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Posts Tagged ‘Opposition Leader Bill English’

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

9 February 2018 4 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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[Image courtesy of Radio NZ]

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

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

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

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

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

They didn’t. It was a sly bluff;

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

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

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

Adding;

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

Indeed. Lesson learned.

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

Postscript1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prime Minister Ardern responded;

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

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

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

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It’s a very aspirational target.

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

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

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

Such as the Coalition’s Child Poverty Bill.

Perhaps Bill English should become “more aspirational“?

Postscript2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christian guilt can be a terrible, debilitating thing.

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References

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

National Party: Lets Undo This

Beehive:  Taking action to reduce child poverty

Radio NZ:  English on government’s child poverty legislation

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

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

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

Beehive:  New Better Public Services targets

MSD:  Better Public Services

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

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

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

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2008/09

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2015/16

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

NZ Herald:  GST rise will hurt poor the most

Fairfax media:  Prescription price rise hits vulnerable

Additional

Gordon Campbell on the battle over select committees

Other Blogs

The Standard:  Bill your pants may be on fire

Previous related blogposts

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

The Mendacities of Mr English – Fibbing from Finance Minister confirmed

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

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

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

National continues to panic on housing crisis as election day looms

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

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

“Fool me once”…

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

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Professor Bill English lectures young New Zealanders on free education

25 January 2018 4 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Right are not happy.

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

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@ 6.01:

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

“Poorly targetted”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In 2016;

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

Last year;

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

And again in December year;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bill English
Leader of the Opposition
Parliament
Wellington

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Kia Ora Mr English,

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

You were highly disparaging of the policy, complaining that;

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

Can you confirm the following points relating to this issue:

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

2. That you received a student allowance whilst studying?

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

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

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

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

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

Regards,
-Frank Macskasy

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

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References

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

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

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

Fairfax media:  Under-pressure schools get dodgy with donations

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

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

Fairfax media:  Prescription price rise hits vulnerable

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

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

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

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

Wikipedia:  Bill English

Previous related blogposts

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

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

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

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

6 January 2018 3 comments

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Bill English has low hopes for young New Zealanders.

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Bill English – putting the peasantry in their place

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

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

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

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

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

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

GUYON But is it a good thing?

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

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

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

GUYON But you said it was an advantage, Minister.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Some more blame-gaming;

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And yet more…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Postscript

According to Wikipedia;

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

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

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

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

A job at McDonalds awaits him.

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References

Scoop media:  Guyon Espiner interviews Finance Minister, Bill English

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

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

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

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

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

Wikipedia:  Bill English

Other Blogs

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

Previous related blogposts

John Key – Practicing Deflection 101

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

National under attack – defaults to Deflection #2

National under attack – defaults to Deflection #1

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

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

5 January 2018 2 comments

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Taking personal responsibility Mike Hosking-style

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He stated an incorrect fact;

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

An example of “fake news” some might say.

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

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

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

The BSA demanded;

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

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

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

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

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

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

[…]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tim Watkin, writing for The Pundit, was unimpressed;

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

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

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

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

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

Watkins is on the nail on every point made.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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References

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

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

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

Additional

Mediaworks:  BSA has no sense of humour – Mike Hosking

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

Other Blogs

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

Previous related blogposts

Mike Hosking as TVNZ’s moderator for political debates?! WTF?!

Mike Hosking – Minister for War Propaganda?

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 31 December 2017.

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

8 December 2017 5 comments

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Bill English has been kicking up a shit-storm, demanding that Labour release what they have been describing as a “secret coalition agreement” between Labour and NZ First.

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English complained;

“This is a government that said it would be more transparent and more open. The document is clearly there somewhere, it must be important because it’s 38 pages and it’s come out of the agreement – people deserve to see it.

It sounds like there might be quite a lot more in this other piece of paper. If it’s at the core of how the Government’s going to run, it’s in the public interest.”

English defended his insistence that the coalition notes be made public by comparing the Coalition with his own previous administration “transparency”;

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“By any international standard the last government was open and transparent, and this government, as with many other things, has expressed these high-minded intentions and then fails to follow through.”

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Which is a patently dishonest claim considering that the last nine years of National governance has been one of secrecy; obstructing OIA requests; increased state surveillance; and misleading the public.

Former Dear Leader, “Sir” John Key was brazenly open only in one respect of the OIA. He openly conceded that his administration regularly and willfully delayed releasing OIA requested information for purely political purposes;

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“Sometimes we wait the 20 days because, in the end, Government might take the view that’s in our best interest to do that.”

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To which  Chief Ombudsman, Dame Beverley Wakem, responded by reminding Key and his cronies colleagues they were were not permitted to flout the OIA legislation by deliberately delaying up to the  twenty-day deadline;

“It’s pretty clear. It couldn’t be much clearer than that… As soon as you have made a decision as to whether you’re going to respond to the request or how you’re going to respond to it, you ought to convey that.”

During it’s nine years in office, National has widened the powers of the GCSB to permit it to spy on all New Zealanders; mis-used GCSB surveillance to secure leadership of the World Trade Organisation; spied on our Pacific neighbours; and unlawfully harassed National’s critics such as Nicky Hager and Martyn Bradbury.

But when challenged on whether the GCSB was conducting mass surveillance on New Zealanders, Key simply point-blank refused to comment.

Who can forget National’s obstruction and prevarication – including contradictory statements – over the SAS-led attack on two villages in the Tirgiran Valley in 2010 which caused fifteen injuries and the tragic deaths of six innocent Afghan civilians, including a young child;

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Lest we forget: Fatima, aged 3

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Just recently, it was revealed that an OIA request by Radio NZ, for details regarding the business case for a proposed new multi-million dollar Auckland City rail-line, was met with deliberate stone-walling from then-Minister, Simon Bridge’s “office“;

Transport Minister Simon Bridges has been caught trying to block an official information request for details about a proposed new $50 million Auckland railway line.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters tabled an email trail in Parliament yesterday showing that Mr Bridges’ office repeatedly urged KiwiRail last week not to release a business case on Auckland’s proposed third main railway track.

Initially, his officials opposed the document being released, saying it was part of an unsuccessful budget bid, but were told by KiwiRail on Thursday that the law was clear it should be released.

After consulting its legal team, KiwiRail told Mr Bridge’s office it would struggle to justify not releasing it.

But on Friday Mr Bridges’ office again urged KiwiRail not to release the business plan.

This time it used a scatter-gun approach – arguing the report was only a draft, was on a misleading template and that its proposed release was making them “extremely uncomfortable”.

Writer Harriet Gale…

[…]

… said KiwiRail made it clear the business case did not need to be kept secret and that the minister’s behaviour was worrying.

Chief Ombudsman, Peter Boshier, was obviously frustrated and disturbed by National’s attempt to suppress the Kiwirail Report and their continual flouting of the OIA;

“It’s so important that we get this Act flowing better than it has been and it hasn’t necessarily flowed that well.

And that’s why I’ve used this as an opportunity to exhort the Prime Minister to help me and support me in getting the roles crystal clear.

We are coming down increasingly heavier where we see instances where the Act is not being compiled with – and in some cases, where it’s been flouted.

I think there’s an understanding that we mean business.”

Hardly the hallmarks of an “open and transparent” government when a Minister’s “office” is prepared to conspire to break the law by circumventing the Official Information Act. Also not helped when the ombudsman’s office has to write a scathing letter to the Prime Minister demanding they obey the law.

As if to underscore National’s mania for secrecy, in 2011/12, New Zealand’s ranking in media freedom by Reporters Without Borders fell from eighth place  in 2010, to  thirteenth, in the world.

The Herald’s senior reporter, Matthew Backhouse, wrote at the time;

The report did not say what was behind the fall – but it comes after a year in which newsrooms were searched by police, the New Zealand Herald was temporarily banned from the parliamentary press gallery and a proposed new law sought to give police greater powers to enter newsrooms.

Another story by Fairfax media’s Susan Edmunds, in May this year, also reported on New Zealand’s fall in World Press Freedom Index, citing Government secrecy;

The report said journalists were struggling with the Official Information Act, which gives government agencies long periods of time to respond to requests. Sometimes journalists were asked to pay for information.

“In August 2016, the government revealed a grim future for whistleblowers, announcing a bill that would criminalise leaking government information to the media and would dramatically increase the surveillance powers of the intelligence services. Journalists, bloggers, and civil society representatives would be among the potential targets of the proposed law, which could be adopted in 2017.”

Catherine Strong, from Massey University’s School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing, said;

“Our lower standing is due to the growing list of government agencies trying to hide information by thwarting the Official Information Act, and these agencies are ruining our reputation.”

What is even more grimly ironic is that having been thrown out of office, National persists in refusing to disclose information to the public.

Remember that National Party leader, Bill English, recently demanded;

“This is a government that said it would be more transparent and more open. The document is clearly there somewhere, it must be important because it’s 38 pages and it’s come out of the agreement – people deserve to see it.

It sounds like there might be quite a lot more in this other piece of paper. If it’s at the core of how the Government’s going to run, it’s in the public interest.”

Following coalition negotiations,  and Peters’s subsequent  announcement on 19 October that NZ First would coalesce with Labour and the Greens, Radio NZ’s Susie Ferguson spoke with National’s Bill English on Morning Report.

On at least two occassions, Ms Ferguson asked Bill English if he would be releasing the text of coalitions negotiations with NZ First. English first replied;

@1:57

“Well again, I’m not going to be discussing that. It was part of the negotiations and New Zealand First actually required, rightly, confidentiality about those negotiations.”

When pressed, English was adamant that there would be no public disclosure;

@2:28

“I’m honour bound to stick with the confidentiality agreement. As are the other parties.”

Note English’s reference to “the other parties“.

That would be Labour. No one else was in the room with Peters and NZ First. So when it suited English, he was more than willing to point to “the other parties” to validate his refusal to release National’s own coalition discussion papers.

A month later, on 28 November, TVNZ’s talented Jack Tame interviewed Bill English on Breakfast TV. After English repeated his demands that Labour publish all coalition documents, Tame pointed out  the apparent hypocrisy of demanding Labour make public their coalition papers whilst English refused to disclose National’s;

@1:13

TAME: “So are you prepared to release what your coalition negotiations with NZ First if the government does the same?”

ENGLISH: “Well, look, I don’t know if it’s a record of negotiations. We conducted ours under a confidentiality agreement. That was very clear right at the start.

So according to English, National operated under a “confidentiality agreement“.  He failed to explain how that differed from Labour’s confidentiality agreement with NZ First. As English insisted on 19 October, Labour was “honour bound to stick with the[ir] confidentiality agreement.”

Tame put the story on Twitter;

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Kudos to Jack Tame for being the only journalist (to my knowledge) to recognise and point out English’s double standard on this issue.

English’s refusal to come clean with the New Zealand public whilst demanding “transparency and openess” from Labour is a stark reminder of National’s toxic track record of paranoia, secrecy, and do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do arrogance. Every time English or one of his National Party parliamentary colleagues opens their mouths, we are reminded of their own hypocrisy.

They are political charlatans not to be trusted.

For the first time in our political history, it has become the role of the Government to hold the Opposition to account.

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And now…

Introducing the first (but not the last!) Paula Bennett Award for Hypocrisy. Named for the National party politician who used the Training Incentive Allowance to gain a free, tax-payer funded university education when she was a young mother on the domestic purposes benefit. Later, in 2009, as Minister for Social Welfare, one of her first actions was to  scrap that Allowance, thereby denying other solo-parents the same opportunity for advancing their lives.

The first Award goes to Bill English, for saying one thing and doing another. Congratulations, Mr English!

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Acknowledgement

My thanks to a Radio NZ producer for locating specific audio that provided much-needed information for the completion of this story. I am indebted for the significant time and effort it took to assist me on this project.

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References

TVNZ News:  ‘It’s in the public interest’ – Bill English calls for release of coalition document

Radio NZ:  New govt has ‘no follow through’ – National

NZ Herald: John Key, mass surveillance and what really happened when Edward Snowden accused him of spying

Radio NZ:  Spy agencies come under scrutiny

Fairfax media: Killed girl’s parents demand NZ Government inquiry

Radio NZ:  Transport Minister tries to block official information request

Radio NZ:  Ombudsman urges ministers to follow OIA rules

NZ Herald:  NZ slips out of top 10 for freedom in the media

Fairfax media:  Press freedoms stifled by cynical use of Official Information Act – Report

Fairfax media: Labour finally retakes power after Winston Peters gives Jacinda Ardern his support

Radio NZ: Bill English faces first caucus since defeat (alt. link)

Twitter: Jame Tame – 28 November

NZ Herald: Bennett rejects ‘hypocrite’ claims

Additional

NZ Herald: OIA tension raises questions over minister’s request for information

Other Blogs

The Standard:  Key and Mass Surveillance – Was this the reason for the Golriz distraction?

TDB:  Now we know Key lied about mass surveillance – let’s remind everyone what our msm said at the time

Previous related blogposts

Once upon a time there was a solo-mum

“Fool me once”

Judith Collins owes an explanation to voters

National whines about Cullen’s appointment – they should know about cronyism

National’s $11.7 billion hole is right where they left it

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 3 December 2017.

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“Fool me once”…

17 November 2017 5 comments

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Fool me once, shame on you.

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Fool me twice, shame on me!

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That was then, this is now (1)

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So what was National’s problem with the number of committee members on Select Committees? “Shadow leader of the House“, Simon Bridges, accused the new Labour-Green-NZ First coalition government of “ trying to limit scrutiny of its actions by attempting to cut the number of Opposition MPs on select committees because it is short on numbers itself ”.

Bridges claimed;

One of the most important ways to do that is through the select committee process. But rather than fronting up to that scrutiny, Labour is now saying it wants to allow fewer elected representatives to carry out that vital function – that’s undemocratic.

While the number of positions on select committees has traditionally matched the number of MPs in Parliament, Labour wants to restrict the number because it doesn’t have enough members of its own.”

It’s true. The new Coalition government was going to reduce Select Committee numbers from 120 to 96.

But Bridges was not being truthful with the public when he blamed Labour for wanting to  “restrict the number because it doesn’t have enough members of its own”.

In fact, that decision was made by the Standing Orders Committee in July of this year, when National was in government.  National’s David Carter was Speaker of the House and Chairperson of the SOC.

The National government SOC report stated;

“We do not favour specifying the number of seats in the Standing Orders. The Business Committee should retain the ability to determine the size of each committee. We propose instead that the Business Committee adopt a target of 96 seats across the 12 subject select committees. We considered models based on 108 committee seats, which would have little impact given the decrease in the number of committees, and 84 committee seats, which would leave too many members without permanent committee seats—a matter considered below. A total of 96 seats will result in most committees having seven, eight, or nine members.”

Bridges belatedly admitted that the reduction in Select Committee numbers was a decision made by National when it had been in government. But he complained that National had made the decision because they were trying to be ‘nice’ to Labour and other opposition parties;

We were a Government [in July] … trying to accommodate the Opposition who wanted that. But now the Opposition doesn’t want it. Because back then, it is such a disadvantage to us.”

“Disadvantage”?

David Carter’s July 2017 report was clear in its intent;

“We believe there would be some merit in decreasing the overall number of select committee seats while retaining the proportionality requirement. Committees are generally larger than is necessary for them to be effective, and some members have too many committee commitments. With a decrease in the number of subject committees from 13 to 12, committees would become even larger if the overall membership remained around 120.

A decrease in committee seats would provide more flexibility for parties to manage committee attendance and absences. This flexibility would also allow members to attend committee meetings according to their interests, expertise, and availability. Government backbench members would not be expected to be on more than two committees each, allowing them to be more focused in their committee work. There could also be greater scope to arrange extended sittings at the same time as committee meetings, as fewer members would be required to attend those meetings.”

No mention made of “trying to accommodate the Opposition”. Carter’s report was more concerned with  National backbench MPs  being over-worked. “Making nice” with Labour is not mentioned.

National’s modus operandi of dishonesty appears not to have changed as they begin their long twilight Decade of Opposition.

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Hypocrisy, National-style

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National’s Simon Bridges also said on 6 November;

The role of the Opposition is to hold the Government to account, to scrutinise its actions and to advocate for the views of the people they are elected to represent. One of the most important ways to do that is through the select committee process. ”

Curiously, the role of Select Committees to “hold the Government to account, to scrutinise its actions and to advocate for the views of the people they are elected to represent” did not seem to tax Mr Bridges’ noble views when National forced through the so-called ‘Hobbit Law’ in 2010.

The “Hobbit law” – aka the Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Act 2010 – was enacted under Urgency from First Reading to Royal Asset in under 48 hours!

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Such unheard of rapidity to pass legislation – even under Urgency – was the political equivalent of a starship travelling at near-light velocity. Needless to say there was no Select Committee over-sight.  There was no scrutiny. And MPs did not get an opportunity to “advocate for the views of the people they are elected to represent“.

According to right-wing National apparatchik and blogger, David Farrar, and then Opposition Labour MP, Grant Robertson, the National government used Urgency to pass seventeen laws during it’s first two yours in office. There was no public consultation permitted. No public submissions sought.

National’s (mis-)use of Urgency during it’s nine years in office  shows Bridges to be hypocritical when he preaches;

 The Government must let parliamentary structures fully reflect the decisions of voters and allow its ideas to be tested – that’s in the interests of all New Zealanders.”

But when Simon Bridges was Minister for Labour in 2014, his view on passing health and safety legislation was in stark contrast. As I reported three years ago;

Helen Kelly accused Minister of Labour, Simon Bridges of slowing progress of the passing of the Health and Safety Bill, and actively interfering and restricting the terms of a Worksafe NZ review of safety practices in the forestry industry. She said,

We know the minister has restricted right down what they’re allowed to look at. They’re not looking at fatigue. They’re not looking at weather. They’re not looking at hours of work. Simon Bridges has said, ‘no, wait for the review’.

Bridges response on Radio NZ’s Morning Report, on 28 April [2014], did nothing to allay fears that he was  taking the side of forestry operators and doing everything within his power to stymie reform of the industry, and resist implementation of a stricter safety regime.

When Morning Report’s Susie Ferguson pressed Bridges on  when the Health and Safety Reform Bill would be passed into law, his response was derisory and dismissive,

We can’t simply, ah,  because Helen Kelly sez so, do something in two days.

...  But I don’t think it’s a position where we can simply snap our fingers and change  systemic, ah, ah, deep  problems overnight. Indeed it would be entirely wrong for us to do that.

Hypocrisy on so many levels… where does one even start with the National Party?!

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Treachery, National-style

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In holding to ransom the election of Trevor Mallard as Speaker of the House, National bluffed it’s way to increase the number of their MPs that can be appointed to Select Committees. This was despite a clear understanding between the new Coalition government and National that Trevor Mallard would be elected unopposed as Speaker, and National’s Anne Tolley as Deputy Speaker.

By demanding a vote be taken, National reneged on their agreement.

The threat from the Opposition Benches was a  dire  warning to the new Coalition government that National was prepared to play dirty.

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Chris Hipkins and Grant Robertson negotiate with duplicitous and disloyal  National Opposition MPs

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The  Coalition has been taught a clear lesson. As Leader of the House, Chris Hipkins said after the fiasco;

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

Adding;

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

Indeed, Chris. Be very careful.  The lesson of National’s willingness to engage in dirty tricks; double dealing; and other obstructionist tactics should not be lost on any Labour, Green, or NZ First MPs.

National MPs lack honour.

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National’s desperation to remain relevant

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For National, the stakes are high and they will do everything within their power – perhaps pushing as close to the edge of legality as humanly possible – to achieve the destruction of this Coalition government, and spark an early election.

Make no mistake. National realises two crucial things are in play;

#1: Polling Decay in Opposition

The longer the Nats remain in Opposition, the  faster their public support will erode. Post 2008, Labour’s polling continued to plummet, whereas National’s ascendancy continued to build on it electoral success;

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The longer National stays in Opposition, the further it’s public support will fall. It is hard to imagine that it’s election night result of 44.4%  will be maintained to the next election in 2020.

In short, the Nats risk growing irrelevancy the longer they stay out of government.

#2: Dismantling the Neo-liberal Paradigm

Chris Trotter wrote on 26 October;

“ We face an economic system without the slightest idea how to solve the problems created by its discredited policies and practices. Nevertheless, the Neoliberal Establishment remains very strong, and just as soon as it settles upon an effective strategy of resistance, the fightback will begin.

[…]

The Labour-NZ First-Green Government will be presented by these hard-line rightists as an illegitimate and dangerously anti-capitalist regime. Its anti-business and anti-farming policies, they will argue, are not only incompatible with genuine Kiwi democracy, but also constitute a direct attack on the sanctity of private property. As such, it will not be enough to merely oppose this far-left government; it will be necessary to fight it head-on.

Brexit. Donald Trump. Justin  Trudeau. Jeremy Corbyn. Emmanuel Macron. Whether on the Left or Right, or Mad Populist; whether in office or not; there is a mood for change sweeping the globe. The promises of neo-liberalism; the “free” market; and globalism have failed to materialise for the many – whilst amassing vast wealth for the few.

“Trickle down” has become a sick joke that offers opportunities for cartoonists…

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… but not much else for the unemployed; the low-paid; and the precariat. It’s hard to be a cheer-leader for globalisation when your job has been “exported” to Shanghai; outsourced to Manila; or replaced by a robot.

It is against that back-drop of growing public resentment against the neo-liberal orthodoxy that National understands it is living on ‘borrowed time’. The longer they remain in Opposition, the more time the Coalition government has to un-pick the strands of neo-liberalism and reinstate the role of the State in commerce, workplace relations, housing, education, health, and elsewhere.

The more that neo-liberalism is unravelled, the harder it will be for National in the long-term to re-build. Especially if a resurgent State succeeds in housing the homeless; fully funding public healthcare and cutting back waiting lists; and all the other cuts to social services that National sneaked through gradually, without being noticed except by a few.

Expect desperation to be the motivator for everything National does in the next three years.

They know the clock is ticking.

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That was then, this is now (2)

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On 24 October,  Bill English was interviewed on Radio NZ’s Morning Report by Susie Ferguson. He was asked about his earlier comments  about the current coalition being a “minority government”;

English began by voicing that the incoming coalition government had not won the “popular vote”. First he complained that his Party should have been the government simply because of it’s size;

“ The voters at large probably expected that if you got 44 and a half percent of the vote, you were some part of the government or the big part of it.

Then he suggested that the formation of the coalition was somehow “unusual”;

“…How to hold to account a government that’s been put together in an unusual way.

English did not fully explain why the coalition formation was “unusual”.

Then he hinted that the Coalition government might not be legitimate;

Just remember this is a prime minister who’s the first one in a hundred years who lost the popular vote and lost it by quite a bit.”

… It didn’t win the vote.

English’s comments might make sense under a First Past the Post system – but under MMP his arithmetic doesn’t add up.  Added together, Labour, NZ First, and the Greens won more votes than National and ACT. More people voted for change than the status quo.

Which prompted Ms Ferguson to remind English that the new Coalition government is made up of three parties, so how was that different to the National-led government that he (English) led?

English’s response again reflected First Past the Post thinking, by referring to National as the larger party and thereby somehow entitled to rule;

“…when an election is lost, a larger party captured the direction New Zealand wanted to go in.

Ms Ferguson had to remind Mr English that 44% is not a majority. The arithmetic simply did not support the National leader’s expectations of a “right to govern” based on size. Perhaps because he understood the nature of Radio NZ listeners, he was forced to admit;

I accept that, absolutely… It’s a legitimate result…

Well, I’ve been saying all year that the… all the other parties put together can beat you on the day. And that’s what happened on Thursday. So that’s MMP. That’s how it works.

But despite claiming to understand how MMP works, he couldn’t result a further dig at the Coalition;

Put it this way, if the Labour Party got 44% of the vote, I think anyone would argue they’d be in a stronger position to start a government than they are today.

But Ms Ferguson was having none of English trying to have a bob-each-way and put to him a simple question; did the National Party have a moral mandate to be the leading party of government?

To which English could only reply:

We accept, like everybody else should, that’s its a legitimate result of MMP. No contest about that. That’s how the rules work, we all knew that.

Nine days later, and English was back on the warpath, threatening to de-stabilise the Coalition government under the pretext of Opposition;

We are the dominant select committee party and we’re not the government, and that is going to make a difference to how everything runs.

It’s not our job to make this place run for an incoming government that’s a minority.

Remember this, we are the opposition with a minority government, it’s a term the media don’t use but you’ll get to understand that it is a minority government with a majority opposition and the Greens as the support party, and that’s how we’re going to run it.

The constant reference to “minority government” and National being the “dominant party” carries on the narrative being run by English’s party strategists; that this new coalition is a “minority” (it’s not); that National was denied it’s rightful position as government (it wasn’t); and that the election results were somehow “stolen” (not true).

With 65% of NZ First supporters showing a strong preference to coalesce with Labour, Winston Peters’ decision was sound and democratic. Any other decision – such as allying with the Nats and ACT – would have had destructive consequences for NZ First.

Which, of course, would have suited National perfectly. The Nats have already  destroyed two political parties (United Future and Maori Party) and neutered a third (ACT). Another notch on their belt would not have concerned them greatly.

Indeed, look on National as the Planet Jupiter – drawing in debris such as asteroids and comets with it’s massive gravitational field; effectively “scouring” the solar system of small objects.

National draws in smaller parties with it’s massive political-gravitational pull, and consumes them.

No wonder the Green Party exercised caution and ensured their trajectory carried them safely away from National’s crushing embrace. A “Teal Coalition” would have torn apart the Greens as effectively as Jupiter smashed  Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 in 1994.

But if English and his cronies in Her Majesty’s ‘Loyal’ Opposition believe that “it’s not our job to make this place run for an incoming government that’s a minority” – then they had best tread carefully.

The voting public are not all gullible fools and they do take notice.

As does the media.

On 9 November and 10 November, Fairfax media ran two consecutive editorials on the incoming coalition government and National’s role as Parliament’s newest Opposition.

On 9 November, an editorial writer cautioned National;

Oppositions whose sole aim is to sabotage the government, however, risk alienating the voters. In the United States, the Republican Party repeatedly tried to shut down the government altogether by denying it the money it needs to function.

The long-term risk is that this strategy will be tried by the other side when the roles are switched. The result could be the kind of paralysis of government too often seen in the United States. Oppositions don’t gain in the long term by making the country ungovernable.

In New Zealand, there is also a strong tradition of giving a new government a “fair go”. Voters traditionally allow some leeway, and even grant it a kind of temporary political honeymoon…

And on 10 November, similar warnings were issued;

The opposition has already signalled that it intends to make life more difficult than usual for the Government, but it must be very careful not to alienate the public as it does so. ”

The greatest irony may soon become apparent: it is not the new Labour-Green-NZ First coalition that will be scrutinised during this Parliamentary term.

It may be the National Opposition that is held to account.

 

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Postscript
As National’s webpages tend to disappear from their website, along with their statements, they have been saved for future reference.

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References

Parliament: Simon Bridges

NZ Herald:  National’s list of laws passed under urgency

National Party:  Government trying to limit scrutiny

Parliament: Review of Standing Orders – Report of the Standing Orders Committee – Rt Hon David Carter, Chairperson – July 2017 (p19)

NZ Herald:  National clashes with Labour – ‘erosion of democratic rights’

Legislation: Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Act 2010 – Legislative history

Radio NZ:  Unions seek prosecution over deaths

Radio NZ: Minister of Labour responds to criticism (audio)

Parliament: Health and Safety Reform Bill

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

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

Wikipedia:  Opinion polling for the New Zealand general election, 2011

Electoral Commission:  2017 General Election – Official Result

Time:  The Richest People in the World

Radio NZ:  Bill English faces first caucus since defeat (alt.link)(audio)

Electoral Commission: New Zealand 2017 General Election – Official Results

TVNZ:  Bill English warns of stubborn opposition to new government – ‘It’s not our job to make this place run’

NBR: Majority of NZ First supporters want party to ally with Labour – Colmar Brunton

Fairfax media:  Talk of a teal deal is speculation, nothing more, says James Shaw

America Space:  Remembering Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9’s Impact on Jupiter, 23 Years Ago This Week

Fairfax media:  Editorial – National wins a battle but winning the war is different

Fairfax media:  Editorial – the prime minister’s positive way forward

Other Blogs

Bowalley Road:  Strategies Of Right-Wing Resistance – It CAN Happen Here.

Bowalley Road:  Settling The Stardust – The Grim Logic Behind National’s Opposition Tactics

The Daily Blog:  How dare National claim an ‘erosion of democracy’

Previous related blogposts

National, on Law and Order

Muppets, Hobbits, and Scab ‘Unions’

John Key’s track record on raising wages – 1. The “Hobbit Law”

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 12 November 2017.

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