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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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Expose: Winston Peters; the 1997 speeches; and neo-liberal tendencies

13 September 2016 3 comments

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winston peters no yes maybe who the fuck knows

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On Radio NZ’s Morning Report, on 5 September, NZ First leader  Winston Peters, told Guyon Espiner that his party would be a force for major economic change. NZ First, he insisted, would spell an end to neo-liberalism;

“It’s no use having what we’ve had, perhaps you can call it tweedledum and tweedledummer, who have persisted with the neo-liberal experiment. Who have gone along with allowing the foreign banks to dominate New Zealand market for example. Allowed the overseas ownership of our share martket which went from 19% when this experiment started to beyond 70% now.

[…]

New Zealand First is not going to swap one side for the other side because they think it’s their turn so that they can carry on the same economic direction they’re going.

[…]

You’ve got a group on the Right, with a whole lot of cling-ons. You’ve got an unholy wedding or pre-nuptials on the Left, and we don’t want to be part of either of those things. We’re out for economic change and we intend to be successful.

[…]

We believe, if we’ve succeeded in getting our message away then economic and social direction change is a certainty.

[…]

And we’re not going to go around starting negotiating pre-election, with parties who have proven since the last 32 years, one started this economic disaster and the other one has continued it.”

Peters’ repudiation of the neo-liberal economic model had been made two months earlier on TVNZ’s Q+A, when he told Corin Dann;

Corin Dann: Do you think globalisation has failed?

Winston Peters: Of course it has. Because, see, it’s not so much about free trade, so to speak; it should be about fair trade, and there’s a world of difference.

Corin Dann: What is the alternative to globalisation if you believe that it’s failed? Is it a return to protectionism, nationalism?

Winston Peters: No, no, it’s not. It’s being like Norway; it’s being like Switzerland; it’s being like Taiwan. It’s being as smart about protecting the interests of the economy you’re trying to build rather than just going along with being told internationally what you must accept. There’s a world of difference, and right around the Western world, there is a coming now rejection of the neoliberal experiment after 30, 35 years. It is under serious challenge now.

Corin Dann: Mr Peters, globalisation has lifted millions and millions of people out of poverty. It’s brought New Zealand great diversity; it’s brought us all of the mod cons that we take for granted – our phones – everything like that. Hasn’t globalisation been great?

Winston Peters: You’re just confusing sound trade arrangements with globalisation. Globalisation in the UK consequence meant they were being told, out of the European Commission – unelected, in the UK Parliament – they were being told how their laws would be. 55% of the laws in the UK were being dominated out of Brussels. Now, no self-respecting country’s going to take that.

Peters’ comments roundly rejected globalisation, free trade, neo-liberalism. He  inferred protectionism when he told Dann, “It’s being as smart about protecting the interests of the economy you’re trying to build rather than just going along with being told internationally what you must accept“.

However, in a speech made in 1997, when Peters was Treasurer in the National-NZ First Coalition Government, he told the NBR Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Government to Business Forum that he would be pursuing conservative fiscal management; supporting  an “open, internationally competitive economy”; lower taxes; and a de-regulated market.

Peter’s speech is in the form of a hard-copy in this blogger’s possession. It is headed “Office of the Deputy Prime Minister & Treasurer” and is dated 11 February 1997.  It was embargoed till 8.35am for that day, when Peters made his speech at Wellington’s up-market Park Royal Hotel.

Peters began by saying that there were “four core economic principles at the heart of the government’s strategy;

  • “sound, stable government
  • ensuring an economic climate conducive to sustainable development and growth, more employment opportunities, high quality education and social services, a strong commitment to low inflation, prudent and conservative fiscal management and over time, lower taxes and reduced public debt
  • an open, internationally competitive economy, a strong export sector, and policies to stimulate private sector and individual performance
  • planning for the country’s future, emphasising intergenerational fairness and increasing the nation’s saving”

Later in the speech, Peters reiterated the Coalition’s fiscal policy;

“That is why we are committed to low inflation, prudent and conservative fiscal management, lowering taxes and reducing public debt.”

Peters made clear that those were the core principles of the National-NZ First  Coalition. They  also happen to be core ideological tenets of neo-liberal doctrine.

Peters’ “core principles” are mirrored by the so-called “NZ Initiative” (formerly the Business Roundtable), a right-wing, neo-liberal think-tank;

We [NZ Initiative] are committed to developing policies that work for all New Zealanders, and we believe that promoting such policies will benefit all of our members as a matter of fact. But we are certainly an Initiative that usually prefers Adam Smith’s invisible hand to government’s visible fist.

Most of all, though, we believe that our goals and values are similar – if not identical – to what most New Zealanders want to see achieved:

  • A good education system.
  • Affordable housing.
  • An open economy.
  • A free and democratic society.
  • The protection of our natural resources and heritage.
  • Sound public finances.
  • A stable currency.

The NZ Initiative/Business Roundtable also promotes lower taxes; a competitive, open economy; and prudent and conservative fiscal management – in short all the core principles expressed by Peters in February 1997.

In case his audience did not understand Peters’ commitment to “an open, internationally competitive economy” he repeated himself again, in his speech;

“The key to maintaining an open internationally competitive economy  will be:

  • stable macroeconomic policies;

  • de-regulated, competitive and open market;

  • quality public services provided as efficiently as possible;

  • and the lowest possible taxes”

He went on;

“Another reform… removing restrictions on air services to and from New Zealand is important for reducing barriers to trade and tourism. To this end, the government remains committed to reciprocal liberalisation where possible…

[…]

To make the most of the opportunities a global economy provides…”

Not content to cement in an  adherence to a neo-liberal agenda, Peters then attacked the social welfare system in this country – another prime target of the New Right;

“What distinguishes this government is the prominence given to the value of self-reliance… moving people away from State dependence to independence.”

Bear in mind that Peters was giving his speech only six years after Ruth Richardson’s notorious “Mother of All Budgets” in 1991. By the time Peters addressed the Government to Business Forum in 1997, 19% of households were already living below the poverty line and unemployment was at 6.8%. By June the following year it had ballooned to 7.9%.

Peters’ response was to attack and demean the welfare system that  kept many of these people alive as the scourge of neo-liberalism ravaged the country.

Peters’ speech continued, parroting many of neo-liberal cliches that we are now so familiar with;

“We want to create an environment which encourages New Zealanders to move away from welfare dependency to employment. And for those who still need welfare support, we want a move away  from a welfare mentality to a positive attitude  and greater acceptance of social obligations.

It is also about people taking greater responsibility for their futures rather than simply relying on the state.”

Peters was promoting the Cult of  Individualism and cutting back state support – another basic tenet of neo-liberalism.

Next, he took a swipe at families and their “reliance” on welfare;

“A prime area needing attention is the family… this government will create an environment which instils greater levels of parental responsibility.

Our destiny is ultimately in the hands of individual New Zealanders. Breaking the cycle of dependency means taking primary responsibility for our own welfare and the welfare of our families.

This government expects each and every New Zealander to… live up to their responsibilities…”

This speech and it’s conservative message sounds ominously as if the  ACT Party might have given it;

“To alleviate poverty, reduce dependency and shift able-bodied people from welfare to work.”

“To put personal responsibility, self-reliance and work above welfare dependency.”

“Welfare must not put children at risk by undermining the two-parent family.”

“True compassion demands welfare that provides a hand up to work, independence and a better future.”

Source: Welfare and The Family, ACT Party policy, September 2014

In  a later speech by Peters, on 28 February 1997, to the American Chamber of Commerce in Auckland, Peters reiterated his commitment to a free market regime;

“…Maintaining an open, internationally competitive economy, supporting a strong export sector, particularly  by managing cost structures downwards and continuing deregulation and policies to stimulate private sector and individual performance.

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The government’s approach to fiscal management is orthodox and consistent

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Maintaining an open and competitive enterprise economy is essential because an open and competitive economy drives New Zealand firms to lift their game, and provide a more profitable investment base for our savings.

Let me be clear, this government is not opposed to foreign investment. When it is in the national interest we welcome all investment that boosts employment, productivity and growth.”

Peters was reassuring his capitalist audience; this man was not for ‘turning’.

Conclusion

There is little clear evidence that Peters is hostile to neo-liberalism, whether of the brutal Ruthenasia variety or the more insidious neo-liberalism-with-a-relaxed-face.

Instead, the evidence from his 1997 speeches is there for all to see. Peters may profess to have distanced himself from the neo-liberal experiment, but his own words betray him.

There is not one monolithic conservative/centre-right party in New Zealand, but two, distinct parties on the conservative spectrum. Just as Australia has the Liberal Party and it’s own rural-based National Party,  we have National and NZ First. Like left-wing voters who have a choice between Labour or the Green Party,  conservative voters in this country have a choice between National and NZ First.

As long as everyone is crystal-clear on this; NZ First’s leader remains committed to neo-liberalism.

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Addendum1

The following are scanned images of Winston Peters’ 1997 speech to the Government to Business Forum;

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Winston Peters - Government to Business Forum - 1997 (1)

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Winston Peters - Government to Business Forum - 1997 (2)

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Winston Peters - Government to Business Forum - 1997 (3)

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Addendum2

The following are scanned images of Winston Peters speech, on 28 February 1997, to the American Chamber of Commerce in Auckland;

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winston peters - american chamber of commerce - 1997 (1)

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winston peters - american chamber of commerce - 1997 (2)

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winston peters - american chamber of commerce - 1997 (3)

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winston peters - american chamber of commerce - 1997 (4)

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winston peters - american chamber of commerce - 1997 (5)

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winston peters - american chamber of commerce - 1997 (6)

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winston peters - american chamber of commerce - 1997 (7)

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winston peters - american chamber of commerce - 1997 (8)

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Addendum3

All media enquiries can be made to the author at fmacskasy@gmail.com.

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References

Radio NZ: Morning Report – NZ First leader targets youth (audio)

TVNZ: Q+A – Winston Peters interviewed by Corin Dann

NZ Initiative: About Us

NZ Initiative: The Case for Lower Taxes

Business Roundtable (NZ Initiative): Submission to the Finance and Expenditure Committee on the 1997 Budget Policy Statement (March 1997)

Te Ara Encyclopedia: Mother of All Budgets

Ministry of Social Development: Assessing The Progress On Poverty Reduction

Statistics NZ: When times are tough, wage growth slows

ACT Party: Welfare and The Family

Other Blogs

Fightback: Nationalism and the left: A reflection on Winston Peters and the Northland by-election (2015)

The Standard: Can We Trust Winston Peters?

Previous related blogposts

An open letter to Winston Peters…

John Banks and Winston Peters, Apples and Oranges

Winston Peters recycles pledge to “buy back state assets” – where have we heard that before?

Northland by-election – a damning poll and a damnable lie?

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 18: “No question – NZ is better off!”

A Message to Winston; A Message to John Key; and a Message to the Regions

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

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Witnessing the slow decay of a government past it’s Use-By date

6 February 2015 7 comments

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There is something unpleasantly familiar about the recent appalling events surrounding the current National government and it’s embattled leader, John Key and his strange relationship with Cameron Slater.

Searching my memory, it dawned on me: I am witnessing a replay of the closing years of the Shipley Administration, before it was eventually turfed out of office in November 1999.

The Shipley-led minority-National government was racked with crises.

One such was the Saatchi Affair, where then-PM, Jenny Shipley, was found to have lied about a dinner engagement with Saatchi & Saatchi boss, Kevin Roberts. Shipley’s recall of that dinner engagement – and the topics of discussion – were at variance with what Roberts had claimed took place.

Shipley had misled public; the media; and the public. The headlines at the time pilloried her;

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shipley-on-the-run-nz-herald-23-february-1999

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Sound familiar?

To call the National government of that time a “decaying government” would be a gross under-statement. As well as beset with scandal after scandal; cuts to the budgets for police, health, education,  etc; deeply unpopular measures such as state house sales, and a crazy, hundred-million-dollar  plan to move/demolish the Beehive (and extend the original Parliament Building); there were other events which drew a rising chorus of criticism and condemnation from a wide sector of society.

On 27 November, 1999, New Zealanders had had a gutsful and threw out the National government.

The recent “txt-gate” scandal is simply the most recent scandal to envelope the current Prime Minister, John Key.

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key-claims-confusion-over-texts-with-slater-fairfax-media-28-november-2014

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In terms of past events; past scandals; and past instances where the PM has been caught out – it is by no means the worst.

This time, however, matters have reached a critical flash-point. The media has awoken to a smell of a government on the defensive and where Dear Leader has pushed the envelope once too often. Journalists and media commentators are no longer as tolerant;  no longer awed; and no longer willing to be mollified by a popular prime minister.

The Shipley Factor has kicked in.

At this point, nothing that National does will counter the  same style of growing clamour of criticism it’s predecessor faced in the late ’90s.

Even the distractions of a costly flag referendum; growing ‘softening’ of the public for a New Zealand  presence in Iraq; or another bout of bene-bashing will not work to deflect attention from an increasingly embattled PM. Such distractions will be quickly revealed, and dismissed,  for what they are.

If National’s current problems translate into public odium, the upcoming flag referendum may well become a referendum on Key’s administration – much like the  September 1997 referendum on compulsory retirement savings became a referendum on the National-NZ First Coalition government.

An extraordinary 80.3% of voter turn-out resulted in 91.8% voting “No”. However, the wisdom at the time suggested that the massive “No” vote was more of a reflection on the National-led government of the day, rather than the actual issue of superannuation.

Perhaps the clearest indication that the tide has turned against Key (and his government) is that the most trenchant criticism has come – not from the Left; nor from the Parliamentary Opposition; nor even from Key’s nemesis, Kim Dotcom – but from the Right and a previously compliant media.

On 25 November last year (2014), John Armstrong, from the NZ Herald wrote;

The Key administration has plumbed new depths of arrogance and contempt for the notion of politicians being accountable for their actions in its response to today’s hugely embarrassing report by the independent watchdog who maintains oversight over the Security Intelligence Service.

Rather than take the findings of the report by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Cheryl Gwyn on the chin, National sought to bury the report.

[…]

John Key may have effectively been cleared by Gwyn for having only a “very limited” involvement in the disgraceful release of information by the SIS to Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater.

That gets Key personally off the hook. But that does not absolve him of ministerial responsibility. In fact. he is doubly responsible both as the the minister-in-charge of the intelligence agencies and as the person responsible for the behaviour of his Beehive office.

This morning’s statement by the Prime Minister in reaction to the Gwyn report places all the blame for this shoddy affair on the SIS.

Key’s statement unsurprisingly makes no mention of an email revealed in the report from one of his political advisers, Jason Ede, the man who Hager cites as central to the dirty tricks campaign being run out of Key’s office. In the email to Slater, Ede said that “he might be in the shit” over the way he has used SIS information. Slater replied that he would simply state he had a source within the SIS – a statement Gwyn took to mean that Slater was seeking to protect Ede.

No heads will roll. Most of the participants in this unsavoury episode have since moved on or retired, while Key gives assurances that lessons have been learned and a more effective oversight regime is now in place.

That is not good enough. The public need an assurance that nothing like this will ever happen again…

Four days later, Armstrong offered yet more trenchant criticism of Key’s administration;

The subsequent fibs, half-truths, memory blanks and – worst of all – the misleading of Parliament on the Prime Minister’s part in the wake of the report’s release has so far not seen the electoral ground that Key has so successfully occupied for so long shifting from under him.

Key has been his own worst enemy in seeming to be in denial of Gwyn’s confirmation of the dirty tricks operation run out of his office and first exposed by Nicky Hager in his book Dirty Politics.

[…]

Key then topped that by misleading Parliament by not fessing up to his text conversation when specifically asked whether there had been any such contact.

Such reckless and consequently self-incriminating behaviour left most observers and voters completely gob-smacked. So gob-smacked that the torrent of criticism raining down on Key went into temporary abeyance.

When it came to trashing his credibility, Key seemed to be doing enough on his own without assistance from outside.

Armstrong continued by really putting the boot firmly into Key’s backside;

But the absence – so far – of any public backlash against the Prime Minister bar those who already detest him is a source of of intense frustration for Opposition parties. And more so the more Key’s memory lapses impede on serious matters of state.

What began with a failure to recall whether he was for or against the 1981 Springbok Tour was followed by forgetfulness over how many Tranz Rail shares he owned.

Then there was the inability to remember how he voted on the drinking age, along with the sudden case of amnesia surrounding the identity of the passengers who flew to New Zealand aboard a mystery CIA jet.

Things started to get even more worrying when Key confessed to being unsure if and when he was briefed on Dotcom by the Government Communications Security Bureau.

They got even more dodgy when Key professed he could not remember whether he had phoned the brother of an old school pal urging him to apply to become the director of the GCSB.

This is the power and collective memory of the media at work. Citing past instances which paint a consistently negative picture of a political figure is something usually left to bloggers these days. One of the best examples was a list of lies, half-truths, broken promises, etc made by Key and compiled by a writer-known-only-as “BLiP”.

No doubt that list will be much lengthier, nearly two years later.

It will prove to be a valuable resource for any journalist digging back into Key’s track record since 2008.

Meanwhile, the media are running stories openly questioning Key’s integrity, such as this piece by Hamish Rutherford, in November last year;

Prime Minister John Key is fighting off accusations of lying, claiming confusion about his contact with WhaleOil blogger Cameron Slater stemmed from wanting to give a “general” answer to reporters rather than a specific one.

Yesterday he was forced to admit he had corresponded with Slater on several occasions since Nicky Hager’s book, Dirty Politics, was published.

On Tuesday, Key told reporters that Slater “sent me a text one time, but I can’t remember when that was”.

It later transpired that Key and Slater had corresponded by text message the previous evening, in what Key has now described as a “gossipy” exchange.

The details emerged after Key admitted he had misled Parliament on Wednesday, when he denied having corresponded with Slater about a report by Justice Lester Chisholm into the conduct of former justice minister Judith Collins and the intelligence watchdog report on disclosures of SIS information.

Key claimed he misunderstood the question, citing noise in the debating chamber, leading him to believe Labour MP Megan Woods was referring only to one report.

In fact, Woods asked two consecutive questions about both reports.

This editorial in Rotorua’s Daily Post, was unequivocal;

 You would think that with the stench of Dirty Politics still lingering in the corridors of power after this year’s madcap election build-up, Mr Key would know better than to conduct a text conversation with the figure at the centre of the controversy.

Mr Key, who gave Mr Slater his new cellphone number after he changed it during the election campaign, says he is “fundamentally not” in contact with Mr Slater, and hadn’t rung him or “proactively texted” him.

Though according to at least one report he also said he phoned Mr Slater on Wednesday to confirm his recollection of what they discussed in their text exchange on Monday night as he’d deleted the texts.

On Wednesday night he had to back down on his earlier claims he’d had no contact with Mr Slater ahead of the release of Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Cheryl Gwyn’s report into the SIS’s role in Slater’s 2011 political attack on former Labour leader Phil Goff.

[…]

Earlier news reports say Mr Key refused to answer questions about his contact with Mr Slater, saying it was in his capacity as National Party leader, not as Prime Minister.

That really doesn’t cut it. When you’re Prime Minister, everything, even dropping your kids off at school, is done in your capacity as Prime Minister.

Fran O’Sullivan was equally scathing;

There is considerable angst that Key is continuing to engage with a high-profile blogger at the expense of his own reputation as Prime Minister. The texting bout episode when he responded to a communication from that particular blogger when prudence would have dictated that he should have just blanked Whale Oil is a case in point.

Key’s failure to realise he would be likely to be filleted when it was inevitably leaked defies credibility.

But trying to mask the obvious backtracking was a step too far.

[…]

There are many inconsistencies in the Prime Minister’s response to the inquiry by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security into the release of information by the Security Intelligence Service to a blogger.

A simple apology on behalf of his office for the obvious black ops would have done a great deal to defuse the issue.

But Key has simply resorted to semantics and tried to hold his ground.

NZ Newswire political columnist, Peter Wilson, described Key’s actions as “causing more trouble than the dubious tactic was worth“, and wrote;

Key’s assertion that he was acting in his capacity as leader of the National Party when he spoke to or texted Slater is raising issues as well.

Radio New Zealand pointed out that the High Court has ruled Slater is a journalist.

That being the case, in what capacity does Key interact with press gallery journalists?

Winston Peters is wondering whether Richard Nixon would have been allowed to escape responsibility for Watergate if he’d argued that he was acting in his capacity as leader of the Republican Party.

And Slater suggests Maurice Williamson should ask for his ministerial job back, because surely he was acting in his capacity as an electorate MP when he called the police to ask about a court case.

Brent Edwards, from Radio NZ, injected a large measure of sarcasm into Key’s denials of reality;

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Cheryl Gwyn, apparently wrote two reports into the way the SIS released information embarrassing to former Labour Party leader Phil Goff in 2011.

There is the report Ms Gwyn released publicly on Tuesday which found the Security Intelligence Service had released inaccurate and misleading information leading to unfounded criticism of Mr Goff.

This report also found that staff in Prime Minister John Key’s office had passed on information to right-wing blogger Cameron Slater about briefings the then SIS director, Warren Tucker, had said he had given to Mr Goff about speculation Israeli spies had been caught up in the February 22 earthquake in Christchurch in 2011.

The other report – the one Mr Key apparently received – does not find that his staff played any part in feeding Mr Slater information or in helping the blogger make his Official Information Act request to the SIS.

John Key is adamant the report finds no such thing. It’s a line repeated by his ministers, including the Attorney-General Chris Finlayson.

Yet on page 63 of the report Ms Gwyn states: “I did, however, find that Mr Ede provided the details of relevant documents to Mr Slater and was in fact speaking to Mr Slater by phone at the exact time that Mr Slater submitted his OIA request.”

When not publishing pieces by right-wing columnist, or editorials, all attacking this government that they are supposedly friendly to – there are other stories appearing which also paint a less-than-rosy picture of Key’s administration.

This op-ed by Bruce Bisset, last September in Hawkes Bay Today,  outlined hard facts that have rarely been published in msm papers – and usually more the province of  political blogs. Bisset wrote;

Back when Labour was in power we had constant carping about Clarke’s “nanny state” and how welfare and social reforms were running up debt like there was no tomorrow.

Still we hear that mantra repeated – and surprisingly, most of the time it goes unchallenged.

But it’s pure myth. New Zealand’s national debt was less after nine years of Labour than when they were elected. The Clarke government was fiscally ultra-conservative, because the books really did balance.

Contrast that with debt under Key’s government. Starting at around $18 billion, it has blossomed to a staggering $86 billion today. That’s a five-fold increase, in just six years.

Yes, we’ve had the global financial crisis and Canterbury earthquakes and tax cuts for the wealthy that have to be paid for somehow. We’ve also had record commodity prices, significant departmental cost-cutting, and the sell-off of major state-owned assets. Plus very little new spending.

Yet we’re running up debt at more than $13 billion per year – to merely tread water.

It doesn’t add up. These guys are supposedly the whizz-bang flash moneymen. So how come we’re so indebted it now costs over $4 billion per year just to service the interest?

Truth is, the economic recovery is itself a myth.

Since last year,  the noise surrounding Slater/txt-gate/SIS report  all but died down. They have become largely forgotten by the public who are fed a daily diet of dumbed down “news” on TV1 and TV3; puerile garbage as entertainment, but precious little serious current affairs analysis; and a dazzling, mesmerising, cornucopia of ever-increasing consumer-goods dangled in front of their slack-jawed faces.

Radio NZ temporarily joined the mind-numbing dumbness of commercial radio’s ranks from December 24 to January 19. Insight, analysis, and commentary were on temporary hiatus for nearly a month.

If the last six years have shown us one thing, it is that the next scandal and revelations of dodgy ministerial practices and inept Prime Ministerial behaviour is not too far away.

The media are alerted. The public now have some awareness of dirty politics behind the scenes. And journalists are starting to exercise a form of collective memory.

It is said that the public no longer care about politics, and that Key has “de-politicised” it. But, like the continuing bad stories that finally destroyed Jenny Shipley’s government, continuing negatives stories can have a corrosive effect on this government.

The more times Key is caught out lying or being tricky with the truth or breaking promises – the more that the public will slowly but surely distrust his “brand”.

Even four years ago, a sizeable ‘chunk’ of the public were suspicious of Key’s honesty;
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John Key - Safe hands, forked tongue
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It will only get worse for Key and his cronies. Especially as social issues continue to dog this government.

Housing is fast becoming a real problem in this country as more and more New Zealanders find themselves locked out of the market and forced into a lifetime of renting.

Housing was also a critical issue during the dying days of Shipley’s government, as they enacted an unpopular policy of selling state houses.

New Zealanders may have surrendered their Citizenship in preference to becoming zombified Consumers – but housing is a commodity, and Consumers will not be denied the opportunity to acquire said commodity.

Even if it means a change of government

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References

NZ Herald: Shipley on the run

MKiwi: Beehive Parliament Buildings Wellington

Wikipedia: 1999 General Election

Fairfax media:  Key claims confusion over texts with Slater

NZ Herald: John Key defends cost of flag referendums

Radio NZ: PM spells out IS deployment dangers

Wikipedia: Referendums in NZ

NZ Herald: John Armstrong – National’s response not good enough

NZ Herald: John Armstrong – Outrageous behaviour leaves Key on the edge

The Standard: An Honest Man?

Fairfax media: Key claims confusion over texts with Slater

The Daily Post:  Editorial – Key’s whale of a tale

NZ Herald: Fran O’Sullivan – Key’s choice: bloggers or business community

NZN: Key’s question time tactic goes wrong

Radio NZ: POWER PLAY with Brent Edwards – PM’s over-sight not very intelligent

Hawkes Bay Today: Bruce Bisset – Nats have buried us in debt

Dominion Post: John Key – Safe hands, forked tongue?

NZ History: The state steps in and out – State housing

Previous related blogposts

Are Cameron Slater and Judith Collins bare-faced liars?

Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How (Part # Rua)

Teflon Man No More

When the teflon is stripped away

Letter to the editor – Witches, foreign fighters, and other bogeymen

Associated groups

Facebook:  Housing NZ Tenants Forum

Facebook:  Tamaki Housing Group- Defend Glen Innes


 

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Key Moment cartoon memory fade.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 February 2015.

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Winston Peters recycles pledge to “buy back state assets” – where have we heard that before?

31 March 2014 5 comments

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Over the last two years (give or take), NZ First leader, Winston Peters, has stated on numerous occassions that buying back shares in the three energy SOEs (Meridian, Genesis, and Mighty River Power) will be a “bottom line” in any post-election coalition deal.

On 20 June 2012, NZ First posted this statement on their website,

New Zealand First will use its influence on the next coalition Government to buy back our state-owned power companies which are being flogged off by National.

Rt Hon Winston Peters says New Zealand First is committed to buying back the shares at no greater price than paid by the first purchaser.

“State-owned assets rightfully belong to all New Zealanders but National is intent on handing them over to rich foreign investors.

“It is simply lining the pockets of the wealthy by selling off well-performing assets that already provide the Government with extremely healthy dividends.”

Mr Peters says it is only fair to alert potential investors that New Zealand First’s intention to buy back the shares will be part of any coalition negotiations.

“As things stand now, the assets will end up in foreign ownership which is an outright attack on our sovereignty. We are committed to repelling that attack.”

The pledge was repeated on 29 November 2013;

New Zealand First is the only political party that has said since the beginning that if the Government did go ahead with this idiotic decision, then when we are in a position to influence the next Government, we would buy back the shares at a price no more than that initially paid for them.

On ‘The Nation‘, on 15/16 March, interviewed by Patrick Gower, Peters repeated NZ First policy that a share buy-back, at a cost no greater than the original purchase-price, was a bottom line policy for his Party;

Gower: So that means buying Genesis back?

Peters: That’s right. At no greater price than they paid for it.

Gower: And does that mean buying back the other power companies as well?

Peters: It means exactly that. That’s what our position has been for some time.

Gower: So that’s a priority for you in any negotiations?

Peters: It is a priority, and it also has the blessings in terms of economic calculations from Treasury.

Taken at face value, Peters’ committment to buy back shares in the powercos seems more comprehensive and radical than either the Greens or Labour. Neither have committed to buying back shares in Meridian, Genesis, and Mighty River Power until the government books allow it.

But, can Peters’ pledge be taken at face value?

Can he be trusted to make good on his word to (a) make a share buy-back a bottom-line in any coalition deal and (b) actually follow through?

His track record on such matters is not good.

On 27 September 1996,  the then-Bolger-led National government sold the Forestry Corporation of New Zealand Ltd cutting rights to a private  consortium (Fletcher Challenge Forests, 37.5%, Brierley Investments Ltd, 25%, and Chinese state-owned company,  Citifor Inc, 37.5%)

This became a major election issue in  the lead-up to the first MMP election in  1996, with the Alliance organising a CIR petition to halt the sale.

NZ First leader, Winston Peters, pledged to buy back the cutting rights, stating on several occasions that any government he was part of would “hand back the cheque“;

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The game plan - what we're all playing for - NZ First buy back forest corp

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During the election campaign, Peters stated unequivocally his intentions that the privatisation of Forestry Corp would not stand under any government he was part of;

“I want to tell the Chinese buyers and I want to tell Brierleys that they had better not make any long-range plans because the day after the election is over we will be sending them an emissary to them them exactly what is going to happen, that is, that we are going to keep out promise, they can give back the asset and we will give the money back.” – Winston Peters,  Otago Daily Times, 1 Feb 1997 (on pre-election statement/promise)

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http://fmacskasy2.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/otago-daily-times-1-february-1997-winston-peters-asset-sales-forestry-corp-buy-back-hand-back-the-cheque.jpg

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On 11 December 1996, Peters announced that he would be entering into a formal coalition arrangement with the National Party, to form the first MMP coalition government.

Subsequently, Peters’ pledge to “hand back the cheque” and buy back the forestry cutting rights, was ‘quietly’ dropped;

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NZ First ignored chance to implement own policy

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“… NZ First did not make any attempt to include  in the [Coalition] agreement its policy of placing a 24.9% limit on foreign ownership of strategic assets.

Neither did they raise the NZ First promise to buy-back Forestry Corp, which was sold earlier this year to a consortium including Fletcher Challenge.” – Otago Daily Times, 16 Dec 1996

As Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister in the National-NZ First government, Peters had ample opportunity to implement his Party’s buy-back policy. It was a promise he could have kept. And should have kept.

Instead, NZ First opted to implement National’s policy of tax cuts on 1 July 1998. With even more tax cuts promised by then-Finance Minister, Bill Birch.

This was money that Peters could have allocated and spent of re-nationalising our forests – but was instead wasted on cutting taxes, thereby reducing the ability of the coalition government to implement a buy-back, as Winston Peters had promised.

If Peters holds the balance of power after 20 September, and if he forms a coalition with either bloc, he may well carry out his promise to buy back shares in our energy utilities.

Or then again, he might not.

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References

NZ First: NZ First Committed To Buying Back State-Owned Assets

NZ First: Our asset sales buyback promise – Radio Live Column

TV3: Winston Peters: Asset buy-back ‘a priority’

FAO.org:  Devolving Forest Ownership in New Zealand: Processes, Issues and Outcomes

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

Wikipedia: CITIC Group [Citifor]

Wikipedia: Referendums in New Zealand

Otago Daily Times: Alliance quits quest for forestry petition

Otago Daily Times: NZ First ignored chance to implement own policy

Otago Daily Times: NZ First opts for National

Otago Daily Times: Further tax cuts unlikely before next century

NZPA: Birch pledges more tax cuts

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Be careful what you wish for - Key and Peters

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 16 March 2014.

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Letter to the Editor: what is a politician’s promise worth?

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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: 	 Sun, 16 Mar 2014 21:10:15 +1300
TO: 	"Sunday Star Times" letters@star-times.co.nz 

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The Editor
Sunday Star Times

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Winston Peters has pledged that his Party's bottom line is
the re-purchase of all shares in Meridian, Genesis, and
Mighty River Power at "a price no more than that initially
paid for them".

This is stated on NZ First's website, and Peter's reiterated
his pledge on TV3's 'The Nation' on 15/16 March.

I sincerely hope that Mr Peters' promise to buy back the
powerco SOEs fares better than his pledge in 1996, to buy
back Forestry Corp's timber cutting rights. Forestry Corp
was privatised by the Bolger-led National government for
around $1.6 billion to a consortium made up by Fletcher
Challenge Forests, Brierley Investments Ltd,  and Chinese
state-owned company,  Citifor Inc (now known as CITIC
Group).

Peters promised during the 1996 general election;

“I want to tell the Chinese buyers and I want to tell
Brierleys that they had better not make any long-range plans
because the day after the election is over we will be
sending them an emissary to them them exactly what is going
to happen, that is, that we are going to keep out promise,
they can give back the asset and we will give the money
back.”

The buy-back never happened, despite Mr Peters becoming
Treasurer and Deputy PM on 11 December 1996. His pledge
quietly disappeared.

Let's hope the same fate does not befall his pledge to buy
back the powerco shares.

-Frank Macskasy
(address  & phone number supplied)

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Related blogposts

Fool me Once, Shame on you

Winston Peters recycles pledge to “buy back state assets” – where have we heard that before?

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John Key: Man of Many Principles

28 September 2012 29 comments

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In case anyone has been holidaying on Planet Key lately, and missed the latest shenanigans from the Ninth Floor of the Beehive,  John Key has apparently  abandoned his earlier principles rejecting  possible coalition deals with Winston Peters. He  has found new principles of  “wait and see”.

In 2008 and 2011, Dear Leader Key was fairly adamant and all but promised to poke himself in both eyes with red-hot pokers, rather than go into any coalition with Peters,

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But this blogpost is not about Key’s ‘principles’ which, as we all know by now, are so bendy-twisty ‘flexible’ as to be positively plasticine.  When Key assures us that the sun will rise tomorrow morning, we still want to see it for ourselves. Just to make sure.

Indeed, another blogger – NZ Pundit – scarily predicted back  in August 2008  that Key’s “read-my-lips’ rejection of Winston Peters, as a possible coalition partner, was little more than a “hollow promise“, and would change overnight if National found itself desperate for a coalition partner.

See: NZ Pundit – Key’s Hollow Promise On Winston

Fast forward to 2012 – National finds itself desperate for a coalition partner.

With ACT now a Dead-Party-Walking after one scandal too many and Peter Dunne effectively a One-Man-Party, that leaves the Nats with two options;

  • The Maori Party. Does National really want to be beholden to a Maori nationalist party? Even if it is a paler-version of Hone Harawira’s Mana Party? Will the Maori Party make it back in 2014 anyway?
  • The Conservative Party. Notwithstanding it’s quasi-religious flakiness, Colin Craig has managed to alienate about 60% of the population (women and gays) plus probably everyone else with two interconnected braincells. Even if National drops the MMP Party threshold from 5% to 4%, there is no likelihood Craig will increase his electoral support.

In reality, with John Key showing the amorality of a  political  serial-adulterer, he will take whatever option is on offer. Whether his coalition bedmate is  the Maori Party  or CCCP (Colin Craig’s Conservative Party) or a menage a trois of both, concerns him nought.

As long as he can cross that magic 61 or 62 seat majority (depending on over-hangs) is his sole concern.

To achieve that end, National’s back-room strategists have been working over-time and have fixed their laser-sights on Winston Peter’s New Zealand First.

Said strategists have taken a single  approach to dealing with NZ First – with two planned outcomes.

In both scenarios, National makes overtures to NZ First and make it clear to the voting public that this time, Key will not resile from a  National-NZ First Coalition . Key will make the age of super entitlement and promise of abandonment of asset sales two prime factors that Peters will  find hard to reject. ( Peters is not as hard-line in his opposition to asset sales as he makes out.  See “Peters switch on Asset Sales“)

A third common ground between the Nats and NZ First;  if water rights is still a burning political  issue, this will move NZ First to the right, into National’s camp, as both parties have stated positions firmly rejecting Maori aspirations on this issue.

1. Yay

First scenario; Despite been seen as “cosying up” to National, NZ First retains electoral support, and makes it over the 4%/5% threshold. With Peter Dunne, John Key leads a third term of a National-led coalition government.

Outcome: win for National and John Key.

2. Nay

Second scenario;  As National electoral support drops and public hostility to John Key increases, any perceived “cosying up” between the Nats and NZ First is viewed with displeasure by Peters’ supporters.

NZ First’s supporters – traditionally seen as the “grumpy vote” – either do not bother to cast a vote on Election Day (as many of Labour’s supporters stayed away last November), or cast their vote for the Conservative Party or possibly  Labour.

NZ First fails to cross the 4%/5% threshold, and loses their seats in Parliament. In effect, National has been toxic to NZ First. Why would voters support NZ First if appears they will  be getting a National-led government? Those who vote NZ First traditionally do so as a protest vote against the incumbent government (whether Labour-led or National-led).

Outcome: win for National and John Key.

Both scenarios are a No Lose situation for National. Except that in Option #2, any perception of a “cosying up” by National to NZ First may mean the “kiss of electoral defeat” (again) for Peters. If National’s support drops further in the polls; if Key’s status of Preferred Prime Minister  wanes; and if the Nats are seen as ineffectual in a stagnating economy – does Peters want to be “tarred by association” by a Party on the way out?

Many New Zealanders – especially those in the late 30s and older – will remember the events of December 1996.

Many voters viewed NZ First’s decision to coalesce with Bolger’s National Party as an electoral betrayal – especially when Peters had made several Key-like statements during the 1996 election campaign. These statements were  unequivocal in denouncing National as a a potential coalition partner, and sent a clear message to the voting public,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Front page, Otago Daily Times, 11 December 1996

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The following three years were harsh for NZ First, culminating in it’s tearing apart in late 1998.The party split in two, with the ‘rump’ NZ First, and breakaway ‘Mauri Pacific‘, led by Tau Henare (now a National MP).

NZ First was nearly annihilated in the following year’s General Election, with Peters barely retaining his seat of Tauranga,

1996 – NZ First Party Vote: 276,603 (source) – Peters’ Electorate Vote: 18,997 (source)

1999 – NZ First Party Vote: 87,926 (source) – Peters’ Electorate Vote: 63 (source)

The message from voters was crystal clear for Peters; supporting an incumbent Party to retain power was a ‘no-go’ . People voted for NZ First to get rid of the incumbent government – not prop it up.

Cosying up with the Nats will not serve Peter’s  interests one iota. It will remind the electorate of the events of the late 1990s, and will harm popular support for NZ First.

Peters should consider; as opposition to National grows, why would people who oppose National vote for a small Party that may end up propping it up? The answer is; people will not vote for such a small Party.

This should serve as a warning to Peters and his Party: coalesce with National at your peril. History can repeat.

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Peters ‘sorry’ about coalition – NZPA – 14 September 1998

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Previous Related Blogposts

Ministers, Mad Moralists, and Minor Parties

Additional

Otago Daily Times – NZ First leads in ‘most loathed’ poll  (8 October 1999)

Dominion Post – Key rules Peters out of National’s future (27 August 2008)

Sean Plunket – PM should ponder the Orwellian switch to the farmhouse (22 Sept 2012)

TV3 – Duncan Garner: John Key refuses to rule out Winston Peters (24 Sept  2012)

TV3 – Peters welcomes National coalition (25 Sept 2012)

TV3 – Video:  Peters welcomes National coalition (25 Sept 2012)

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