengthened during the second half of 2013, as anticipated in the October 2013 World Economic Outlook (WEO). Activity is expected to improve further in 2014–15, largely on account of recovery in the advanced economies. Global growth is now projected to be slightly higher in 2014, at around 3.7 percent, rising to 3.9 percent in 2015, a broadly unchanged outlook from the October 2013 WEO. But downward revisions to growth forecasts in some economies highlight continued fragilities, and downside risks remain...

Being  mostly an exporter of commodities (meat, dairy products, unprocessed timber, etc), New Zealand cannot but help ride the wave of an upturn in the global economy as increasing economic activity creates a demand for our products.

Any economic recovery, as such, has little to do with the incumbent government – just as the incumbent governments in 2008 and 2009 had little to do with the  GFC and resulting recession (though National’s tax cuts in 2009 and 2010 were irresponsible in the extreme, reliant as they were on heavy borrowings from overseas). We are simply “riding the economic wave”.

As the global up-turn generates growth in New Zealand’s economy, paradoxically that leaves us vulnerable to new, negative, economic factors;

1. The Reserve Bank has indicated that  it will begin to increase the OCR (Official Cash Rate) this year.

Most economists  are expecting the OCR to rise a quarter of a percentage point on March 13. As Bernard Hickey reported in Interest.co.nz;

Wheeler said in early December he expected to raise the OCR by 2.25% by early 2016, which would lift variable mortgage rates to around 8% by then. The bank forecast interest rate rises of around 1% this year and a similar amount next year.

2. An increase in the OCR will inevitably flow through to mortgage rates, increasing repayments.

As mortgaged home owners pay more in repayments, this will impact on discretionary spending; reducing consumer activity, and flow through to lower business turn-over.

Even the fear-threat of higher mortgage interest rates may already be pushing home owners to lock-in fixed mortgages. Kiwibank for example, currently has a Fixed Five year rate at 6.9%. ANZ has a five year rate at 7.2%. Expect these rates to rise after March.

If home owners are already fixing their mortgages at these higher rates, this may explain the fall in consumer confidence, as the Herald wrote on 20 February,

New Zealand consumer confidence fell from its highest level in seven years this month, while remaining elevated, amid a pickup in inflation expectations and the prospect of interest rate increases.

It may also explain, in part, this curious anomaly which recently featured in the news cycle,

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Govt deficit bigger than expected as tax trickles in

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The Herald report goes on to state,

The smaller tax take was across the board, with GST 2.3 per cent below forecast at $7.5 billion, source deductions for personal income tax 1.2 per cent below forecast at $11.71 billion, and total corporate tax 4.9 per cent below expectations at $3.56 billion.

Treasury officials said some of the lower GST take was due to earthquake related refunds, and that the shortfall in Pay As You Earn might be short-lived. The corporate tax take shortfall was smaller than in the previous month…

  • A drop in GST would be utterly predictable if consumer spending was falling.
  • Personal income tax would be falling if employers were cutting back on part-time work available. Which indeed seems to be the case, according to the latest Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS) Poll on unemployment,

Over the year, the total number of under-employed people increased by 27,200 to 122,600. As a result, the under-employment rate increased 1.0 percentage points to 5.3 percent.

Less wages equals less spent in the economy and less PAYE and GST collected by the government.

  • This would also account for the drop in corporate tax take falling by  4.9%.

The effect of the Reserve Bank’s decision to begin raising interest rates will be to dampen economic activity and consumer demand. This will be bad news for National.

3. An increase in the OCR will inevitably also mean a higher dollar, as currency speculators rush to buy the Kiwi. Whilst this may be good for importers – it is not so good for exporters. If we cannot pay our way in the world through exports, that will worsen our Balance of Trade; in turn risking our international credit rating; which in turn can  impact negatively on the cost of borrowing from off-shore (the lower our credit-rating, the higher interest we pay to borrow, as we are considered a higher lending risk).

This, too, will affect what we pay for our mortgages and capital for business investment.

4. As economic activity and consumer demand falls, expect businesses not to hire more staff and for fresh  redundancies to add to the unemployment rate. Unemployment will either stay steady later this year, or even increase.

Less people employed or a reduction on work hours for part-time employees will also result in a lower tax take.

5. As interest rates rise, in tandem with the Reserve Bank’s policy on restricting low-home deposits, expect home ownership to fall even further. This will increase demand for rentals, which, in turn will push up rents. Higher rents will also dampen consumer spending.

6. As the global economy picks up and demand for oil increases, expect petrol prices to increase. This will have a flow-through effect within our local economy; higher fuel prices will lead to higher prices for consumer goods and services. This, in turn, will force the Reserve Bank to ratchet up interest rates (the OCR) even further.

7. As businesses face ongoing pressures (described above), there will be continuing  pressure to dampen down wage increases (except for a minority of job skills, in the Christchurch area). For many businesses, the choice they offer their staff will be stark; pay rise or redundancies?

8. Expect one or more credit rating agencies (Fitch, Moodies, Standard and Poors) to put New Zealand on a negative credit watch.

9. According to a recent (21 February) Roy Morgan poll, 42%  of respondents still considered the economy their main priority of concern. 21% considered social issues as their main concern.This should serve as a stark warning to National that people will “vote with their hip wallets or purses” and if a significant number of voters believe that they are not benefitting from any supposed economic recovery, they will be grumpy voters that walk into the ballot booth.

Interestingly, the “Economy” category also included the social issue of “Poverty / The gap between the rich and the poor”.  16% believed that “Poverty / The gap between the rich and the poor”was a major factor within the economic situation – a significant sub-set of the 42%.

Add that 16% to the 21% considering social issues to be the number one priority, and we see the number of respondents in this category increasing to 37%. That is core Labour/Green/Mana territory.

10. National has predicated its reputation as a “prudent fiscal manager”  on returning the government’s books to surplus by 2014/15. As Bill English stated just late last year,

“We remain on track to surplus in 2014/15, although it will still be a challenge to actually reach surplus in that financial year.”

Should National fail in that single-minded obsession, the public will not take kindly to any excuses from Key, English, et al. Not when tax payer’s money has been sprayed around with largesse by way of corporate welfarism. Throwing millions at Rio Tinto, Warner Bros, China Southern Airlines, Canterbury Finance, etc, will be hard to justify when National has to borrow further to balance the books.

On top of which is the $61 billion dollar Elephant in the room; the government debt racked up by National since taking office in 2008. As Brian Fallow wrote in the Herald in 2011,

The concern about government debt is not so much about its level, but the pace at which it is increasing. In June 2008 net government debt was $10 billion, or 5.6 per cent of GDP, and gross debt $31 billon, or 17.2 per cent of GDP.

Since 2008, New Zealand’s sovereign debt has increased six-fold – made worse in part by two ill-conceived and ultimately unaffordable tax cuts.  Those tax cuts were, in essence, electoral bribes made by John Key to win the 2008 general election. (Labour’s paying down of massive debts it had inherited from National in the 1990s, plus posting nine consecutive surpluses, had come around to bite Cullen on his bum. Taxpayers were demanding “a slice the action” by way of tax cuts.)

That debt will eventually have to be repaid. Especially if, as some believe, another global financial shock is possible – even inevitable. With a $60 billion dollar debt hanging over our heads, we are not well-placed to weather another global economic shock. In fact, coupled with private debt, New Zealand is badly exposed in this area (as the OECD stated, in the quote below).

So the “good news” currently hitting the headlines is not so “good” after all, and many of the positive indicators have a nasty ‘sting in the tail’. As the OECD  recently reported,

The New Zealand economy is beginning to gain some momentum, with post‑earthquake reconstruction, business investment and household spending gathering pace.Risks to growth remain, however, stemming from high private debt levels, weak foreign demand, large external imbalances, volatile terms of trade, a severe drought and an exchange rate that appears overvalued. The main structural challenge will be to create the conditions that encourage resources to shift towards more sustainable sources of prosperity. Incomes per head are well below the OECD average, and productivity growth has been sluggish for a long time. Lifting living standards sustainably and equitably will require structural reforms to improve productivity performance and the quality of human capital.

As the election campaign heats up, expect the following;

  1. Greater media scrutiny on National’s track record,
  2. The public to become more disenchanted with Key’s governance as economic indicators worsen and impact on their wallets and purses,
  3. National (and its sycophantic supporters) continue to blame welfare beneficiaries; the previous Labour government; the GFC and resulting recession; and other “external factors” for their lack-lustre performance,
  4. Key and various business  figures to become more strident in their attacks on Labour and the Greens,
  5. A dirty election campaign , including a well-known extremist right-wing blogger releasing personal information on political opponants, which will backfire badly on National,
  6. National to fall in the polls; NZ First will cross the 5% threshold; and Labour/Greens/Mana to form the next government, with Peters either sitting on the cross benches, or taking on a ministerial portfolio outside Cabinet.

So it’s not the Left that should be worried.

National is on shakier ground than many realise.

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References

Fairfax Media: National on wave of optimism – poll

Roy Morgan: National (48%) increases lead over Labour/ Greens (42%) – biggest lead for National since July 2013

NZ Herald: Economic growth hits 4-year high

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey: December 2013 quarter

Fairfax Media: Dairy prices squash trade deficit

NZ Herald: NZ’s trade deficit remains despite better terms

Fairfax Media: Inequality: Is it growing or not?

NZ Treasury: Recent Economic Performance and Outlook

Fairfax media: Canterbury overtakes Auckland in economic survey

IMF: World Economic Outlook (WEO) Update

Reserve Bank:  Price stability promotes a sustainable expansion

Interest.co.nz:  Bernard Hickey looks at what the Reserve Bank’s OCR decision means for mortgage rates and house prices

NZ Herald: Consumer confidence slips as rates increase looms

NZ Herald:  Govt deficit bigger than expected as tax trickles in

Statistics NZ:  Unemployment December 2013 Quarter

Roy Morgan: Economic Issues down but still easily the most important problems facing New Zealand (42%) and facing the World (36%) according to New Zealanders

NBR:  Govt sees wider deficit in 2014 on ACC levy cut, lower SOE profits

Fairfax media:  Public debt climbs by $27m a day

NZ Herald: Govt debt – it’s the trend that’s the worry

NZ Herald: Cullen – Tax cuts but strict conditions

OECD: Economic Survey of New Zealand 2013

Previous related blogposts

TV3 Polling and some crystal-ball gazing

Other blogposts

The Daily Blog: Latest Roy Morgan Poll shows the Labour funk

The Daily Blog: Canaries In A Coal Mine: Has The Daily Blog Poll anticipated Labour’s Collapse?

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The Cost of Living

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 23 February 2014.

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What a gutless wanker you are, Paul Henry…!

27 February 2014 7 comments

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paul henry matt mccarten tv3 26 february 2014

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Our household watched the Paul Henry Show on Thursday night (26 February). Henry’s guest was Matt McCarten – freshly appointed as David Cunliffe’s Chief of Staff.

McCarten’s reputation was such that there was intense media interest in the appointment, and quite rightly so. Matt McCarten is a shrewd, experienced, clever political activist, tactician, and (when necessary) butt-kicker.

Henry put questions to Matt McCarten. Matt McCarten answered each and every one very well. Watch the interview here.

What followed the conclusion of the interview absolutely astounded and disgusted us. After Henry had thanked McCarten for appearing on his show, and the link to the  Wellington studio was closed, Henry turned to another camera and read out this statement,

“Matt McCarten who once said “I can’t escape the feeling that he” – meaning David Cunliffe – “has the same phoniness as the Republican  US presidential nominee, Mitt Romney. His every nuance and action seems calculated.” You be the judge. We’ll watch and see him change.”

What a vile, cowardly thing to do; to read out an editorial statement  after closing the interview, and not saying it straight to McCarten’s face. It was a shocking, shabby,  way to treat a guest on his show.

Gutless.

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References

TV3: The Paul Henry Show – 26 Feb 2014?

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Get ya boots on and vote

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

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Letter to the Editor: Cunliffe’s plan for jobs – Big Tick!

26 February 2014 1 comment

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FROM:   "f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT: Letters to the editor
DATE:    Wed, 26 Feb 2014 11:22:52 +1300
TO:      Otago Daily Times <odt.editor@alliedpress.co.nz>

 

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The editor
Otago Daily Times

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In an interview on Radio NZ on 25 February, David Cunliffe
announced;

“We will create incentives for private employers to be
certified living wage employers, who pay the living wage  to
all their employees, by giving them a preference in  Crown
contracts.”

This simple, common-sense policy will achieve more than
raise wages - something that John  Key's lame-duck
administration has failed spectacularly to accomplish - but
will be a much-needed boost for local business.

We have lost thousands of jobs to overseas countries with
pitifully-low wages. The contracts awarded to Chinese
manufacturers to build rail stock resulted in over a hundred
jobs lost in Dunedin; most of the Hillside rail engineering
plant closing; and an opportunity lost to inject millions
into the Otago economy. 

This country will never overcome high unemployment if we
continually opt for cheaper (and often lower-quality)
products from low-wage economies. Not unless we want to pay
ourselves similar low wages.

Cunliffe's committment to a living wage and a procurement
preference for local businesses  is the kind of proactive
policy which we have long lost, and desperately need again.

"Muddling through" is simply not good enough.

-Frank Macskasy
(address & phone number supplied)

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References

Radio NZ: Election year interviews – David Cunliffe (27′ 50″ )

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John Key is really hoping that dudes like me don't vote

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

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Radio NZ: Nine To Noon – Election year interviews – David Cunliffe

26 February 2014 Leave a comment

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– Radio NZ, Nine To Noon –

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– Wednesday 25 February 2014 –

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– Kathryn Ryan –

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On  Nine To Noon, Kathyrn Ryan interviewed Labour’s leader, David Cunliffe, and asked him about coalition negotiations, policies, polls, and other issues…

 

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Radio NZ logo -  nine to noon

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Click to Listen: Election year interviews (27′ 50″ )

A major policy statement by David Cunliffe;

@ 22.00:  “We will create incentives for private employers to be certified living wage employers, who pay the living wage  to all their employees, by giving them a preference in  Crown contracts.”

This will not only support firms that pay their staff properly – but will de facto give preference to local businesses to supply goods and services!

If this doesn’t motivate Small-Medium Enterprises to switch their allegiances from the Nats to Labour, I don’t know what will!

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Key & Joyce – competing with Paula Bennett for Hypocrites of the Year?

7 February 2014 3 comments

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Labour hasn't learned from the past - Joyce

Source

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Reacting to Labour’s newly announced “Best Start” policy, National launched into a wholly predictable – and somewhat repetitive – reactionary condemnation of the plan.

According to “Economic Development” Minister, Steven Joyce,

Once again, the moment we get a lift in the economy, they want to start bribing people with massive extra spending. We haven’t even got to the end of January and Labour and the Greens are already promising to spend the thick end of an extra three quarters of a billion dollars a year. You can’t spend your way to prosperity. This Government understands that and is building a stronger economy to provide higher incomes for Kiwi families.”

Bribing people“?

Massive extra spending“?

You can’t spend your way to prosperity“?

Aside from being more meaningless right-wing cliches, the sheer hypocrisy of Joyce’s remarks beggar belief.

It was only five years ago that John Key was promising bribes – a-la tax cuts – even as the Global Financial crisis was beginning to impact on our economy.

Here in New Zealand, by 26 September 2008 (note the date) – we were officially in Recession – convincing evidence just how rapidly individual economies were being shaken as the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) spiralled out of control.  Three days later, as global share-markets lost value, the NZ Superannuation Fund posted a $880.75 million loss for the year to June 2008 , compared with a $1.09 billion profit the previous year.

By October, Republican President Bush signed into effect a US$700 billion bailout package for firms facing bankruptcy and the Bank of Scotland and HBOS – both facing collapse – were “effectively” nationalised by the UK government.

By November 2008, Lehmann Bros was bankrupt; over 200 US banks were in serious financial troubles; US mortgage finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had collapsed; the Russian stock exchange closed after massive share-price falls; and other shocks reverberated throughout the global economy.

As the media was reporting the crisis day-by-day, with financial  headlines dominating every newspaper and television network in the country – what was National doing?

It was promising tax cuts. Big tax cuts “north of $50” for each taxpayer. Tax cuts which Cullen said were unaffordable as then-Finance Minister, and warned,

Finance Minister Michael Cullen yesterday sent the country a further warning that the Government’s cupboard was bare, saying the pre-election fiscal update was expected to show “significantly worse” deficits than the $3.5 billion forecast in the Budget.

As Key’s promises mounted up, Cullen  challenged the Nats to say they would not borrow to pay for their tax cut programmes.

Despite the country being in recession, and the global situation deep in trouble, Key was still promising tax cuts. And he promisedthat the package announced today requires no additional borrowing, or cuts to frontline services to fund it“.

“No additional borrowing.”

In another speech at around the same time, Key said that “National has been mindful of recent global events“. So they were not oblivious to the financial storm swirling around the planet.

On 8 October 2008, Key was even more specific;

“Several months ago I made it clear that our tax plans would be hermetically sealed from other government spending tracks. That continues to be the case.

Paying for this package will not require additional borrowing. It will not require any cuts to public services.”

Unfortunately, like so many of Key’s promises, it was hollow rhetoric. Blatant lies, to be more accurate.

By March 2009, as the GFC and recession impacted on our economy, government revenue was already falling,

“The New Zealand government’s operating balance before gains and losses (OBEGAL) for the seven months ended January 31 was NZ$600 million, which was NZ$800 million below the pre-election update and NZ$300 million below December forecasts, Treasury said. Tax revenue and receipts during the period were NZ$500 million lower than the pre-election forecast.

Meanwhile, Treasury also disclosed a NZ$15.4 billion rise in Gross Sovereign Issued Debt to NZ$45.4 billion (25.3% of GDP) from the pre-election forecast.”

Despite worsening indicators and falling government tax revenue, in  April 2009, the newly-elected National Government enacted it’s first round of tax cuts. The second was scheduled for October 2010.

The result was wholly predictable. As the government lost hundreds of millions in foregone revenue, National  cut state sector services  – despite Key’s promise not to make such cuts,

“Government biosecurity cut backs leaves billion dollar industry vulnerable

The National Government’s decision to make more than 50 workers whose job it is to protect New Zealand from biosecurity risks leaves this country’s primary production industries vulnerable, Labour Biosecurity spokesperson Damien O’Connor says.”

As Andrea Vance wrote in October 2010,

“More than 2000 positions have been cut from the core public service since the Government capped numbers soon after it came to power.

State Services Minister Tony Ryall said yesterday more jobs were likely to go as many government departments would have little or no increase in funding in the next few years.”

And debt continued to rise,

(Year Ended 30 June 2010)

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As the second round of tax cuts was implemented on 1 October 2010, two thousand positions had been cut from the public State sector. And John Key’s government was borrowing $380 million a week – despite his earlier assurances that “paying for this package will not require additional borrowing”,

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Govt borrowing $380m a week

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A month later, all those borrowings were totalled up;

Treasury today published the Government’s financial statements for the 10 months ended April 30, which showed the debt mountain had grown to $71.6b. “

Meanwhile, despite assurance by Key,  cuts were also being made to public services such as  early childhood education, which was amongst the worst to suffer,

The Government is refusing to rule out further cuts to early childhood education as reductions affecting more than 2200 centres kick in today.

The Government announced at last year’s Budget it would eliminate the top rate of funding to early childhood centres.

Later in the year, Education Minister Anne Tolley announced an ECE taskforce would review the effectiveness of spending in the sector and propose new ideas.

Asked yesterday if she could rule out further cuts in this year’s Budget, she said: “Any budget decisions will be announced on Budget day.”

Tolley said the Government was “bringing spending under control”.

Labour says thousands of families will face average fee increases of $20 to $45 as a result of the funding cuts.

It has promised to restore funding and will today put its name to a petition against any more cuts.

Ministry of Education figures show 2249 of the country’s 5251 services will be affected by the cut.

Without much doubt (except to the most blinded-by-ideology National/ACT supporters), National won the 2008 election with big promises of “affordable” tax cuts; no cuts to public services; nor State sector redundancies.

None of those promises were kept.

On 29 January,adding to Joyce’s comments, Key said,

David Cunliffe’s developing a reputation around Parliament for being very tricky. He [Cunliffe] just needs to learn to be up front with the public so they can actually trust his word. I read his speeches and now after a number of examples of this, I really question whether the guy is telling me the truth …”

The same might be said of John Key’s reputation  for being very tricky, and perhaps Key  needs to learn to be up front with the public so they can actually trust his word.

Because really, when Key makes promises, I really question whether the guy is telling me the truth.

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References

TV3: Labour hasn’t learned from the past – Joyce

Labour Party: Best Start Package

Marketwatch: The fall of Lehman Brothers

CNN Money: New recession worry: Bank failures

Washington Post: Treasury to Rescue Fannie and Freddie

Huffington Post: Russia Halts Trading After 17% Share Price Fall

NZ Herald:  Recession confirmed – GDP falls

Fairfax media: NZ Super Fund drops $880.75m

The Telegraph: Financial crisis: HBOS and RBS ‘to be nationalised’ in £50 billion state intervention

NZ Herald: National sticking to $50-a-week tax cuts

Dominion Post: Cullen to Nats: will you borrow for tax cuts?

NZ Herald: Nats to borrow for other spending – but not tax cuts

John Key Website:  NEWS: Economic plan: A tax package for the times

John Key Website: SPEECH: National’s Economic Management Plan

NZ Herald: John Key on Tax Cuts: The National leader’s speech

Interest.co.nz:  Budget deficit worse than forecast; debt blows out by NZ$15.4 bln

Scoop Media:  Biosecurity cut backs leaves industry vulnerable

NZ Treasury: Financial Statements of the Government of New Zealand for the Year Ended 30 June 2010 – Debt

Fairfax media: ‘Unrealistic’ workloads on civil servants after cuts

NZ Herald: Govt borrowing $380m a week

Fairfax media: Government debt rises to $71.6 billion

Fairfax media: Further early childhood education cuts possible

Scoop Media: National Election Pledge Card

NZ Herald: Key launches scathing attack on Cunliffe’s credibility

Previous related blogposts

The National Party, common sense, and sausage sizzles

Another day in a lie of the National Party

From 2011 back to 1991?

Other blogs

The Standard: Gower plays a shocker

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Election 2014

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 30 January 2014.

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Radio NZ: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams – 3 February 2014

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– Politics on Nine To Noon –

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– Monday 3 February 2014 –

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– Kathryn Ryan, with Matthew Hooton & Mike Williams –

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Today on Politics on Nine To Noon,

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radio-nz-logo-politics-on-nine-to-noon

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Click to Listen: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams ( 19′ 46″  )

  • The latest TV3 poll says the gap between National and Labour/Green is too close to call.
  • ACT party elect a new leader and a new candidate for Epsom.

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