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Posts Tagged ‘Parliament’

Beehive make-over

24 January 2014 5 comments

Seen from Molesworth Street, in down-town Wellington,

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The Beehive is under-going a face-lift/make-over.

Just in time for the coming election and the new, incoming, Labour-Green-Mana(-NZ First?) government.

Good timing.

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27 April in Wellington – A Protest Against State Asset Theft (Part Rua)

28 April 2013 14 comments

Continued from: 27 April in Wellington – A Protest Against State Asset Theft (Part Tahi)

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NZ, Wellington, 27 April – Under a clear, sunny sky and only a slight breeze,  the march pushed off  at around 2.45pm, with a police escort;

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27 April 2013 anti-asset sale protest Wellington aotearoa is not for sale

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Following the police vehicle, the lead marchers, proudly grasping a message aimed at all National ministers;

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27 April 2013 anti-asset sale protest Wellington aotearoa is not for sale

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The marchers were in good spirit – knowing that they were on the side of the angels on this issue;

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27 April 2013 anti-asset sale protest Wellington aotearoa is not for sale

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Labour and Mana  standing side by side. A portent of things to come after the 2014 election? (Or earlier, if this rotten government collapses, or Key has a Muldoon-“moment” and calls for a snap election.)

If the sale of Mighty River Power goes badly for the thieving Nats; or Ohariu MP, Peter Dunne realises that the government he is a part of is on a hiding to nowhere,  a snap election may be on the cards.

We can only hope/pray…

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27 April 2013 anti-asset sale protest Wellington aotearoa is not for sale

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Lots of smiling faces; lots of hope and optimism for the future of this country;

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27 April 2013 anti-asset sale protest Wellington aotearoa is not for sale

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A bit of humour from one of the protesters;

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27 April 2013 anti-asset sale protest Wellington aotearoa is not for sale

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Aside from a couple of clowns who thought they were being clever (see dickhead on the left), we received good support from by-standers. Several joined the protest march – note the lady in the pink jersey on the right, who stepped off the footpath, and walked with us;

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27 April 2013 anti-asset sale protest Wellington aotearoa is not for sale

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Bringing up the rear of the protest march;

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27 April 2013 anti-asset sale protest Wellington aotearoa is not for sale

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Where there were smart-arses yelling desparaging comments, they were generally inarticulate boofheads. These four young ‘gentlemen’ yelled abuse, and in the process showed us the calibre of  right wing fools. No doubt they’ll become typical National Party (or ACT, if it survives) politicians;

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27 April 2013 anti-asset sale protest Wellington aotearoa is not for sale

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Ngarie had so much energy, as she took part in the chants and had some highly critical comments of her own to shout. People were left in no doubt what she thought of National and our illustrious Dear Leader;

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27 April 2013 anti-asset sale protest Wellington aotearoa is not for sale

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Near the end of the march; these guys may be at the bottom of the socio-economic heap, but they had a huge amount of positive, good nature and were staunch in their condemnation of National’s thieving of our state assets. When the poorest of the poor are politicised, the end is nigh for  neo-liberals and their fellow-travellers;

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27 April 2013 anti-asset sale protest Wellington aotearoa is not for sale

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The march eveventually wound it’s way up the entrance-way to Parliament. Note the senior citizens leading the way!

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27 April 2013 anti-asset sale protest Wellington aotearoa is not for sale

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By the time the protesters had reached the Parliamentary fore-court, their numbers had swelled to around 500-700 (estimated);

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27 April 2013 anti-asset sale protest Wellington aotearoa is not for sale

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Some street theatre by Aroha Priest, giving us a glimpse of a chilling  future, where poverty has increased and homeless  street-life is the  ‘norm’;

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27 April 2013 anti-asset sale protest Wellington aotearoa is not for sale

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Howard Phillips – Vice President of the Rail, Transport and Maritime Union – gave a rousing speech to the crowd, reminding us how many thousands of jobs had been lost over the last four years;

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27 April 2013 anti-asset sale protest Wellington aotearoa is not for sale

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Peter Hicks – Tasmanian singer-song writer – and Marama Te Kira – local performer/songwriter  – entertained the crowd with good music, assisted by an excellent sound-system.

A fine sunny day; good music; and “giving the fingers” to the Nats – what could be a better day?

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27 April 2013 anti-asset sale protest Wellington aotearoa is not for sale

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27 April 2013 anti-asset sale protest Wellington aotearoa is not for sale

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And Marilyn Head – from the NZ Nurses Organisation – expressed an excellent appraisal of how the s TPPA – currently being negotiated in secret –  will affect this country’s economic sovereignty.  Marilyn pointed out that, in the past, we were able to re-nationalise stressed  former-SOEs (KiwiRail and Air New Zealand).

Marilyn pointed out that the TPPA would no longer allow a New Zealand government the option of bailing out and re-nationalising a stressed ex-SOE (eg; Mighty River Power) and would tie it’s hands considerably. She raised the issue of trans-nationals suing our government; the loss of PHARMAC’s effectiveness; and secret overseas tribunals deciding disputes between coroporations and governments.

Marilyn said that the Australian government had refused to be a party to permitting corporations to sue them in  Investor-Government disputes – but that National was prepared to sign up to that accord.

Held in secret tribunals, it puts New Zealand in a very dangerous position. More foolishness from National.

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27 April 2013 anti-asset sale protest Wellington aotearoa is not for sale

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And meanwhile, lurking in the background, was this character.  Perhaps waiting for the death of our economic sovereignty?

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27 April 2013 anti-asset sale protest Wellington aotearoa is not for sale

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Not if we don’t let it happen.

Aotearoa – it’s NOT for sale!

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Copyright (c)  Notice

All images are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

  •     Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
  •     At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals.
  •     Acknowledgement of source is requested.

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27 April in Wellington – A Protest Against State Asset Theft (Part Tahi)

27 April 2013 19 comments

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NZ, Wellington, 27 April – On a crisp, summery day, citizens of Wellington (and some from further afield), began to assemble at Te Aro (“Pigeon”) Park, in Manners Street, to send (another) message to National ministers: Aotearoa is not for sale!

TV1 cameraman, with Police and protest organisers, together planning the march route and other  measures to keep people safe during the event. There was excellent co-operation between both parties. ANFS has a solid record for peaceful, non-violent, law-abiding protest;

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27 April 2013 anti-asset sale protest Wellington aotearoa is not for sale

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From about 2pm, the crowd quickly swelled from a few dozen, to several hundred. Ages ranged from young children, to the elderly.  It was interesting to note that over half the assembled people were in their 20s or 30s.

The issue of state assets belonging to the people, has become an inter-generational matter of concern and deeply-held beliefs;

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27 April 2013 anti-asset sale protest Wellington aotearoa is not for sale

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Question. Will all our assets be gone – flogged off to investors from Beijing, Berlin, or Boston – by the time this young fellow grows up?  Will he be a tenant-worker in his own country – a country that was sold out from under his feet by venal, ignorant  politicians and a distracted middle-class?

Answer? Not if we have anything to say about it!

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27 April 2013 anti-asset sale protest Wellington aotearoa is not for sale

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From the young, to the older. This is an issue that cuts across generations, race, gender, class, etc;

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27 April 2013 anti-asset sale protest Wellington aotearoa is not for sale

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Some good sounds from the Brass Razoo Solidarity Band;

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27 April 2013 anti-asset sale protest Wellington aotearoa is not for sale

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Good representation from the young people of the Mana Party;

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27 April 2013 anti-asset sale protest Wellington aotearoa is not for sale

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Plenty of good humour evident amongst the protest group. I wonder if Dear Leader would like this piece of art?Perhaps for a small sum donated to a worthy charity?

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27 April 2013 anti-asset sale protest Wellington aotearoa is not for sale

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ANFS (Aotearoa Not For Sale) organiser, Ariana, addressing the crowd,

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27 April 2013 anti-asset sale protest Wellington aotearoa is not for sale

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Young New Zealanders who want what we took for granted as children ourselves; clean rivers and clean seas. Is this too much to ask from a consumerist generation?

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27 April 2013 anti-asset sale protest Wellington aotearoa is not for sale

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Simple messages on home-made placards;

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27 April 2013 anti-asset sale protest Wellington aotearoa is not for sale

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Once Key and his cronies sell of our assets, what will be left for this young lady? And will she and her young generation curse us for letting it happen?

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27 April 2013 anti-asset sale protest Wellington aotearoa is not for sale

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Another simple, home-made message from a New Zealander to the government;

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27 April 2013 anti-asset sale protest Wellington aotearoa is not for sale

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A young socialist in the making? The struggle does not end here, nor will neo-liberalism triumph. Not whilst the young continue to bear the banner;

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27 April 2013 anti-asset sale protest Wellington aotearoa is not for sale

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Another view of the crowd, listening to ANFS co-organiser, Francis, barely visible in the background (holding bullhorn);

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27 April 2013 anti-asset sale protest Wellington aotearoa is not for sale

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I think a good number of people in this country would agree with these messages;

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27 April 2013 anti-asset sale protest Wellington aotearoa is not for sale

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A good message – and one all governments  should  consider;

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27 April 2013 anti-asset sale protest Wellington aotearoa is not for sale

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Three staunch MANA Party supporters. Note the message on the placard. Aside from simple-minded Tory supporters, who really believes that power prices will fall, once Mighty River Power, Meridian, and Genesis are partially-privatised?

Will investors really settle for a drop in returns on their share investments? Yeah, right, of course they will… *pfffft!!*

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27 April 2013 anti-asset sale protest Wellington aotearoa is not for sale

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A very clear message. This banner will lead the march;

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27 April 2013 anti-asset sale protest Wellington aotearoa is not for sale

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Valerie, addressing the crowd about the protocols of the march,

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27 April 2013 anti-asset sale protest Wellington aotearoa is not for sale

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Two cars  painted to promote the day of action. Using corporate-style vehicle-advertising – how cool is that?

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27 April 2013 anti-asset sale protest Wellington aotearoa is not for sale

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Continued at: 27 April in Wellington – A Protest Against State Asset Theft (Part Rua) – Where the march heads for Parliament grounds!

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Copyright (c)  Notice

All images are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

  •     Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
  •     At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals.
  •     Acknowledgement of source is requested.

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Letters from Parliament…

Following on from this Blog’s promotion of the Million Mail campaign (see previous blogpost: Campaign: Flood the Beehive!), several responses from National politicians have been forwarded to me.

The first two seem fairly innocuous fob-offs,

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John Key state asset sales SOEs

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Tony Ryall state asset sales SOEs

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But this following letter, and enclosed literature, is more interesting.

First, the covering letter,

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The letter seems fairly innocuous, like the two above – even with the statement “National will continue to work tirelessly to deliver on our plan to build a brighter future for all New Zealanders” (bottom of letter), which appears to be a Party-political statement. That would be illegal if the letter was paid by taxpayer-funded Parliamentary Services funding allocations.

The following literature, that was enclosed with the above covering letter, is more cause for concern,

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The first, of four pages, contain some blatant mis-representations, half-truths, and a fair measure of hypocrisy.

1.

Delivering a better public service

It is debateable if National is delivering “better public services” with 2,500 jobs lost through sackings; pared-back services such as MAF Border controls; low Army morale; naval staff shortages resulting in uncrewed ships; unanswered phones at IRD and Housing New Zealand, etc, etc…

See previous blogpost: Another case of “We told you so!”?

In fact, it might be argued that National’s budget cuts and mass-redundancies have left our state sector in a run-down, demoralised, over-stretched state.

But in National’s alternative Universe, all these problems constitute “better public services”.

2.

New Zealand is in good shape…”

“Good shape” depends on whether John Key is comparing us to Greece, Somalia, and Tonga – or Australia.

Considering that,

None of these issues are covered  in National’s brochure. In fact, Bill English sez “we’re doing alright.

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Operating in surplus helps keep mortage rates lower for longer

That statement is so disingenuous that it is nothing more than an outright lie.

A. National has not been “in surplus” since Labour lost the election in 2008.

B. Mortgage interest rates are determined by the Reserve Bank and corporate banks – not by government.

C. Interest rate are dependent several factors such as the OCR set by the Reserve Bank (independepent of government); overseas interest rates; New Zealand’s credit rating (the lower our rating, the higher  interest rates we pay); our Balance of Payments; private debt; and lastly, sovereign debt.

D. Interest rates are currently low because the country’s economy is stagnating; there is poor economic growth; and hence banks are lowering their rates to attract new customers.

For John Key to claim some sort of  “ownership” over low interest rates is unsurprising.

He has nothing else to claim as “good news”.

Dear Leader has as much to do with keeping interest rates down as King Canute did in commanding the tide to retreat.  Didn’t that end well?

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See #3 above: more pure, unadulterated bullshit.

I haven’t read propaganda like this since the Soviet Union’s last 5 Year Plan to over-take the United States in economic growth. That didn’t end well either.

Let’s check out National’s bold claims for New Zealand’s growing neo-liberal nirvana,

“... employ more people,”

Not according to the latest job-market statistics, released in early May,

New Zealand’s unemployment rate unexpectedly rose to 6.7pc in the first quarter after the labour force swelled to a three-year high as more people started looking for work in what’s been a tight jobs market. The kiwi dollar fell after the data was released.

The unemployment rate rose 0.3 percentage points to 6.7 per cent in the three months ended March 31, from a revised 6.4 per cent in the prior quarter, according to Statistics New Zealand’s household labour force survey. That’s higher than the 6.3 per cent forecast in a Reuters survey of economists. “

See: Unemployment rate lifts to 6.7pc

And businesses seemed to have their own ideas, a month previous,

New Zealand finance bosses are feeling good about the economic recovery, but research shows that optimism doesn’t extend to hiring new staff.

Global finance and accounting firm Robert Half’s survey of 200 chief financial officers and finance directors found 79 per cent were confident about the prospects of national growth in 2012.

Those who thought their own company would pick up speed in the year ahead made up an even higher proportion, at 87 per cent. “

See: Confidence up, but jobs still not a priority

We are encouraging businesses to grow through having confidence to invest…”

Oh well, at least business confidence was up.

Oh, wait, no…

Sorry, that’s changed now,

Business confidence has fallen for the first time in seven months, though National Bank’s latest survey shows confidence is still “very healthy”.

A net 27 per cent of firms expect business conditions to improve in the coming year down from 35.8 per cent in the previous month.

See: Business confidence down but resilient

Not looking terribly good for Dear Leader, is it?

“… pay them higher wages,”

Well, it’s true that Dear Leader has promised us higher wages,

“We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.” – John Key, 29 January 2008

We will also continue our work to increase the incomes New Zealanders earn.” – John Key, 8 February 2011

The driving goal of my Government is to build a more competitive and internationally-focused economy with less debt, more jobs and higher incomes.” – John Key, 21 December 2011

But, like most of his promises, they’ve either been broken, ignored, or “postponed” into the never-never,

New Zealand families are under growing financial stress as stagnating wages and salaries prove inadequate to cover spiralling costs – and even top-tier earners are feeling the squeeze.

According to Statistics New Zealand’s Household Income Survey, 29,200 more families now rate themselves as having incomes too low to meet their daily needs than in the same survey four months before John Key’s first term.

In June 2007, the number of households rating themselves income-poor was 254,100. That number has now risen to 283,300. “

See: NZ families feel the income squeeze

In  2008, wages (LCI)  increased by 3.4% for the March Quarter.

See: Salary and wage rates increase by record amount

By 2012, wages (LCI)  increased for the March Quarter by only  2%.

See: Wage Growth – March 2012 Quarter

Which is a marked improvement from only two years ago,

Statistics New Zealand’s latest Labour Cost Index showed salaries and wages increasing at their slowest rate in eight years, up 1.8 per cent in the year to the December quarter. It was the lowest quarterly increase since June 2001. “

See: Wage rises lowest since 2001

At the same time, the top 150 Rich Listers  have done extremely well,

The fortunes of the country’s 150 richest people have grown by almost 20 per cent in one year but they are still calling for the easing of constrictions around wealth creation.

The National Business Review yesterday published its annual Rich List, showing that the combined wealth of New Zealand’s richest has ballooned from $38.2 billion to $45.2 billion – the highest total ever. “

See: Rich Listers enjoy 20pc increase in wealth

Considering that rest home careworkers are still living on $13.61 an hour (perhaps marginally more), and that John Key denied these lowpaid workers a decent wage-increase, National’s committment to raising peoples’ pay is questionable. Especially when Dear Leader stated,

It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash. As the country moves back to surplus it’s one of the areas we can look at but I think most people would accept this isn’t the time we have lots of extra cash.

See: PM: No money for aged care workers

Which is rather ‘curious’, as National clearly has a spare $336 million to spend on consultants, and various “fees” for selling our own state assets to bogus “mums and dads”  (aka,  corporate investors)

See previous blogpost: Roads, grandma, and John Key

Furthermore, when workers go on strike to protect their current working conditions and pay-rates, as the recent Ports of Auckland dispute showed, National’s fellow-travellers are only too pleased to ‘put the boot‘ into them. In fact, National’s allies and at least one MP claimed that POAL workers were “over-paid”.

How can we raise wages in this country if the right wing are constantly resisting and even actively  attacking initiatives that would result in raising incomes and our standard of living?

Eventually, POAL workers defeated their employers attempt to casualise (and reduce their pay) the workforce – but only because of massive community support for the courageous men who work our wharves.

Far from raising wages to bridge the gap with Australia – Australia is bridging the gap with us…

“… creating a more productive and competitive economy.”

Not sure about productive, but Key has made us “a more… competitive economy” – but not in the way we thought was a good way,

Woolworths Australia this week moved a contact centre to Auckland, citing lower costs among the benefits, following similar expansion plans for cigarette manufacturing, food processing and media work to New Zealand.

“Labour does not want New Zealand to become Australia’s Mexico,” said the party’s finance spokesman, David Parker, criticising the influx of lower value jobs. ..

[abridged]

Macquarie University’s centre for workforce futures director, Ray Markey, said the pressure would continue as the mining boom pushed up wages and costs in Australia.

It was easy for Australian businesses to shift some operations to New Zealand because of the two countries’ many similarities, he said.

“I don’t think a low-wage economy is a way to go for the future, and it’s not going to help increase productivity… I wouldn’t want a call centre-based economy,” Dr Markey said. “But I’m much more optimistic if manufacturing is shifting“. “

See: Aussie firms sending business across ditch

And thus Bill English’s vision of a low-wage economy came to pass, when on 10 April 2011, he openly enthused over New Zealand’s low-wage economy compared to Australia,

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.

See: TVNZ Q+A Bill English interview Transcript

Not looking too good for National, thus far…

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Two Dear Leaders. Propaganda. ‘Nuff said.

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In Budget 2012 we’ve allocated the first $558 million of the proceeds of mixed ownership. We’re modernising schools ($34m), upgrading hospitals ($69m), supporting infrastructure such as Kiwirail ($250m), and research through the new Advanced Technology Institute ($76m). Over the next few years, $1 billion of the [Future Investment]  fund will be invested in New Zealand schools.

One of National’s oft-quoted spin-rhetoric is that the partial-sale of five state assets is to invest in new state assets,

Those points around companies operating more efficiently and effectively have been well made by the Government, as has the view that we’d like to see New Zealanders investing more in their country and the fact that we want to buy new assets without having to incur more debt. I think those points have been made”. ” – John Key, 19 July 2012

See: Key defends asset sales policy promotion

This is a lie.

National is not investing in “new assets”. They are spending on maintenance,

...We’re modernising schools ($34m), upgrading hospitals ($69m), supporting infrastructure such as Kiwirail ($250m)

There is a difference.  This blogger has some degree of business experience, and understands the difference between capital expenditure (aka “capex”)  and maintenance expenditure.

A. Capital investment: purchasing a new fishing boat, to add to a fleet, to generate addition income.

B. Maintenance: regular painting; cleaning;  motor and equipment maintenance, to keep existing income-generation.

As the astute reader will understand,  Capital Investment involves purchasing a new item which contributes to increasing turnover for a business.

Maintaintenance (or modernising, upgrading, and supporting infrastructure)  is just that;  keeping existing items up to operating standards.

So when Dear Leader, Bill English, Steven Joyce, Tony Ryall, et al, claim that National is selling state assets to buy new state assets – they are willfully misrepresenting their actions.

Building a new school is a capital purchase (a new state asset).  Slapping a lick of paint on an existing school is not a new state asset – it’s whacking a coat of Dulux on an existing building.

Key, English, and Joyce know this.  All three have  been involved in finance or business in one way or another.  But it suits their purpose to perpetrate this “spin”, to make it look as if we are replacing “Asset A” with “Asset B”.

They are doing no such thing.

The reason that National is now having to partially-privatise five SOE’s is that they lost an estimated $2 billion in tax-revenue, per annum,  after cutting taxes in 2009 and 2010. After considerable research, the Green Party discovered,

The Green Party has today revealed that the National Government has so far had to borrow an additional $2 billion dollars to fund their 2010 tax cut package for upper income earners.

New information prepared for the Green Party by the Parliamentary Library show that the estimated lost tax revenues from National’s 2010 tax cut package are between $1.6-$2.2 billion. The lost revenue calculation includes company and personal income tax revenues offset by increases in GST.

“The National Government said that their signature 2010 income tax cut package would be ‘fiscally neutral’ — paid for increased revenues from raising GST. That hasn’t happened. The net cost for tax cuts has been about $2 billion,” Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman said today.

“Borrowing $2 billion in 18 months to fund upper-income tax cuts is fiscally irresponsible.

“National’s poor economic decisions have led to record levels of government debt and borrowing. “

See: Government’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting

According to a Treasury report,

The Budget deficit is running $1.2 billion worse than forecast as tax revenue continues to lag.

Treasury today released the Government’s financial statements for the eight months to the end of February showing an operating deficit of $8.8 billion.

See: Budget deficit keeps getting worse

Considering that the tax cuts benefitted high-income earners the most, what we have here is that,

  • National cut taxes in 2009 and 2010
  • National is now having to flog off our state assets to pay for maintenance that otherwise would have been paid out of taxation
  • The people of New Zealand are paying for tax-cuts through the loss of their assets
  • The richest are benefitting the most from this wealth-transfer.

If you’re starting to feel angry about now, rest assured that is a normal response. After all, who likes being ripped of?

Pass the paint brush, please, Mr Key?

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Welfare will always be there for those in genuine need but too many New Zealanders are welfare dependent, trapping families in work. We believe those who can  work should work. We’re investing $287.5 million to break long term dependence blah blah blah...”

This is dog-whistle politics geared toward the Uninformed and Intolerant. It is not based in fact – it is based purely on prejudice.

Welfare dependent“?

Breaking long term dependence“?

Those who can work should work“?

When National’s economic performance is criticised – John Key reminds us that they inherited a Global Financial Crisis and the resultant Great Recession.

But that doesn’t stop National from blaming welfare recipients for being out of work. Some actual facts here may help,

In four years, unemployment has DOUBLED since National became government.  We should ask Dear Leader why this has happened.  There are three possible causes,

  1. A global recession has resulted in a sharp rise in unemployment
  2. National’s policies has caused unemployment
  3. 83,000 New Zealanders  chucked in their jobs and decided that getting a benefit of $204.96 was better than earning the average wage of $1,016.95. Go figure.

Perhaps we should let Welfare Minister Paula Bennett provide the answer,

No. There’s not a job for everyone that would want one right now, or else we wouldn’t have the unemployment figures that we do. ” – Paula Bennett, 29 April  2012

See:   Q+A: Paula Bennett interview

It seems fairly clear. There’s nothing quite like engaging in a bit of bene-bashing to win support in Voter Land.  National has no hesitation in using the victims of the global financial crisis to make itself look “tough on welfare beneficiaries”.  Meanwhile, National uses the same global financial crisis as an excuse for it’s own unimpressive economic performance.

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Budget 2012 includes $101 million of extra funding over the next four years for 4000 more elective operations a year, faster access to important scans and test results, and better cancer support services.”

Anything to do with “better cancer support” is an instant vote-winner. It almosts succeeds in putting a “human face” on National’s neo-liberal, “small government”, policies.

Until we read this,

To help meet cost pressures and fund these new initiatives, the Government will increase the $3 prescription charge to $5 per item, up to a maximum of 20 items, after which items are free...”

So to pay for cancer patients; other sick people, including children over 6 will be paying more for their medicines?!

When we have 200,000 children living in poverty; going to school without shoes or food; and living in cold, damp, rundown housing – charging more for medicine is the height of inhuman cruelty. There are families in this country for whom $5 might as well be $5,000 – threy simply don’t have the money.

Scrub my earlier reference to putting a “human face” on National.

9.

“… We’ve hired over 2000 extra nurses and and 800 extra doctors while there are 1000 few back-office staff.”

Really?

So who’s doing the paperwork? Who is keeping patient records up-to-date? Who is handling every day matters such as procurements? Invoices and bill-paying? Salaries? Rosters?  Equipment requisitions and maintenance?  Building maintenance? Personnel issues? Appointment-making? Contacting patients? Etc, etc?

Let me guess – each of those 2,000 “extra nurses” and 800 “extra doctors” have their own desks and share of paperwork to complete?

10.

In the tertiary sector we’re re-balancing our investment between student support and future tuition and research.  This will see student loans repaid faster and student allowances restricted to the current 200 week maximum. We’ll re-invest the savings into improving quality in the tertiary sector, especially in our universities.”

That’s a whole lot of meaningless blah, blah, blah… with the exception of this slipped into the rhetoric,  “…and student allowances restricted to the current 200 week maximum.

With a stroke of a Minister’s pen, 5,000 students are denied student allowances to undertake their postgraduate study.

National talks about upskilling; having a modern, educated workforce – and then pulls the rug out from under students. And this is not the first time National has done this kind of thing.

Aside from cutting the Training Incentive Allowance, National has also,

It seems fairly obvious that far from ” re-investing the savings into improving quality in the tertiary sector “, National has been making sly cuts as part of their maniacal obsession with “balancing the books’ and returning to surplus by 2014/15.

Unfortunately,  our children are paying for it through their education.

11.

Our National Standards are keeping parents informed about their child’s progress and identifying  kids falling behind. Experts are working with schools and teachers to help raise the bar…”

Bollocks.

National Standards does nothing of the sort.

National Standards are an ideological construct leading ultimately to League Tables, and the social stratification of our schools. Ghettoisation follows soon after.

As for  “experts are working with schools and teachers to help raise the barthat has to be the most absurd claim on this entire leaflet.

What “experts”?

Who could possibly be more “expert” than our teachers and principals?!

New Zealand has consistantly ranked high on the  OECD PISA Rankings. We are in the top six of nations.

The United States – from whence National is ‘borrowing’ much of it’s ideological claptrap such as Charter Schools, ranks number 15 – with Poland.

National can take no credit for this, and has even tried undermining many of the  excellent achievemant New Zealand has built up in the last decade.

It’s attempt to slash teacher numbers and increase class sizes in State schools was a potential recipe for disaster.

Meanwhile, John Key’s children were attending private schools.

12.

To meet these targets, we need to lift quality teaching and leadership across the education system.”

Call me cynical, but whenever I read rhetoric like this from National, it sends a chill down my back. “Lifting quality” is usually code for some nasty right-wing policy that usually involves cost-cutting, user-pays, and some manner of  private-commercial involvement.

So far all we’ve seen from National involves,

  • plans to cut teacher numbers (cancelled)
  • plans to increase classroom sizes (cancelled)
  • Charter schools involving private companies (School for Burger King?)
  • League Tables
  • National Standards

All of it based on right wing ideology. Parents should be very afraid – National is planning to use our schools to implement American-style ideological policies.

Which begs the question why we would want that? Remember that the US is far below NZ on the OECD PISA rankings.

Why are we not following Finland instead, which remunerates it’s teachers very well?

Should we ask Gerry Brownlee?

Maybe not.

13.

And in Budget 2012 we are investing a record $9.6 billion across ECE and schooling – the most ever.”

How can National be spending “the most ever”, when Bill English has declared the 2012 Budget to be a “zero” budget?! National insists they are not spending a cent more than last year?

In which case, what has National been cutting?

We do know one thing that National has cut,

One of the smaller Budget moves removes a tax credit on schoolchildren’s incomes, supposedly to reduce compliance costs for the employers of youngsters with part-time jobs.

It is forecast to save the Government $14 million a year, but Labour has described it as “picking the pockets of paper boys”.

See: Budget: Our big fat zero Budget

Taxing kids on a paper run…

Charming.

14.

We’re spending $14.12 billion this year on our public health service – the most ever.”

Ditto above. When National gives with one hand – you can bet your booties they’ve taken from somewhere else, with the other.

Keep your hand on your wallet.

15.

National is focused on raising achievement through quality teaching…”

In which case, National should consider proper resourcing of schools; increasing training for young unemployed (15-19); raising salaries for teachers – and abandon the lunatic right wing agenda it has borrowed from the United States.

If National is serious about raising achievement, we should be following Finland – not the US.

Charter Schools do not offer the success that National would have us believe. Even our American cuzzies are starting to realise this.

See: Denver Post –  Charter schools, They’re not better for our kids

See: New Stanford Report Finds Serious Quality Challenge in National Charter School Sector

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16.

None of the above claims are easily verifiable. Taking into consideration that most of the “statements of fact” on the above pages are spin, rhetoric, and of dubious accuracy, one would be wise to take all statements in #16 with a significant quantity of salt grains…

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17.

More children in early childhood education,  especially in areas of highest need.”

This would be a positive move by National. But to achieve it, there has to be adequate funding – and this is not happening. Under National, it has budgetted for a nil increase in funding, and not taken inflation nor wage increases into account,

Early childhood education subsidy cuts worth tens of millions of dollars are likely to be passed on to some parents through increased fees.

Education Minister Hekia Parata has kicked a total revamp of ECE funding into a future Budget, opting instead to stop cost increases to the Crown by cancelling the annual upward inflationary adjustment in rates.

The subsidy freeze takes effect on the next funding round, stripping about $40 million out of ECE payments to 5258 ECE centres. About 1427 of those centres are eligible for “equity funding,” however, and will get a boost through $49m extra directed to them over four years in a bid to enrol more children from the lowest socio-economic parts of the country.

But the scrapping of an annual inflationadjustment for other centres will be an effective funding cut as inflation pushes the cost of running ECE centres up. “

See: Parents face burden of preschool squeeze

National is adept at saying one thing – whilst doing something completely the polar-opposite.

And politicians wonder why we don’t trust them?!

18.

Rolling out ultra-fast broadband and investing in roads and rail.”

Two things:

A. If our economy is now a free market, where the State no longer owns Telecom, and subsidies went out in the late 1980s…

… why are we – the Taxpayer -funding private telco companies to lay down broadband in this country? Shouldn’t this be left up to private enterprise to fund?

Or is this indicative of yet again private enterprise unable to meet nationally-set goals to build infra-structure, and instead reliant on the State?

Seems like it.

B. If National is “investing in rail” – why are they continually knocking back Auckland’s attempt to build new rail infra-structure?!?!

After overseeing a record seven million public transport passenger trips in March, the organisation fears having to cut service costs by $31.2 million in the next financial year because of savings sought by its two main funders, the Auckland Council and the Government’s Transport Agency.

A capital projects wish-list of $674 million of public transport infrastructure and local roading proposals inherited from Auckland’s former regional, city and district councils will also have to be hacked back after a gloomy Government subsidy forecast…

[abridged]

… Transport Minister Steven Joyce, who in 2009 ditched a proposed regional fuel tax for Auckland public transport projects, has in this election year cited continuing tight economic conditions in postponing a planned 1.5 cent-a-litre rise on petrol excise. “

See: Public transport faces subsidy cuts

In May last year, then-Minister of Transport Steven Joyce said the case for building the rail link had not been proven. “

See: $8m boost given to city rail link

It came to a head just over a year ago when Transport Minister Steven Joyce rejected an Auckland Council report claiming a stunning $3.50 cost benefit for every $1 invested in its proposed city rail loop.

The Government, which opposes the loop, demanded that Government boffins do the sums again. They did, with predictably less flattering results. But before that, up popped a secret independent analysis of the Puhoi to Wellsford highway commissioned by the Government which showed a cost-benefit ratio of 0.4, which meant for every dollar invested the return was only 40c.

In other words, if the politicians were to put the political clamour of their supporters to one side, the holiday highway was a non-starter. “

See: The big winners from cost-benefit studies

It appears that National does not want Len Brown to succeed in any public transport initiatives?

19.

Tougher sentencing, parole, and bail laws.”

Oh god, not that hoary old “tough-on-crime” chestnut again?! Hasn’t that been thrashed to death?

And didn’t Bill English admit that,

”  Prisons are a fiscal and moral failure. And building more of them on a large scale is something I don’t think any New Zealander wants to see. They want a safer community and they want protection from the worst elements of criminal behaviour, but they don’t want to be a prison colony … It’s the fastest rising cost in government in the last decade and my view is we shouldn’t build any more of them. “

See: The problem with prisons

Firstly, it take guts for a Tory politician to be so candid and forthright on such a basic, dog-whistle, issue. Kudos to Bill English for his honesty on this matter.

Secondly, if  National politicians are indeed aware that prisons are such a failure, then promoting harsher sentences and other “tough-on-crime” rhetoric is  nothing more than sheer dishonesty. It is a cynical, deceptive manipulation of the public’s fear of victimisation by random criminal acts.

It is dishonest. It is manipulative. In fact, it could be called criminally irresponsible

20.

Reforming local government.”

“Reform”? In what way?

Does it need reforming?

Is there something wrong with local government that demands the question to be asked?!

It is a vague question that has no clear purpose, and utterly meaningless.

21.

Reducing long-term welfare dependency, with a focus on work.”

Oh, here we go again…

Aside from the fact that this is a repugnant, loaded question – shouldn’t we be asking,

A. Where are the jobs?

B. Didn’t John Key pledge the creation of 170,000 new jobs?

C. Why isn’t National “focused on work” – as in creating jobs?

Blaming beneficiaries – many of whom were in paid employment  not too long ago – is like blaming the office cleaner at Lehmann Bros for it’s bankruptcy and collapse.

In asking this “question”, National isn’t seeking an answer. It is pushing a subtle, subliminal message that beneficiaries are on “long-term welfare dependency“.

As Paula Bennett herself said,

No. There’s not a job for everyone that would want one right now, or else we wouldn’t have the unemployment figures that we do.

The real tragedy is that far too many low-information voters actually believe National’s rubbish.

22.

Selling minority shares in four energy SOEs and Air  New Zealand.

Not only is this the only honest question that is not loaded or framed in a pre-determined manner – but I suspect that the rationale for this entire leaflet is this one, single question.

As the reader will note, the respondent is asked to “Please tick the three issues that are important to you“. In other words, National is worried that the issue of state asset sales may be impacting on their polling.  But they’re uncertain. So they are trying to determine how deeply people are opposed to asset sales.

This questionnaire contains two “dog whistle” issues (crime and welfare), plus other issues surrounding economic growth, education, and health.

How will asset sales rate amongst all these issues?

If  all/most respondents rate asset sales as one of the top three – then they’re in trouble.

If asset sales is a minor choice, or hardly rates at all, it will embolden National to stay on-course with selling Mighty River Power.

This is the real crux of the matter.

23.

Raising achievement and accountability in schools

Again, a loaded question, as it assumes that there is a problem with accountability in our schools.

What – have all the principles left for Australia? Have all the School Boards resigned en-masse?

As for “raising achievement” – see #12, #13, and #15 above.

24.

Rebuilding Christchurch

Another question  with double meaning.

Firstly, it suggests to the respondent that this is an issue of important to National. Otherwise, why include it on the leaflet?

Secondly, how does the respondent rate this? Should it be chosen above asset sales in priority? Or is asset sales more important? Now we begin to see the craftiness of this questionnaire…

25.

Practical environmental policies supporting growth

A coded question.

What National is really asking is; “Is  environmental protection ok, so long as we can do mining on conservation land or protected marine  areas, as money is more important than protecting trees and fish?”

It is a dishonest question.

But then, the entire leaflet and it’s contents is dishonest.

And worst of all, at a time when the public are expected to tighten their belts; 2,500 state sector workers have been sacked; and essential services like MAF Biosecurity are being run down – National is wasting our tax-dollars on rubbish like this.

They forgot to ask one last question,

Should we be spending your money on leaflets like this?”

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Dear Leader says…

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

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Questions to Ministers

Recession—Prime Minister’s Statements

1. Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that by early 2010 New Zealand will be coming out of the recession “reasonably aggressively”?

 Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister) : Yes, I stand by my full quote from March 2009, which is: “… I think by the end of 2009 early 2010 this time next year we’ll be starting to come out of that and I think starting to come out of it reasonably aggressively. I’m more optimistic about 2011 than 2010 but nevertheless I think 2010 will be positive.” Those statements have proved to be absolutely, entirely, 100 percent correct.

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Full Story

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Full Story

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

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Hon Phil Goff: When looking at the blowout in the Government’s deficit of $2.5 billion over the last 6 months, how much of that deficit can be accounted for by tax cuts for the wealthy, which it is now shown that he is effectively borrowing in order to pay for?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: None.

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Hon Phil Goff: Two years into his Government does he take responsibility for the economic results that came out today, which were much worse than Treasury estimated 6 months ago, or will he continue to blame everybody else for his failure?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, I cannot take responsibility for a global financial crisis, although Michael Cullen once blamed me for it. I cannot take responsibility for an earthquake. I can take responsibility for doing something about leaky homes—the previous Government did absolutely nothing for homeowners—and I can take responsibility for New Zealand having the best tax switch it has had in 25 years.

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

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Hon Jim Anderton: Has the Minister of Finance seen figures released today showing that retail sales slumped by 2.5 percent after the GST increase to 15 percent in October, which went with rising prices, falling real wages, and higher unemployment; if so, how are those outcomes a sign of the economic step change that the Prime Minister promised?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I agree that the flat consumption is in sharp contrast to the record of the previous Government, when from about 2004 onwards the export sector was driven into the ground and New Zealanders went on a debt-funded spending binge. We make no apology for the fact that our policies are designed to turn that round by encouraging savings and exports. An increase in GST and an increase in the effective tax rate on housing will help us to avoid the same kind of binge occurring again.

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7. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Prime Minister: In light of his statement of 9 February 2010 that “I worry that there are signs of an emerging underclass in New Zealand”, what action has his Government taken to reduce the number of children living in poverty since that statement?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister) : The Government believes that paid employment is the best way out of poverty for children and families. This year we have been working hard to create jobs and grow family incomes by strengthening the New Zealand economy, and repairing the damage done by a global recession and 9 sad years of a Labour Government. We have continued to run substantial deficits to fund social services that support children and families, including those in vital areas such as education and health, and to fund income support payments, like Working for Families.

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

Full Story

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Hon Annette King: Did he say to a delegation of Church leaders whom he met in late November to discuss the future of welfare in New Zealand: “If we cancelled welfare to 330,000 people currently on welfare, how many would starve to death? Bugger all.”; if so, does he stand by that stupid comment?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have no recollection of the comment. What I do have a recollection of—

No doubt we can take John Key at his word?

Of course we can.

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Reference

Parliamentary Hansards 14 December 2010

Other Blogposts

Pundit:  Lies, damned lies, and National party spin-doctoring

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Guest Author: Citizen Meegan’s submission to Parliament – hand’s off our stuff!

Meegan Manuka (aka, Madd Hatter)

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. Kia Ora,

My name is Meegan Manuka and I am a Whanganui local here to talk to you about the purposed changes to the mixed ownership model act and the sale of our state owned assets.

On the 9th of February I attended a so called, “iwi consultation” at Whanganui racecourse.  And after seeing the drama that unfolded and learning what is being planned, I am concerned, very concerned.

Soon after I arrived at this meeting, the drama began. We had iwi met and manhandled by police and forced away from the door, locked out and prevented from entering. The curtains were then drawn to stop all inside the venue seeing what was happening.

I got up and opened the curtains to allow full view of the injustice outside. I walked to the door and asked the Maori warden guarding the door why the iwi were not allowed inside. He told me he was instructed to keep them outside because they were carrying tinorangatiratanga flags…

What happened to freedom of expression? Is this country becoming a police state? This consultation was not a true and fair representative debate. The full spectrum of iwi opinion and philosophy and the voices of those iwi wanting to enter were not heard. How can national even claim to have considered the view of iwi during this “consultation” if the iwi are not even allowed in to participate in the debate in the first place?

To further clarify my question, how can you claim to have consulted with and considered iwi views when some of the iwi were purposefully denied the right to participate and lend their voice to the consultation process? Their voices were NOT heard, their views were not considered, and they were not allowed to be a part of the consultation. This is twisted and unethical.

Anyway, I was one of the lucky ones allowed inside; maybe I look like I’m less of a threat…
Upon arrival I was given a booklet. This booklet actually. “EXTENSIONS OF THE MIXED OWNERSHIP MODEL ETC”.

After leaving the meeting I set about analysing this booklet and to say it made me angry is an understatement.

A lot of emphasis was put on section 9 of the SOE act both on the news and at the meeting.  On page 5 of this booklet it states, “Section 9 of the SOE Act provides that NOTHING IN THIS ACT shall permit the crown to act in a manner inconsistent with the principals of the treaty of waitangi…” well this sounds fine and dandy doesn’t it… until nek minute I read this… “To proceed with the mixed ownership model, the government purposes to remove the four state owned enterprises from the ambit of the state owned enterprises Act…” which means… in reality, all this section 9 stuff is just a smoke screen and yes, you have kept section 9 in the SOE act, but that is totally irrelevant because those four companies are being removed from the SOE act anyway. This is totally misleading.

Trickkky monkeyyss….

It then goes on to say on page 6 that, “no other investor will be able to hold more than ten per cent of the shares in each company which will help ensure widespread ownership.”

Sounds good, until I read page 8… “…although trustee corporations and nominee companies that hold shares on behalf of other persons may be exempt from the ten per cent limit.” Once again you tricky monkeys… why didn’t you tell us that in the first place unless you are planning something dodgy?

Now, THIS is the bit made me furious… page 8…Section 27AD… to provide a regime… wow regime is the right word isn’t it?… a regime for memorials to be placed on the titles of land that is transferred by the crown to SOE’s… THIS LAND MUST BE RESUMED BY THE CROWN IF THE WAITANGI TRIBUNAL MAKES A RECOMMENDATION FOR ITS RETURN TO MAORI OWNERSHIP…

Now, if the waitangi tribunal says give the land to Maori the crown keeps it?

I guess this might have something to do with the fact that over 7000 hectares of Tuhoe land is now listed as “no owner”…. Yeah, you heard right, 7000 HECTARES of Maori land has recently been listed as “NO OWNER…” and the owners can’t do anything about it…

We’ve seen a lot of this slight of hand politics lately and it sets a dangerous president.  Politicians need to remember who pays you… WE PAY YOU… to do what we tell you to do.

There hasn’t been enough REAL consultaion with the people. And I’m not only talking about the iwi consultation now, I’m talking in consultation in general.  As a concerned citizen I believe that this is a rouge government and is not acting in the best interests of New Zealanders.

But I guess fundamentally it’s very easy to see why.

On the first day of parliament, MP’s are sworn in. They are presented with a piece of paper by the clerk of the house which they have to parrot. It reads…

I … insert name here… solemnly sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will be faithful and bare true allegiance to her majesty queen Elizabeth the second, her Aires and successors according to law…” what good little parrots…

Do you not realise that by swearing allegiance to the Crown you are inadvertently NOT swearing allegiance to the people of New Zealand…and are therefore not acting in our best interests… us, the people who go to work every day to pay for the millions of dollars of debt you are incurring in our names every week???

So where does that leave us, the very people who voted you in and whose taxes pay your obscene pay rises, world trips and salaries?

I’ll tell you where it leaves us, in debt… Too broke to pay for milk, can’t afford to go to a dentist…power prices going up, poisoned by polluted water and air from cancer causing fracking emissions, emissions like benzene, that are not even included in the emissions trading scheme , stuck in a never ending February 22nd, living in an unsafe green zoned house or kicked out of a safe red zoned house or fined $200,000, having our EQC claim lost for the fifth time… locked out of our work and starving for protesting about unsafe work conditions, beaten into submission by police… police who should be protecting us… while peacefully protesting the removal of our state owned home of 60 years… paying diligently towards our retirement only to find out that we are investing in a super fund that is spending our money on BOMBS and tobacco companies!!!

This is not the New Zealand I want for our kids…

We need to be world leaders and innovators for them, not sheep who bend over backwards and submit to the self-destructive patterns of other counties…. Instead we need to learn from their mistakes. We need to shift away from living on our land to living with it.

We have to think about what sort of world we are leaving behind for our children, they are 30% of our population and 100% of our future… we need to leave some for them.

I don’t know about you but I don’t want to leave them in an oily, gassy, debt-ridden, over-regulated drought of a mess that can’t be cleaned up. We need to turn this around now.

I demand a transparent honest government, one that won’t trick us and will give us the opportunity to be heard and the right to fair process.

One that doesn’t put the value of a dollar in their own wallets over the value of kiwi lives.

One that adopts new and existing, more financially viable and environmentally sustainable technology that can reduce our emmissons by up to 80% instead of relying on over century old polluting technology.

I want a government that thinks about our kids, and their future.

I motion a vote of no confidence in this rouge government.

And if National is so confident that they are doing what is right and they have the support of Kiwis, I also ask for a referendum about the sale of state owned assets.  New Zealand, Aotearoa, everyone in this room… it is time to stand up and remind them who the real bosses are.

No reira tena koutou, tena koutou, tena ra koutou katoa.

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Related Blogposts

February 7 (Part Tahi)

February 7 (Part Rua)

February 7 (Part Toru)

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Nick Smith

21 March 2012 10 comments

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I take no satisfaction from Nick Smith’s resignation.  Dear Leader will simply appoint another National MP to take Smith’s portfolios. Nothing has changed.

In the scheme of things, his letter to ACC on behalf of former National Party activist and friend, Bronwyn Pullar, appears to be one of those gaffes that all politicians of species Homo Sapiens are capable of.

What I find unjust is that Dr Smith fell on his own sword – whilst John Key  got away with something even more questionable, last year, when on 4 October, John Key made this statement in the Debating Chamber,

When Standard & Poor’s were giving a meeting in New Zealand about a month ago, what they did say was there was about a 30% chance we would be downgraded – that’s what happens when you’re on negative outlook. They did go on to say though, if there was a change of government, that downgrade would be much more likely.”

That statement was the beginning of a political furore that, for the first time, attacked Key’s credibility.

Less than a week later, on 10 October, Standard & Poors issued a firm rejection of John Key’s assertion that Standard & Poors stated “if there was a change of government, that downgrade would be much more likely“. In fact, S&P was quite adamant,

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Key’s staff eventually released the so-called “email” that Key claimed had been sent to him by a friend (un-named), which made the S&P claim. The email was (supposedly)  sent on 6 September 2011 at 11:24 am,

Hi John

I was part of a session with a range of economists yesterday morning – every year they do this session – with economists from Aus plus all the main NZ banks, and this year two from Standard and Poors, including the guy who obviously has a lot to do with the NZ grading.

Anyway, the S&P guys were very complimentary about how the NZ Govt is managing fiscally and their trust that what you say will happen happens, and your unwavering commitment to getting NZ’s balance sheet sorted for the long term.

But there was a key one-liner that I thought you could well use. S&P said that there was a 1/3 chance that NZ would get downgraded and a 2/3 change it would not, and the inference was clear that it would be the other way around if Labour were in power. They discussed the impact on interest rates if NZ got downgraded and how that would quickly impact on the home owner mortgage market, so net net there is a much higher risk to NZers that they will face higher interest rates under a Labour Government.

Don’t know how you use it but they were quite serious.

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So, who was telling the truth?

In an effort to uncover the truth, Key fronted to a media conference,

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To this day, the identity of the mysterious  author of that “email” has never been disclosed and we have no clue as to the veracity of who-said-what.

Perhaps the wrong person resigned.

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Petition: Support for Mojo Mathers *** Update ***

8 March 2012 6 comments

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Support for Mojo Mathers and the wider Deaf and hearing-impaired

community

Paul Gibson, the Disability Rights Commissioner, has called for the Speaker Lockwood Smith and Parliamentary Services to accommodate Mojo Mathers’ need for live electronic notetaking. Article 21 and 29 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which New Zealand has ratified, specifically deal with the right of persons with disabilities to access information intended for the public in a timely manner without additional cost, and the right to serve effectively in public life.

Many other figures and organisations have come out in support of Mojo Mathers.

The Human Rights Commission currently has a discussion paper out for consultation called The Wider Journey, which deals with accessibility issues for disabled people in the physical environment, in accessing information, and in the political process. If you have experience with disability, hearing-related or otherwise, I recommend you make a submission to this report detailing obstacles in the political process.

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Sign Petition Here

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* * *  Update  * * *

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from:    Suzanne Culph, Change.org mail@change.org
to:    fmacskasy@yahoo.com
date:    Thu, Mar 8, 2012 at 8:00 PM
subject:Speaker’s answer

Frank, huge news!

Late last night, Speaker Lockwood Smith announced that he will fund the note-taking Mojo Mathers needs to do her job until a permanent solution is found.

What’s more, he’s promised to develop live closed captioning of Parliament — something that would give over 700,000 hearing impaired New Zealanders unprecedented access to their democracy.

It’s been an uphill battle to get this far. From the start, Speaker Smith was reluctant to commit to the funds, and claimed that the decision was out of his hands. But then student Merrin Macleod started a Change.org petition, and 6,200 people — including you! — joined her.

Merrin started her petition after hearing that New Zealand’s first deaf MP was essentially being asked to pay $30,000 to participate in Parliament. She spent hours contacting media, friends and everyone she could think of to spread the word.

Thousands signed, driving media coverage in the New Zealand Herald and across the country. And last week it was tabled in Parliament — in front of MPs, a packed press gallery and Speaker Lockwood Smith himself.

The pressure is working. Yesterday, the Speaker committed to making Parliament “more accessible to the hearing impaired community at large,” and to “make sure Mojo is getting all the support she needs” — including funds for her note-takers.

There’s still a way to go before ongoing funding is guaranteed in a way that is fair for all MPs with a disability — the long term issue is now before the Standing Orders Committee, which is yet to deliver its verdict. But expert legal advice suggests that there is every reason for the committee to grant the funding.

And with thousands of New Zealanders uniting behind Merrin’s petition, and intense media attention on Speaker Lockwood Smith, it will be near-impossible for decision-makers to avoid the issue.

The progress is proof that ordinary people coming together really can make a difference. And by sending a powerful message in support of Mojo Mathers, everyday people are helping pave the way towards equal access in the country’s highest institutions.

Thanks for being part of this,

Suzanne and the Change.org team

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And a really, really B I G thank you to everyone who read this (or heard about the petition from some other source) and put their name to the petition. People-power can work!

– Frank

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February 7 (Part Toru)

8 February 2012 6 comments

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Continued from February 7 (Part Rua).

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With the main Party speakers finished, others from the rally had an opportunity to make their views known. It was open, transparent and democratic (take note, National Government),

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february 7 protest at planned SOE sales

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Madd Hatter spoke of the danger to the environment caused by fracking – including contamination of underground water-tables which has caused extensive pollution in the United States,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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And the thing is? She’s 100% right. Fracking uses toxic chemicals which contaminates water tables – water which people use for drinking, cooking, feeding to farm stock, etc. Doesn’t it strike governments as somewhat daft that we’re poisoning ourselves?

Hell, why not just cut out the middle-men (oil drilling companies) and  issue every citizen with a litre of  disulphides, benzene, xylenes, methane,  and naphthalene to drink?

Meanwhile, the crowd listened, continuing to  hold signs that expressed our collective disgust at what this shabby government was intending to foist upon us,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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And the media continued to record the event,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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The protest continued,  making their point peacefully,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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A sentiment 99% of us would whole-heartedly agree with,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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Mana’s flag flew proudly in the chill breeze,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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The red and black Tino Rangatiratanga flag flew proudly as well. This flag is quickly becoming the de facto syymbol for the poor, the dis-possesed, and the alienated in our society. It is the flag of resistance that corporate interests and their political cronies do not want to see,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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Dawn Shapira came from Huntly specifically to join the Rally. She rode all the way on the back of a motorbike – and says that she felt it. (Her return trip will be done in better comfort, in a bus.)  That’s dedication. That’s committment. And 80% of New Zealanders share her anger at John Key’s planned asset sales,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

(L) Dawn Shapira and (R) Tania Tewiata

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Finally, the most important folk at this protest were not the politicians; nor the media; nor the organisers. Instead, the VIPs were the children – they are the ones who will inherit the society that we build (or sell off) for them. Will we leave them a mess, or success?

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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Media reporting

  • Radio NZ reported 30 to 40 people in their audio report, but increasing the number to 60 on their website. This is a somewhat conservative estimate, and I put the number somewhere around 100 to 150.

Copyright (c)  Notice

All images are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

  1. Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
  2. Where purpose of  use is  commercial, a donation to Russell School Breakfast Club is requested.
  3. For non-commercial use, images may be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals.
  4. Acknowledgement of source is requested.

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February 7 (Part Rua)

8 February 2012 6 comments

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Continued from February 7 (Part Tahi).

A security guard from a private security firm had attempted to stop me from photographing the protest rally from a vantage point that was near other media personnel. I explained I was a blogger; was merely taking photos to record the event; and that I had a right to be standing where I was.

The guard refused to step out of my way, and blocked me from the rally. I became vocal, and insisted that he step out of my way; let me do my job; and then I would return to the crowd.

The media took an immediate interest in what seemed to be an escalating fracas, and started filming us.

At that point, the security guard’s superviser intervened. He demanded I leave. I insisted on my right to stand peacefully in a spot shared by other media. I gestured at the cameras pointed at us and reiterated; “let me take my photos, and I will leave peacefully. You do not want to make a ‘scene’ in front of  all these  cameras“.

Some in the crowd began shouting, “Leave him alone!” and “Let him take his photos!

Obviously I was not carrying weapons of mass destruction (or even light destruction)(maybe an unbent paper-clip in my pocket), and he agreed to allow me to proceed. I thanked him, and the security guard (who was only doing his job).

It seems a sign of the times that here in New Zealand, a small crowd of (mostly) middle-aged protestors required the presence of  security guards;  barriers; and half a dozen police to contain the situation.

What are our elected representatives so afraid of?

With the situation de-fused, the media returned their attention to the actual protest rally,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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Some of the signs held aloft by ordinary folk who have no desire to see our public assets sold off. This one has an “air of truth” about it,

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Possibly because it reminds me of this, from the late 1990s,

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Max Bradford

The Promise of cheaper power...

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Back to the rally,  and one of our best known activists and expert on our energy industry, attended the protest,

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Molly Melhuish february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

Molly Melhuish, Energy Campaigner

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This gentleman insisted he was not a member or supporter of NZ First – but still shared the sentiment expressed on the placard,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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This photo, to me, speaks volumes. These two elderly gentlemen represent an age from when New Zealanders worked hard to build the state assets which we now enjoy. It must grieve them to see their foolish children auction them off, so casually, without considering the true worth of what is being  given away.

To me, it feels akin to a betrayal of what our parents and grandparents left us,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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Amazing isn’t it – that ordinary kiwis understand the true ramifications of asset sales. Our elected representatives (or rather, some of them) seem to take us for fools. But we understand economic realities only too well,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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This image alone, should wipe the smirk of John Key’s face.  Contrary to his little “teapot chat” with John Banks, elderly voters are not “dying off”. In fact, I think they’ve postponed any impending “coach-tour to the Pearly Gates”, so as to vote in 2014. They have a “date” with the ballot box in three years hence, and have no intention on missing it.

Take note, Mr Key; you are annoying the voters,

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Perhaps one of the guttsiest people at the rally had to be ” Madd Hatter “, who convened the Rally. Make no mistake about the weather – it was wet and cold. Yet, covered in “oil” (a mixture of  mollasses and other stuff ) she braved the Wellington weather to make a point about fracking and deep-sea oil drilling of our coastline.

With the cost of the ‘Rena‘ clean-up now estimated at $130 million, it seems that some of our elected representatives are still entertaining lunatic notions that could result in the  polluting of  our underground water-table (“fracking“) or endanger our coastline with deep-sea drilling. (See previous blog-piece here, on this issue.)

Cheers, “Madd Hatter” – you deserve to be in Parliament. (And I say that in a nice way.)

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

"Madd Hatter"

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And addressing the rally,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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Jonathan then advised us that various Party leaders would address the Rally,

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From the Labour Party, Charles Chauvel (L) and Deputy Leader, Grant Robertson (R). Note the media-scrum around them, and successive Parliamentary speakers,

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Green Party co-leader, Russell Norman. For some unfathomable reason, Norman attracted derisory calls from one (possibly two?) individuals in the crowd. Like, who can possibly dislike the Greens? (As our mums kept reminding us; Greens are good for us! Very wise, our mums!)

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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Hone Harawira recieved the loudest applause – and not without good reason. Leaving the Maori Party – that is now so closely wedded to  National – has  cemented his credentials as an opponant of Right Wing ideology. In these times of myriad shades of gray and ambiguity, I think it fair to say that we know where Hone stands,

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When it came Winston Peter’s turn to speak, there was a briref, two-minute vocal exchange between him And Jonathan Elliott. Regardless of who was in the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, we need to remember that the media will report on such ‘exchanges’ rather than the full message of the protest rally,

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Sometimes, we just need to bite our collective tongues, and  on message. Otherwise, certain folk on the Ninth Floor will simply rub their hands with glee at our dis-unity. When Peters spoke, it was… vintage Winston,

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(Damn, I wish I had his hair.)

Following the main political speakers, came Katherine Raue, from Transparency nz. It is unfortunate that as Katherine took the microphone, the media pack melted away,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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Despite losing the interest of the media (who can be seen in the background, interviewing one of the politicians – Winston Peters, I believe), Katherine spoke eloquently on John Key’s broken promises – especially the impact broken promises has had on the families of the Pike River miner’s families.

Katherine made a strong, impassioned plea for Key to honour his promises to recover the bodies of the 29 dead miners. As we can all recall, John Key was highly prominent on the West Coast soon after the disaster. He made reassuring noises, promises, and committments – saying all the things that the dead miners’ families wanted to hear.

None of which came to pass.

In case anyone thinks that this protest-rally was “side lined by irrelevent issues” – think again. The committments that our elected representatives make – whether  to recover dead miners, or create jobs, or to make government transparent – is something that impacts on us all.

Even if we believe that something that government does doesn’t affect us – it does. Well done, Katherine – we need more Kiwis like you,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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Katherine was followed by Green MPs Catherine Delahunty and Gareth Huges. Both spoke well, though again, the media pack had deserted the area,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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Then it was Molly’s turn. Molly Melhuish is a long-time energy campaigner. She has seen decades of change, from the Muldoon era of the Electricity Department – to post-Rogernomics electricity corporatidsation. What  she doesn’t know about the industry probably isn’t worth knowing,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

From L to R; Peter Redfern, Molly Melhuish, and Betty Redfern

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Greypower, more than any other group of New Zealanders understand only too well the severe impact that privatisation of our electricity will have on our elderly. For many, the price of electricity is a matter of life and death.

Note the policemen in the background. They were posted to guard the steps of Parliament in case Greypower decided to storm the House of Representatives. Good show, chaps – democracy is safe.

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To be continued Part Toru

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February 7 (Part Tahi)

8 February 2012 3 comments

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– the beginning of public reaction and action against the planned partial state-asset sales…

A small group assembled at the front of the Art Gallery in Wellington’s  Civic Square. Though raining, the group was in high spirits, and it was pointed out – quite rightly – that we were representing 80%  of the country who opposed state asset sales,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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“Occupy Wellington” co-ordinator, Jonathan Elliot  (in yellow t-shirt), helping to focus the assembly,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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The media were present, to report on the event,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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… including Radio New Zealand,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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And we were off, with Jonathan being interviewed by the Radio NZ journo,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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A simple message, to respect and honour the Treaty, via  Section 9 of the State Owned Enterprises Act 1986. Section 9 is not a particularly complicated or onerous piece of legislation,

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february 7 protest against SOE privatisation

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In fact, the Treaty may  save our state assets from being flogged of.

“Ordinary” New Zealanders,  marching along Mercer St, Willis St, and along Lambton Quay.  The slogans were simple; “No asset sales!”. As the rally moved along the streets, more people joined us,

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7 February protest march at planned state asset sales

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Kay Gubbins was quite clear in pushing the message,

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7 February protest march at planned state asset sales

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Did Wellington’s most ardent and well-recognised street evangelist, exhort John Key to repent and cancel the planned asset sales?

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7 February protest march at planned state asset sales

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The media, recording the march,

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7 February protest march at planned state asset sales

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Past Bowen House – good kiwi folk making their way to Parliament. Whilst Wellingtonians looked-on , there were no hecklers. Those watching understood what we were on about,

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7 February protest march at planned state asset sales

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7 February protest march at planned state asset sales

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7 February protest march at planned state asset sales

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7 February protest march at planned state asset sales

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7 February protest march at planned state asset sales

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And through the gates of Parliament – the People’s House of Representatives. (Ok, just kidding. Currently occupied by National, ACT, United Future, and various moneyed vested-interests, and assorted right wing ‘groupies’.)

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7 February protest march at planned state asset sales

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7 February protest march at planned state asset sales

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… and joining another group already in the grounds,

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7 February protest march at planned state asset sales

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Note “Mad Hatter” – who convened the rally – covered in mock-oil. on the far left of the pic below. More on her later,

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7 February protest march at planned state asset sales

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I moved away, past the barriers; around a low-stone wall; onto the higher part of the grounds, to take better pictures of the assembled protesters,

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7 February protest march at planned state asset sales

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Where I encountered a somewhat over-zealous security guard  who tried to remove me from the higher ground,

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7 February protest march at planned state asset sales

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He was persistant. I was insistant. We  had a “frank exchange of views“. All of which attracted (predictably enough) the attention of the media,

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7 February protest march at planned state asset sales

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7 February protest march at planned state asset sales

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7 February protest march at planned state asset sales

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What happened next?

To be continued Part Rua (so as not to overload this page with too many images).

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$411,510 buys you a very expensive clown…

2 January 2012 1 comment

 

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When ‘Bomber’ Bradbury got banned from Radio NZ, it was because he was supposedly “ranting”.

$411,510 per annum gets you another style of  rant, but with a bit of the “class-clown” thrown in for good measure. I challenge anyone to watch the above clip, and not feel disgusted.

Obviously there is no grinding poverty, high unemployment, alcohol abuse, and other critical problems facing New Zealand anymore.

This, folks,  is  our Prime Minister.

Weep if you must. It would be a normal reaction.

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Acknowledgement

Thank you to Dalene for bringing this to my attention.

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John Key’s foot-in-mouth syndrome

16 October 2011 3 comments

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In Parliament last week (4 October), John Key quoted a mysterious, anonymous, “email” which he daid  “inferred”  that, “when Standard and Poor’s was giving a meeting in New Zealand about a month ago, what it did say was that there was about a 30 percent chance that we would be downgraded. That is what happens when one is on a negative outlook. It did go on to say, though, that if there was a change of Government, that downgrade would be much more likely.”

However, a quick glance at the official government website, the NZ Debt Management Office not only doesn’t support that claim – but actually shows the reverse: Labour  actually RATES BETTER than National/Rogernomics governments.

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[Click on image for full size version]

Source

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Note that three credit downgrades happened duting three National governments; 1991, 1998, and this year. And if you include the Rogernomics period – that makes FOUR neo-liberal governments that were downgraded.

Do credit ratings agencies  seem “risk averse” to new right governments? Do they prefer centre-left governments?

First, look at 10 September 1998 (National government) – AA+ (negative outlook)

But when Labour came to power – 7 March 2001 – AA+ (stable outlook)

Stable outlook?!

Nah, must be a mistake. Let’s have another look at a following period…

6 August 2008  (Labour Government) – AA+ (stable outlook) re-affirmed

“Reaffirmed”?!

Well, bugger me! It  rather does seem that credit agencies look favourably upon  centre-left government policies rather than centre-right administrations.

Whoda thunk?!

John Key – wrong again. It’s rather getting to be a habit with the ‘infallible’ Dear Leader.

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Reference Sources

Hansards – 1. Credit Rating Downgrade—Effect on New Zealand Economy

NZDMO – New Zealand Sovereign Credit Ratings

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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.)