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Posts Tagged ‘National Party’

Letter to the Editor: National Party election lies start early?

16 January 2014 2 comments

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FROM:     “f.macskasy”
SUBJECT:     Letter to the ed
DATE:     Thu, 16 Jan 2014 12:12:32 +1300
TO:     “Sunday Star Times” <letters@star-times.co.nz>

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Letters to the editor
Sunday Star Times

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I note that the National Party has started it's election
campaign early, with the spread of propaganda claiming
credit for low inflation and low interest rates.

This is disingenuous in the extreme.

Low inflation was a consequence of the Global Financial
Crisis; low consumer demand; reduced export receipts; and
cheap money. Unless the National Party Party is claiming
responsibility for the Global Financial Crisis, low
inflation was a natural consequence of a worldwide recession
and not by any 'Herculean' efforts by Southland farmer and
MP, Bill English.

As for claiming credit for low interest rates - what
rubbish! Most people will be well aware that these are set
by the Reserve Bank via it's OCR announcements. Unless
National has changed the Reserve Bank Act and interest rates
are now set from the Beehive? When did this happen?

And if the Nats are claiming credit for current low interest
rates - will they also claim responsibility when interest
rates are expected to be hiked to 7.5% to 8% later this
year?

Or will they blame that on the previous Labour government,
as Key often does?

The Nats must be desperate for good news if they have
resorted to fabricating "facts".

-Frank Macskasy
(address & phone number supplied)

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= fs =

Latest Roy Morgan Poll: next govt too close to call?

15 December 2013 12 comments

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The latest Roy Morgan Poll has a dead tie between National and a Labour-Green coalition. Both are currently polling at 45%.

The actual Party figures are as follows;

National-led bloc,

National – 45%

Maori Party* – 1.5%

ACT* – 0%

United Future*** – 0%

Translated into National-led Seats:  54 (N) + 1 UF = 55

Labour-led bloc,

Labour – 30.5%

Greens – 14.5%

Mana*** – 1%

Translated into Labour-led Seats: 37 (L) + 18 (G) + 1 = 56

Wild cards,

Conservative Party** – 2% (nil seats)

NZ First – 5% (6 seats)

Number of respondents who refused to name a Party: 4%.

Assuming that,

  1. The Conservatives win no seats nor cross the 5% threshold;
  2. Peter Dunne and Hone Harawira retain their electorate seats but do not win any more, nor increase their Party vote;
  3. ACT loses Epsom and does not cross the 5% threshold;
  4. and the Maori Party lose all three seats;

That leaves NZ First as the “King Maker”. And if, as this blogger suspects, Peters may decide to coalesce with National,  that would create  a repeat of the 1996 Election.

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That coalition deal ended in disaster for Peters And nearly destroyed his Party.

However, things are not quite so simple. Check out the Roy Morgan graph below. Specifically, focus on polling leading up to the 2011 election. Notice how as both Parties campaign, National’s support drops whilst Labour’s rises (1)?

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Roy Morgan 11 december 2013

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In between elections, Opposition parties support falls away. In comparison to nightly media coverage for government ministers and policies, Opposition Parties do not gain similar coverage of their policies. Parties like Labour and the Greens are severely restricted to five-second soundbites.

It was only when Labour and the Greens announced the NZ Power policy on 18 April this year that the Labour and Green Parties rose in the polls (2).

Next year’s election should be no different; Opposition Parties support will rise as their  policies are put before the public, whilst Government support will fall as voters consider alternatives.

This blogger still predicts that we are on course for a change in government next year and we will be looking at a Labour-Green-Mana Coalition government.

Additional to that, I predict;

  1. ACT will not win any seats in Parliament and will eventually suffer the same fate as the Alliance Party,
  2. Peter Dunne will retain his seat by the barest margin. It will be his last term in Parliament,
  3. Paula Bennett will lose her seat but return on the Party List,
  4. National will fare badly in Christchurch’s electorates,
  5. The Conservative Party will not win any seats, electorate or List,
  6. The Maori Party will lose all three current electorate seats, back to Labour,
  7. John Key will resign as National’s leader and the following leadership power-struggle between Judith Collins, Steven Joyce, and Bill English will be brutal. Collins will win, with Cameron Slater throwing nasty dirt at Joyce and English,
  8. If NZ First coalesces with National, expect one or two of it’s MPs to defect or resign from Parliament,
  9. A new Labour-led coalition will govern for three terms, minimum,
  10. Collins will be ousted after a dismal showing by National in 2017, and the Party will pull back to a more moderate, centrist position.It will reassert it’s pledge not to sell any further state assets.

Really, politics is more entertaining than any “reality” show on TV.

And as always, Roy Morgan is the only poll that calls cellphones as well as landlines.

* Not expected to survive the 2014 election.

** Not currently represented in Parliament

*** Electorate-based Party only

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 12 December 2013.

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References

Roy Morgan Poll – 11 December 2013

Previous related blogposts

Census, Surveys, and Cellphones

Mr Morgan phoned

Another good poll for a LabourGreen government

Census, Surveys, and Cellphones (Part rua)

Census, Surveys, and Cellphones…

Census, Surveys, and Cellphones

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= fs =

Message to National Party supporters…

11 July 2013 1 comment

… when Labour and the Greens are  elected into power, will you still be ok with the government surveilling you through the new GCSB law? After all, if you have nothing to fear, and nothing to hide, you won’t mind if the government keeps tab on you. Like what kind of porn you’re watching. Or if you’re having an affair. Or maybe you haven’t declared every dollar you’ve made from Trade Me.

And like ACC, WINZ, and other government departments, the information stored on you will be completely “secure”. Well, mostly secure.

But National Party supporters should be ok with that.

Nothing to hide.

Nothing to fear.

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= fs =

Categories: The Body Politic Tags: ,

Crony Watch!

18 November 2012 21 comments

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Cronywatch*…

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…Keeping an eye on dodgy government appointees, crony-by-crony!

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In this on-going Thread, I will be reporting on blatant political cronyism from this current government. Considering that the NBR ceased their version of  “Cronywatch” in late 2008, I thought it would be helpful if folks knew what John Key and his government were up to.

Cronyism is when appointments to various quangos, Boards, organisations, departments, and even unofficial positions, are made for no other apparent reason than their membership, or close affialiation to, the National government. Governments do this for various reasons; to keep on eye on things; to try to influence decision-making; to ensure that their policies are carried out according to their agenda; and perhaps even a bit of  ‘pay back‘.

This sort of thing was/is verey commonplace under authoritarian regimes where democracy and an independent civil service are alien concepts. So it is more than a little disturbing when we find such occurrences here, in little old Godzone.

So every time I find a political appointee, I’ll report it here. With each up-date added to this Thread, I’ll ‘bump‘ it back up to the top of Recent Posts.

And now for some cronies…

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Catherine Isaac

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Catherine Isaac

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Catherine Isaac,

Party positions held:

Government appointments:

Despite having zero experience in the education sector, Ms Isaac was appointed by ACT MP, John “I-Don’t-Know-I-Can’t-Recall”  Banks to chair the Charter School Working Group. Ms Isaac’s only tenuous links to educatuion is that she has served on a School Board. (In which case, I look forward to serving on a DHB and thereafter beginning  a practice in brain surgery…)

As most folk know, Charter Schools is an ACT policy. Ms Isaac was appointed by ACT MP, John “What-helicopter-flights?” Banks.  And Ms Isaac is an ACT Party member, ex-candidate, and President.

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Belinda Milnes

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Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has appointed a former official from her own office to the board of the Families Commission.

Belinda Milnes, a former senior policy adviser for Mrs Bennett, has been appointed to the commission for three years.

The minister has been unavailable to discuss the appointment, but in a statement says Ms Milnes understands social policy and is the best person for the job.”

Source: Radio NZ – Bennett appoints former official to commission board

Interestingly, Paula Bennett made no mention of Ms Milnes’ connection with her office when she released this media statement,

” Social Development Minister Paula Bennett today announced two new appointments to the Families Commission.

Sir Peter Gluckman and Belinda Milnes have been appointed to the Board of the Families Commission for a period of three years.

The Families Commission is currently undergoing a restructure to assume its new role providing independent monitoring, evaluation and research.

“We’ve appointed the best people for the job to oversee a major change programme within the Families Commission,” says Mrs Bennett.

The Government is reprioritising a minimum of $14.2 million of the $32.48 million funding the Families Commission receives over four years to set up a new Social Policy Evaluation and Research Unit (SuPERU).

“This unit will provide research and best practise advice to government and non-government organisations,” says Mrs Bennett.

This unit will independently monitor and evaluate programmes and initiatives in the social sector, a job currently done largely by Government Departments.

“I believe giving this role to an independent body will see more community organisations entering into robust evaluation and monitoring”. “

Source: Appointments to Families Commission

I wonder how much ” independent monitoring, evaluation and research” will be produced by the new “Social Policy Evaluation and Research Unit ” when it is staffed by National Party appointees who have been functionaries within a Minister’s office?

At least the Minister will hear only what she wants to hear, with no pesky dissenting opinions upsetting her day…

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Richard Long

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Former National Party chief of staff Richard Long has been appointed to the board of TVNZ.

[...] He spent two years as chief of staff for National leaders Bill English and Don Brash after leaving the Dominion in 2002.”

Source: Former National Party chief of staff appointed to TVNZ board

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Katherine Rich (#2)

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

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Frank  Macskasy Blog  Frankly Speaking

(L-R) National MPs Simon Powell, Katherine Rich, former National leader Don Brash, National MPs Nathan Guy and Gerry Brownlee applaud John Key as he delivers his speech as the New Zealand National Party launch their election campaign at Sky City on October 12, 2008 in Auckland, New Zealand.

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The latest cronyist-appointment is (again)  former National MP and CEO  of the Food and Grocery Council,  Katherine Rich, to the newly formed  Health Promotion Agency.

The Council  represents a $15 billion food and beverage industry and exerts considerable influence on food legislation and trade practices.

The Council was a vocal opponant, and campaigned against,   mandatory inclusion of vitamin B9 (folic acid) in bread (to prevent crippling  birth defects such as spina bifida) and  anti-obesity proposals such as taxing  sugar. It supports liberal trading policies for alcohol.

Party positions held:

Government appointments:

The Health Promotion Agency incorporates  the Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand (ALAC), the Health Sponsorship Council and other  promotion work by the Ministry of Health.

ALAC was an organisation tasked with addressing the growing incidence of alcohol abuse in this country. This increasingly destructive social  problem  has been calculated to be a $4 billion-plus crisis in our society, wasting valuable health, police, judicial, and ACC  resources, and impacting on employment and family life.

It therefore seems somewhat incongruous to appoint a person who  in deeply involved in the alcohol industry in a government body that has a role in identifying and addressing alcohol problems in our society.

In fact, one could see this as a conflict of interest. John Key’s bland assurances therefore sound rather hollow,

I’m comfortable that she’ll be able to manage any conflict….It’s important that a board has a range of different views.” – Source

Key’s views on the Food and Grocery Council’s emotion-laden campaign against folic acid was no less derisable,

The debate wasn’t around whether folic acid might or might not work. It was about people’s rights to have that put in every piece of bread. There’s quite a difference there.”

Unfortunately,  Mr Key fails to realise that foetuses deprived of this critical vitamin B9; are born with spina bifida; and spend their entire (shortened) lives in a wheelchair, have no such “rights” to choose. Foetuses rely on adults to consume appropriate foods and beverages.

Way to go, Mr Key. The manipulation of public opinion on this issue  by the Food and Grocery Council was predicated on saving money for the food industry.

But it’s taxpayers who have to pick up the medical and welfare tab for people with neural tube defects (spina bifida).

That, plus the Food and Grocery Council’s staunch advocacy for the proliferation of alcohol retailing, makes Ms Rich wholly inappropriate for this new government body.

Ms Rich has neo-liberal views on the production and retailing of alcohol,

The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) and Alcohol Advisory Council (Alac) strongly backed the recommendations.

Alac chief executive Gerard Vaughan said it set out a clear objective of reducing alcohol-related harm which stretched to structure and role changes for the district licensing agencies responsible for managing liquor licensing in their own communities.

Communities up and down the country were sick of the violence and vandalism that came with drinking and that proposed changes to licencing regimes would help address the problem, Mr Vaughan said.

Nearly 3000 submissions were received by the commission, many of which supported the tightening of laws around alcohol sales, purchasing and consumption.

But NZ Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich said the report reflected “classic nanny state thinking.”

It failed to target those causing the problems and punished everyone, she said. The industry was already one of the most regulated, and more sensible ways to approach existing problems included better enforcement of current rules and better use of legal powers, along with industry-led initiatives.”   Source

Final word to someone more concerned with social issues (rather than profits),

Professor Sellman says supermarkets normalise alcohol as an ordinary commodity and sell it by the tonne at ultra-cheap prices up to 24 hours a day.

He believes Ms Rich’s appointment is a major conflict of interest and indicates the Government wants to have the alcohol industry strongly represented in its preparations for the new agency.

“Seventy percent of the alcohol that’s sold in New Zealand comes through supermarkets and here we have a person in Katherine Rich who’s a staunch defender of the excessive commercialisation of alcohol, particularly though supermarkets, and she’s on a board that is presumably about decreasing the heavy drinking culture”. Source, Radio NZ

See:   Lobbyist appointment no conflict: Key

See:   BERL Report Costs of harmful alcohol and other drug use

See:   Journal of the New Zealand Medical Association: Folic acid and neural tube defects in New Zealand: a cautionary tale?

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Other blogs

The Standard: Katherine Rich on the Health Promotion Board: The next outrageous piece of Nat cronyism

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Roger Sowry

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Roger Sowry has been a National Party MP from 1990 to 2005 – five consecutive terms.  The first two terms were as MP for Kapiti, the latter three as a Party List MP.  He became Chief Executive of Arthritis New Zealand, and then worked at Saunders Unsworth,as a “consultant on Government matters” (ie; lobbyist).

Party positions held:

  • National MP 1990 – 2005
  • 1993, appointed Junior Party Whip
  • 1995, appointed Senior Party Whip
  • 1996, appointed Minister for Social Welfare
  • 1998, appointed Minister of Social Services, Work and Income; Minister in charge of War Pensions;  Minister responsible for the Housing Corporation; and Associate Minister of Health
  • Appointed Deputy Leader of  National Government from October 2001 to October 2003

Government appointments:

Prime Minister John Key said he would not describe Mr Sowry as a party hack and he was qualified for the job.   “We are not going to preclude people solely because they’ve been involved with the National Party. If we were to do that then the talent pool is going to be substantially reduced,” Mr Key said. – Source

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Wyatt Creech

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Party positions held:

Government appointments:

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Judy Kirk

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Party positions held:

Government appointments:

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Jim McLay

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Party positions held:

Government appointments:

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Penny Webster

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Party Positions held:

Government appointments:

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Brian Neeson

Ravi Musuku

Ken Shirley

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(L-R) Brian Neeson – Ken Shirley – Ravi Musuku

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All three men were appointed to the Human Rights Review Tribunal.  All three have connectionas to National, or in Ken Shirley’s case, to ACT, one of National’s coalition partners.

Brian Neeson

Party positions held:

Government appointments:

The appoint was made by the Minister -  without being interviewed, as is the usual process,

“It is the chair’s view that without interviews by an appropriately selected interview panel, the process will not provide an opportunity to properly assess the candidates suitability,” advice to Power in July last year said.

“The required skills cannot be evaluated without interview. He [Mr Hindle] has also expressed concern that the suggested appointment of member without interview would be at odds with the practice of past years“.” – Source

Which was unfortunate, as Neeson has a shocking record for anti-gay/lesbian beliefs that can only be described as homophobic.  He consistently voted against including gays/lesbians in protective Human Rights legislation and voted against legislation to outlaw employment discrimination based on gender. (See ” National’s version of ‘human rights’ ” at Tumeke, for full details.)

It is difficult to understand how someone of Mr Neeson’s beliefs can contribute to human rights issues in NZ, unless his appointment is specifically designed to curtail human rights for women and minority groups?

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Ravi Musuku

Party positions held:

Government appointments:

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Ken Shirley

Party positions held:

Government appointments:

Statement on Maori:

Graduation day at Te Wananga. Soon after the Labour Government came to office it started showering money on all things Maori. ” – NZ Herald

Soon after the Labour Government came to office, ushering in its flagship ‘Closing the Gaps’ programmes. It started showering money on all things Maori. ” – Ibid

Out of this Te Wananga o Aotearoa pocketed $5.8 million and said that would go a long way towards providing for its growth. ” – Ibid

But the Government went further. Closing the Gaps demanded even more taxpayer money be thrown at Maori. ” – Ibid

Despite its apparent concern, it has continued to shovel huge sums of taxpayer money to this institution – all in the name of the treaty. ” – Ibid

The Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commissioners have foreshadowed that the decision to allow the Maori Land Court to hear iwi claims to the foreshore and seabed of the Marlborough Sounds opens the way for similar claims around the country” ACT New Zealand Deputy Leader Ken Shirley said today.

I now call upon Prime Minister Helen Clark to act consistently, and to declare such claims off limits -as she recently did in the case of the claim for oil and gas reserves. In this instance, it was made quite clear that oil, gas and mineral reserves were vested in the Crown by legislation in 1937.”Press releases on Court of Appeal decision on foreshores and seabed, Recreation Access

I am again calling on the Labour Government to act decisively. It must spell out the bounds to claims – in order to prevent undue anxiety for tens of thousands of New Zealanders, and to ensure that iwi don’t waste any more time and money pursuing claims that should be off limits.” – Ibid

Hopefully Mr Shirley’s anti-Treaty and knee-jerk anti-Maori  beliefs will not be carried over to the Human Rights Review Tribunal.

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.(Acknowledgement: David M. and Tumeke)

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Wayne Mapp

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Wayne Mapp (L) and John Key (R)

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Announced on 28 February 2012 by Judith Collins, the Minister Responsible for the Law Commission;  the appointment of  National’s  former Defence Minister, Wayne Mapp to the Commission.

Party positions held:

  • National MP from 1996 to 2011
  • Appointed as “Political Correctness Eradicator” in October 2005, by former National Party leader, Don Brash
  • Chair of National Caucus Policy Committee
  • Minister of Defence
  • Minister of Science and Innovation

Government appointments:

  • New Zealand  Law Commission

The Law Commission is an independent Crown entity under the Crown Entities Act 2004. It is funded by government and reviews areas of the law that need updating, reforming or developing. It makes recommendations to Parliament, and these recommendations are published in our report series.  The Law Commission helps to maintain the quality of New Zealand law to meet the current and future needs of our rapidly changing society. The Commission’s objective is to improve the quality, relevance and effectiveness of New Zealand law, by informing and supporting discussion on and making recommendations to Parliament for law reform.” – Source

I suspect that the Law Commission may have just become a somewhat less “independent Crown entity “.

(Acknowledgement: David M.)

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Kerry Prendergast

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L-R: John Banks (obscured), John Key, Maurice Williamson, Kerry Prendergast

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Best known as Wellington’s mayor from 2001 – 2010, Prendergast is also a member of the National Party.

Party positions held:

Government appointments:

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Sir Wira Gardiner

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Full Story

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Party Positions held:

Government appointments:

1. Background

2. Background

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Stephen McElrea

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Party Positions held:

Government Appointments:

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Some weeks ago, a furore erupted when NZ on Air boardmember, Stephen McElrea, complained about the broadscasting of a document on TV3, just four days before the Elections last year.

The documentary was a highly critical look at growing child poverty in this country.

The timing of the documentary’s broadcasting  was criticised by Stephen McElrea, who complained that it was highly politicised and could impact of NZ on Air’s “impartiality”. There were suggestion made that NZ on Air should have authority over when programme  should be broadcast.

Some weeks ago, a furore erupted when NZ on Air boardmember, Stephen McElrea, complained about the broadscasting of a document on TV3, just four days before the Elections last year.

The documentary was a highly critical look at growing child poverty in this country.

The timing of the documentary’s broadcasting  was criticised by Stephen McElrea, who complained that it was highly politicised and could impact of NZ on Air’s “impartiality”. There were suggestion made that NZ on Air should have authority over when programme  should be broadcast.

***Update***

It appears that Stephen McElrea was part of a working group that has committed NZ on Air funding to a “documentary” on Whanau Ora.

Whanau Ora is a government department created under the National-Maori Party Coalition arrangement after the 2008 General Election.

NZ On Air states that the “documentary” will  look  at “how successful this new initiative will be in assisting NZ’s most deprived families” and that it would be  “a behind the scenes look at the roll out of this new initiative that seeks to deliver positive social outcomes for Maori“.

It is somewhat difficult to see how a documentary could determine that Whanau Ora  can be a “successful… new initiative … in assisting NZ’s most deprived families” when it is still barely operating. There have been no assessments or measured outcomes yet (to my knowledge) that would merit a “documentary” on Whanau Ora’s “success” or otherwise.

The fact that Stephen McElrea was a participant in the decision-making process to fund this “documentary/propaganda” is clear evidence that NZ On Airs  independence has been compromised.

This is the result of  government cronyism.

Source:  Call for McElrea to resign from NZ On Air

Additional

Scoop.co.nz:  PM has questions to answer over NZ on Air link

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Catherine Isaac

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An announcement was made on 1 February that ACT  member;  former ACT Party List candidate, and former ACT Party President, Catherine Isaac,  had been appointed to oversee the introduction of the government’s Charter  Schools programme in South Auckland and Christchurch. Ms Isaacs has no formal experience in the education field.

John Banks defended Isaac’s appointment was stating that she has sat of a School Board of Trustees for six years.

In which case, if I sat on a District Health board for a similar period of  time, would that qualify me to carry out  thoracic open-heart surgery? Well, I guess that would be one way to “train” our doctors on the cheap and get rid of that pesky, expensive Med School in Dunedin.

Party Positions held:

Government Appointments:

It seems abundantly obvious that Isaac’s appointment is to ensure that ACT’s Charter School policy is implemented without usual critical oversight, and to further ensure that results are presented in a “positive light” to the public.

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Katherine Rich (#1)

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(L-R) National MPs Simon Powell, Katherine Rich, former National leader Don Brash, National MPs Nathan Guy and Gerry Brownlee applaud John Key as he delivers his speech as the New Zealand National Party launch their election campaign at Sky City on October 12, 2008 in Auckland, New Zealand.

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The National-led Government is defending its appointment of the Food and Grocery Council chief executive to a board which will set up a new health promotion agency.

Katherine Rich has been appointed to the Health Promotion Agency Establishment Board, which replaces the Alcohol Advisory Council.

The move has outraged advocacy group Alcohol Action. Spokesperson Doug Sellman says Ms Rich has been one of the most vociferous defenders of the alcohol industry.

Professor Sellman says supermarkets normalise alcohol as an ordinary commodity and sell it by the tonne at ultra-cheap prices up to 24 hours a day.

He believes Ms Rich’s appointment is a major conflict of interest and indicates the Government wants to have the alcohol industry strongly represented in its preparations for the new agency.

“Seventy percent of the alcohol that’s sold in New Zealand comes through supermarkets and here we have a person in Katherine Rich who’s a staunch defender of the excessive commercialisation of alcohol, particularly though supermarkets, and she’s on a board that is presumably about decreasing the heavy drinking culture.”

The Labour Party agrees the appointment of Katherine Rich is too much a conflict of interest.” – Source, Radio NZ

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The Radio NZ report does raise an important question regarding her appointment to  the Health Promotion Agency Establishment Board, which replaces the Alcohol Advisory Council.

ALAC was an organisation dedicated to raising awareness of New Zealand’s considerable alcohol related (some say fueled) problems.

2009 BERL report estimated that “$4.437 million of diverted resources and lost welfare” could be directly attributed to alcohol abuse. That $4.4 billion  is reflected in  ACC, hospital admissions, crime, family violence, lost productivity, etc, and places a firm dollar cost on the harm that alcohol abuse is causing NZ society. These are costs we all pay for through ACC levies and taxes spent on medical intervention; policing; and the justice system.

Whilst working for the Food and Grocery Council, Ms Rich was a firm advocate of liberal laws surrounding marketting and retailing of alcohol,

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The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) and Alcohol Advisory Council (Alac) strongly backed the recommendations.

Alac chief executive Gerard Vaughan said it set out a clear objective of reducing alcohol-related harm which stretched to structure and role changes for the district licensing agencies responsible for managing liquor licensing in their own communities.

Communities up and down the country were sick of the violence and vandalism that came with drinking and that proposed changes to licencing regimes would help address the problem, Mr Vaughan said.

Nearly 3000 submissions were received by the commission, many of which supported the tightening of laws around alcohol sales, purchasing and consumption.

But NZ Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich said the report reflected “classic nanny state thinking.”

It failed to target those causing the problems and punished everyone, she said. The industry was already one of the most regulated, and more sensible ways to approach existing problems included better enforcement of current rules and better use of legal powers, along with industry-led initiatives.”   Source

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New Zealand has a $4 billion-plus problem with alcohol abuse (BERL report) and Katherine Rich dismissed attempts to address this crisis as “classic nanny state thinking“?

It is worthwhile reflecting that since liquor laws were de-regulated in the mid 1980s (as part of the wave of Rogernomics “reforms”), that 25 years later things have gotten steadily worse.

Party positions held:

Government appointments:

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Mervyn English

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Full Story

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Though the State Services Commissioner  did find that they were satisfied with English’s appointment, one has to question why  the position was not publicly advertised, as is common practice?

Even if the SSC is satisfied of no inappropriateness, this brings up a valid point; how can we differentiate between blatant political appointees and those made on merit, if the entire system is brought into disrepute? Public perception is growing that this government is stacking various organisation Boards with party apparatchiks – and judging by recent events, that perception is not misplaced.

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Jenny Shipley

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Party Positions held:

  • National Party MP 1987 – 2002
  • Various ministerial portfolios
  • Prime Minister 1997 – 1999

Government appointments:

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Carried on at Frankly Speaking: Crony Watch

* Carrying on, where the National Business Review left of, in November 2008. (Which, by sheer coincidence, is when National took power.)

 

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= fs =

An Open Message to National voters…

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With unemployment soaring to 7.3%, the highest in thirteen years…

As international speculators push up the value of the Kiwi dollar, wrecking our export sector…

As the gulf between poor and wealthy grows…

As the migration of New Zealanders to Australia continues to increase…

I’m happy to announce to the 1,058,636 people who voted for John Key,  that National has their priorities  carefully sorted,

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Source

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Isn’t it reassuring for National Party voters that Key and his Ministers are carefully focused on… punctuation.

And all paid for out of our taxes.

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= fs =

Power Struggle in the National Party?!

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Full Story

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It seems that National’s right-wing faction is starting to flex it’s muscles.

More disturbingly, this faction – which includes shadowy National apparatchik, Michael Lusk – has also been connected to ACT and the anti-MMP coterie, “Vote for Change”.,

Another important figure is Simon Lusk, a specialist in negative political campaigns, an adviser to a number of National MPs, and a key figure in the Brash/Hide coup. Brash’s putsch was about as negative as a political campaign can get, and sources say that some of Lusk’s National mates were angry with him about it

Lusk, 38, is based in Hawke’s Bay and is a tough political activist and a well-known hunter and fisher. He has helped run campaigns for a number of National MPs, and was involved in National’s 2005 discussions with the Brethren church. He hunts with Williams.

Another hunter helping in the campaign is National blogger Cameron Slater, known as Whale Oil. “I’m going shooting with him [Lusk] next week,” Slater told the Star-Times. He also said Lusk “may well be [involved in the campaign], but that’s up to him if he wants to do that.” “

See:  Right has MMP in its sights

Simon Lusk is also closely involved with right-wing blogger, and National Party provocateur, Cameron Slater.

Lusk has been closely connected with several National MPs and has assisted with their elected campaigns,

But Lusk is a gifted operator. Besides the Brash coup, he helped National’s Louise Upston win Taupo in 2008 – she thanked him “from the bottom of her heart” in her maiden speech for leading the campaign. Maungakiekie National MP Sam Lotu-Iiga thanked Lusk in his maiden speech in 2008 for his “shrewd counsel”.

In 2005, Lusk was running National’s campaign in the Napier electorate, and was involved with discussions with the Exclusive Brethren and their undeclared campaign to back National, as Nicky Hager’s book The Hollow Men reveals. Lusk keeps out of the limelight, but it is known that he lives in Waipawa and works for The Venulum Group, a wealth management firm based in the British Virgin Islands.”

- Ibid

He was also implicated in Don Brash’s now-infamous coup d’état of the ACT Party, which saw the over-throw and replacement of Rodney Hide as Party Leader, and other shady dealings,

Behind the scenes, key players will be Simon Lusk and Jordan Williams, two men who played major roles in Don Brash’s recent ACT Leadership coup.

Simon Lusk is an adviser to many National MPs and was involved in National’s 2005 discussions with the Exclusive Brethren, exposed in the Nicky Hager book ‘The Hollow Men’.  “

See:  Anti-MMP campaigners motives criticised

Lusk’s name also came up in the Nick Smith/Bronwyn Pullar/ACC/Michelle Boag/Judith Collins fiasco,

” Confirmation that Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff will investigate the email’s trail from Ms Boag to an eventual report in the Herald on Sunday came as Labour claimed Ms Collins, National Party operative Simon Lusk and right-wing blogger Cameron Slater all played a part in the leak. “

See:  Probe into email leak welcome, says Collins

TV3 thought it enough of a story to air this segment on it’s 6PM News Broadcast tonight (8 May),

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Source

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(As a side note, John Key’s memory seems to be as poor as John Banks. The water in the Beehive should perhaps be tested for memory-eating microbes.)

What is cause for concern is that National MP Michael Woodhouse told the Board,

“Candidates College
Michael reported that he has had a discussion with those MPs that have had an involvement with Simon Lusk. He has let them know that it is not appropriate for any MPs to engage with any alternative Candidates’ School that is not sanctioned by the Party. He said that this has been understood by all.

He noted that these discussions had given rise to further discussion about the Party’s Candidates College and the gap in content that it potentially has.

He reported that Simon Lusk is running a further meeting purportedly aimed at educating local body aspirants. This has led some in Caucus to ask where the Party is positioned with local Body politics particularly in Auckland. Some Caucus members feel that they should be involved in this training programme. Michael believes however that they should remain distant and will have that discussion with those MPs.

Update on Simon Lusk
Michael reported a disturbing discussion that he has had with Simon Lusk that highlighted his motivations and a very negative agenda for the Party.
It was agreed that light needs to be shed on these issues with key influencers within the Party.
It was further agreed that his agenda represents a serious risk to the Party and this issue will be followed up with a further meeting between the President and the Whip.”

See:   Scoop -  Leaked National Party Bd Minutes Re, Simon Lusk

Considering that Lusk has right wing tendencies;  and if Woodhouse considered Lusk’s comments to be “disturbing” and “very negative”;  then it is a fairly safe assumption that Simon Lusk has an agenda to push National so far to the right of the political spectrum – as to make ACT thoroughly redundant.

This would make National un-electable for the next few decades, at least. But how much damage could a far-right National-led governmment do in the meantime, until it was thrown out of office?

In a previous blogpiece, on 29 March,  I wrote this about Lusk’s hunting chum, Cameron Slater,

Using Third Parties such as Slater, to spread muck has it’s inherent dangers.

Eventually, the entanglements and the copious volumes of information at the hands of  someone like Slater creates it’s own risks for his  “handler(s)”. Slater will have  considerable dirt on those who have leaked information to him. He  will have to be “kept sweet”,  to deny him cause to go rogue and threaten to disclose information  embarressing to those who have fed him material in the past.”

See: Born to Rule

I have no doubt the same applies to Simon Lusk.

In the 1990s, the Alliance Party was be-devilled by a marxist-leninist faction known as “Permanent Revolution”. Though tiny in number, they were a disruptive influence. The Party hierarchy took action and expelled the faction, on the basis that PR was a separate party, and therefore conflicted with the Alliance’s membership rules.

National may have no choice but to distance itself from Simon Lusk, Cameron Slater, and their associate,  Jordan Williams. The last thing the Nats need right now is a small cabal of agitators within their ranks.

Not that I have any great love for National – but an unstable government will ‘spook’ the markets, raising interest rates, and mess up my mortgages.

It’s time to “clean house”, Mr Key.

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Other Blogs

Waitakere News: Has Banks been training Key how to answer questions about Simon Lusk?

The Standard:  Nat Civil War: ceasefire breached

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Three Questions to Key, Williamson, Coleman, et al…

22 April 2012 2 comments

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National released this media statement on Scoop.co.nz yesterday, when they announced their intention to proceed with the sale of the Crafar farms to Shanghai Pengxin,

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Ministers approve Crafar farms bid

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Friday, 20 April 2012, 11:22 am
Press Release: New Zealand Government

Hon Maurice Williamson
Minister for Land Information

Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman
Associate Minister of Finance

20 April 2012
Media Statement

Ministers approve Crafar farms bid

Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson and Associate Finance Minister Jonathan Coleman have approved the new recommendation of the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) to grant consent to Milk New Zealand Holding Limited to acquire the 16 Crafar farms

“New Zealand has a transparent set of laws and regulations around overseas investment,” Mr Williamson says.

“Those rules recognise the benefits that appropriate overseas investment can bring, while providing a range of safeguards to protect New Zealanders’ interests. They are applied evenly to all applications, regardless of where they are from.

“We have sought to apply the law in accordance with the provisions of the Overseas Investment Act and the guidance of the High Court.

“We have carefully considered the OIO’s new recommendation. The OIO sought advice from Crown Law and independent legal advice from David Goddard QC. The Ministers also sought advice and clarification from Mr Goddard.

“We are satisfied that on even the most conservative approach this application meets the criteria set out in the Act and is consistent with the High Court’s judgment.”

Dr Coleman said the consent came with stringent conditions.

“These 27 conditions have been imposed to ensure Milk New Zealand’s investment delivers substantial and identifiable benefits to New Zealand,” Dr Coleman says.

The conditions require Milk New Zealand to invest $16 million into the farms and to protect and enhance heritage sites

“The combined effect of the benefits being delivered to New Zealand as a result of this transaction is substantial.”

A copy of the OIO’s new recommendation is at: http://www.linz.govt.nz/sites/default/files/docs/overseas-investment/oio-recommendation-crafar-farms-20120420.pdf

A copy of the OIO’s decision summary is at: http://www.linz.govt.nz/sites/default/files/docs/overseas-investment/decision-summary-201110035.pdf

ENDS

Source

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Jonathan Coleman says that, ” The combined effect of the benefits being delivered to New Zealand as a result of this transaction is substantial. 

Maurice Williamson sez, ” Those rules recognise the benefits that appropriate overseas investment can bring…

And Our Dear Leader, John Key, smiles, waves, and said,

Ministers could have overturned that decision, but there were no reasons to do so. The OIO correctly interpreted the legislation, and had they turned it down simply on the basis of being Chinese, it would not only be unlawful but unacceptable and would have been overturned in the courts.” – Source

The questions I have for John Key, Maurice Williamson, Jonathan Coleman, et al in  National are;

  1. What possible benefit is there to  New Zealand when the Crafar farms owe a massive $216 million to predominantly Dutch and Australian  banks; the sale to Shanghai Pengxin is for $210 million; and the purchasers intend to invest only an addition $14 million in the 16 farms – $875,000 per farm? The proceeds for the sale of the Crafar farms will not stay in New Zealand – they will flow back to Australia.
  2. How can the sale of a revenue-earning asset (eg, farms) to overseas investors be ‘beneficial’ to New Zealand when the profits from those assets will flow overseas, to offshore bank accounts. Profits will  not be spent nor further re-invested in this country.
  3. Considering that New Zealand is a world leader in dairy production, what does Shanghai Pengxin – a company specialising in property development (the sixth largest in China; Appendix 5, para 42) and not dairying – have to offer us that the alternative New Zealand consortium, led by Michael Fay, and other local dairy farmers could not? Is this, effectively a vote of No Confidence in local farmers?

Several politicians have made several comments that the new Chinese owners will bring ‘new skills and innovation’ to our dairying industry.

This blogger finds that rather hard to believe. All of a sudden, New Zealanders are incapable of developing their own farms?

But perhaps the issues we should be most concerned out is a loss of revenue from those farms, as profits are repatriated overseas.

Michael Fay estimates we could lose $15 million per annum once the farms are producing milk for export,

Sir Michael says at the forecast payout of $6.35 a share, the new owners would earn $30 million a year, half of which will go to state-owned enterprise Landcorp for farming the land.

“This transaction with Shanghai Pengxin is a very, very bad investment for New Zealand. It doesn’t stack up on any economic basis,” said Sir Michael.

“It’s hard to see that half of it going overseas constitutes an economic benefit to this country. It’s a cost, it’s hard to define it as an investment”. ” – Source

And Bernard Hickey wrote about our loss of income as we sold more and more assets into overseas ownership, steadily worsening our current account deficit,

For decades we have spent more than we earned as a nation and funded the difference by borrowing foreign money through our banks, or directly in the form of companies borrowing offshore or the government borrowing from foreign funds and banks. If we couldn’t borrow the money, we would sell assets, be it companies, land or state assets.

We’ve been kidding ourselves for decades that, like the L’Oreal ad, we were worth it. We have run chronically high current account deficits for most of the last 30 years. We believed, and have been encouraged by our leaders, bankers, and asset buyers, that New Zealand could afford it and we deserved it.

But in our bones we knew we couldn’t, and it’s great to see Justice Miller at the High Court now tell us in this decision it has to stop, even if the government can’t or won’t do it. His ruling that any foreign buyer has to prove a bigger benefit to the nation than a local buyer sets a very high threshold.

It effectively says that any buyer has to invest an awful lot more, create a lot more jobs and pledge to reinvest dividends here, otherwise there is an inevitable drain on the nation.

In the last decade we have reached the limit of how much we could borrow and sell. For any chronic overspender, there is a point where they can’t borrow any more because they can’t afford the interest payments and they don’t have anything left to sell. Just before that moment comes, they accelerate their asset sales and borrowing to pay the interest on the previously borrowed money and to pay the dividends on the previously sold assets…

… The government itself has been the heaviest borrower through the bond markets. It doesn’t matter who we have borrowed it off, but again China is the biggest creditor through its sovereign wealth fund. Our state owned enterprises have also been borrowing heavily overseas and the government is about to start selling the jewels in the crown, at least some of which will go offshore.

The irony is that this frenzy of last minute borrowing and asset selling accelerates the process of making our economy unsustainable, because it pushes up our economy currency and hampers our ability to export our way out of this mess.

Just in case you question the logic, here’s the chart showing how New Zealand’s Gross National Income per capita, which is what we get to keep after we have paid the interest and the dividends, has been falling since 2003.”

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Source

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Quite simply, the more we borrow from overseas; the more income-generating assets we sell to overseas investors – the more money we end up losing on every deal. The profits that used to stay in NZ to be re-invested, are now flowing out to other countries; other peoples’ bank accounts. Leaving us poorer and poorer year after year.

Selling farms after selling most of our profitable State Owned Enterprises will make things worse.

It’s also hard to see how any potential New Zealand purchaser can compete with the incredible wealth and access to funds, that nations such as China possess. Indeed, the Overseas Investment commission made this very point in Appendix 5, para 19/a when it stated,

“… 19. The purchase price for the farms is NZD $[redacted] m, plus payment for the stock, estimated to be NZD $[redacted] m. The Applicant is willing to pay this price because:

a) it has access to relatively low cost capital;”

We are in dire straights when an offshore investor can outbid a New Zealander because they have access to cheap funds to which we do not.

This is not a level playing field. The deck is now stacked firmly against us.

The deal with Shanghai Pengxin calls for further investments,

  • The Applicant must invest the higher of NZD $14m or the value agreed between the Applicant and Landcorp in
    clause 4.4 of the draft Property Management Agreement (see attachment “1”) on investment for development
    purposes on the Investment.” (ref Appendix 1, para 6)
  • The Applicant must establish an on-farm training facility for dairy farm workers in accordance with clause 5(c) of the draft Property Management Agreement (see attachment “1”). The Applicant must contribute a minimum of NZD $[redacted] m towards the capital cost of establishing this facility. (ref Appendix 1, para 7) We don’t know the value of this “training facility – the OIO has blanked out that information.)
  • The Applicant must give two scholarships of not less than NZD $5,000 each year to students of the on-farm training facility. The first two scholarships are to be awarded by 31 December 2013.” (ref Appendix 1, para 8)

Aside from some walking tracks and other contractual obligations (which we recently discovered are not followed up by anyone from the Overseas Investment Commission – so we cannot be certain that the OIO’s Conditions of Consent are followed through by Shanghai Pengxin, nor any other foreign investor) – what does New Zealand gain, financially, from this deal?

Let’s re-cap:

  1. Sale price of $210 million – goes to foreign-owned banks in Australia and Netherlands. Benefit to NZ: nil
  2. Profits from export of milk from the 16 Crafar Farms – mostly remitted to China. Benefit to NZ: nil/negative ($15 million p.a. loss in overseas income)
  3. Additional investment required in farms – $14 million*. Benefit to NZ: nil. $14 million gain – wiped out after one year of profits ($15 million) remitted back to Shanghai Pengxin, in China
  4. Scholarships for two students, @ $5,000 per-person. Benefit to NZ: $10,000 p.a.

And that, folks, seems to be it: $10,000 per year.

In return, the new foreign owner gets,

  • $15 million p.a. in profits
  • 15 million Fonterra shares
  • dairy products exported to China (along with profits made)

Now, unless this blogger’s arithmetic is seriously out-of-kilter, it’s hard to see how Jonathan Coleman’s comment holds true that,

The combined effect of the benefits being delivered to New Zealand as a result of this transaction is substantial. 

What, precisely, are those ‘benefits’?!?  Because none are apparent to this blogger.

Some further matters that warrant comment:

Point 1.

Mr Key says that,

Ministers could have overturned that decision, but there were no reasons to do so. The OIO correctly interpreted the legislation, and had they turned it down simply on the basis of being Chinese, it would not only be unlawful but unacceptable and would have been overturned in the courts.” – Source

Let’s deal with that straight away.

It’s bullshit.

In 2002, when American millionaire, John Griffin purchased historically-significant Young Nick’s Head on the East Coast,  there was considerable anger and opposition from many locals, and throughout New Zealand.  Such was opposition that a hikoi to Parliament ended up with 200 people protesting on the grounds,

Around noon on Monday 5 August a group of about 200 protestors arrived at parliament grounds, Wellington. Many of them had been on the hikoi (march) from Young Nick’s Head, Gisborne, which left 11 days earlier. Most of the hikoi participants were from the Ngai Tamanuhiri iwi, who were dispossessed of the land around Young Nick’s Head in the 19th century.

The protest group asked to see finance minister Michael Cullen, who is to decide on Friday 9 August whether to allow the sale of Young Nick’s Head to the US millionaire John Griffen. Mr Cullen was not available, nor the prime minister Helen Clark. The Speaker of the House, Jonathan Hunt, told the protestors they could not stay on the grounds overnight, and were not to erect any tent or other structure. (The precedent was the tent embassy in parliament grounds after the Hikoi of Hope in 1999, which maintained a presence for four months before being broken up with arrests).   ” – Source

When Shania Twain purchased 25,000 hectares off South Island high-country near Wanaka, in 2004, there was considerable anger and resentment,

”  The contentious issue of foreign ownership of New Zealand land is flaring again following a government decision to allow Canadian singer Shania Twain to buy nearly 25,000 hectares (62,000 acres) of picturesque mountain farmland.

Foreign ownership of New Zealand land stirs high passions among the nation’s usually phlegmatic citizens.

Farmers in this primarily agricultural country argue wealthy offshore investors are pushing land prices far beyond their potential worth as productive property, while other New Zealanders argue their birthright is being sold to the highest bidder…

… Anti-foreign ownership groups estimate that between 6 and 7 percent of commercially viable New Zealand land is now owned by offshore interests.” – Source

New Zealanders have always opposed land sales. Ever since Pakeha colonisers came to this country and said to Maori, “Have we got a deal for you!!”, there has always been a scepticism toward the sale of land to foreigners. That feeling exists regardless of nationality, ethnicity, skin colour, etc.

In fact, John Campbell took Key to task on this very issue when the Prime Minister tried to play the “racism card” on his show, on 20 April,

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John Campbell Prime Minister interview Crafar Farms Sky City Casino

Source

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KEY:  “… let’s say you just want to say ‘no’ because they’re Chinese-”

CAMPBELL:  ” I don’t think anyone- Wait a second. I think that’s underhanded and disingenuous. I don’t think anyone is saying ‘no’ [because they're Chinese]. I think people are talking about 8,000 hectares of prime dairy country and it’s foreign ownership not Chinese ownership.”

Despite Campbell making that point succinctly, Key carried on with the same theme – as no doubt he had been instructed by his media advisors, to stick to a couple of core-points.

It suits John Key – as it did with Maurice Williamson – to attempt to paint opposition to the Crafar Farm sales to Shanghai Pengxin as “racism” or “xenophobia”.

No one likes to be called racist (except for for right wing extremists – but they’re deranged anyway), and to have that accusation thrown at the public is National’s shameful attempt to portray opposition to the Crafar sale as ‘irrational’.

Somewhere up on the Ninth Floor of the Beehive; in the Prime Minister’s department; John Key’s media advisors are busily spinning this line to deflect criticism from their Boss.

These paid merchants of mendacity are clever buggers; university educated – and taxpayer funded. We pay to have them teach politicians how to spin bullshit to us.

Not a nice thought, is it?

Whether Key’s spin doctors and media advisors  will be successful re-defining the debate is another matter entirely. They have their work cut out for them, going by polling by Fairfax and NZ Herald,

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Good luck in trying to dismiss two-thirds or three quarters of the public on this issue, Mr Key. As they say in business; the customer is always right.

Point 2.

Ministers could have overturned that decision, but there were no reasons to do so. The OIO correctly interpreted the legislation, and had they turned it down simply on the basis of being Chinese, it would not only be unlawful but unacceptable and would have been overturned in the courts.” – John Key, 27 January 2012

This is the second line that Key’s spin-doctors have advised him and other Ministers to push: that the law allows these sales to proceed and MPs hands are tied.

Except… when it suits John Key, he is more than willing to trade off the law for other considerations,

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Source

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In return for a new $350 million convention centre, John Key simply has to change the gambling laws.

Just as John Key changed employment laws in October 2010, to suit Warner Bros, in the making of “The Hobbit” movies,

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Source

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Funny ole world, in’it?

John Key sticks to the “letter of the law” like a fly to dog poo.  But when it suits him and his cronies, he can be… flexible.

What you are witnessing, my fellow New Zealanders, is what is colloquially known as “Crony Capitalism“.

Is this really how we want our country to be governed?

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* Note: the original OIO condition of a once-only $14 million investment has been increased with the latest OIO review, to $16 million. This blogger replies with a “whoopty-bloody-doo“; it makes little difference in the long term.

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References

The OIO Decision:  Decision required under the Overseas Investment Act 2005: Milk New Zealand
Holding Limited

Additional

No checks on foreign buyers of Kiwi land

NZ to lose ‘millions a year’ from Crafar sale

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User Pays: the eventual conclusion

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Superman, for hire? Not quite right, is it…

Of course, we rightly view such a scene with aversion.  Some things, we just don’t expect to see with a  price levied.

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Our British cuzzies recently discovered this on Monday, when it was discovered that the governing UK Conservative Party’s top fundraiser Peter Cruddas, had been selling access to senior British government MPs and Ministers. The full story is worth reprinting,

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In a sting operation, ‘The Sunday Times’  secretly videotaped fundraiser Peter Cruddas  discussing donations. The film showed him telling undercover reporters: “200 grand ($317,000), 250 is premier league … it’ll be awesome for your business.”

If donors met Cameron, Cruddas claimed in the recording, “within that room, everything is confidential and you will be able to ask him practically any question that you want.”

‘We will listen to you’
He suggested they could even influence party policy, saying: “If you are unhappy about something, we will listen to you and we will put it into the policy committee at (the prime minister’s official residence).”

Cameron responded by saying Cruddas’ actions had been “completely unacceptable.” Cruddas, a millionaire, resigned within hours of the report.

Cruddas made the remarks to two journalists he thought were international financiers and who were accompanied by a lobbyist.

“Because we depend on donors so much we have to be careful” to show “you cannot buy access,” he said according to The Sunday Times. But, he told the undercover reporters, if you donate “you could well be at a private house having a private dinner with George Osborne, David Cameron, William Hague, the chairman around the table.”

Osborne, the cabinet minister in charge of economic and financial matters, and Foreign Minister William Hague are both members of Cameron’s center-right Conservative Party, which leads the governing coalition alongside the Liberal Democrats.

Embarrassing
The funding issue is embarrassing for Cameron, who promised before coming to power in May 2010 to curb corporate lobbying, saying it was the “next big scandal waiting to happen.”

Following the report, Cameron admitted he had used his official home at 10 Downing Street to host dinners for Conservative donors.

The scandal threatened to undo Cameron’s efforts to shake off his party’s image of being too close to the interests of business and the rich as Britain undergoes an austerity program to cut its budget deficit.

“This is not the way that we raise money in the Conservative party, it should not have happened,” said Cameron. “I will make sure that there is a proper party inquiry to make sure this can’t happen again.”

While there were also tax cuts for lower earners, the government’s recent budget went down badly with many Britons, giving the impression the government was looking after the wealthy and cared little for those suffering rising unemployment and falling incomes as the economy struggles to recover from recession.

Previous attempts to reform the political funding system have foundered on the Conservatives’ reluctance to cap donations from wealthy individuals and the opposition Labour Party’s desire to avoid limits on contributions from unions.

Msnbc.com’s F. Brinley Bruton and Reuters contributed to this report.

Acknowledgement for source: MSNBC World News

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By the next day, Britain’s Prime Minister and Leader of the UK Conservative Party, David Cameron, admitted what ‘The Sunday Times’  had uncovered,

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Full Story

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The article further states,

Of a dozen couples or individuals who dined with Cameron, including eight who were at a post-election celebration in July 2010, six were financiers, including three hedge fund managers, and two were property magnates. Two run manufacturing firms.

The Chequers list included the names of party treasurers as well as the millionaire property developer David Rowland and Lebanese businessman Fares Fares...

As other parties offer supporters and donors access to meetings and debates with leaders and senior officials, the Conservatives have a system for encouraging political and financial support. Their Web site offers a hierarchy of “Donors Clubs” where minimum levels of donation give increasing degrees of contact with party officials and representatives.

For the 50,000-pound ($80,000) annual membership of the “premier supporter group” – The Leader’s Group – “members are invited to join David Cameron and other senior figures from the Conservative Party at dinners, … lunches, drinks receptions, election result events and important campaign launches”. “

Cameron was at pains to reassure British voters that,

“We are more transparent than any government and any prime minister have ever been. We behaved properly.

“What Cruddas was doing was totally unacceptable.”

We have a saying here in New Zealand for that kind of statement,

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Of  course, such things don’t happen here in New Zealand. Our own National Government does not do “favours” for cash donations to the Party…

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From the Electoral Commission webpage,  “Returns of party donations exceeding $30,000“,

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Source

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From the Electoral Commission webpage,  “Returns of party donations exceeding $20,000“,
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Those are the facts, as presented from various sources.

I invite you, the reader, to draw your own conclusions, regarding the individuals; companies; their donations  and their links  to National.

(Note: The Electoral Commission webpage on returns of party donations includes donations to Labour, ACT, The Greens, and NZ First.)

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Post mortem #4: Maori Party, National, and the Treaty

30 November 2011 2 comments

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Full Story

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Current National and Maori Party coalition negotiations raise two interesting issues. One is fairly self-evident. The other is something I’ve just noticed in the above image of Pita Sharples anf John Key…

Issue one

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Mr Key said there was no reason why partial asset sales would need to be treated as a matter of confidence and supply.” Source

The sale of state assets is usually a budgetary matter. As I’ve written previously, past asset sales were generally included as part of bugetary legislation and passed by the government-of-the-day using it’s majority in the House.

The Opposition – whether one party as under FPP, or several parties under MMP – would automatically vote against the government’s budget. If the budget passed, the government had Supply (money to pay for ongoing state activities, such as paying salaries; building infra-structure; making purchases; paying for borrowings; etc).

If the budget was voted down – the government fell.

At present, John Key’s coalition-government consists of 62 seats out of 121 (there is an “over-hang of one seat),

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Those 62 seats comprise,

National: 60

John Banks/ACT: 1

Peter Dunne/United Future: 1

Total: 62

62 out of 121 is a majority – just barely. Lose one seat – in a by-election or a defection – and the majority is cut down to one. Lose two seats, and Key’s majority is lost, and becomes a minority government.

No wonder John Key spat the dummy a couple of days ago and called MMP a “weird system”.

Which is why the Maori Party’s the seats becomes vital to the longer-term survival of this new, National-led coalition government. Last term there were four by-elections. There is no guarantee that there won’t be one or two or more this time around.

Key needs the Maori Party as political “insurance”.

The only way that the Maori Party can be placated regarding asset sales is that the issue is removed from the main body of the upcoming Budget, and presented to the House as separate legislation. The Maori Party may then vote with the National-led coalition to ensure Supply, and the business of government carries on.

When the issue of asset sales is presented to the House as separate legislation, the Maori Party will no doubt vote with the Opposition, as Sharples and Turia promised their constituents during the election campaign, and try to vote down the Bill.

No doubt the Bill will proceed through the House, as John Key utilises his two seat majority early on, to guarantee it’s passage.

Once the Bill is enacted and becomes law, the asset sale can proceed unhindered.

At the same time, the National-ACT-Dunne-Maori Party coalition is embedded. There is face-saving all around.

Issue two

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When I looked at the image above, of John Key and Pita Sharples meeting and greeting each other as equals, the scene reminded me of a photo taken in the early 1970s, of then-Prime Minister, Norman Kirk. I found the image using trusty Google.

Let’s compare the two,

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Norman Kirk Moana Priest John Key Pita Sharples

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My, how we’ve matured as a society since the early 1970s.

The symbolism of those two images shows – to me – how the New Zealand social and political meme has been re-defined  in only 40 years.

When Norman Kirk led the young Maori boy across the grounds of Waitangi, the image was one of the Pakeha culture as the dominanant patron of this country, leading the “maori child” walking together, hand in hand. It was the archetypal British Colonial “father-figure”, taking in-hand the “childlike” indigenous people.

In the right hand image, the Maori male is an adult Pita Sharples, meeting John Key on a level playing-field. They are meeting as true Treaty partners.

Despite what one may think of National; their policies; and the Maori Party supporting this government – I find something positive in the right-hand image. I think it bodes well for our future and demonstrates that pakeha fears over the Treaty is without foundation.

We’ve come a long way. The journey is yet to end, if ever.

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Additional

Chris Ford: Has the Maori Party finally cooked its goose?

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Evidently, we Voters are stupid – John Key

28 October 2011 3 comments

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According to John Key, we voters “don’t fully understand what we’re [National] doing“, when it comes to National’s stated intention to sell  half of certain state assets,

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Source

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They don’t fully understand what we’re doing. My experience is when I take audiences through it, like I did just before, no-one actually put up their hand and asked a question.”

Excuse me?! Am I wrong in thinking that has to be one of the most arrogant statements ever uttered by a New Zealand politician?

They don’t fully understand what we’re doing…”

Au contraire, Dear Leader.  We understand fully what your Party is attempting to con us with; to sell us state-owned assets that we, The People, already own; to sell us shares that many of us will be able to ill-afford, as we meet the daily necessities of life; and that, like Contact Energy, will mostly end up in foreign ownership.

My experience is when I take audiences through it, like I did just before, no-one actually put up their hand and asked a question.”

Again, au contraire, Mr Prime Minister, Sir.

When I attended two public meetings in the Hutt Valley (24 May at Marsden St Church, Lower Hutt, and 2 August at  “Expressions” Centre, Upper Hutt), members of the public were invited to ask questions. Several people, in both audiences, asked you critical questions regarding asset sales.

One man in particular, stood up and challenged you on your assertion that Kiwi “mums and dads” would be given preference to buy shares, and was vocal in his criticisms of your plans. He stated matter-of-factly that once sold, those shares could easily be re-sold, and there could be no control over their final ownership.

Even National Party members are uneasy about asset sales,

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State asset sales are proving to be a bone of contention even within National’s own ranks as its grassroots members question whether crucial assets will be flogged off overseas.

The government has struggled to reassure Kiwis that its plan to sell a 49 per cent stake in the remaining state owned power companies won’t see them end up in foreign ownership.

But it also appears to have done a poor selling job among its own members with Finance Minister Bill English facing questions from party members during a public session of the National Party conference in Wellington today.

Mr English said the government was working on ways to ensure Kiwi investors were at the front of the queue but acknowledged there was no way to stop them selling shares to overseas buyers.Source

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So, Mr Key, you are being disingenuous when you claim that “ no-one actually put up their hand and asked a question.” People do put their hands up, and they are generally quite annoyed.

I would also suggest, Mr Key, that it is hardly reassuring if people do not ask you questions.

It generally takes at least two terms for a Prime Minister to believe his own spin doctors and be carried away with his artificially-created “public image”.  For John Key  to make such arrogant utterances in only his first term is not a good sign. It implies that he views us Voters as children who “don’t fully understand” and must be treated with paternalistic patience.

Have a care, Mr Key. Such politicians often end up out of a job after Election Day.

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Additional reading

Deutsche Bank, Craigs win mandate for advice on $7 bln of NZ state asset sales

‘Buy state-asset shares or foreigners will’ – Bill English

National Party members question state asset sales

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That was Then, this is Now #5

25 August 2011 1 comment

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Previous Blog post

That was Then, this is Now #4

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A warning from a very, very rich man…

17 August 2011 1 comment

Warren Buffet is  regarded as one of the most successful investors in the world.  He is  ranked among the world’s wealthiest people and was ranked as the world’s wealthiest person in 2008. He is the third wealthiest person in the world as of 2011.

He is not a disaffected socialist, nor  “random leftie” – he has serious money in his bank account(s). So when this guy warns us that the wealthy are not paying their way, and have been “coddled by billionaire-friendly governments” – you know he’s saying something important.

And that we should take note…

Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as “carried interest,” thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors.

These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places.

Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.

If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine. But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine — most likely by a lot.

To understand why, you need to examine the sources of government revenue. Last year about 80 percent of these revenues came from personal income taxes and payroll taxes. The mega-rich pay income taxes at a rate of 15 percent on most of their earnings but pay practically nothing in payroll taxes. It’s a different story for the middle class: typically, they fall into the 15 percent and 25 percent income tax brackets, and then are hit with heavy payroll taxes to boot.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, tax rates for the rich were far higher, and my percentage rate was in the middle of the pack. According to a theory I sometimes hear, I should have thrown a fit and refused to invest because of the elevated tax rates on capital gains and dividends.

I didn’t refuse, nor did others. I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what’s happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation.

Since 1992, the I.R.S. has compiled data from the returns of the 400 Americans reporting the largest income. In 1992, the top 400 had aggregate taxable income of $16.9 billion and paid federal taxes of 29.2 percent on that sum. In 2008, the aggregate income of the highest 400 had soared to $90.9 billion — a staggering $227.4 million on average — but the rate paid had fallen to 21.5 percent.

The taxes I refer to here include only federal income tax, but you can be sure that any payroll tax for the 400 was inconsequential compared to income. In fact, 88 of the 400 in 2008 reported no wages at all, though every one of them reported capital gains. Some of my brethren may shun work but they all like to invest. (I can relate to that.)

I know well many of the mega-rich and, by and large, they are very decent people. They love America and appreciate the opportunity this country has given them. Many have joined the Giving Pledge, promising to give most of their wealth to philanthropy. Most wouldn’t mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering.

Twelve members of Congress will soon take on the crucial job of rearranging our country’s finances. They’ve been instructed to devise a plan that reduces the 10-year deficit by at least $1.5 trillion. It’s vital, however, that they achieve far more than that. Americans are rapidly losing faith in the ability of Congress to deal with our country’s fiscal problems. Only action that is immediate, real and very substantial will prevent that doubt from morphing into hopelessness. That feeling can create its own reality.

Job one for the 12 is to pare down some future promises that even a rich America can’t fulfill. Big money must be saved here. The 12 should then turn to the issue of revenues. I would leave rates for 99.7 percent of taxpayers unchanged and continue the current 2-percentage-point reduction in the employee contribution to the payroll tax. This cut helps the poor and the middle class, who need every break they can get.

But for those making more than $1 million — there were 236,883 such households in 2009 — I would raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1 million, including, of course, dividends and capital gains. And for those who make $10 million or more — there were 8,274 in 2009 — I would suggest an additional increase in rate.

My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.

(Warren E. Buffett is the chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway.)

Buffet’s analysis holds true for New Zealand as much as it does for his own country, the USA.

In April 2009 and October 2010, this government awarded the highest income earners and the wealthiest the most in tax-cuts.

At the same time, the top ten wealthiest people in NZ (and probably others  throughout the world also increased their wealth by 20 percent) – whilst the rest of the global economy was wracked by the worst recession since the 1930s, and millions lost their jobs.

The old excuse that the “wealthy work hard and should be rewarded for their labours” no longer deserves to be taken seriously.  Most of us work hard, and long hours.

It is time that governments stopped coddling the rich. It’s not like they can take their wealth off-planet to Mars or elsewhere. The rich will still invest their vast wealth.

But it’s time they paid their fair share as the price of living in societies that gave them the opportunities to create their wealth.

It’s high time National looked at a fairer taxation system, and paid for the social services and job creation-friendly policies, rather than the top 10% of  the population and middle-class rich-wannabees.

Otherwise, prepare yourselves for a society of growing inequality.

So far, the indicators are not good…

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Well, I think the ‘message’ is reasonably clear for all but the most ideologically-blind.  Question is – what are we going to do about it?

(Hint: more of the same will probably not work.)

Great Myths Of The 21st Century (#1)

16 August 2011 7 comments

Perhaps the greatest urban-myth, perpetrated and perpetuated by those whose interests it serves, is that the unemployed are there-by-choice, and unwilling to work.

Of course, this is absurd and an outright falsehood.

Fact 1:  The New Zealand December 2007 Quarter Household Labourforce Survey unemployment stood  at 3.4% . This was prior to the global recession hitting NZ.

Fact 2:  By the end of 2008, the New Zealand December Quarter Household Labourforce Survey unemployed rose to 4.6%.

Fact 3:  The New Zealand December 2010 Quarter Household Labourforce Survey unemployed rate increased to 6.8% .

Fact  4: In three years, the Household Labourforce Survey unemployed doubled from 3.4% to 6.8%

Fact  5: In other countries such as the US, unemployment went from 4.8%  in the fourth quarter of 2007 to stand at 9.1%  by July of this year.

Whether the largest economy on Earth, or one of the smallest, the impact of the global banking crisis and following recession caused companies to collapse; down-size; and “rationalise” (reduce) staff. This caused unemployment to skyrocket.

Events in Wall St, USA, had an impact on Main Sts, New Zealand;

“Jobs to go at textile factories”

“Headlines do not reveal true picture of job losses”

“‘Another kick in the guts for rural NZ’”

“Job losses to hit military next week”

“Lower Hutt jobs to go as shops shut”

“Hellaby’s closes: 18 jobs go”

“Australasian Colorado shops closing”

“Grim day of redundancies”

“Jobs to go at troubled baker Yarrows”

“KiwiRail plans to lay off Dunedin staff”

“Thirty-five jobs may go at Niwa”

“Ovation confirms 304 job losses “

“Dunne defends Greymouth IRD job cuts announcement”

“NZ Post shutting stores, axing jobs”

“Ballantynes faces post-quake job cuts”

“Lane Walker Rudkin 470 Redundancies A Tragedy”

And many more here .

As unemployment increased, the number of job-seekers increased. Even the Prime Minister, John Key, has remarked,

“We’re part of a global environment so we can’t control all of the factors that affect New Zealand, but all the indications we have is that 2011 will be a better year.”

Dozens, and often hundreds of unemployed job-seekers would turn up at businesses, that were hiring staff;

It is apparent that the global recession has caused the demise of some businesses, and forced others to greatly reduce staffing numbers. This is beyond the control of any individual in this country.

So why is there a perception amongst some individuals and groups that the jobless have chosen their unemployment as some kind of “lifestyle choice”? Especially when is it clear that WINZ unemployment benefits are nowhere as generous as some might believe.

Trying to apportion responsibility for people losing their jobs is victim-blaming  and is utterly  repugnant. Such victim-blaming is an unwelcome aspect of the human capacity for bigotry.

Why do people do it?

* The Opportunists.

It serves the purpose of some political parties such as National and ACT to blame unemployed for their predicament.

It allows National the opportunity to escape any possibility of responsibility at addressing this critical economic and social problem. And it’s a vote-winner with the next group,

* The Greedy.

For many neo-liberals who cherish the ideology of the free-market and minimalist-government, any form of taxation by the State is “theft”. And when the State hands over some of that tax-money to the Unemployed so that they can survive – they resent it. And do they complain bitterly!

These neo-liberal free-marketeers resent having to contribute their fair share to the society they live in. (Though they think nothing of driving on tax-payer funded roads; being cared for in tax-payer funded A&E Hospital Wards; protected by tax-payer funded Police; educated in tax-payer funded schools, etc.)

Greed – it does funny things to peoples’ humanity.

* The Perpetually Angry.

The uninformed, perpetually angry, people who obtain their information through TV news and/or Talkback radio. They have friends,, who know someone who has heard of a person, who apparently lives in luxury on the dole

These are people who have very little experience of the society they live in and generally have a circle of friends who validate their misconceptions.  For them, everyone is a dole-bludger; the recession happened to Someone, Somewhere Else; and everyone should be living comfortably, regardless of circumstances. Their worldview generally doesn’t extend much past their front door.

Anger – it stops people thinking clearly.

Unfortunately, The Greedy and The Perpetually Angry have no constructive solutions to offer us.

One hopes that  the National government will reconsider their decision to  cut almost $146 million from skills training.

Nor does it help when we export jobs overseas,

“Army shifts $2m contract to China”

“Chinese firm beats Hillside to KiwiRail contract”

So not only are New Zealanders losing their jobs because of corporate greed and mis-management in Wall St, USA – but our current policies actually encourage contracts to be awarded to other countries,  in effect “exporting” jobs.

Is this making sense to anyone?

Is it little wonder we have high unemployment, who need the dole to simply survive?

Because demonising a vulnerable group in our society will not achieve a single damn thing; create a single damn job; nor give us the Decent Society that we once enjoyed living in.

So far, my fellow New Zealanders,  there is precious little decency going on here.

Capitalism, top heavy and toppling – Bernard Hickey

This is must-read stuff…

Full article here.

It is worth noting that, here in New Zealand, recent tax cuts gave $2.5 billion a year to the top 10 per cent of earners and “practically nothing to the bottom 20 per cent of earners, who got 3 per cent of those cuts”.

It is also worth noting that, as a country, we are having to borrow $380 million  per week to – in part – fund those tax cuts.  That’s $17.6 billion this year alone.

Far from being a “prudent fiscal manager”, National is being highly irresponsible as it continues to woo the  Middle Class for their votes.

Only thing is: eventually it all has to be paid back. Even selling all out SOEs won’t cover that debt mountain, as we simply don’t have enough state assets left after the 1980s and 1990s.

TVNZ7, Radio New Zealand, and distracting trinkets.

A neo-liberal is one who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. In this case, this National government are slowly strangling good, quality broadcasters like RNZ and TVNZ7 – whilst  feeding us a daily diet of brain-cell deadening, pseudo-news on TV1 and TV3 and apalling programming that consists mostly of American sitcoms, cooking programmes, and bleak crime shows.

If only New Zealanders were as passionate about the lack of governmental support for quality broadcasting as we were about stranded penguins; “Wellywood” signs; and books by Ian Wishart.

Oh, but that would mean thinking about complex issues, wouldn’t it? Jerking the knee with superficial,  emotion-tugging,  issues is much easier:  no effort required.

The state-owned broadcaster registered itself as the Radio New Zealand Charitable Trust with the Charities Commission last month.

Some of its charitable purposes, which were listed on the commission’s website, included education, research, fundraising and providing grants to a number of individuals and groups.

A spokesperson for Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman said the broadcaster still received $34 million a year but couldn’t say how long it had been receiving that amount.

A financial review of Radio NZ for the 2009/10 financial year showed it had a net deficit of $498,000 after tax, compared to a surplus of $13,000 the year before.

The review said RNZ had been too cash-strapped to participate in the 2010 New Zealand Radio Awards or put in a bid for the Rugby World Cup 2011 coverage.

Kedgley said she first thought the charity registration was a joke.

“I am appalled to discover that it is serious proposition and that the Board of Radio New Zealand has been forced by the Government’s funding freeze on Radio New Zealand to set up a trust so that it can go out with a begging bowl to the public,” she said.

“The move suggests there is quiet desperation at Radio New Zealand. The broadcaster simply cannot make ends meet under the Government’s funding freeze.”

Curran said the move raised some “serious questions”.

“Not the least of which is why the whole of RNZ has been registered as a charity, and what the long-term intention is,” she said.

“Radio NZ’s survival should not be dependent on it having to solicit donations. It is our state radio broadcaster and holds a special place in New Zealand.”

Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman couldn’t be reached for comment and neither could RNZ chairman Richard Griffin.

Griffin told Fairfax earlier this year that RNZ could only survive a funding freeze for another two years.

He said the current freeze put the public broadcaster in a “more than difficult” financial position.

“If we’re left in a position where every year costs increase and funding remains static, we’re going to wither.”

It was believed that the charity was mainly to fund its concert station.

It is an unbelievable, bizarre state-of -affairs when a public service such as Radio New Zealand , has to register itself as a charity. If this doesn’t ring alarm bells with us, then we are truly asleep.

It should also give us cause for concern that National  will be closing down TVNZ7. This free-to-air; advertising free; public network is a wealth of news, documentaries, and offers an un-commercialised look at ourselves and the world around us.

TVNZ7  treats the viewer with intelligence and respect.  It is television as it should be – and not the mindless rubbish that we are now served up every day on other channels. (Parliament TV excepted – that contains very mature, erudite debate from our Honourable Members of Parliament.)

It is a great shame that two quality public services – TVNZ7 and Radio New Zealand – can be put in jeopardy through the lack of political support from the government-of-the-day, and because of public apathy.  If New Zealanders were as passionate about their own  public broadcasting system, as they were about wayward penguins, oh what a much more mature society we would be.

But we are like children, it seems, and easily enthralled by the latest distracting trinket.

New Zealand has often been described as a “young country”.

That is truer than we realised.

History, seems to repeat…

“Reducing the number of government agencies, where it makes sense, will improve the delivery of services to the public, reduce duplication of roles, and allow reprioritisation of spending to where it will have the greatest impact,” State Services Minister Tony Ryall said.”

I hope no one actually believes that nonsense. National has an apalling track trecord  in undermining agencies and damaging their ability to provide services. It’s a shame that many folk seem to have forgotten the bad state of public services when National was finally voted out at the end of 1999.

For example, ex-psych patients were reduced to living in streets and public toilets – having no where else to go, and not having any support.

In another example, on 3 April 1998, Southland dairy farmer Colin Morrison (42) died on a waiting list, awaiting a triple heart bypass surgery. His condition was listed as “life threatening” – but was still on a waiting list when he died.

We are fast returning to those Bad Old Days.

And there will be a heavy price to pay.

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On Colin Morrison (1998)

Widow says little improvement seem

GP hits out at health reforms

Died waiting for by-pass

Word today on heart list

Anger on heart op delay

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