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Life in Level 2: National’s Barely Secret Agenda

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national business virus covid19

 

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National has come out of it’s corner fighting hard. With Labour’s recent high polling on TV3 and TV1, National faces a colossal election defeat, the worst since 2002.

This has forced National to adapt it’s “tough on crime” cliches to the current microscopic threat against our wellbeing. National is now “tough on covid“.

The phrasing is slightly altered, but the “tough on XYZ” image is not changed or diluted one iota. It is appealing to it’s rump base and to those New Zealanders who are pissed of at quarantine fence-jumpers; resent having to use their taxes to pay for Returnees’ quarantining; and or who feel that quarantine procedures/testing have been too lax, whether for Returnees or Border staff.

This is all fertile soil upon which National can sow its seeds of resentment and fear, and harvest a rich crop of votes.

They have not disappointed.

Their latest Border Protection policyissued “only” six months after the first recorded case of Covid19 in Aotearoa New Zealand on 28 February – is a study in punitive restrictions; over promising; vagueness; and… of course, very much business-friendly.

It is also a masterpiece of deflection.

The document has been widely presented with the main msm narrative that all Returnees planning to board an aircraft must first present a negative covid test;

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msm headlines - national covid19

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True to her “crusher” form, Opposition Leader Judith Collins has presented a staunch – almost authoritarian figure – determined to keep covid19 out of Aotearoa New Zealand;

“We will make sure that it is legal because … we will change the law if necessary.

We know that there will be some concerns about the Bill of Rights Act and peoples’ human rights, we understand that. And we also understand that this is always a balancing situation between the rights of an individual who may be feeling that they shouldn’t have to have a test to come back into New Zealand, but let’s look at it this way, right at the moment the law has been changed so when they are here they have penalties. So what’s the problem?

The answer surely must be. We don’t want Covid-19, and no New Zealander wants Covid-19 here.”

Those unable to get pre-tested and obtain a negative would not be allowed back into the country, according to Ms Collins.

However, aside from the sheer illegality of such a draconian step, the practicality and certainty of pre-testing Returnees prior to boarding their flights back home has been questioned.

More than one person has pointed out it is possible to be asymptomatic and return a negative result – only to test positive later. Or to contract the virus in-flight, from others.

Ms Collins and National’s health spokesperson, Dr Shane Reti, both insist this policy has been written in consultation with epidemiologists. Neither have disclosed who those epidemiologist(s) are.

Said Ms Collins;

“We have epidemiologists who are working with us. I’m not going to name them…”

Dr Reti also declined to name them;

“We’re grateful for those networks of trust and those relationships. If they want to identify themselves, they will.”

Such coyness.

Let’s hope it was not Dr Thornley, a maverick epidemiologist who has touted the “herd immunity” option and praised Sweden’s strategy of allowing the virus to sweep through the population. (Even though Sweden’s death toll from covid19 now stands at a staggering 5,810 – despite that country having only twice our population.)

Or perhaps it was the “Emotional Junior Staffer“? Or Michael Woodhouse’ “Homeless Man“? National abounds with mysterious characters, it would appear.

However, a closer scrutiny of National’s policy documents “Securing New Zealand’s border against COVID-19” and it’s in-depth version “Securing Our Border“, reveals that there is a ‘fish hook’ in their policy on handling covid-19.

The latter document, “Securing Our Border” contains just four short references to the complex (and probably unworkable) suggestion that New Zealanders be pre-tested prior to returning home;

Receiving returning Kiwis and visitors at the border, and ensuring pre-border checks for people coming into New Zealand. (p2)

National would follow international models and require people coming into the country to not only quarantine but also receive a test for COVID-19, or a subsequent pandemic virus, three days before departure and provide the results of that test to airline staff before boarding their plane. (p3)

National would […] Require people travelling to New Zealand to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test before arriving into New Zealand. (p3)

National would […] [Require] Pre boarding thermal imaging and completion of health declaration card. (p3)

It is interesting to note that there is no reference made whatsoever to what would happen to a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident if they tested positive for covid19. The policy document does not address this critical point.

When it comes to lock-downs and business needs, the document is more fulsome. Note the highlighted parts:

Preparing for a more effective response to future outbreaks, should they occur. Lockdowns, if needed, can be more targeted shorter in duration, while protecting our most vulnerable. (p1)

Facilitating planning with businesses to ensure safe practices. Specifically tailoring plans for small business, retailers and manufacturers. (p2)

This report, and the examples of high-quality contact tracing and testing systems internationally, provide confidence that similar systems in New Zealand could allow for less intrusive lockdowns in the event of an isolated outbreak. (p4)

National would implement the following […] Ensuring consistency and capacity within the contact tracing system is critical to achieving the goals of a rapid contact tracing system that would help manage any isolated incidents of COVID-19 beyond the border and to limit the need of intensive lockdowns across the country. (p4)

If lockdowns do occur, we must help our economy so that commerce can continue through lockdowns and people can continue work. […] Lockdowns are a short-term intervention that come at a tremendous cost to businesses and our economy. In the long term, New Zealand cannot afford to shut down or slow our entire economy even if there is a localised incursion. (p6)

National is concerned the lessons of the first lockdown were not closely studied to provide an improved response during the August lockdown. Continuous improvement of our systems is required so that lockdowns become more targeted and effective, with minimal impact on our communities and the economy. For example, where small businesses like butchers and greengrocers can demonstrate and implement or plan to operate safely, they should be allowed to do so. (p6)

In a press statement, National’s Covid-19 Border Response spokesperson, Gerry Brownlee, reaffirmed his Party’s intention to localise lockdowns  (alt.link);

“Continuous improvement of our systems is required so that lockdowns become more targeted and effective, with minimal impact on our communities and the economy.”

Almost every paragraph contains a reference to limiting lockdowns. The terms “isolated outbreak“, “localised incursion”, “less intrusive lockdowns”, and “lockdowns become more targeted” are suggestive of National pursuing the failed limited ‘post-code’-based lockdowns in various Melbourne suburbs that were utterly ineffectual to contain their current outbreak;

…the current restrictions still allow significant movement of people between suburbs and to work. Face-to-face teaching in schools is still permitted, and there is no limit on the number of people in supermarkets and shopping centres.

This was National’s coded message to the business community: that under a National government, any lockdown would be localised and not encompass an entire city. As much as they could get away with, it would be business-as-usual.

The over-hyped references to pre-testing returning New Zealanders (without disclosing what would happen if they failed a covid test) was a noisy distraction so the media and the public would look elsewhere, missing the true message buried within the text of the policy document.

But the business community would have read the document. They would have noticed the carefully nuanced references to “less intrusive lockdowns”, and “lockdowns become more targeted” and understood the meaning perfectly well.

Under a National Government, the economy would take priority. End of.

National learned its lesson when it endorsed allowing foreign students to return to this country. At a time when our MIQ (Mandatory Isolation and Quarantine) facilities were struggling to cope with nearly 40,000 Returnees – Universities were noisily agitating to allow foreign students back in.

The suggestion was that Universities would look after their own quarantine facilities;

Victoria University of Wellington has a plan for international students’ quarantine it will put to government, in the hope students will be allowed back before the border reopens.

[…]

Victoria University of Wellington vice-chancellor Grant Guilford said they had had a plan since late February for a strict quarantine.

The university had identified three facilities in the capital that could take students.

[…]

Quarantine would be supervised by university staff and possibly public health officials as well.

Only a few days ago (19 August), Universities were still touting and pressuring the government to re-admit foreign students into Aotearoa New Zealand;

Universities New Zealand chief executive Chris Whelan said Australia was following in the footsteps of places like Canada and the United Kingdom by bringing international students back.

New Zealand risked being left behind if students could not return by early next year, and it could take 10 years for the international student sector, which is worth $5 billion to the economy annually, to get back on track.

He believed the Australian programme could work in New Zealand.

We can all guess how that would turn out.

Not very well, would be the correct answer.

In case anyone was in doubt, this is how such a scenario might play out if Universities got their way;

First week: foreign students enter the country. They are taken to quarantine hotels run by Victoria University staff and private security guards in Wellington. The public is assured all students will remain in strict quarantine; not mingle; not leave the facility; obey protocols,etc, etc, etc…

Second week: first reports in the media of students partying; mingling; co-habiting; venturing out to bottle stores to buy alcohol and pizza. Security guards unable to stop them: they do not have police powers. University staff: nowhere to be seen.

Third week: more reports of partying and absconding. Local Wellington apartment dwellers tell media students are coming and going without hindrance.

Fourth week: first cases of covid19 detected in Wellington. Source “unclear”.

Fifth week: more cases of covid19 detected. Source identified through genomic sequencing as coming from student in one of the hotel facilities.

Sixth week: University management blame “systemic failures” and “undertake to review systems/protocols”.

Seventh week: Wellington goes into Level 3 lockdown. Blogger writes shortest blogpost ever: “I f*****g told you so!”

It’s always “systemic failures”;

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systemic failures

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It’s always “Systemic Failure” – which conveniently  means no one will ever be held to account; no one will lose their job. Apparently it’s never human accountability because someone stuffed up and promised something they simply couldn’t deliver.

When foreign students from one of the country’s University’s reintroduces covid19 into the community – it will be a “systemic/systems failure”.

In June, National enthusiastically supported Universities having foreign students return to the country;

A National Government would be working hard to safely return tertiary international students back to New Zealand as quickly as possible, Deputy Leader and Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye and National’s Tertiary Education spokesperson Dr Shane Reti say.

Only two months later, National fully reversed it’s policy 180 degrees and have now dropped it like a hot potato. Public reaction would not have been supportive of such a risky venture – a fact National’s internal polling and/or focus groups would have sheeted home without any ambiguity whatsoever.

On top of which, having potentially infected foreign students entering the country, creating new clusters, would have undermined the revised narrative that new National leader, Judith Collins, was feeding the public;

“We’ve said very clearly since I’ve been the leader that there is no tolerance for Covid-19 in New Zealand. I’ve heard lots of reports from some people that we should be much softer on this, I’m not prepared to be softer on this,” Collins said.

You can only let people in if it can be done safely. And safely means someone checking the checkers.”

She says that so well, so convincingly. Almost with sincerity.

But a Leader who is willing to leave our fellow sick New Zealanders stranded overseas is not one to be trusted to look after the well-being of the rest of us. Her “compassion” and concern for our safety cannot be foremost in her mind when she so casually turns her back on sick New Zealanders in time of their greatest need.

Ms Collins’ media minders have obviously noted Prime Minister Ardern’s concern for our safety and well-being – and have tried to transplant it on the National Party Leader.

It is not a good fit.

National’s apparatchiks have read the tea leaves; the chicken entrails; and most critically, public opinion: very few New Zealanders want to risk reintroducing covid19. So they have written their Border Protection policy accordingly… but with that one, little ‘fish hook’ they snuck in, without anyone noticing.

And just to leave the gates open just a fraction for a future incoming National Government, they have given themselves an ‘out’ in that same Border Policy document:

In the shorter term, the [Border Protection] agency will administer policy and procedures for:

[…]

Considering expansion of entry qualifications and timing. (p2)

Expansion of entry qualifications“… for who? Foreign fee-paying students?

Sneaky!

New Zealanders should be careful in voting for National. They have have made it clear where they place their priority, whether it be human lives and safety – or the economy.

If you guessed “human lives and safety”, you guessed wrong.

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References

Wikipedia: 2002 New Zealand general election

RNZ:  New poll – Labour climbs to 60.9%, National at 25.1%

RNZ: Latest poll puts Labour at 53, National at 32

Stuff media: Alleged isolation escapee told New Zealanders ‘sick and tired’ of quarantine breaches

Stuff media:  Make quarantined travellers pay: It’s unfair to expect taxpayers to pick up the tab

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Coronavirus: – Recent returnee blasts ‘cowboy approach’ to PPE in managed isolation

RNZ:  Covid-19 – Lack of testing of staff at border ‘extraordinary’ – Skegg

National Party: Securing New Zealand’s border against COVID-19 (alt.link)

RNZ:  New Zealand confirms case of Covid-19 coronavirus

RNZ:  ‘We’ll make sure it’s legal’ – Collins on compulsory testing

Otago Daily Times:  Nats want everyone entering NZ to test negative to Covid first

The Spinoff: The Bulletin – National changes philosophy behind border policy

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus – National wants everyone entering NZ to test negative first

Stuff media: Election 2020 – National wants travellers to test negative for Covid-19 before flying to NZ

Mediaworks/Newshub:  National’s border policy – Negative COVID-19 test required before returning to New Zealand

The Spinoff:  Live updates, August 22 – Six new cases of Covid-19 in the community (see: 10.15am entry)

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Coronavirus – Has Sweden’s COVID-19 approach paid off?

Worldometer: Coronavirus – Sweden

Newsroom: Petition taken down by ‘emotional junior staffer’

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus – Michael Woodhouse’s isolation homeless mystery man claim debunked

National Party: Securing Our Border

RNZ: Melbourne retailer philosophical about ‘unusual’ postcode lockdown

The Conversation:  Two weeks into Melbourne’s lockdown, why aren’t COVID-19 case numbers going down?

RNZ: University has plans for bringing back international students

Stuff media: Coronavirus – New Zealand ‘risks being left behind’ if international students can’t return

Stuff media:  Minister spots ‘systemic failing’, thousands of beneficiaries affected by automatic payment error

NZ Family Violence Clearing House:  Health and Disability Commissioner finds “systemic failing” at DHB in child abuse case

RNZ:  ‘Systemic failure’ in library closure shocks mayor

NZ Herald:  Leslie Gelberger tragedy – Ports of Auckland fined $424,000 for ‘systemic failure’

National Party:  Under National international students would be back (alt.link)

Stuff media: Coronavirus – National goes cold on international student policy

Additional

Stuff media: Opinion – Sir John Key’s call to relax border controls would be unforgivably reckless

NZ Herald: Rod Jackson – Learning to live with Covid 19 coronavirus is not a viable option

The Spinoff: Exclusive new poll – How have testing issues and the new outbreak affected public confidence?

Rolling Stone: The Unraveling of America

Previous related blogposts

Life in Lock Down: Day 28 – An Open Letter to Prime Minister Ardern

Life in Lock Down: Day 2 of Level 3

Life in Level 1: Reinfection – Labour’s kryptonite

Life in Level 1: Reinfection – No, Dr Bloomfield!

Life in Level 1: The Taxpayer’s Coin

Life in Level 1: Cunning Plans, Unanswered Questions

Life in level 1: Newshub Nation, Q + A, and the end of Todd Muller’s leadership

Life in Level 1: The Doom of National

Life in Level 2: The Curious Case of the Very Invisible Virus

Twitter: @fmacskasy – 1.41PM Jun 15, 2020

Twitter: @fmacskasy – 9:45AM  Jun 12, 2020 – no mood to go back into lockdow

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collins - covid 19

Acknowledgement: Sharon Murdoch

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 23 August 2020.

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Life in Level 1: The Doom of National

25 July 2020 5 comments

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The Martians had no resistance to the bacteria in our atmosphere to which we have long since become immune. Once they had breathed our air, germs, which no longer affect us, began to kill them. The end came swiftly. All over the world, their machines began to stop and fall. After all that men could do had failed, the Martians were destroyed and humanity was saved by the littlest things which God and His wisdom had put upon this Earth.” – H.G. Wells, “War of the Worlds

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National will lose in September. And most likely in 2023 if the pandemic has not been defeated. Their laissez faire approach to government and economics has been revealed to be utterly inappropriate for the challenges in the Age of the Virus.

National has been caught out – like the proverbial  possum frozen in the glare of oncoming headlights – as the human race struggles to adapt to the new norm of responding to the spread of contagion.

There is an inexorable inevitability to how politics has begun to change radically with the advent of a global pandemic.

More than ever, the State is required to navigate societies through these stormy pandemic waters. The “free market” is not only incapable of dealing with a deadly virus – it actually aids and abets the spread of contagion.

Sweden, Brazil, Victoria, and the US (especially states such a Florida, Texas, California, et al)  are a brutal warning  when humans fail to heed and respond to a viral threat. The virus will mercilessly seek out every crack (or in the case  of the US and Brazil, gaping holes) in Humanity’s defenses and, like water in 100-year old pipes, seep through.

Humans have only one defense against plague: our intellect. Failure to use what natural evolution has gifted us leaves us at the mercy of whatever challenge Nature throws against us. In this case, a virus that is neither aware of us, nor cares about us. Like background radiation or clouds in the sky, it simply IS.

How we deal with it, using our remarkable abilities, will be the crucial difference between prevailing and succumbing.

React with political expediency (and a lethal dose of outright ignorance) like Trump or Bolsanaro, and the virus will exploit that ignorance to maximum lethal advantage.

One lesson we have learned is that the virus is no respecter of political or economic ideologies. It attacks  central-planned and liberal free market economies alike. China and the US proved that.

But unlike the US, China managed to contain the contagion by acting swiftly and decisively. By locking down Wuhana city of eleven million  people – they controlled and reduced transmission.

Only the power of the State could control transmission. The free market and it’s twin sibling, Hyper Individualism, could not cope. The dictates of free market profit-making (unyielding demands by share-holders) in tandem with selfish Me First individualism, was diametrically contrary to crucial collective strategies required to control transmission.

In an act of sheer stupidity and political expediency, Trump has insisted that all schools in the US reopen. School children are to become the new vectors of a deadly contagion so Trump can present an illusion of “normality” in  time for the November presidential election.

The virus is now effectively out of control in  the US and Brazil. The death toll is escalating, killing young and old.

Despite the lessons from other nations there have been calls for Aotearoa to re-open our borders to foreign students and even tourists. Some have suggested that Universities could manage isolation/quarantine of students – despite even the government falling short in this critical area.

The National Party and business pressure groups have joined in a whining chorus of agitation to open our borders. Their number one priority is “business as usual”.

Recently, three “prominent” New Zealanders – former chief science advisor Sir Peter Gluckman, former prime minister Helen Clark and ex-Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe – joined the agitation to re-open our borders “some time in the near future we have to have a strategy in place of gradually opening the border, because we cannot [keep it closed] indefinitely“.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson spoke for the vast majority of New Zealanders when he rejected those demands;

“Growing our capacity for quarantine that we have absolute confidence in requires facilities that will need to be very carefully designed and used.

Moving toward an international student market for that will take some time.”

Two days later, finally reading and understanding the mood of the nation, then-Leader of the National Party, Todd Muller walked back National’s calls to re-open our borders;

“What I was framing up was a criteria that could exist in the future, when clearly that can’t happen in the current context … what I was talking about was a critique of the government’s lack of transparency or visibility around what the next step is in terms of opening up our border. 

There’s no appetite – from me or any New Zealander – for the border to be open today, partly because of what’s happening overseas and partly because of the shemozzle at the border.”

And on 12 July, appearing as a guest on TVNZ’s Q+A, Mr Fyfe –  one of the trio of “prominent New Zealanders” –  also seemed to be having second thoughts on loosening border controls;

“Personally, I’d be nervous opening to any country until we have our testing and trace capability to the standard it needs to be at and in my mind we’re not there yet […] no country has really solved the tracing challenge.”

Even Helen Clark, another of the “trio of prominent New Zealanders” voiced the obvious concerns felt by most people;

“We’re nowhere near through the end of this, some people say we may not see any widely available vaccine for at least two and a half years, it may then not be fully efficacious, it may not stop us getting it, it may mean it mitigates symptoms.”

As if to underscore the point and drive home the stark, unvarnished realities we were facing, Jacinda Ardern summed up it up succinctly, and in doing so, spoke for nearly the entire nation;

“Right now as this pandemic is surging and while the technology and testing is as limited as it is, now is not the right time.”

Wigram Capital Advisors economist, Rodney Jones, who has been tracking the spread and effects of the contagion repeated the warning;

“We only need to look to Victoria, New South Wales, Hong Kong, Singapore and Korea to see examples of other places that like us had the virus under control at a point in time only to see it emerge again.”

With this virus, we have to live with uncertainty and risks that we’re not accustomed to. This is new for all of us.”

In simple terms, most of us were in no mood to undo the victory we had achieved in nearly two months of lock-down. Not for all the tea in China or all the gold in Fort Knox.

Prime Minister Ardern spoke for most of us when she categorically refused to yield to calls to loosen our border controls;

“Right now as this pandemic is surging and while the technology and testing is as limited as it is, now is not the right time.”

Which leaves traditionally pro-market; pro-globalisation; pro-individualistic political parties with nowhere to go.

With tourism and the education export industries effectively “dead”, traditional market-driven ideologies have been ham-strung – not by their left-wing ideological counterparts – but by an unseen enemy that is not even aware of our existence.

Aside from trade in commodity goods, National cannot campaign on market liberalisation of the free movement of people with skills and/or wealth. Those days are behind us.

Thus far, National’s strategy for re-election appears to be based on regurgitated roading and tunnels under/through/over mountains and throughout the North Island (an asphalt fetish, as David Slack described it) and treating Kiwi Returnees as a cash cow by billing them for quarantining.

Aside from the sheer questionable legality of imposing what is effectively a border tax on New Zealand citizens and Permanent Residents returning home, how is that remotely reconcilable with their promise not to introduce new taxes in their first term?!

No less than three successive National Party leaders have promised: no new taxes;

We will not introduce any new taxes during our first term.” – Simon Bridges, 29 November 2018

There will be no new taxes from the next National Government, and that could not be more distinctive than what the Labour-Greens will serve up for this country.” – Todd Muller, 29 June 2020

This is not the party that is going into adding more cost to businesses and more cost to people who earn income and who are actually keeping this economy going. We are not the Party of taxing people any more than we need to.” – Judith Collins, 15 July 2020

Only Judith Collins’ unspecific assurances leaves “wiggle room” for introducing a new cost to Returnees – effectively a tax. So, “no new taxes” – except, maybe, perhaps…?

It’s a “levy”, not a tax?

It’s a “charge”, not a tax?

It is this mish-mash of rehashed policies; vague, un-costed promises;  and incoherent populism that voters will look askance at.

As free market economics takes a back seat to the collective needs of society, National finds itself on the outer, a Party in search of a new raison d’être. In a post-pandemic world it cannot be “business as usual” because the virus – an implacable, unrelenting, impersonal enemy – will not allow it.

By contrast, Labour has been more or less consistent in responding to the new dictates of the crisis to the approval of the majority. There is  an admiration – even from some National-leaning voters this blogger has spoken with – that PM Ardern has done what has needed to be done.

Some would go even further, so the government sits nicely in the middle as the measured, calm voice of reason.

But more importantly, the ideological mania of “small government” has been shown to be a dangerously naively fallacy – especially when confronted with such a crisis as a pandemic. When faced with a nationwide or global emergency – whether biological, environmental, etc – only the State can muster the required resources to meet such a challenge head-on.

People have long memories and they will remember calls from a succession of National party leaders; business “captains of industry”; and various other commentators, to re-open our borders.

Then they will see the mess across the Tasman in Victoria (and now escalating in New South Wales).

They will appreciate how incredibly fortunate we were to have a government that was cautious and valued lives over commercial dictates.

And they will vote accordingly.

Because National has failed to adapt.

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References

Quotes: War of the Worlds

CTV News: Florida reports a record 156 coronavirus deaths in 24 hours

TVNZ News: Texas reports 10,000 new cases as Covid-19 continues to surge around US

Apnews: How California went from success story to virus hot spot

Live Science: China just lifted its lockdown on Wuhan

Washington Post: Despite pressure from Trump, major districts say schools will stay closed in fall

Mediaworks/Newshub:  University head begs for return of international students

Stuff: Coronavirus – Managed isolation Covid-19 testing failures lead to buck passing but no answers

Otago Daily Times: NZ should open borders to countries with Covid – Muller

RNZ: Border reopening must be priority – Business NZ

RNZ: NZ must consider opening borders – Gluckman, Clark, Fyfe

NZ Herald: Covid 19 coronavirus – Majority of Kiwis want to keep borders closed, but are concerned about economy, jobs

NZ Herald: Grant Robertson – Don’t expect return of foreign students in 2020

RNZ: Checkpoint –  2 July 2020

TVNZ: Q+A – 12 July 2020

RNZ: Covid-19 review ‘challenging’ because pandemic ‘ongoing’, Helen Clark says

RNZ: Economist warns risk of another Covid-19 outbreak rising

TVNZ News: ‘Right now is not the right time’ – PM responds to further calls for NZ’s borders to reopen

Twitter: David Slack – 11:55AM Jul 17, 2020

RNZ: Covid-19 – National to charge for quarantine

NZHerald: National leader Judith Collins unveils $31b transport plan to crush Auckland’s congestion

Otago Daily Times: National – No new taxes in the first term

Mediaworks/Newshub: Todd Muller rules out wealth tax under National, says Labour-Greens will drag New Zealand into debt

RNZ:  Judith Collins on her plans for National (alt.link)

TVNZ News: NSW at ‘crucial point’ in the fight against Covid-19 as new clusters emerge

Twitter: @FoxyLustyGrover – 6:53AM  Jul 1, 2020

Previous related blogposts

Life in Lock Down: Day 2 of Level 3

Life in Level 1: Reinfection – Labour’s kryptonite

Life in Level 1: Reinfection – No, Dr Bloomfield!

Life in Level 1: The Taxpayer’s Coin

Life in Level 1: Cunning Plans, Unanswered Questions

Life in level 1: Newshub Nation, Q + A, and the end of Todd Muller’s leadership

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Acknowledgement: Guy Body

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 20 July 2020.

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National and petrol taxes – when journalists gets it right

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It’s not often that it happens, but every so often one will stumble across examples of journalism that probes deeper than the immediacy of the here-and-now, and actually takes a step back in very recent history to put political events and utterances into context.

National’s desperation to remain relevant involves a two-pronged strategy to promote Simon Bridges as Prime-Minister-in-waiting and to portray the current coalition government as tax-and-spend and wasteful with our tax-dollars.

With Mr Bridges at 6% in the polls, the first of National’s strategy is stuck firmly in a political mire. The public do not seem to like and/or trust the current National leader. His constant barking-at-every-passing-car and relentless negativity (without proposing alternative solutions) is problematic and his hyper-critical, carping style is a major turn-off with voters.

The second prong of National’s grand strategy – to throw as much mud as possible at every part of the Coalition’s activities – continues at full-throttle. It’s success is yet to be determined.

National’s current attack focuses on  petrol prices, with the Opposition and it’s leader blaming the Coalition for high fuel prices. This despite Gull NZ’s general manager, Dave Bodger, stating that lack of competition was the deciding factor in fuel pricing, not government taxes;

“That restricts the supply, which inflates the price, especially if you look in parts of the South Island and areas where there’s not as great competition; the consumer is paying a lot more than they are in other places.”

The Commerce Commission’s recent investigation and report into the fuel industry criticised excessive profit-taking by some petrol companies. As Commerce Commission chairperson, Anna Rawlings stated unambiguously;

“Our preliminary findings suggest that many fuel companies are earning returns on investment that are higher than what we would consider a reasonable return to be.”

Those facts did not prevent National from issuing countless press statements and bombarding social media to smear the Coalition as culpable for high petrol prices;

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Fairfax/Stuff journalist, Henry Cooke, reported Simon Bridges’ attack-point verbatim;

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“I agree with Jacinda Ardern that New Zealanders are being fleeced, but the reality of this is the biggest fleecer isn’t the petrol companies, it’s Jacinda Ardern and her Government. Jacinda Ardern is the fleecer-in-chief.”

But then, Mr Cooke, took a further step. He delved into the past and with a few clicks of research, offered readers some further salient facts;

He said fuel taxes were rising by 24c over this Government’s term, compared to just 17c over nine years of National. But this figure included the 11.5c Regional Fuel Tax which is only charged in Auckland – where fuel is typically cheaper than other parts of the country – and did not include the GST rise his Government brought in.

National raised fuel taxes six times over nine years in Government, raising the price by 17c in total. The National Government also increased GST from 12.5 to 15 per cent.

The Labour Government has raised the excise by 7c so far this term and will raise it by another 3.5c in July next year. 

Which helps put current fuel excise rises into some context, when a journalist reminds readers that National was not averse to doing precisely what it self-righteously condemns the Coalition government for doing.

Not forgetting that as well as raising GST (despite promising not to do so), National’s tax-grab reached deep into the pockets of newspaper boys and girls, in a desperate effort to balance their books and make up for billions of dollars squandered in two tax cuts.

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Simon Bridges’ hypocrisy was underscored when Henry Cooke finished his story with the National Party leader’s comments;

Asked if he would cut excise taxes if elected he was non-commital, saying he would need to have a better look at the books when coming to Government.

He stood by the general user-pay system in transport, whereby fuel taxes fund major new roading infrastructure, rather than the general tax take.

The public’s collective eye-rolling at Mr Bridges’ “bob-each-way” explains why he is on 6% in the polls. This is not a politician who “means what he says, and says what he means”.

The following day, on Radio NZ’s deputy political editor, Craig McCulloch, also took National to task on its criticism over fuel excise taxes.

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On Checkpoint, on 21 August, Mr McCulloch  presented listeners with a refresher course in recent political history;

“By the end of it’s three year term, the [Coalition] government will have put up petrol taxes by ten and a half cents, not including the eleven and a half cent regional fuel tax in Auckland.

When National was in charge it put up taxes by seventeen cents, but over a much longer nine year period. But National also increased GST from 12.5% to 15.”

Embarrassing stuff.

Mediaworks/Newshub had also pointed out the same hypocrisy from Nation, but a few months earlier. Dan Satherley and Lisette Reymer reported in early July;

Between 2008 and 2017 National raised petrol taxes six times, usually by 3c – Simon Bridges was Transport Minister for three of those years. They also increased GST from 12.5 to 15 percent.

But more conspicuously, despite considerable media exposure; spending considerable effort and money on wide-reaching social media propagandising, aside from the Auckland regional fuel tax,  National leader Simon Bridges has refused to state if he would repeal the Coalition’s fuel tax excise increases;

“Right now, in the Transport Budget, they have dramatic underspends. I wouldn’t put the [taxes] on, my inclination would be to not have them, but if you are already there and they are already there, there is no way I am putting more on.”

That’s because last year, Mediaworks/Newshub pointed out that National and Labour have both increased fuel excise taxes by almost the same amount. (Though it is unclear from  the infograph below if Mediaworks/Newshub have factored in National’s GST increase in 2010.)

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It’s a fair bet that National will not be using the above infographic in any of their attack ads. Too close to the inconvenient truth for one thing.

It’s also a fair bet that National will retain the Coalition’s excise fuel tax increases; add a few of their own; and then offer a “neutral tax switch”. That’s because National believes in user-pays for most, if not all government services. In 2014 the NZ Labour Party kindly put together a list of just some of those government service fees increases;

  1. GST increase from 12.5% to 15%
  2. Increased taxes on KiwiSaver
  3. Compulsory student loan payment increase from 10% to 12%
  4. Increased tertiary fees
  5. The 2012 ‘Paperboy’ tax
  6. Civil Aviation Authority fees rise
  7. Additional fuel tax increase of 9 cents with annual CPI increases locked in for perpetuity
  8. Road User Charges increased
  9. New annual student loan fees introduced
  10. Massive unnecessary ACC levy increases
  11. Prescription fees increased by 66%
  12. New online company filing fees imposed on businesses
  13. Creeping expansion of the scope of Fringe Benefit Taxes – National tried to tax car parks and plain-clothes police uniforms
  14. Lowering of Working for Families abatement threshold and increasing the abatement rate, taking money out of the pockets of families
  15. Imposing a $900 Family Court fee

Whether fees for DoC huts and tracks, the Family Courts, ACC, roading, etc, National has never been averse to loading costs of those services onto individual users – whilst then cutting income taxes.

This is precisely what they did from 2009 to 2017.

We can expect more of the same from National should they be returned to power.

In the meantime, kudos to Henry Cooke, Craig McCulloch, and other journalists, for  delving into National’s past track record on this issue. This is the sort of journalism the public rightly demand – not simply cutting-and-pasting Party press releases.

The media should now press Mr Bridges harder on this issue: will he repeal Labour’s fuel excise tax increases or not? It’s a simple enough question. After all, he was 100% adamant that National would scrap any Capital Gains Tax if it became government;

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If Simon Bridges wanted the increased fuel excise taxes dumped, there is no reason on Earth why he wouldn’t commit. The fact is that National supports user-pays charges and their claims of being champions for “Kiwi battlers” is populist rubbish. National’s plans are blindingly obvious;

  • increase user pays charges, excise taxes, etc
  • cut personal income taxes – especially for the wealthy

Hence why Mr Bridges has said repeatedly;

“We will not introduce any new taxes during our first term.”

The caveat, Ifs, Buts, and fine print underlying that statement should not be lost on anyone.

If the (current) Leader of the National Party cannot be straight up with voters as to what his intentions are (on any issue!), then he cannot be trusted to lead this country.

For Simon Bridges, the timer on his political career is counting – downward.

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Postscript 1

Fuel prices in New Zealand Aotearoa from 2005 to 2019:

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A bit embarrassing for National: fuel was more expensive during their term in office. New Zealanders cannot afford a National government it would appear.

Postscript 2

Interesting to note that National’s spin doctors appear to have ‘borrowed from my “That was Then, This is Now” memes on which to base their own “What she said, What she did” propaganda;

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But we’re all aware by now that National is not averse to ‘borrowing’  from other peoples’ creative efforts – without paying.

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References

NZ Herald: Latest political poll – National rises against Labour, with 45 against 43 in 1 News Colmar Brunton poll

RNZ: Fuel prices – Government urged to free up wholesale market

Fairfax/Stuff media: Jacinda Ardern says New Zealanders are being ripped off over petrol

National Party: Axe the Tax

Twitter: National Party – petrol prices – taxes – 5.52 PM, Jul 24, 2019

Twitter: National Party – petrol prices – taxes – 6.26 AM, Aug 23, 2019

Twitter: National Party – petrol prices – taxes – 7.15 PM, Aug 21, 2019

Twitter: Simon Bridges – petrol prices – taxes – 2.49 PM, Aug 20, 2019

Twitter: National Party – petrol prices – taxes – 10.25 AM, Jul 1, 2018

Twitter: National Party – petrol prices – taxes – 9.40 AM, Jun 30, 2019

Twitter: National Party – petrol prices – 4.05 PM, Aug 29, 2018

Fairfax/Stuff media: Petrol prices – Simon Bridges says Jacinda Ardern is ‘fleecer-in-chief’

Fairfax/Stuff media: Key ‘no GST rise’ video emerges

Fairfax/Stuff media: Young workers out of pocket

RNZ: Blame game in Parliament over high petrol prices (audio-link)

Mediaworks/Newshub: Fuel tax hike – How much it might cost you

Mediaworks/Newshub: National’s Simon Bridges refuses to say he will overturn new petrol tax increase

TVNZ/One News: National promise no new taxes and repeal of Auckland fuel tax in first term

Mediaworks/Newshub: Fact check – Who taxed your petrol the most – Labour or National?

Fairfax/Stuff media: Trampers torn on price hike for New Zealand’s Great Walks

RNZ: DoC fees rise

Labour Party: At least 15 new taxes under National

Scoop media: National would repeal Capital Gains Tax

National Party: National would repeal Capital Gains Tax

Twitter: Simon Bridges – no ifs no buts no caveats – 6 March 2019

Twitter: Simon Bridges – tax cuts – 2.58 PM, Jan 30, 2019

Otago Daily Times – National: No new taxes in the first term

NZ Herald: National Party found guilty of Eminem copyright breach

Addition

Fairfax/Stuff media: Intolerance fed by wrong and hateful assumptions is all the rage right now

Fairfax/Stuff media: National’s ‘desperate’ attack ads to be investigated by Advertising Standards Authority

Previous related blogposts

That was Then, This is Now #28 – John Key on transparency

Simon Bridges: “No ifs, no buts, no caveats, I will repeal this CGT

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

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A possible solution to Party campaign funding rorts

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1. Party donations

As the law currently stands with regards to party donations, there are set limits to election spending. According to the Electoral Commission;

Expenditure limit

A registered party’s election expenses during the regulated period for the 2017 general election (23 June to 22 September) must not exceed $1,115,000 (including GST) plus $26,200 (including GST) per electorate contested by the party.

If a registered party does not contest the party vote, its total election expenses cannot exceed $26,200 (including GST) for each electorate candidate nominated by the party.

The candidate election expenses regime does not apply to people who are list candidates only. Any spending by those candidates promoting the party is an election expense of the party and must be authorised by the party secretary.

Party limits are separate from the expense limits applying to electorate candidates.

The issue of donations is more complicated;

Party donations and contributions to donations of more than $15,000 (including GST) are required to be declared in the party’s annual return of donations. A series of donations, or contributions of more than $1,500 to donations, made by one person that adds up to more than $15,000 must also be declared.

Fundraising activities are also covered;

Raffles, stalls and other fundraisers

A supporter providing a party with free cakes or other goods or services to use for fundraising is not making a donation for the purposes of the Electoral Act if the value of the items given is worth $1,500 or less. Purchasers of raffle tickets and cakes from a cake stall are not ‘donors’ as they are not making a donation to anyone. The total proceeds of a raffle or a cake stall for a party’s campaign are treated as a donation. The person who runs the raffle or cake stall will normally be the donor.

If the total funds from the raffle or cake stall are over $15,000, then the party’s donation return must include the name and address of the person who ran the fundraiser and subsequently donated the proceeds, along with the total amount given and the date that the donation was received by the party secretary.

It would be a fairly profitable “chook raffle” or “cake stall” to raise $15,000. That’s a very expensive chook. And a truck-load lot of cupcakes.

2. Dodgy dealings

Fundraisers such as National’s $5,000/plate dinner event at ‘Antoine’s’ restaurant in Parnell, Auckland in 2014 raised eyebrows, forcing then-PM John Key to defend  his Party’s activities;

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Fundraising events using fronts such as ‘Antoine’s‘ restaurant are nominally legitimate – if dubious – methods to avoid identifying donors to political parties. Donation returns for National in 2010 and 2011 showed tens of thousands of dollars being funnelled through the restaurant;

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There is currently little protection from circumventing disclosure requirements by using ‘fronts’ such as Trusts and private companies.

Only direct donations are monitored.

Only where non-disclosure or false information is provided is the law is unequivocal regarding a donation;

If the party secretary knows, or has reasonable grounds to believe, that the donor has failed to supply information about contributions, the whole donation must be returned to the donor.

And,

Parties are not allowed to retain anonymous donations exceeding $1,500. An anonymous donation is a donation made in such a way that the party secretary who receives the donation does not know the identity of the donor and could not, in the circumstances, reasonably be expected to know the identity of the donor. [See section 207 of the Electoral Act]

If you receive an anonymous donation greater than $1,500 you may retain $1,500 of that donation. The balance of the donation must, within 20 working days of receipt, be paid to the Electoral Commission for payment into a Crown bank account.

NZ First was forced to return a portion of one such donation in 2008 when it received a donation of $3,690.02 from an unknown donor who was obviously providing bogus details;

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The possibility of a deliberate set-up by a political opponent should make all Party Secretaries highly cautious when dealing with donations where the donor’s details are dubious. The Donghua Liu Affair showed vividly what can happen when a Party is accused (falsely in this case) of rorting the Electoral Act.

But where a donor providing larger donation is known to Party leaders it becomes easier to circumvent legal requirements for disclosure. Recent allegations from Jami Lee Ross that businessman Zhang Yikun donated $100,000 to National, via the Botany Electorate of that Party, and was broken up at some point into smaller portions below the $15,000 threshold for mandatory declaration, are being investigated by the Police.

The apparent ease by which the Electoral Act’s requirements for disclosure can be flouted is disturbing. It opens up dangerous vulnerabilities for corruption; undue influence by big business and the wealthy, and candidates-for-money.

The US shows us where Big Money buying influence leads us – and it is not a good place.

Problems surrounding rorting the party donation system need to be urgently addressed. It is harder to cut out rot once it has set in; corruption is hard to dislodge once it has taken hold.

3. Solutions

Suggestions for tightening up legislation has ranged from lowering the limit for mandatory disclosure to $1,000 to full public funding of political parties by taxpayers.

As Green Party co-leader, Marama Davidson warned;

“The fact of the matter is, as long as political parties are accepting donations from powerful vested interests, there is a constant risk of corruption.

It is clear that those vested interests have a tangible influence on the decision making of political parties. This is a threat to democracy and should change.

Political parties are an important component of our democracy and if increasing state money for electioneering removes the influence of powerful vested interests, then it should be considered.”

Writing for Interest.co.nz, David Hargreaves has gone further, calling for a total end of private donations to political parties;

But there’s no question also that these ‘donations’ can be used by those making the donation to seek influence. If a donation ‘buys’ the people giving the money access to the political party concerned (such as dinner at someone’s house) then the opportunity is there to carry influence.

So, you get the situation in which the person making the donation wants to be able to influence proceedings – without the public at large knowing that – while the party receiving the donations doesn’t want the public at large to know that they are getting money from places that might suggest they are being subjected to particular influence.

There has to be obvious concern if particular vested interests are pumping money into political parties in order to seek influence. Now that could be say religious groups. It could be people from other countries – and what if other countries are seeking to assert their so-called ‘soft power’?

This all has to be taken very seriously.

[…]

It’s the lack of transparency about the current system that’s the real problem.

[…]

I increasingly think ‘donations’ should be banned. I think it should be illegal for anybody to contribute money to a political party.

Activist group, Action Stations has called for three significant reforms for Party donations:

  • All donations over $1500 should be declared and the donors named.
  • Loopholes that allow fundraising through trusts, dinners, and charity auctions to remain anonymous should be closed.
  • Donations should be publicly disclosed in real time, to allow greater and immediate scrutiny.

4. There is a further option to tighten up controls on donation.

This blogger proposes that all donations above a certain amount (whether $1,000 or $1,500) be made directly to the Electoral Commission, using internet banking. For those not au fait with internet banking, donations could be available by other means – NZPost, etc – but still made directly to the Electoral Commission.

Each donation would be made to a  nominated Party or Electorate Candidate using drop-down menus on the Commission’s website.

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Donor’s details can be matched with their bank account details. Once verified, the donated amount is lodged in a holding-account and the donor’s name  made public in real-time.

Donations through dinners, auctions, etc, can be lodged directly during the event, into the Commission’s account, disclosing the details of the donor at the dinner or auction. (Again, if the donor’s details do not match their bank account details, the donation is automatically rejected.)

As per Action Station’s demand, donations through Trusts would be banned. Any method that does not provide transparency would not be permitted through the Commission.

Parties would be banned from handling funds greater than $1,000 or $1,500.

This still allows for low-level fund-raising such as sausage sizzles, cake stalls, and chook raffles. (Cake stalls raising $15,000 would be scrutinised to see what the hell those ‘cakes’ were made from.)

Once verified, funds would be disbursed to relevent Parties to meet campaign expenses.

Any funds over the Party and Electorate cap (see above) would be held in escrow for the following election.

Interest gained from holding these funds in the Electoral Commission’s account would self-fund the system.

The obvious primary benefit would be that it makes it harder – though not impossible* – for political Parties to rort the system.

(* A wealthy donor could still, theoretically give smaller amounts to friends and family, who then make said donations to a Party or Electorate Candidate via the Commission’s account. A bank would have to implement protocols to detect suspicious payments. Any police investigation; subsequent prosecution and conviction, would have to have financial penalties so severe that anyone contemplating such a scheme would think very carefully before proceeding.)

The above proposal does not cover every aspect of donations (such as goods and services) to political parties – but it’s a start.

If Jami Lee Ross has achieved anything, it is casting the full glare of public scrutiny over Party donations. His methods may have been unorthodox – but he’s got our attention. We can no longer feign lack of awareness of this dark shadow over our democracy.

The rest is up to us, as a nation, what we do now.

Otherwise, we end up with more-of-the-same;

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For sale: one parliament.

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References

Electoral Commission: Part 3 – Election expenses, donations and loans

Mediaworks: Key not talking about fundraising dinner

Electoral Commission: National_Party_donations_2010.pdf

Electoral Commission:  New Zealand National Party donations 2011.pdf

Electoral Commission: NZ First Party Donations Returns 2008

Fairfax media: Show us the money: Donors bankrolling Greens lead way in fronting up to public

Interest.co.nz: We should urgently consider changes to the way our political parties are funded

Action Stations: Fix Political Donations

Scoop media: Stop powerful vested interests and preserve democracy

NZ Herald: Bryce Edwards – Should taxpayers fund political parties?

Fairfax media: Secret donors – Buck stops here

Additional

The Good Society: Max Rashbrooke – Donations to political parties 2011-16

Electoral Commission: Party Donations by Year

Fairfax media: Over half of major political cash comes from donations of over $15,000

NBR:  Key under fire for Antoine’s donations

Other blogs

The Standard: Ross saga quiescent, but donations scandal needs addressing

Previous related blogposts

National’s fund-raising at Antoine’s – was GST paid?

Some troubling questions about the Ross Affair

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With acknowledgement to Sharon Murdoch

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

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Some troubling questions about the Ross Affair

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Jami Lee Ross vs Simon Bridges

Whatever drama is taking place before our eyes, one certainty should be borne in mind: this is not a story of Good vs Evil; Light vs Darkness; a lone battler for justice vs corruption in our highest political places. What we are seeing are two faces of the same coin at war with each other.

One is motivated by revenge – for ambitions thwarted.

The other is motivated by desperation – for pure political survival.

Jami Lee Ross has been associated with a small cabal of far-right political activists; Simon Lusk, David Farrar, Judith Collins, Aaron Bhatnagar, and Cameron Slater. (There are others, but they are bit-players.) More on this shortly.

Ross was better known for his Employment Relations Amendment Bill in 2013 which  would allow businesses to break strikes by employing temporary scab labour during industrial action. Ross’s undisguised hatred for unions was apparent when, in June 2012, he released a vicious attack public attack on the Maritime Union (involved in a bitter dispute at the time with the Ports of Auckland management);

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

For commercial users, it is a simple matter of certainty and continuity Union action, and the threat of further strikes, have put a serious dent in the Ports of Auckland’s ability to provide their bread and butter services Customers are now voting with their feet. The value of Ports of Auckland and the value of the investment that every Aucklander has in the company will continue to suffer if resolution to this matter is not swift.

Aucklanders can rightly be concerned at the increasingly rogue nature of the Maritime Union. However there are 500 men and women that work at the Port with even more skin in the game and a lot more to lose. The trade union movement evolved through a desire for workers to band together to protect their common interests. This is not a dishonourable goal. But when a union loses sight of its members long term interests and cavalier negotiating tactics start to backfire, the union itself begins putting its own member’s livelihoods at risk.

Unions still occupy a privileged position in New Zealand’s employment law; a relic of the last Labour administration which has not seen significant overhaul for some years. Few non-government organisations can boast clauses in legislation specifically designed for their benefit. Despite only 18 percent of the nation’s workforce being unionised, trade unions can look to whole sections of the Employment Relations Act written exclusively to aid union survival through legislative advantage.

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

As the fight for Auckland’s waterfront reaches the tipping point, for ratepayers and workers alike this present stand off must come to an end. The city’s $600 million port investment and worker’s jobs are now on the line. Also on the line is the country’s acceptance of the role of trade unions. It can not be tolerable or acceptable for a union to demonstrate continued disregard for the economic consequences of their actions.

For Simon Bridges, he is better known for enabling legislation criminalising/banning protest action against deep-sea oil exploration;

The government is set to crack down on environmental protesters with fines of up to $100,000 or a year in jail for those who target offshore oil and gas operations.

Energy minister Simon Bridges today announced “stronger measures to protect offshore petroleum and minerals activity from unlawful interference”.

Individuals who intentionally damage or interfere with mining structures, like rigs, or vessels face a 12-month prison sentence or a $50,000 fine. Organisations face a penalty of up to $100,000.

Activists who break a 500-metre “no-go” zone around structures would be liable for a $10,000 fine.

A year later, and National continued to curtail public rights to protest oil and gas exploration in our waters;

The public will lose their right to formally oppose deep-sea oil and gas exploration from tomorrow.

A law change will see applications by oil giants go through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They will now be “non-notified” preventing members of the public lodging a formal protest.

Environment Minister Amy Adams said  the new classification was the “pragmatic option” for exploratory drilling. She believed it provided regulation “proportionate to its effects”.

Neither men fit any notion of being “Champions” for public scrutiny and openess when it comes to political matters. Both are on record willing and able to curtail workers’ rights for collective bargaining, and public rights to oppose environmentally damaging fossil fuel exploration.

Furthermore, if we disregard the (now admitted) sexual shenanigans and the controversial (though not illegal) tape recordings by Jamie Lee Ross, there remain several questions  that deserve far greater scrutiny.

The $100,000 Donation (the real one, not the fabricated Donghua Liu/NZHerald version)

Was a donation of $100,000 made by Chinese businessman, Zhang Yikun?

According to Southland mayor, Gary Tong, who was on a recent business trip to China  with the businessman, Mr Zhang denies ever making such a donation.

Assuming that a donation was made, where was the $100K deposited? In his now infamous recorded conversation with National Parliamentary leader, Simon Bridges,  Jami-Lee Ross pointed to the amount being  deposited into a “Botany electorate account”.

“What would you like done with it? It’s currently sitting in a Botany electorate account.”

In a follow-up text message to National Party president, Peter Goodfellow, Ross said;

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In what form was it deposited – one lump sum, or in smaller amounts?

According to Ross – in the same text message – they were “all under $15,000”.

The following conversation between Bridges and Ross is suggestive that there is a question how the donation should be disclosed to Peter Goodfellow;

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Bridges: The money’s fine sitting there in the Botany account. I don’t know what your arrangement is with Goodfellow or not, that’s all. I need to talk to him. I’m actually seeing him tonight, I wonder if I should.

Ross: I don’t think we can.

Bridges: I should wait and get the right words.

Ross: I don’t think we can raise tens of thousands and completely keep him out of the loop.

Bridges: No, no we can’t.

Ross: Maybe if you’re just honest with him about it.

Bridges: I think that’s right. I’ll raise it with him but we should probably just think it through. I mean, it can be in the Party but I do just want to make sure we’ve got that money to do those things. Don’t you think?

Ross: Donations can only be raised two ways: Party donation or candidate donation.

Party donation has a different disclosure which is fine, and the way they’ve done it meets the disclosure requirements…it meets the requirements where it’s under the particular disclosure level because they’re a big association and there’s multiple people and multiple people make donations, so that’s all fine. But if it was a candidate donation that’d be different. So making them party donations is the way to do it. Legally though if they’re party donations they’re kind of under Greg’s name as the party secretary.

Bridges: We need to tell them, I get that. I get that. I’m going to tell him…I think he’ll accept it I just need to explain to him what it is I want it for. Unless I get him to…leave it with me. I might talk to McClay as well; see what he’s got up his sleeve. Because Peter is going to be with me at this meeting in Wellington, is all. If I then brought him after that…good work though man, that’s a lot of money.

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In the last highlighted extract Ross practically spells out to Bridges that the donation was made by “multiple people and multiple people mak[ing] donations“.

Tellingly, Bridges accepts Ross’s statement without question. He reconfirmed his acceptance of multiple donations/donors on Radio NZ’s Morning Report on 24 October. When asked by Suzie Ferguson if he had “found the $100,000 donation yet“, Bridges replied;

We’ve established that the position is , it was some seven donations from eight people. I didn’t know that at the time – [inaudible].”

Ms Ferguson pressed the point by asking if it added up to $100,000. Bridges replied;

“Look, I think it’s something very much like that, yeah.”

Bridges’ claim he was unaware of multiple donors is at variance with what Jami Lee Ross told him during their recorded conversation;

“Party donation has a different disclosure which is fine, and the way they’ve done it meets the disclosure requirements…it meets the requirements where it’s under the particular disclosure level because they’re a big association and there’s multiple people and multiple people make donations, so that’s all fine.”

National Party President, Peter Goodfellow confirmed unequivocally that no  “$100K” donation had been received by the National Party office;

“There was no such donation. The Botany Electorate of the National Party received eight donations, and Mr Ross declared eight donations to us.”

It will be a  simple matter for Police to conduct a forensic accounting investigation. Once deposited into the Botany-National account the electronic money trail will be relatively straight forward to follow.

If – as Peter Goodfellow claims, and Ross outlined in his recorded conversation with Bridges – it was deposited in smaller amounts, again it would be straight forward to trace the source(s) and donor (s).

If dodgy dealings were involved and the $100k was split into “eight donations“, an electronic trail will reveal the donor(s). The Police probably have those details by now.

Furthermore, if seven of those “eight donations” were individuals who happened to receive an identical sum of, say, $12,500 from Zhang Yikun; and those seven individuals then donated precisely the same sum of, say, $12,500 to Botany National – then a prima facie case exists that an attempt was made to circumvent the Electoral Act 1993.

If it became known that Mr Zhang received that $100,000 from a foreign government – or state-sanctioned entity controlled by a foreign government – that would be explosive! It would cripple the National Party for years to come.

The bottom line is that a donation was made. The question is: how was it made? Both claims of a single $100k donation  and “eight donations” cannot be reconciled.

Someone is lying. By now the Police probably have a good idea who.

Perhaps not quite so “insignificant?

All of which makes Bryce Edwards recent remarks questionable;

“The extraordinary National Party scandal currently unfolding before our eyes is undoubtedly high drama. It has it all – leaks, anonymous texts, threats, secret recordings and explosive allegations… At its heart, however, the scandal is empty. It contains nothing of significance for democracy and society.”

As a series of stories on Radio NZ’s Morning Report began to explore – whilst the prurient side-show of sex, tapes, and personality-plays dominated media headlines last week (15- 19 October) – the real issues of campaign donations is yet to play out.

Ross’s allegations may  be the critically-needed spark that reviews our party donation rules by casting the glare of public scrutiny over ways  the Electoral Act has been, and is, being rorted.

The Four Anonymous Women, What The Nats Knew, And When They Knew It

The  issue raised by the story of four women allegedly harassed by Jami-Lee Ross was raised by independent media, Newsroom, on 18 October – three days  after National party leader Simon Bridges held his press conference identifying  Ross as the leaker of his travel expenses.

The story was written by Newsroom   veteran journalist Melanie Reid and Cass Mason.

Initially, all four complainants were anonymous. Which made any similarities to the revelations by three women against US Supreme Court (then-)nominee, Brett Kavanaugh questionable. Those three women – Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, Julie Swetnick – came forward and made their identities public.

One, Christine Blasey Ford, appeared before a Senate Judiciary committee where she was subjected to intense scrutiny and questioning. Her demeanour and testimony was composed, compelling, and credible.

One day prior to the Newsroom story being published, National’s deputy leader, Paula Bennett accused Ross of unspecific “inappropriate behaviour”;

“He had gone out there and said we had been accusing him of sexual harassment of women and that’s not true, and we haven’t done that and he likened himself to Brett Kavanaugh, which was quite extraordinary in his hour-long stand-up, so I continued to be asked about sexual harassment and we hadn’t put sexual harassment to him, but we had put inappropriate behaviour to him.”

It was also in this story that Ross’s allegation that Simon Bridges had met with businessman Zhang Yikun was first confirmed by the National Party. Until this point, Bridges had been evasive in answering media questions on any donations.

All four women are apparently connected to the National Party. One has come forward – former National Party Candidate for Manurewa, Katrina Bungard;

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Ms Bungard’s conflict with Ross began in 2016/17. Ross was campaigning vigorously to have his wife, Lucy Schwaner, appointed to the Howick Local Board.

This was National Party intra-politics with Ross allegedly threatening Ms Bungard for not supporting his wife onto the Howick Local Board. At one point, Ross had served a trespass order against Ms Bungard, to prevent her attending a National Party event. Far-right political operative, Simon Lusk, became involved on behalf of Jami Lee Ross.

Ms Bungard complained to the National Party hierarchy. Apparently, Ms Bungard was satisfied at the time with the National Party’s action addressing Ross’s alleged bullying;

“They helped me at a really stressful time and I am thankful for their assistance.”

Ms Bungard has stated that if  Ross resigned , she would run for his Botany seat in the by-election.

As our American cuzzies put it, Ms Bungard “has skin in the game” – she would stand to benefit materially and politically if Jami Lee Ross resigned.

The other three alleged complainants remain anonymous and their stories cannot be scrutinised or verified.

Other Complainants come forward

David Collings, chair of the Howick Local Board, alleges that he also had a confrontation with Ross. On TV3’s The Nation, Mr Collings painted a grim picture of Jami Lee Ross;

“It got very nasty. He actually threatened, attacked my members, for support. For example, my deputy chair [Katrina Bungard] has aspirations – she’d be a great National MP… he’s used that over her to try and get his way. Threatening her – ‘you’re political career will go nowhere’ – other members of the board, even a sworn police officer, veiled threats about your employment.

[…]

Oh, it got very nasty.

[…]

I wasn’t even contacted. But obviously, I knew exactly what was going on, even was privy to… I think it was on the actual day of our meeting when we elected the chair. He called through – and I’ve said it before – in, like, a Darth Vader voice, ‘I can’t believe you’re willing to give up your political career.’ Sorry, I can do a better Darth Vader voice than that, but that’s what it was like. But like Freddy Krueger or something.

[…] I’m not sure if he said it was him, because I was actually going to try and get my phone to try and record it, so I missed the end of it. But it was on – what do you call it – a cell phone that was untraceable, sort of thing – no number.

We complained to the National Party, and Greg Hamilton – who was the manager at the time – was quite helpful. He said, ‘What you’re telling us is not right. An MP shouldn’t’ be getting involved in something in local government, particularly when his wife is involved.’ Greg was quite helpful, but it didn’t stop.”

Mr Collings went on to describe Ross as;

“Look, this guy – we’ve got a guy in our area that makes Todd Barclay look like an angel.”

National Party member, Katrina Bungard is Deputy Chair of the Howick Local Board.

TV3’s The Nation co-host, Simon Shepherd introduced  David Collings as the chairperson of the Howick Local Board.

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What wasn’t disclosed is that Mr Collings was elected on the right-wing ‘Vision and Voice‘ ticket; a local  grouping of  members that appears to be National Party-aligned;

David Collings

Bob Wichman

Garry Boles

John Spiller (formerly member of National-aligned )

Peter Young

Katrina Bungard (former National candidate)

Adele White (supported by Jami Lee Ross in a petition, 2013)

Lucy Schwaner (Jami Lee Ross’s wife).

As described in a Newsroom story;

Many on the Howick board are National Party types but the party doesn’t stand candidates directly.

It would appear that David Collings also “has skin in the game”.

Obvious questions should be raised as to why the complainants have only now made their stories about alleged harassment public. As Tim Macindoe, MP for Hamilton West, pointed out to Newshub;

“You’re jumping to a whole lot of assumptions about behaviour you don’t know about and I don’t know about.

There are allegations that have been made, but I think given the situation we’re now in, the best thing is for us all to just step back, allow authorities do the jobs they’re needing to do, and I don’t think it’s helpful for us to be involved in public speculation.

As I say we have some allegations that have been made, they may be wildly at variance from the facts.”

The conclusion that this is a “pile on” by National Party members and supporters cannot be easily ignored. Alleged bad behaviour is apparently tolerated by National as long as everyone ‘tows the party line’ and remains loyal.

National Party action over past harassment charges

Justifying Ross’s expulsion, an un-named National Party spokesperson said;

“What Jami-Lee has done and continues to do is unacceptable and the more that comes to light the more we know we made the right decision to expel him from the Caucus.

We are supporting those women who came to us as a result of Jami-Lee’s behaviour.”

However, many of the allegations made against Ross appear to have been recent-historical and have only now surfaced.

Whilst National was “supporting those women who came to us as a result of Jami-Lee’s behaviour” one complainant was encouraged (?) to sign a NDA (non-disclosure agreement). Signed two years ago,  National Party president, Peter Goodfellow, denies it was a NDA;

“We haven’t used any NDAs. That matter was a private matter and they wanted confidentiality, so they both agreed that it would be kept confidential.

That’s the only instance that I’m aware of in my time as president that we’ve had an issue like that and it’s certainly the only time that the parties have requested confidentiality.

It was a matter that was raised by a couple of people and was dealt with – and actually to the satisfaction of the parties.

We acted quickly and helped them to resolve the differences and move on.”

According to Peter Goodfellow, the document was not a NDA but rather a “gentlemen’s agreement”. Which is a quaintly odd euphemism, as one of the signatories was a woman.

Despite the agreement; despite the complaints made over his alleged behaviour, Ross’s career continued to rise within the National Party. He rose to become National’s Senior Whip.

Though the National hierarchy had been aware of complaints  about Ross’s alleged behaviour, at least one woman who complained was silenced through a non-disclosure agreement – and in the meantime Jami Lee Ross continued his rise through the National hierarchy. He was rewarded, whilst complainants were silenced.

His promotion makes a mockery of the sanctimonious utterances of both Simon Bridges and his deputy, Paula Bennett;

“I am in admiration of the courage of these women for what had happened. As soon as I was aware of inappropriate conduct, I acted immediately I knew nothing before the leak investigation about any of these sorts of things … within a day of knowing about them I confronted Jami-Lee Ross about this.” – Simon Bridges

“I think there are bound to be other women, at various degrees, he was grooming. I feel a sense that people deserve to feel safe and particularly from someone in power. I think those women are incredibly courageous and strong to have spoken out. I’m sure when you are dealing with that potentially narcissistic personality, then any kind of position of power would feed into that.” – Paula Bennett

Simon Bridges denies any knowledge of Ross’s alleged bad behaviour. This seems unlikely in a ‘pressure-cooker’ political environment where people talk to each other and gossip runs rampant.  Bridges’ claim of not knowing is simply not credible.

In Parliament, people talk. Especially staff. And often that chit-chat gets back to politician’s ears.

The culture of the National Party seems geared toward rewarding brutal politics and hiding away the victims of those who wield the power. This fact has been made abundantly clear to the public.

Sectioned into care?

On Sunday 21 October, the media reported that Ross had been taken into “mental health care“.

There were suggestions he had been “sectioned” – admitted under the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act. This usually involves psychiatrist reports and a decision before a sitting judge. A Court Order is made for compulsory treatment. It takes time to be “sectioned” and is not an easy process;

For the first month, the patient must accept treatment. From the second month onwards, the patient is not required to accept treatment unless they give informed consent, or treatment is considered in the interests of the patient by an independent psychiatrist (not being the responsible clinician), or the patient needs emergency treatment and it is not possible to get their consent.

Two days later, on Tuesday 23 October, Ross was discharged from care.

Two days.

According to David Fisher at the NZ Herald, the “friend” assisting Ross after his “discharge was none other than – Cameron Slater;

It is believed Slater has been personally supporting Ross since the weekend and his assistance extended to helping the MP in his release from Middlemore Hospital’s mental health facilities yesterday.

In the two days that Ross was in “mental health care”, the media spotlight went from the beleaguered rogue MP facing numerous allegations of “bad behaviour”, harrassment, extra-marital affairs – to National Leader Simon Bridges.

Radio NZ’s ‘Morning Report‘ on Tuesday 23 October focused on interviews and hard questions put to Bridges, the National Party, campaign donations,mental health, and workplace harassment. Anything but Jami Lee Ross;

And more the following day on ‘Morning Report‘;

All of a sudden, the blow-torch of media attention was off Ross and on Simon Bridges and the National party in most instances.

If Ross really was admitted into “mental health care” – it was a timely coincidence.

If not, it was a strategic master-stroke – whoever planned it would fit the role of a Bond villain with perfection.

Which leads us to…

The Dirty Politics Cabal

Conspiracy of cock-up?  Jamie Lee Ross’s recording  of conversation(s) with Simon Bridges was either a shrewd decision to cover his back-side as he fell from grace with his Leader – or something far more calculating and sinister.

Bridges claims  that he believes Ross have may been planning and executing his strategy for a considerable period of time;

“I think he has been recording me, and potentially many other members of Parliament, for a very long time.”

So obviously not a spur-of-the-moment, rash-impulse kind, of thing by Ross.

As the Ross/Bridges crisis unfolded since 15 October, several names began to show up – names which feature prominently in Nicky Hager’s expose, Dirty Politics:

Assuming – for a moment – that the most machiavellian planning has gone into destroying Simon Bridges as the leader of the National;

  1. Who would benefit?
  2. What would be the likely outcome for the Party?

In answer to question one, the likely successor to Bridges being deposed would be Judith Collins. Ms Collins featured recently in the TVNZ-Colmar Brunton polls, just marginally behind Simon Bridges;

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Jami Lee Ross’s full scale assault has inarguably destroyed his political career. He may even be unemployable in the private sector, as Kiwiblogger David Farrar, and former MP, Tau Henare, pointed out recently.

But his attacks on Simon Bridges has also undermined his leadership – perhaps beyond repair.

If National falls any further in polling; and Bridges’ popularity drops further; and Collins’ popularity  rises – the inevitable would happen. Bridges would be rolled and Judith Collins installed as the new leader.

In answer to question 2: National would lurch hard-right. New Zealand politics would suddenly become more partisan; more divisive – in short, more like Australia. The hard-right warriors Simon Lusk, Cameron Slater, Aaron Bhatnagar, Jami Lee Ross, et al, would have their new leader and National would become the vehicle for their political agenda and aspirations.

Jamie Lee Ross would eventually be “rehabilitated” politically  and would be appointed to various SOE boards as Collins’ ‘head kicker’.

Far-fetched conspiracy la-la stuff? Perhaps… though even  David Fisher seemed compelled to write in the NZ Herald;

“It’s impossible to know exactly when Ross took a step down what he sees as a righteous – and what Bridges calls treacherous – path.  It’s also difficult to know where it ends. Ross’ actions have shown clear signs of strategy.”

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References

NBR: Ports behind strike-breaking bill – Ross

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

Newstalk ZB: Ross saga – Businessman denies making $100k donation

Fairfax media: Environmental protesters’ Govt crack down

Fairfax media: Law will hit deep-sea drilling protesters

Fairfax media: Jami-Lee Ross admits affair with MP, pledges to stay on in Parliament

NZ Herald: Full transcript – The Jami-Lee Ross tape of Simon Bridges

Mediaworks: As it happened – Jami-Lee Ross vs Simon Bridges saga reaches new heights

Mediaworks: Read Jami-Lee Ross’ texts to Greg Hamilton about $100,000 donation

Radio NZ: National’s hollow political scandal entertaining but insignificant

Radio NZ: Morning Report – National Party inquiry to ensure staff ‘feeling safe’ – Bridges (alt-link)

Legislation: Electoral Act 1993

Radio NZ: Morning Report for Tuesday 23 October 2018

Newsroom: Jami-Lee Ross: – Four women speak out

Radio NZ: Jami-Lee Ross identified as National Party leaker

New York Times: The Women Who Have Accused Brett Kavanaugh

NPR: Kavanaugh And Christine Blasey Ford Testify Before Senate Judiciary Committee

Radio NZ: Bridges did talk to businessman at centre of donation claim – Bennett

NZ Herald: Simon Bridges continues to stonewall questions about donations and sexual harassment claims

Fairfax media: National party candidate allegedly harassed by Jami-Lee Ross speaks out

NZ Herald: National candidate speaks out over harassment by rogue MP Jami-Lee Ross

Auckland Council: Contact Howick Local Board

Scoop media: C&R Howick Announce Local Board Team

Talking Southern Auckland: Honesty and Integrity Part Two

Newsroom: Nats have a long Jami-Lee agenda

Mediaworks: Jami-Lee Ross’ behaviour allegations might not be accurate – National MP Tim Macindoe

Interest.co.nz: Jami-Lee Ross to remain in Parliament as an independent MP for Botany

Scoop media: TV3 The Nation – Chris Simpson and David Collings

Fairfax media: Vision and Voice dominate Howick Local Board

Radio NZ: National defends handling of woman’s complaint against Jami-Lee Ross

Radio NZ: National aware of Jami-Lee Ross grievances for years

Fairfax media: Toxic relationships with Jami-Lee Ross reported

The Spinoff: ‘I am just motivated to cut throats’: meet Jami Lee-Ross’s political mastermind

NZ Herald: Jami-Lee Ross saga – Identity of ‘Cathedral Club’ donor revealed

TVNZ: After horror week, Simon Bridges takes a hit in latest 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll

Radio NZ: Tau Henare – ‘NZ has never seen anything like this’

NZ Herald: MP Jami-Lee Ross admitted to mental health care

Mediaworks: Jami-Lee Ross has been ‘sectioned’ – but what does that actually mean?

ODT: Jami-Lee Ross out of hospital, ‘not focusing on politics’

NZ Herald: National’s leader Simon Bridges rings Dirty Politics blogger to talk Jami-Lee Ross

Radio NZ: Morning Report – 23 October 2018

Radio NZ: Morning Report – 24 October 2018

NZ Herald: Special report – Simon Bridges v Jami-Lee Ross – the National Party Botany Bagman and his plan for political survival

Additional

Newsroom: Jami-Lee Ross and the shadow of Dirty Politics

Twitter: Jami-Lee Ross – 15 August 2018

Sharechat: Bridges denies Ross allegations, welcomes police inquiry

Radio NZ: Nine to Noon Political Panel (alt-link)

Other Blogs

Whaleoil: Despicable text sent to Jami-Lee Ross by female MP

Kiwiblog: The terrible personal cost

Chris Trotter:  Questions, Questions, Questions

Martyn Bradbury:  Could the Spinoff be possibly wrong about JLR? Maybe?

The Standard:  Bridges loses connection with reality

The Standard:  Nothing to worry about

Previous related blogposts

The Donghua Liu Affair: One Year On

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

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

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 October 2018.

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While the Left fiddles, the Right beats their war-drum

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While the Left has been fiddling about with much gnashing of teeth and tears of concern over the right of two Canadian neo-fascists to speak at an Auckland City council venue – National’s focus has been laser-like at regaining power in 2020.

Like rust, the Right doesn’t sleep. Their failure to install a fourth-term National government came about only because of a fatal mis-step by (most likely) someone in the National Party/Government in a clumsy, ham-fisted ploy to undermine Winston Peters and cripple NZ First in last year’s general election.

Whoever released Peters’ superannuation over-payments to the media did so with political malice-aforethought. It was an agenda to neuter Peters and his party, and it was executed with callous precision.

It failed  because Peters was canny enough to counter with a parry that revealed the ploy for the ruthless strategy that it was.

The black-ops plan succeeded in only alienating Peters and reminding him that National was not to be trusted. With thirtythree years political experience, Peters had no intention to be anyone’s “useful idiot”.

With no potential coalition partner on the horizon (unless one is manufactured by a National MP splintering from his party), National’s only remaining options are;

  1. Coalition with the Greens. Chances: worse than winning Powerball Lotto.
  2. Winning 50%-plus of the Party Vote. Chances: somewhat better than Option One.

National opened it’s 2020 election campaign with three salvos of highly publicised policy released with much fanfare at it’s recent conference.

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Charter Schools

For most middle and upper-middle class voters Charter Schools are a non-issue. Their children either attend State schools, Integrated Schools, or Private Schools. The common thread between all three is that they are established; staffed with qualified professionals; and the curriculum is bog-standard (with minor variations-on-a-theme.)

Charter Schools would appear to further  ghettoise education for lower socio-economic families – a fact already well-known as “white flight” from low-decile State schools.

National’s hard-line stance to increase Charter School numbers should it be re-elected to power is curious because it would not appear to be much of a drawcard  for propertied middleclass voters who tend to vote along self-interest lines.

Which indicates that the policy has other intentions; a toxic “witches’ brew” of  ideological (further) commercialisation of education and a subtle, well-camouflaged attack on teacher’s unions.

So: not specifically designed to be a vote-winning policy. More of an  weaponised attack-policy on State education and unions.

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Classroom sizes

Perhaps the most eyebrow-raising policy to be released was classroom size reduction. Made by current National Party leader, Simon Bridges on the day of the Conference opening on 29 July, he committed National to this radical (for Tories) social policy in clear english;

“All our kids should get the individual attention they deserve. That’s why I want more teachers in our primary schools, to ensure smaller class sizes for our children.

Schools currently get one teacher for every 29 nine and ten year olds. It’s lower than that for younger children.

Those ratios should be reduced.”

Mr Bridges’ newfound concern for classroom sizes harks back to several speeches made by former PM, John Key, in 2007 and 2008, where he lamented growing social problems in New Zealand.

In 2007;

“As New Zealanders, we have grown up to believe in and cherish an egalitarian society. We like to think that our children’s futures will be determined by their abilities, their motivation and their hard work. They will not be dictated by the size of their parent’s bank balance or the suburb they were born in.”

And again in 2007;

“During his State of the Nation speech on Tuesday, Mr Key indicated National would seek to introduce a food in schools programme at our poorest schools in partnership with the business community.

[…]

“I approached Wesley Primary School yesterday, a decile 1 school near McGehan Close, a street that has had more than its fair share of problems in recent times. I am told Wesley Primary, like so many schools in New Zealand, has too many kids turning up hungry.

[…]

“We all instinctively know that hungry kids aren’t happy and healthy kids.”

In 2008;

“This time a year ago, I talked about the underclass that has been allowed to develop in New Zealand. Labour said the problem didn’t exist. They said there was no underclass in New Zealand.”

Once elected into power, National quiety dropped it’s concern for social problems. Social Development Minister, Paula Bennett, did not even want to countenance measuring growing child poverty in this country. It suddenly became the fault of the poor.

Now Simon Bridges has dusted off National’s Manual for Crying Crocodile Tears.

Ironically, in tapping into parental fears of over-burdened schools and their children suffering because of over-worked teachers, Mr Bridges’ policy commitment stands diametrically opposed to National’s doomed policy announced on 16 May 2012 to increase classroom sizes;

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The policy was announced by gaff-prone former education minister, Hekia Parata, who  clumsily (if honestly) admitted that the move was purely for fiscal reasons;

”The reality is that we are in a tight economic environment. In order to make new investment in quality teaching and leading, we have to make some trade-offs… ”

Teachers – and more importantly, voting middle-class parents were having none of it. National’s cost-cutting of welfare, health, and state housing was one thing. But interfering with their Little Johnny and Janey’s education? Like hell.

Especially when it was revealed that then-Prime Minister, John Key’s own children attended private schools with… smaller class sizes!

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The over-powering stench of hypocrisy further infuriated the voting public. The policy lasted twentyone days before it was hastily dumped;

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Simon Bridges was unequivocal:  a National government would spend more on education;

“National will invest more to make sure our kids get the best quality start to their education, but we will also demand nothing but the highest standards.”

However, National has not explained how they will pay for the cost of additional teachers. Especially as National continues to  advocate for a billion dollar mega-prison to be built;  promised to dump the Coalition’s fuel taxes, and has not ruled out offering election tax-cut bribes.

As National has been fond of demanding: where will the money come from for extra teachers? Is this National’s own multi-billion dollar fiscal hole?

It was left to Labour’s own education minister, Chris Hipkins to point out;

“It’s very expensive to make even a modest change to class sizes and I think that’s something we want to talk to the teaching profession about.”

However, barely a day after his Conference speech, Mr Bridges was already backtracking;

Simon Bridges admits his promise of smaller class sizes may not mean fewer students per classroom.

The National leader announced a new policy to reduce the teacher-student ratio, as a centrepiece of his conference address over the weekend.

However, many primary schools run “modern learning environments” with several classes in the same room.

Bridges told Kerre McIvor National’s policy is about the number of staff per student, not the number of students per room.

” So in those modern learning environments, that may mean more teachers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean smaller classrooms.”

At least Hekia Parata’s plan to increase classroom sizes lasted three weeks.  Mr Bridges’ ersatz “commitment” did not last 24 hours.

The Coalition should be making mincemeat out of Mr Bridges’ policy u-turn.

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Crime

An oldie, but a goodie.  Tories understand how to tug the fear-strings of a sizeable chunk of the voting middle-class. National and other conservative parties around the world are (in)famous for manipulating middle-class fears on crime for electoral purposes.

One of their 2011 election hoardings explicitly exploited  those fears;

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A recent video campaign on National’s Facebook platform has gone a step further into whipping up fear and paranoia;

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This is a shameful, naked ploy to play on peoples’ fears.

It was backed up by former mercenary, and current National Party “Justice” Spokesperson, Mark Mitchell, who tried to offer “alternative facts” relating to crime figures;

The Government needs to stop looking for excuses to go soft on crime and come up with a plan to reduce crime, National’s Justice Spokesperson Mark Mitchell says.

“No doubt the report today from the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor saying that being tough on crime is to blame for rising prison costs and inmate numbers is music to Andrew Little and Grant Robertson’s ears.

“They’ve been looking for excuses to loosen up bail and sentencing laws so that the Government doesn’t have to go ahead with building the new Waikeria prison and can boast about reducing prison numbers.

“But the cost of prisons cannot be an excuse not to put people in prison, if that’s where they need to be. The priority must be to ensure that victims are kept safe from violent criminals.

“We know that the overall crime rate has been decreasing, but a lot of that is due to a reduction in lower-level offending.

“Violent crime has actually gone up four per cent since 2011 and this is largely the type of crime that people get sent to prison for. This is also the type of crime that has the most serious and long-lasting impact on victims’ lives.

Which is confusing as not too long ago, National was trumpeting several propaganda infographics on their Twitter account;

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Mr Mitchell is at pains to point out that  “we know that the overall crime rate has been decreasing, but a lot of that is due to a reduction in lower-level offending” – yet the infographics above make no such distinction. On the contrary, the second “broken bottles” infographic makes clear the figures relate to “Total Recorded Crimes”.

Perhaps they should get their propaganda straight.

In a startling admission, Mr Mitchell confirmed that ““violent crime has actually gone up four per cent since 2011″. It appears that the “Three Strikes Law” – enacted the previous year in 2010 – has failed to reduce criminal offending.

The questions that  Coalition government ministers should be putting to their National Party colleagues are;

  1. Is it not irresponsible to be exploiting fear about crime for electoral purposes? How will knee-jerk rhetoric assist an intelligent debate on imprisonment and rehabilitation?
  2. If crime, imprisonment, and rehabilitation require cross-party concensus, will National continue to pursue electioneering on “tough on crime”?
  3. If National pursues a get-tough-on-crime election platform in 2020, and if they are elected to government – how will they pay for hundreds more prisoners jailed? Will National borrow a billion dollars to pay for a new mega-prison? Will health, education, DoC, and social housing budgets be cut? Will National increase GST, as they did in 2010 (despite promising not to)?
  4. What is the limit that National will tolerate for an increasing prison population?

National has made clear that it intends to play the “tough-on-crime” card at the next election. The propaganda campaign has already begun.

The Coalition Parties need to formulate a clear strategy to combat fear-mongering by a National party desperate to regain power.

The question that should be put to National is; where will the billions of dollars for new prisons come from?

The prison population has all but doubled in eighteen years, and tripled since 1987, as successive governments have ramped up “tough on crime” rhetoric and pandered to fearful low-information voters;

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Tough-on-crime may be National’s default strategy. If addressed correctly, it can also be their weakness.

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References

NZ Herald: Steven Joyce says he would have advised against leaking Winston Peters’ super details

The Daily Blog: Real reason why National are considering cutting ACT off

NZ Herald: National Party conference kicks off with nod for Simon Bridges from former Australian PM John Howard

Massey University: Education Policy Response Group (p30)

Fairfax media: Parents’ choice driving ‘eye-opening’ segregation in New Zealand schools

NZ Herald: National will cut primary school class sizes if it gets into Govt, Simon Bridges tells conference

NZ Herald: John Key’s ‘A fair go for all’ speech

Scoop media: National launches its Food in Schools programme

NZ Herald: John Key – State of the Nation speech

NZ Herald: Measuring poverty line not a priority – Bennett

NZ Herald: Key admits underclass still growing

NZ Herald: Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key

Fairfax media: Bigger class sizes announced

NZ Herald: Key called hypocrite over class sizes

Fairfax media: Backlash forces Government class size U-turn

Fairfax media: Smaller class sizes under Nats, says Simon Bridges in major speech

NewstalkZB: Simon Bridges explains smaller class size policy

Radio NZ: No promises from Hipkins on reducing class sizes

NZ Herald: Simon Bridges says scale-back of Waikeria prison flies in the face of latest prison projections

NZ Herald: Sir John Key downplays Simon Bridges’ polling ahead of National Party conference

TVNZ: Simon Bridges says he’ll dump regional fuel tax if elected

Fairfax media: Does the Government have any money for this Budget? Yes

NZ Herald: Murder and mutilation comments emerge on National’s new ‘tough on crime’ social media campaign

National Party: Prison costs cannot be excuse to go soft on crime

Twitter: National Party – The crime rate is falling under National.

Parliament Legislation: Sentencing and Parole Reform Act 2010

Fairfax media: Key ‘no GST rise’ video emerges

Fairfax media: National leader Simon Bridges talks up ‘tough on crime’ stance

Fairfax media: 20 Years of ‘tough on crime’ stance sees prison population surge

Additional

Radio NZ: Charter school report silent on educational achievement

Other Blogposts

The Daily Blog: What everyone seemed to miss in their criticism of the National Party Conference

The Daily Blog: What the 2018 National Party Conference tells us

Previous related blogposts

Weekend Revelations #3 – Greg O’Connor and criminal statistics

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 7 August 2018.

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

5 March 2018 7 comments

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The Left are disappointed; the Toxic Twins – Judith Collins and  Steven Joyce – failed to seize leadership of the National Party. The coldly psychopathic eyes of  Collins, and the menacingly malignant grin of Joyce, will not be scaring New Zealand voters witless in 2020.

Instead, the boyish grin of Simon Bridges will be leading the National Party – until he won’t, after their inevitable defeat at the next election.

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Speaking with Radio NZ’s Checkpoint host, John Campbell, Bridges first interview as leader of the Nats began with an inanely cliched reference to “asperational”  young New Zealanders;

@ 14.28:

“We’ve got a very strong economy at the moment… To build on that, and ensure that is is a place where young New Zealanders can get ahead and do well, don’t feel they need to get on a plane to go overseas, probably to Australia, that’s really important to me…”

Bridges was parroting a speech filled with almost identical rhetoric by his former boss and mentor, Dear Leader Key;

“When the going gets this tough, is it any wonder that Kiwis look longingly at our Aussie cousins? Our Aussie cousins, who get paid a third more than us for doing the same job […] Too many Kiwis are looking at those stats and choosing to join their cousins across the ditch. We have to give them better reasons to stay.”

Key made those comment in January 2008 – a little over a decade ago.

Since then, migration has risen sharply under National’s watch, pushing up demands on housing, education, healthcare, roading, and other services/infrastructure.

In essence, Bridges referenced a problem that no longer exists.

But perhaps the worst moment came a few minutes later, when he referred to National’s “legacies”. Amongst Bridge’s list of “crowning achievements” over the last nine years, Bridges listed;

@ 16.18

“But what is true, John, is that if you look at my record as a Minister whether is in Transport where I led, I think, incredibly progressive moves in public transport, in cycleways, in electric vehicles, in a range of areas, people can see a very modern face of National…”

Bridges’ “progressive moves” on electric vehicles are in his mind only.

In 2016, he actively decided not to electrify the state fleet, opting instead for traditional vehicles;

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

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

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Bridges’ explanation was mealy-mouthed, to put it mildly;

“Given this, it is likely that government agencies will favour cheaper conventional vehicles over an EV equivalent […] But I decided, in the end, that the bulk buying proposal that is now being investigated – and I hope implemented – is much more significant than the kickstarter and the demonstration programme.” “

No wonder the Green Party’s transport spokeswoman, Julie Anne Genter, was critical of Bridges’ luke-warm response to EVs;

“So far Simon Bridges has seemed keen to appear in every possible photo-op, and be seen to do something without actually committing any resources or policy that would be effective.

It can hardly be considered ambitious. But it does seem to suggest he knows that the announcement is totally ineffective and won’t lead to an increase in the number of electric vehicles.

He’s chosen a target he thinks will happen without any Government intervention or support.”

A year later, only eight of 2,000 vehicles bought for various government bodies were EVs.

Eight.

That was the “legacy” that Simon Bridges ‘crowed’ about to John Campbell.

Not exactly a glowing start to his temporary tenure as National’s leader. In fact, Bridges’ “legacy” could be better summed up as one of the architects of repressive legislation designed to prevent protest against deep sea mining off New Zealand’s coast;

…Simon Bridges, announced a new law with heavy sanctions against protesters who “want to stop other people going about their lawful business and doing what they have a permit to do and they are legally entitled to do“

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Is it any surprise the Greens wanted nothing to do with National during coalition talks last year?

Simon Bridges, Leader of the National Party: more of the same.

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References

Radio NZ:  Checkpoint with John Campbell, Tuesday 27th February 2018 (alt.link: Youtube)

NZ Herald:  John Key – State of the Nation speech

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

Radio NZ: Govt advised to rev up electric car roll-out

Radio NZ: Govt plans hefty fines for offshore mining protests

Previous related blogposts

Judith Collins owes an explanation to voters

Parata, Bennett, and Collins – what have they been up to?

It’s official: Political Dissent Discouraged in NZ!

A message from Greenpeace about Simon Bridges

Letter to the Editor: Simon Bridges is a very naughty little boy!

Mining, Drilling, Arresting, Imprisoning – Simon Bridges

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

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= fs =

Letter to the Editor: National’s blighted future?

20 August 2014 8 comments

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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from:      Frank Macskasy
to:           Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date:       Wed, Aug 20, 2014 at 5:07 PM
subject: letter to the editor

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The editor
Dominion Post

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On the issue of National Party dirty politics…

Once National is defeated, Key will be gone, as he promised in January 2011.

That will leave National seeking not just a new leader – but a change in culture.

All the dirty tricks; black ops; media spin-doctors; sleaze; ministerial mis-use of power – all will have to go. The new Leader will be given a broom, and boy oh boy, s/he’ll be busy sweeping clean.

If s/he doesn’t, the legacy of the Collins-Ede-Slater-Lusk-Key cabal will remain, a Blighted Future for a once proud party.

Ironically, National is the party of “personal responsibility” and the responsibility for cleaning up their foul mess lies solely with them.

-Frank Macskasy

[address and phone number supplied]

 


 

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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= fs =

The Right-wing – strong on crime!

5 August 2014 1 comment

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National hoarding staying strong on crime

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National, ACT, and the Right, generally, are renowned for being “tough on crime”. What follows are just a few examples,  to illustrate National/ACT’s “toughness”.

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Claudette Hauiti confirms misspending

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Ms Hauiti isn’t the first MP to mis-use tax-payer’s money, and most certainly won’t be the last.

Meanwhile, Minister for Courts, Chester Borrows, might take his speeding ticket as an opportunity  to see how well the Court system is operating after budget cuts from this government;

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Courts Minister admits red face over speeding ticket and $80 fine

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Perhaps the worst example of a politician rorting the system and attempting to undermine the law for his own benefit was John Banks’ attempt to hide Kim Dotcom’s campaign donations;

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John Banks guilty in donations case

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Oh dear… poor Banksie;

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John Banks snapped phone-driving

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Talk about “accident prone”. Really, I think he needs a holiday away from it all for a while. Perhaps Dear Leader can lend him the keys to his bach… in Hawaii.

Meanwhile, our favourite redneck is in trouble again. Despite his surname, Michael Laws marches to the beat of a different drum – and his own laws;

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Michael Laws gets smack warning

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Simon Bridges is another National minister who apparently prefers our laws to be more… flexible;

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Govt defends trading law enforcement

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Giving away one of our few remaining real holidays is a fight National wants to avoid. They understand that whilst Kiwis like to shop, that paradoxically, they also like their holidays. Who wants to give away a family day at the park, in summer, watching the kids play sport – so that we can spend those same summer days couped up in a shopping mall? Or in the office? Or factory? Or service centre?

The Bridges Solution? Turn a blind eye to the law. An inconvenient law.

Talking about inconvenient…

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Investigation underway into Brownlee's airport breach

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The moral of this story?

Well, there ain’t none. Not if you’re a National/ACT member of Parliament.

Ponder this though; if National/ACT are exhibiting this kind of arrogance after only two years – what on Earth will they be up to if they win a Third Term?!

[Disclosure: this blogger has a Court conviction. – Frank Macskasy]

 

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References

Radio NZ:  Claudette Hauiti confirms misspending

Fairfax media: Rodney Hide says sorry for trip

NZ Herald: Courts Minister admits red face over speeding ticket and $80 fine

Fairfax media: Police ‘despair’ at freeze

TV3: John Banks guilty in donations case

NZ Herald:  John Banks snapped phone-driving

NZ Herald: Michael Laws gets smack warning

Radio NZ: Govt defends trading law enforcement

TV1 News: Investigation underway into Brownlee’s airport breach

Previous related blogposts

National MPs – giving us the finger in election year

National, on Law and Order


 

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Vote and be the change

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 31 July 2014.

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= fs =

Protest against National Party soiree results in one arrest – for bugger all!

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john key cartoon garrick tremain

Acknowledgement: Garrick Tremain

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NZ, Wellington, 29 June 2014 – About one hundred people took part in a peaceful – if noisy – protest on a Saturday night outside Wellington’s sea-front museum, Te Papa. The National Party had booked Te Papa for a cocktail evening, with flash tuxedos and expensive frocks  de rigueur for the evening.

Needless to say, low-income families and beneficiaries were not overly represented  at this exclusive soirée.

The protest action was organised by Pōneke Action Against Poverty, a recently formed grass-roots pressure group fighting the  widening  gap between rich and poor in Aotearoa-New Zealand.

In a widely distributed statement,  PAAP spokesperson, Kassie Hartendorp, said,

While the Government has been lauding a drop in the number of people receiving the benefit, real unemployment has stayed the same. Instead of lifting people out of poverty, this Government has been refusing to support those who need help.”

The group statement condemned National current economic, social, and environmental policies;

While previously refusing to acknowledge the reality of being poor in Aotearoa, in May of 2013 Finance Minister Bill English declared “We don’t believe there is a solution to poverty in general.”

At the same time this Government is supporting the wealthy to become richer. From tax cuts in 2010 to asset sales and the ongoing expansion of mining, drilling, and fracking, this government is supporting big business while ignoring those who need help.

Pōneke Action Against Poverty stated that they wanted to see a Government working to support the most vulnerable in our society.  Kassie Hartendorp said,

We want to see a rise in the benefit (for the first time in decades), and the introduction of a decent Living Wage which is tied to the average wage in this country.”

Judging by the style of clothing worn to the Te Papa cocktail party, poverty was not a problem for attendees.

Many of the attendees had to walk the gauntlet between two rows of protesters. In case anyone believes that is “unfair” – consider that 250,000-plus children living in poverty is also unfair. Let this be a reminder to National Party members of the consequences of the policies they support;

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anti-National protest - Poneke Action Against Poverty - 28 June 2014 - Te Papa - Wellington (2)

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This was a salient reminder to those middle class aspirationists and One Percenters that there is real, palpable anger out in the community.

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anti-National protest - Poneke Action Against Poverty - 28 June 2014 - Te Papa - Wellington (6)

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There was sustained, loud, enthusiastic chanting from the crowd;

“One, two, three, four! Stop the war on the poor!”

“Shame! Shame!”

“What’s the story, filthy Tory?”

“Whose streets?Our streets!”

“When workers rights are under attack – Stand up fight back!

If those National supporters think  sixty  protesters were too noisy, imagine 250,000 children all screaming out for help. Something  that Minister and National Party campaign strategist, Steven Joyce, might bear in mind, as he walked by;

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anti-National protest - Poneke Action Against Poverty - 28 June 2014 - Te Papa - Wellington (19)

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Some clear messages for the National Party, and it’s supporters;

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anti-National protest - Pōneke Action Against Poverty - 28 June 2014 - Te Papa - Wellington

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anti-National protest - Poneke Action Against Poverty - 28 June 2014 - Te Papa - Wellington (101)

(Acknowledgement: Mick McCrohon)

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anti-national-protest-poneke-action-against-poverty-28-june-2014-te-papa-wellington

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When the Prime Minister himself puts down the poorest of the poor in this country, is it any wonder that people will react accordingly? These signs say it all;

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anti-National protest - Poneke Action Against Poverty - 28 June 2014 - Te Papa - Wellington (12)

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Even the cetaceans aren’t safe from this government;

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anti-national-protest-poneke-action-against-poverty-28-june-2014-te-papa-wellington

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Co-administrator of the ‘John Key has Let Down New Zealand‘ Facebook group (current membership: 14,605), Karen Jones (R), with her two daughters, Katie (L) and Tracey (centre). Karen is the very proud mum of two very sharp, and dedicated, young activists;

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anti-National protest - Poneke Action Against Poverty - 28 June 2014 - Te Papa - Wellington (22).

And speaking of young people, these teenagers – not part of the protest – were curious to know what was going on;

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anti-National protest - Poneke Action Against Poverty - 28 June 2014 - Te Papa - Wellington (72)

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We explained to them that it was  a protest against National’s social, economic, and  environment policies. They immediately wanted to know if it related to mining on the Denniston Plateau and drilling in marine reserves! They were thoroughly clued up on contemporary environmental issues,

“New Zealand’s such a unique landscape, why ruin it, just for money?”

“Money is such a short time thing but then, like, our environment is a long time thing, and you can’t really replace [it].”

It would be a mistake to believe that young people are disinterested in the critical issues of the day. They were knowledgeable, and they were articulate. They were firm in their opposition  to mining and drilling in our national  parks and marine reserves.

They are the future hope for our country.

Greenpeace’s envoy from the arctic, the polar bear, tried to pass on the message of global warming threatening our world. Predictably, National Party supporters were more interested in cocktails and canapés, rather than climate change, as they hurried by;

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anti-national-protest-poneke-action-against-poverty-28-june-2014-te-papa-wellington

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Police presence numbered around ten to a dozen, with additional private security guards to boost numbers. The One Percent must be very afraid of their tenuous hold on power.

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The protesters re-grouped to face the courtyard in front of Te Papa. By this time, their numbers had swelled to around a hundred. They were no less vocal, as National Party members, Ministers, and assorted MPs kept arriving.

When Tony Ryall walked by, I asked in a fairly loud voice,

“Mr Ryall, do you have anything to saying about a quarter of a million children living in poverty?”

I asked the question three times. He walked past, with no answer.

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anti-National protest - Poneke Action Against Poverty - 28 June 2014 - Te Papa - Wellington (10)

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Towards the end of the protest, Police arrested one person – Darren – for “Offensive Behaviour”. Darren had allegedly used a can of “spray string“, aimed at National Party members. As this blogger was present and witnesssed the incident, Darren did not “spray paint” the museum, and reports to that effect are untrue.

Police were quick to move in and arrest Darren seconds  after he discharged the can. As the photos clearly show, Darren was relaxed, smiling, and at no time offered any physical resistance;

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anti-National protest - Poneke Action Against Poverty - 28 June 2014 - Te Papa - Wellington (44)

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Several dozen of the protesters – many holding various electronic recording devices (including this blogger, ‘armed’ with a camera and Voice Recorder) – looked on. At this point I asked one of the constables,

FM: “Are you arresting this gentleman, are you?”

Policeman: “We’re just speaking with him at this stage.”

People were watching and perhaps this kept Darren’s arrest restrained and  non-violent;

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anti-National protest - Poneke Action Against Poverty - 28 June 2014 - Te Papa - Wellington (50)

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As this image clearly shows, Darren was not only not resisting, but stood casually beside them and made no attempt to flee;

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After being questioned, Darren was led to a ‘paddy wagon’, some few metres away;

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anti-National protest - Poneke Action Against Poverty - 28 June 2014 - Te Papa - Wellington (53)

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Three minutes after my first query, as  policemen held Darren’s arms behind his back, I asked,

FM: “Excuse me, is he under arrest?”

Policeman 1: “That’s up to him. That’s up to him if he wants to tell you that.”

I asked again;

FM: “Excuse me, is this gentleman under arrest?”

Policeman 2: “Are you his lawyer?”

FM: “Sorry?”

Policeman 2: “Are you his lawyer?”

FM: “No, no I’m not.”

Policeman: “Well don’t interfere with them, while they’re doing their job.”

FM: “No, no. No, no. Not doing anything [to interfere].”

I persisted,

FM: “Can anyone tell me what he’s being charged with? Can anyone tell me what he’s being charged with?”

[No reply from police.]

Darren: Offensive behaviour apparently.

FM “Offensive behaviour? [to police] Is that correct?”

[No reply from police.]

Darren: “Offensive behaviour.”

Policeman: “Hey look, if you want to video, I’ll take it that’s fine, but what I’ll just ask you to do is keep your distance while we’re dealing with this? “

FM: [holding my hands up]: “Not going to touch you guys, not coming anywhere near you guys.”

Policeman: “If you could just, yeah, like I say.. that’ll be great -“

FM: “Yep, yep, arms length.”

As Darren was handcuffed, I asked, I  asked Police,

FM: “Is it necessary to handcuff him? He wasn’t being violent.”

Policeman: “Standard procedure -“

FM: “It’s what, sorry?  Standard procedure is it, to handcuff him?”

Policeman: ” – when we’re dealing with him.”

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anti-National protest - Poneke Action Against Poverty - 28 June 2014 - Te Papa - Wellington (57)

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There seemed no apparent reason for hand-cuffing Darren.   He gave no resistance, and he fully complied with their instructions.

The following three images have been brightness-enhanced, but otherwise un-retouched. They show Darren hand-cuffed; and led into the paddy-wagon;

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About half an hour later, as it became apparent that no further guests were arriving to the function, the protesters packed up and moved away without further incident.

On Sunday evening, following Darren’s arrest and release, I interviewed him on-line to ascertain what had happened.

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Frank: Firstly, can you tell us what happened last night [Saturday]?

Darren: I was at a protest against the 2014 National Party Conference outside of Te Papa, where National Party Members were meeting for an evening function.

Frank: Can you tell us what the protest was about?

Darren: The protest was about a number of issues that people are angry at the National based government for pushing through despite public opposition, including the selling of prospecting rights on marine reserves to foreign multinational oil companies. At approximately 7:30pm I was arrested for ‘Offensive Behaviour’.

Frank: I was present when you were arrested. You used one of those party “string” spray-cans. You weren’t spray painting Te Papa, as some reports have stated, were you?

Darren: Yes at one stage I was holding a “string” spray-can. I did not spray paint the building. I, like other protesters, was offended by the behaviour of our so-called National Museum Te Papa that allowed an undemocratic right-wing political party, who I as a Citizen of New Zealand am opposed to, to book their premises.

Frank: Indeed, many people present can vouch that the spray can you were holding was not a paint can. So, what happened when you were arrested? You were handcuffed?

Darren: When I was first arrested a police officer took hold of my arm, I did not resist. They ‘patted me down to search me and confiscated all my personal items, wallet, cellphone, flat keys etc. I was ordered to put my hands behind my back and they put metal handcuffs on me. I was then told to enter the police van, where I sat for what felt like about ten minutes. Then I was let out and told to get into the back of a police car.

Frank: I was present when that happened, Darren. There seemed to be some uncertainty that the police charged you or not. Did they say they were charging you with anything?

Darren: I asked then what they were arresting for and was told the offense was ‘Offensive Behaviour’. They started asking me questions and I told them that I was remaining silent, which is one of my ‘Miranda Rights’.

Frank: Were you still handcuffed when they transferred you into the police car?

Darren: Yes, by that stage my wrists were bruised from the cuffs. The office sitting next to me attempted to put a seat belt on me, which would not fit because of the cuffs. I told the police that the cuffs were hurting my wrists but they would not take them off until I was processed at the police station some minutes later.

Frank: Ok. So all up, how long do you think you were handcuffed for? And can you confirm that you offered no resistance whatsoever? Because when I was present from the moment they caught you, using the “string” spray can, to the point they put you in the paddy-wagon, you showed no resistance at all. Was that your behaviour later, after they transferred you to the police car?

Darren: I think I was handcuffed for about twenty minutes, although it was hard to tell exactly as one of the first things that they confiscated was my wrist watch. The only time during the whole ordeal in which I showed any resistance was near the beginning when you were nearby, the policeman took hold of my right arm, which was technically an assault. I simply shrugged to get him to loosen his grip, which did not work. From then on I offered no resistance whatsoever and I remained silent for most of the time except to answer questions about my identification and residence etc and to make some general references, ie about the weather etc which had no bearing on my conviction.

Frank: Did they take you to the station to be formally charged and processed?

Darren: Yes, to my limited knowledge, it was done by their ‘book’. They processed me, gave me the formal charge of ‘Breach of the Peace’, photographed me, asked my intimate questions about my physiological and mental health, took my shoes, my belt and my ear rings and said that all my possessions would be kept in their safe while I was put into a holding cell for two hours. I was not allowed a telephone call or to contact legal representation, even though they mentioned that the police could provide me with ‘free lawyers’.

Frank: Did you ask to contact a lawyer or anyone else?

Darren: They briefly mentioned a lawyer when they were reading me my ‘rights’. I chose to remain silent except when an officer was padding me down and confiscating all my remaining property. I told the officer that when people are that intimate with me that they normally buy me a restaurant meal and a few drinks. The offer of a lawyer was not made again, and I was photographed and then marched into a holding cell, where I was left with no food, drink or telephone for about two hours, despite me telling them that I am diabetic.

At not time during the two hours did I have access to a telephone or my cellphone, even though I do remember asking for my cellphone back

Frank: So what time were you finally released? And have you been given a date to appear in Court?

Darren: It was about 9:40pm when they returned my watch and all my possessions. I think that they were annoyed that I remained silent and did not provide any resistance. According to my Breach of Peace Release Notice: “Subsequent enquiries have now established that: *(a) No charge will be laid against you in court and you are now free to leave the Police Station, OR” (sic) The notice was signed by the officer in charge. I was then marched out the vehicle entrance of the police station and told to go directly home.

Frank: How are your hands, after being handcuffed?

Darren: I did some wrist flexing exercises in the holding cell, that I remembered from going to a gym, to get the circulation back, but they are still bruised.

Frank: Any other observations you’d care to share with us about your Police experience? Do you think their detention of you was excessive?

Darren: Yes it was excessive. They didn’t need to handcuff me, they didn’t need to take every single personal item off me – what harm could I have done with my ear rings, for example. They could have asked if I wanted a glass of water or to make a telephone call. I had an ice coffee in my satchel, which they could have asked if I wanted to drink etc. The cell had a thin rubber mattress and a metal toilet, but that was all. They also didn’t need to hold me for two hours after processing me.

Frank: Will you lay a complaint with the Independent Police Complaints Authority, do you think?

Darren: Probably not. No photos were taken of my wrists and the cuffs did not draw blood or cut off the circulation. No charge was laid against me and I don’t want to aggravate the police to change that decision.

Frank: Ok. Lastly, has this put you off taking further protest action do you think?

Darren: Not at all.

Frank: So we’ll see you on the next protest action then?

Darren: It depends upon what the next action is, but if the issue is important enough I will be there.

Frank: Thanks, Darren!

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Postscript

Ministers really should car their ministerial limousines in legal car-parks – not just anywhere it suits them. These two were parked on a pedestrian plaza and across a motorcycle parking bay;

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anti-national-protest-poneke-action-against-poverty-28-june-2014-te-papa-wellington

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But I guess National ministers pretty well do whatever they like these days. The law doesn’t apply to them, obviously.

As I took these photos (on my way to my legally parked car, for which I had to  pay a car-parking fee), Darren was still locked in the police paddy-wagon.

For him, the law meant hand-cuffs.

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Note: apologies for poor quality of images. The camera I was using was not the one I usually use. – Frank Macskasy

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References

Scoop media: Pōneke Action Against Poverty to protest National Government

Dominion Post:  National Party protester arrested

Aotearoa Independent Media Centre:  PAAP takes on Nats

NZ Herald: Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key

Copyright (c) Notice

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

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

 


 

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Team key - me myself  and me

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 July 2014.

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= fs =

Letter to the Editor – Dom Post editorial off into LaLaLand…

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Today’s (9 June 2014)  editorial in the ‘Dominion Post was an interesting take on the John Banks Affair and National’s cynical exploitation of MMP’s “coat tailing” provision;

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Stuff.co.nz

Editorial: Discredited flaw still being exploited

Last updated 05:00 09/06/2014

Every electoral system has flaws which politicians exploit. The coat-tailing provision of MMP is now utterly discredited, but it survives because it serves powerful political interests – especially the National Party’s. The clause should be abolished, but no National-led government will do so.

Labour promises to quickly abolish the clause, which allows a party with just one electorate seat to avoid the 5 per cent parliamentary threshold, if it gains power. There is already a paradox here. Labour might have to rely on the votes of the Mana-Internet Party to do so. But Mana-Internet will get into Parliament only via the coat-tailing clause. Nobody believes it will get 5 per cent of the vote.

The case for abolishing coat-tailing is overwhelming, and was made by the Electoral Commission in 2012. That inquiry grew out of John Key’s promise to “kick the tyres” of MMP, but his government ignored the recommendations. The reason is quite simple: coat-tailing helps the National Party. The Government’s refusal to take any notice of the inquiry was naked realpolitik and a supremely cynical act.

National’s coat-tailing deals with ACT in Epsom have left an especially sour taste in voters’ mouths. Key’s “tea-party” with the-then ACT leader John Banks before the 2011 election was widely recognised as a stunt.

The politicians invited the media to their meeting and then shut them out of the coffee-house while they had their “secret” and entirely meaningless chat. It added insult to injury that Key complained to the police after a journalist taped their conversation.

National and ACT had done similar self-serving deals in Epsom before, and showed just how unfair coat-tailing can be. In the 2008 election ACT got 3.65 per cent of the vote but won five seats in the House thanks to coat-tailing. New Zealand First, by contrast, got slightly more than 4 per cent of the vote but no seats in the House, because it won no electorate. This was mad, but highly convenient to the two right-wing parties.

Coat-tailing, in fact, has kept the dying and discredited ACT party alive. It delivered John Banks a seat in the House, and this week Banks stood disgraced when found guilty in the High Court of knowingly filing a false electoral return. Key, whose self-serving deal with Banks has hurt his own credibility, has even persisted in defending Banks’ “honesty” since the verdict. Now, of course, the Left is doing its own tawdry coat-tailing deal in Te Tai Tokerau. Without Hone Harawira’s electorate seat, Internet-Mana would go nowhere.

Hard-nosed strategists such as Internet Party leader Laila Harre argue that this is “taking back MMP”, as though this kind of thing was a blow for people power instead of the cynical politicking that it really is.

Two wrongs don’t make a right, no matter what power-hungry politicians might think. The Government should abolish the coat-tailing clause, along with its associated overhang provision, and drop the 5 per cent threshold to 4 per cent. However, it won’t happen while National is in power.

– The Dominion Post

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Note the highlighted sentence; ” Now, of course, the Left is doing its own tawdry coat-tailing deal in Te Tai Tokerau. Without Hone Harawira’s electorate seat, Internet-Mana would go nowhere“.

That statement demanded a response…

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FROM:   "f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT: Letter to the Editor
DATE:    Mon, 09 Jun 2014 10:11:45 +1200
TO:     "Dominion Post" <letters@dompost.co.nz> 

 

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The editor
Dominion Post

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Your editorial on National's exploitation of MMP's
'coat-tailing' provision was insightful until this jarring
statement ruined it;

"Now, of course, the Left is doing its own tawdry
coat-tailing deal in Te Tai Tokerau. Without Hone Harawira's
electorate seat, Internet-Mana would go nowhere." (9 June)

What "tawdry coat-tailing deal" might that be?

Because every indication is that not only will Labour refuse
to engage in any deal-making, but  MPs Chris Hipkins, Kelvin
Davis, Stuart Nash, et al, have been vociferously attacking
the Internet-Mana Party on social media. If any such "deal"
exists, someone forgot to tell those Labour MPs.

However, if even Labour and Mana-Internet came to an
Epsom-like arrangement - so what?

Those are the rules that this government has decreed and
must be played. Anyone playing by some other mythical
"principled" rules will sit saint-like on the Opposition
benches whilst National gerrymanders the system.

Suggesting otherwise creates an unlevel playing field that
benefits one, at the expense of others, and is untenable.

If it's good enough for National to arrange deals in Epsom,
Ohariu, and soon with the Conservative Party, then it should
be good enough for everyone.

No one takes a knife to a gunfight unless they are dead-set
on losing.


-Frank Macskasy
[address and phone number supplied]

 

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References

Dominion Post:  Editorial – Discredited flaw still being exploited

 


 

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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= fs =

National – self-censoring embarrassing statements?

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ministry of truth update

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There is  disturbing activity taking place on National’s website.  The Party is self-censoring itself and quietly, without fuss, removing certain embarrassing information from it’s website.

In the last few weeks, this blogger has been referencing quotes from Dear Leader Key on various issues.

One such quote was from John Key, who admitted that Labour left the country in a positive economic state to weather the oncoming 2007/08 Global Financial crisis;

“The level of public debt in New Zealand was $8 billion when National came into office in 2008. It’s now $53 billion, and it’s forecast to rise to $72 billion in 2016. Without selling minority shares in five companies, it would rise to $78 billion. Our total investment liabilities, which cover both public and private liabilities, are $150 billion – one of the worst in the world because of the high levels of private debt in New Zealand.”

The original URL – http://www.national.org.nz/mixed-ownership.aspx – no longer links to the original page  on National’s website, and instead automatically refers the User to a general page on the website;

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website - our programme

 

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An alternative URL – http://old.national.org.nz/mixed-ownership.aspx – leads to a page on the National website that is mostly blank;

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website - government share offer

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An empty page signifying empty promises? Appropriate.

Whilst this blogger has no screen-shot captured from the original article, entitled “Mixed Ownership”, Google’s webcache has retained a copy of the deleted page;

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Selling shares in five companies so we can invest in areas of need.

Responsibly managing the Government’s finances is one of National’s four priorities for this term in office.

We plan to offer minority shares in four energy companies and Air New Zealand to New Zealander investors, while retaining at least 51 per cent Government ownership.  This will help ensure the Government can spend money in areas of need – such as upgrading our hospitals and schools – without loading more debt on to our economy.

What is the Government’s share offer?

We’re going to change the ownership structure of five companies over the next three to five years, by offering shares to Kiwi investors.

This ownership structure is called mixed ownership, and we’re going to apply it to:

– Mighty River Power
– Meridian Energy
– Genesis Energy
– Solid Energy
– Air New Zealand, which is already successfully operating under mixed ownership.

The Government will maintain majority control of each company – at least 51 per cent – and New Zealanders will be at the front of the queue for the remaining shares.  In fact, we’ve made it law that no shareholder other than the Government can own more than 10 per cent of each company.

We expect selling minority stakes in the five companies will return between $5 billion and $7 billion to the Government.  In addition, the Government will continue to receive dividends on at least 51 per cent of each company.

This will broaden the pool of investments for New Zealand savers and deepen capital markets, helping Kiwi companies access the funds they need to grow.

Listing on the stock exchange will also provide stronger commercial discipline, transparency, and greater external oversight for these companies.  And it will give each company access to an alternative pool of capital for growth, other than the Government.

Mixed ownership is a win-win for New Zealanders and for the companies involved.  Our decision not to pursue “shares plus” provides certainty to investors about the future of the share programme.

New Zealanders will be at the front of the queue
We’ve always said that Kiwis will be at the front of the queue for shares in each company.  The Government will make buying shares easier for New Zealanders, while encouraging long-term share ownership.

To find out more about how we will achieve this, visit: www.governmentshareoffers.govt.nz 

Why partial share sales are important

More assets
Government assets are forecast to grow over the next four years, from $244 billion to $258 billion.  By selling less than 3 per cent of the Government’s total assets, we can inject between $5 billion and $7 billion into priority assets like schools, hospitals and other critical infrastructure New Zealanders need.  And we’ll be able to do this without loading more debt on to our economy.

Selling shares in these companies is not about reducing assets, it’s about finding a solution to help pay for their growth in coming years, while getting on top of debt.

We’ve established the Future Investment Fund, which will allow us to invest every single dollar raised through partial asset sales, in new assets.

In Budget 2012, we allocated the first $558.8 million from the Future Investment Fund for:

• Modernising schools – $33.8 million (of $1 billion total)
• Health sector needs, including redeveloping hospitals – $88.1 million
• Helping KiwiRail become commercially viable – $250 million
• Creation of the Advanced Technology Institute, to help New Zealand’s high-tech firms grow • $76 million for capital costs.

Controlling debt
Getting on top of debt – by responsibly managing the Government’s finances – is one of our priorities for this term in office.  Our economy is growing, new jobs are being created, and our public finances are improving. 

The Government’s partial share offers will free up between $5 billion and $7 billion that we can reinvest in taxpayers’ large and growing asset base, while reducing our need to take on extra debt to provide the important services New Zealanders need.

The level of public debt in New Zealand was $8 billion when National came into office in 2008.  It’s now $53 billion, and it’s forecast to rise to $72 billion in 2016.  Without selling minority shares in five companies, it would rise to $78 billion.  Our total investment liabilities, which cover both public and private liabilities, are $150 billion – one of the worst in the world because of the high levels of private debt in New Zealand.

Like every household in New Zealand, we know how important it is to live within our means by budgeting carefully and deciding on our priorities.

Our programme of minority share offers means more assets with less debt.

More information

What effect will this have on power prices?
In the nine years Labour was in government, power prices went up 72 per cent – or an average of 8 per cent a year – and the Government owned 100 per cent of the assets. 

We believe it’s not who owns the energy companies that influences prices, but the regulatory environment, which the National-led Government changed to increase competition.

In our last term of government, we reformed electricity industry regulation, removed inefficiencies and brought rising generation costs under control.  Prices only increased by 14 per cent in National’s first term.

In addition, the very effective “What’s my number” campaign by the Electricity Authority has made it easier for Kiwis to understand the choices they have, and the savings they can make by shopping around for electricity. 

As a result, in the 12 months from May 2011 to April 2012, 422,256 customers changed electricity retailers (or an average of 35,188 each month).

We’re helping keep pressure on the companies to retain customers by offering competitive pricing.

Labour would load our economy with more debt
The opposition has resisted this policy at every stage, yet when they were last in office, Labour applied a mixed ownership model to Air New Zealand.

In addition, between 1984 and 1990 they sold off 100 per cent of $9 billion worth of state assets, including Telecom and the Post Office Bank.

By opposing the partial sale of shares in these companies, Labour is opposing investment in much-needed infrastructure and assets.  Their plans would see the Government borrowing $5 billion to $7 billion more from overseas lenders at a time when the world is awash with debt and consequent risk.  This is just another example of their irresponsible big-spending ways.

New Zealanders let them know what they thought of this at the last election.  Support for National, which campaigned on selling minority shares in five companies, increased at the 2011 election, while Labour received the worst party vote in its history.

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Was the “Mixed Ownership” article removed from National’s website because it contained an embarrassing, inconvenient truth? Namely, that Key had acknowledged Labour’s capable stewardship of the country’s economy when he said,

“The level of public debt in New Zealand was $8 billion when National came into office in 2008.  It’s now $53 billion, and it’s forecast to rise to $72 billion in 2016.  Without selling minority shares in five companies, it would rise to $78 billion…” 

Which was probably not helped when Key basically shafted his own government’s track record in debt when he added;

“Like every household in New Zealand, we know how important it is to live within our means by budgeting carefully and deciding on our priorities…”

No wonder the page was removed from National’s website. It had inadvertently  become a de facto election advertisement for the Labour Party.

The statement regarding “the level of public debt in New Zealand was $8 billion when National came into office in 2008″ was already ‘making the rounds’ on the internet, as blogger after blogger was picking up on the statement and republishing it, as this Google search showed;

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google - The level of public debt in New Zealand was $8 billion when National came into office in 2008.  It’s now $53 billion, and it’s forecast to rise to $72 billion in 2016

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So whoever decided to removed the page is too late. The cyber horse has well and truly ‘bolted’ and John Key’s comments will remain for a very long time. And very useful comments they are, to disprove the misleading, deceitful rubbish that certain fanatic National/ACT supporters bandy about.

Other items have also been removed from National’s website.

The URL – https://www.national.org.nz/files/2008/ECONOMY/Kiwisaver_Policy_Paper.pdf – leads to;

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Kiwisaver_Policy_Paper

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The URL – https://www.national.org.nz/files/2008/ECONOMY/Tax_Policy_Paper.pdf – leads to;

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tax_Policy_Paper

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Curiously though, Key’s 2006 speech to the  Shore National Party luncheon was seemingly so historically worthy of preservation, that it remains intact on the National Party website;

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Speech to North Shore National Party luncheon screencap

 

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Finally (?) the URL – http://www.national.org.nz/OOF/flyer.pdf – is  also a dead link;

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national org flyer 170000 new jobs

 

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It was an election flyer  bearing the promise that “National’s Brighter Future Plan will help businesses create 170,000 new jobs over the next four years“.

Now why would the Nats delete that page, I wonder?

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References

Google cache: Mixed Ownership

Google Search: The level of public debt in New Zealand was $8 billion when National came into office in 2008. It’s now $53 billion, and it’s forecast to rise to $72 billion in 2016

National Party: Kiwisaver Policy Paper

National Party: Tax Policy Paper

National Party: Speech to North Shore National Party luncheon

National Party: 170,000 New Jobs flyer

 


 

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Kirk

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 22 May 2014.

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= fs =

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

16 January 2014 2 comments

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old-paper-with-quill-pen-vector_34-14879

 

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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 13 comments

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polls_ist2_141437_arrow_graph_down_rev_2249_704752_poll_xlarge

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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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nz-first-national-coalition-11-12-96

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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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*

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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 22 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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_______________________________________

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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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_______________________________________

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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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_______________________________________

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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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_______________________________________

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Judy Kirk

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Party positions held:

Government appointments:

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_______________________________________

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Jim McLay

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Party positions held:

Government appointments:

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_______________________________________

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Penny Webster

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Party Positions held:

Government appointments:

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_______________________________________

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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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= fs =

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

22 April 2012 7 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

27 March 2012 1 comment

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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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Source

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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.