Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Robert Muldoon’

Someone seems a bit touchy…

20 August 2013 8 comments

Click on the image to take you to the TVNZ website video;

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key douche bag

 

Source: TV1 – John Key’s press conference walkout goes viral

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Methinks Dear Leader is losing the plot.

This is a man starting to show stress and responding to the pressures of increasing hostility to his government policies by running from critics.

He’s not used to having people question him.

Russell Norman was 101% on the nose: Key is becoming more and more like Muldoon with each passing day.

And we all know how Muldoon’s career ended.

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Spying on the spyers…

9 August 2013 4 comments

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spying

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So once again, the State (through the Police), is found to be spying on a citizen,

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Police seize Cuppagate texts

Source: NZ Herald – Police seize Cuppagate texts

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That complaint, as we all recall, resulted in police raids on the NZ Herald and Radio New Zealand newsrooms. It’s the sort of thing that might be commonplace in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe; Fiji under the military;  or Chile, under Pinochet.

It appears to be becoming more and more commonplace in our own country. This doesn’t make New Zealand a “nanny state” as National and it’s supporters once screamed hysterically in 2008 (see:  Showers latest target of Labour’s nanny state) – this is morphing a once liberal, progressive country into a policed surveillance state.

It’s as if the ghost of East Germany and thousands of it’s STASI operatives have descended upon our country.

Key, however, doesn’t like being spied on. No, not one bit;

John Key had called in police to investigate whether Ambrose had deliberately recorded the eight-minute conversation in front of a media pack in a Newmarket cafe, after Ambrose gave the recording to the Herald on Sunday.

Source: IBID

Key will happily empower the GCSB to spy on all New Zealanders and force telcos to hand over information on their clients. His right-hand man, Chief of Staff Wayne Eagleson,  will spy on a journalist and strip away her right to privacy.  And Key’s appointed “investigator”, David Henry,  will gain access to an MP’s emails and phone log.

But if anyone dares to invade Key’s privacy (even if he was in front of a couple of dozen journalists and cameramen at the time), the Prime Minister will have no hesitation in bringing down the full weight of the state apparatus on the hapless ‘offender’s’ head.

What was it that  Russell Norman said about John Key?

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Norman  Key 'acting like Muldoon'

Source: NZ Herald:  Norman: Key ‘acting like Muldoon’

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Despite a bit of screeching; gnashing of teeth;  and juvenile feet-stamping from rightwing tossers like Karl du Fresne, Cameron Slater, and others of their ilk – Russell Norman called it perfectly: John Key is as autocratic and manipulative as Muldoon was in his hey-day.

Which is not good. As Martyn Bradbury pointed out in a blogpost on 2 August (see: With all due respect to ‘Si & Gazza’ in the morning ),

It’s like the more Key rips up our civil liberties, the more the sleepy hobbits love him – we are a nation of political sado-masochists. There seems to be a dark streak of anti-intellectualism in our Shaky Isles that embraces Key’s nonchalant ignorance with the passion of a junkie to their dealer.

Enough New Zealanders loved Muldoon and his autocratic style to vote him into office as Prime Minister for consecutive nine years. Now we seem to have Muldoon v.2 – and that worries me.

All I can say is; thank god for MMP.

And to hell with the notion of a four year Parliamentary term.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 5 August 2013.

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Our growing housing problem…

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Muldoon and Key

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“Ministers have signalled that changes could include widening access to KiwiSaver contributions and subsidies, as well as boosting the government-guaranteed Welcome Home Loan scheme that is exempt from LVR calculations. “

Source: Fairfax Media – Few first home buyer details in PM speech

Well, so much for saving for our retirement instead of investing in property and thus fuelling an unsustainable, speculative housing bubble. The whole point of Kiwisaver was twofold,

  1. To create a local investment fund from which business could borrow, so we were not so desperately reliant on foreign capital. Our Aussie cuzzies currently have A$1.3 trillion-dollars invested in their  compulsory savings funds.
  2. To give New Zealanders – especially baby-boomers – a better standard of living upon their retirement.

In July 2008, Key promised not to interfere with Kiwisaver –  “there won’t be radical changes…there will be some modest changes to KiwiSaver”   – and like most of his promises, they are blown in the wind.

Source: NBR – Key signals ‘modest changes’ to KiwiSaver
All because Key and his cronies are unable to address the housing crisis directly;

  1. Introduce a capital gains tax (my preference is that it matches the company tax, and not GST)
  2. Restrict ownership to New Zealand citizens and permanent residents
  3. Begin a programme of home construction – including 10,000 state houses per year
  4. Pay the Unemployment Benefit as an incentive to employers to employ more apprentices
  5. Reduce/eliminate all fees for trades training course
  6. And long term: promote regional development to take pressure of Auckland and other highly urbanised areas.

But the Nats won’t do any of this. That would involve systematic State planning on a level that Key and his cronies would never countenance. It would fly in the face of their right wing ideology for minimal State involvement in housing and other economic activities.

(Unless you are Warner Bros or Skycity, in which case the Nats have an open chequebook to throw taxpayers’ money at corporate welfare.)

The only thing National is capable of is short term, self-serving policy-changes. Never mind that such changes create long term harm to our economy and social fabric.

Gutting Kiwisaver is economic sabotage – much like Muldoon did in 1975 (see:  Brian Gaynor: How Muldoon threw away NZ’s wealth).

Meanwhile, people desperate to get into their own homes are raiding their Kiwisaver accounts – effectively “stealing” from their own future;

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Hot property Home-buyers rush to cash in KiwiSaver

Source: Dominion Post – Hot property: Home-buyers rush to cash in KiwiSaver

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Never let it be said that the Nats learn from history…

*pfffft!*

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Previous related blogposts

Can we do it? Bloody oath we can!

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Citizen A with Martyn Bradbury, Colin Craig & Dr Wayne Hope

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– Citizen A –

 – 6 June 2013 –


Colin Craig & Dr Wayne Hope –

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Citizen A: With Martyn Bradbury,  Colin Craig, and  Dr Wayne Hope discuss the following issues:

  • Is Key the new Muldoon?
  • What’s worse for education – Novopay or Charter Schools
  • Why is Winston attacking Dunne?

 

Citizen A screens on Face TV, 7.30pm Thursday nights on Sky 89


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Acknowledgement (republished with kind permission)

The Daily Blog

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11 May: End of the Week Bouquets, Brickbats, & Epic Fails

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– End of the Week Bouquets, Brickbats, & Epic Fails –

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New Semi-Regular Weekly Event

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Tim Groser (National)

For having the courage and insight to suggest that making Te Reo compulsory in our Primary Schools would be a good idea. On TV3’s ‘The Nation, on 28 April, Mr Groser said,

My personal view is that we should be teaching Maori to every five-year-old child. If you introduce very young children from New Zealand to the idea of bi-culturalism and more than one language then they will be able to learn other languages as their personal circumstances fit.”

It’s not often that a politician from an opposing Party stands out – but when they do, they certainly make an impact. One may not agree with all his views – especially on free trade – but a politician who has depth in his or her views, and is not captured by an ideology, deserves respect.

Hone Harawira (Mana)

For having the guts to do what very few politicians have done before; stand up for the working man and woman;  condemn an oppressive employer; and encourage New Zealanders to make a stand and boycott Talleys.

Jim Anderton did it in the 1980s and 1990s, and now Mr Harawira is doing likewise,

It was a nasty and spiteful decision to try to force workers to cave in to company demands or get their emergency benefits cut. The locked out workers have been forced to band together to survive and to keep the working conditions they’ve won through years of negotiation.

Talley’s aren’t the only brands in the shelf” said Harawira “and all we want people to do is choose something other than Talley’s for now.”

No doubt he’ll be attacked, derided, and vilified by every right wing nutjob in the country – but Mr Harawira will also have earned the respect of New Zealand workers.

Tariana Turia (Maori Party)

For carrying on her campaign against the pernicious industry that kills 5,000 New Zealanders  every year; the tobacco corporations. If a disease was rampaging through the country, killing 5,000 people every year – there would be a State of Emergency; the military would be called out to guard checkpoints; and the whole country would be on lock-down.

But because it’s tobacco, it is somehow acceptable. Crazy!

Ms Turia deserves to be re-elected into Parliament. Like Hone Harawira, she is standing up for those folk who would otherwise be crushed by corporate power whose only interest is making big profits.

In fact, I go one step further; at the next election; after a change of  government; I encourage David Shearer to allow Ms Turia to carry on her campaign and to re-appoint her as Associate Minister for Health. Some issues are just too damned important to be determined along Party lines. (There is precedent; the incoming National Government in 1990 kept Labour MP, Mike Moore, as part of New Zealand’s GATT  negotiations team. His value to the country was so highly regarded that Party affiliation was secondary to maintaining his role.)

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John Banks (ACT)

For, um… er… I can’t remember. Sorry… no, I don’t recall.

John Key (Dear Leader)

So many to choose from…

But two that stand out this week,

#1: Having the utter gall to deride the Australia  by suggesting that they have  “an inherent weakness” in their economy, and then adding,

It’s very much a two-speed economy in Australia. The mining sector is very strong and obviously Western Australia and Queensland are big beneficiaries of that.”

Say whut?!

Australia also has a strong compulsory system of compulsory superannuation, and our Aussie cuzzies have saved in excess of A$1.31 trillion so far, for their retirement. That money is  able to be re-invested in their local economy.

By comparison, here in New Zealand, we voted in 1975 to elect a government (led by Robert Muldoon) who campaigned on scrapping our version of a compulsory super fund. New Zealanders are notoriously poor savers, which means that as a nation, we rely heavily on borrowing from overseas lenders.

By scrapping our own super-scheme 37 years ago, we shot ourselves in our own feet.

So do us a favour, Dear Leader, and don’t go saying that the Australian economy has “an inherent weakness”. The only “weakness” I see is a poor leadership in this country that promises all manner of things to voters simply to get elected.

Case in point;

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

That was over four years ago. But this blogger notices that Dear Leader still  continues to make precisely the same promises,

I think it is a long-term and sustainable attribute for their economy but it doesn’t mean that we can’t close the gap with Australia.”- John Key, 9 May 2012

Still waiting.

Still waiting.

Still…

Oh, and don’t forget those 170,000 new  jobs you promised us last year as well, Mr Key!

Still waiting.

Still waiting.

Still…

#2: Asking  children at  Holy Family School in Porirua East if they wanted to be the Prime Minister, and when they all replied with enthusiasm, he retorted,

Frankly, the way it’s going at the moment you can have the job“.

Ok, Mr Key, your “honeymoon” with the media and public is over – we get that.

You’re having a rough time with scandals, unpopular policies, and your policies are not working to create jobs and a growing economy – we get that to.

And you have our sympathy for having to put up with John Banks – we so get that!

But venting your frustrations at a bunch of bright-eyed, eager children is simply not on. In fact, it stinks that  you shot them down with a cheap retort when they were expressing a real enthusiasm for your role as leader of this country.

If the job is getting to you – move on. One thing you never, ever do, is to dump on kids just because you’re having a bad day week month year so far. Bad form, Mr Prime Minister.

Mark Mitchell (National)

Perhaps the most gormless comment this week came from National MP, Mark Mitchell,  on TVNZ7’s “Backbenches” on 10 May, when he adamantly explained that National was not selling state assets. To everyone’s jaw-dropping amazement, Mitchell said (in part),

“… It got labelled [as] asset sales. We’re not selling the assets, what we’re doing is freeing up some of the shares in those assets for Kiwis to invest in. It’s as simple as that…

We’re keeping the assets but we’re freeing up some shares for Kiwi investors to invest in. We’re keeping the assets. This is the thing that actually a lot of people didn’t understand.”

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What!?

So the people of New Zealand still own Telecom, BNZ, Post Bank, etc, because we we just freed up some shares? Is that how capitalism works – you sell half the shares in a company, but we still own the entire company?

Dayum. Even Karl Marx never thought of that one!

Thank you, Mr Mitchell. Thank you for being a National MP – and not one from the Left.

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And for the final category, the Epic Fail of the Week,

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Colin Craig

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Colin Craig

This week’s Epic Fail has to go to Conservative Party leader, Colin Craig, who managed to alienate 51% of the population in one sentence, consisting of thirteen words,

We are the country with the most promiscuous young women in the world.

An Epic Fail of stunning proportions!

Way to go, Colin. You can, of course, expect that statement to come back and haunt you in years to come.

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“One law for all” – except MPs

3 January 2012 4 comments

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The government is going after cameraman/journalist Bradley Ambrose with a vengeance, demanding $14,000 in court costs,

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Full Story

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It seems that this government is as vindictive as ever, when it comes to “settling scores” with critics. Their recent history has other similar examples of coming down hard on those who would dare criticise the current regime.

This list outlines just some of the people who have criticised this government and been abused or derided;

July, 2009

Natasha Fuller &  Jennifer Johnston, solo-mothers

Personal WINZ details released to the media by Social Welfare Minister, Paula Bennett, to discredit both women after they criticised National for canning the Training Incentive Allowance (which Bennett herself used to pay her way through University).

May, 2011

Jon Stephenson, journalist
John Key derides Stephenson’s research into NZ activities in Afghanistan: “I’ve got no reason for NZDF to be lying, and I’ve found [Stephenson] myself personally not to be credible.”

September, 2011

Nicky Hager, writer, researcher
John Key dismisses Hager’s book, on CIA involvement in NZ military activities in Afghanistan:  “I don’t have time to read fiction,” quipped the Prime Minister, adding that the book contained “no smoking gun”, just supposition, which, “makes it business as normal for Nicky Hager”. (Despite the book having 1300 footnotes to referencing documentation.)

October, 2011

Martyn “Bomber” Bradbury, broadcaster, blogger
Criticised John Key on Radio NZ. Subsequently banned/ “uninvited”  from returning to Radio NZ as a panellist for the Afternoons with Jim Mora segment.

November, 2011

Robyn Malcolm, actor
Criticises the John Key led National government for it’s failures at a Green Party campaign launch, and is, in turn, vilified by the ‘NZ Herald’, and by one-time National Party aspiring-candidate, Cameron Brewer.

November, 2011

Bradley Ambrose, journalist/photographer
Investigated by police after complaint laid by the Prime Minister, over the “Teapot Tape” affair. Ambrose investigated and interviewed by Police. Media office raided. Property seized. Eventually, no charges laid. Government considered seeking costs of $13,669.45 from Ambrose – but eventually decided not to.

Whilst “Bomber” Bradbury and Ms Malcolm were not directly attacked by this government,  actions taken against them were made as a direct result of criticising John Key.

It appears that Bradley Ambrose can now be added to that growing list of harassed or vilified dissidents. If it’s any consolation for Mr Ambrose, he appears to be a member of an “exclusive club” of some very talented individuals.

It also seems that the National Party is not averse to resorting to  Muldoonist tactics – where the Prime Minister of the same name had little hesitation in attacking critics on a personal level. Many of us still recall Muldoon’s abuse of power against cartoonist and journalist, Tom Scott, in the 1970s.

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I thought those days were over, and behind us.

Evidently not.

What is even more outrageously hypocritical is that Ministers of the Crown are not above dipping into the public purse to pay for their own court costs – some of which are considerable,

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Full Story

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National MP, Gerry Brownlee also tried to seek reimbursement for a $48,000 legal bill – though this was knocked back. Brownlee knew he was “trying it on”, when he admitted,

In hindsight, I would have thought ‘oh well, I’ve got this big bill, I may as well see what is possible’. But quite clearly it wasn’t appropriate.” – Ibid

Nick Smith has received $122,000 taxpayer funding in his case against timber preservative company Osmose, and an undisclosed sum to reimburse his court costs  in his case against David Henderson.

One cannot help but arrive at the conclusion that there is one law for Members of Parliament – and another law for the rest of us plebs.

It was highly ironic then, considering Bradley Ambrose’s case that the Speaker of the House, Lockwood Smith referred to  court action against the media, as justification for using taxpayers’ money,

Dr Smith said allowing MPs to use public money was warranted, likening it to a media company paying for a defamation case against a journalist.” – Ibid

John Key also climbed into the fray,  justifying the use of taxpayers’ money thusly,

“”It’s a question about whether ultimately those disclosures are brought into the public domain by greater levels of transparency, but that has never been the rule in the past. I don’t think it would be of concern to me if it was opened up to a greater degree. There’s nothing to hide here.” ” – Source

Well, obviously there was quite a bit to hide when it came to the “Teapot Tapes”. So much to hide, in fact, that police were called in to raid several media offices and punitive action is being meted out to Mr Ambrose. Not very “transparent” at all.

It is quite obvious that this government has little hesitation in using taxpayers money – our money – against members of the public who dare annoy a Minister.

It is also quite obvious that this same government will dip into our wallets and use our taxes when it suits them, to pay for their legal expenses.

The term for this is hypocrisy.

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Election Eleven – Thursday

24 November 2011 2 comments

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Election Eleven – Thursday

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It appears that stress is starting to show on National’s campaign team,

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Hasling the bus driver is not a good look. Nor is it particularly sensible when he has to focus on driving that big blue tank along some of our more… challenging” roads…

Word of caution, guys. Don’t upset John (the busdriver).   Not unless the next votes you’ll be canvassing will be at the Pearly Gates.

Mind you, could it be that Dear Leader’s mega-star status is waning?

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If John Key thinks that reception was “frosty” – he ain’t seen nothing yet.  Another three years of his smile & wave vacant optimism is going to wear very thin – especially as wages continue to lag; unemployment stays high; and the economy continues to stagnate.

On top of that will be the open, festering ‘sore’ that is Christchurch. The slow re-build and insurance companies abandoning that city (and possibly the rest of the country?) will really piss people of.

An election victory for Mr Key may be a glittering  chalice containing a toxic brew.

Cheers, Mr Prime Minister!

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So much for customer loyalty; good corporate citizenship; and the “free market” providing a service,

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And so much for John Key’s blind faith in insurance companies doing the “right thing”,

One thing I do know is that as things settle down – and they will settle down in Christchurch – eventually what’s going to happen is a lot of insurers are going to look at that market and say, ‘wow, there’s quite a lot of premium in there,’ and you will see insurers coming back more rapidly than you think.”  Source

And is John Key still concerned? As he said in September,

“”This is something the government is monitoring. Obviously, if insurance companies aren’t doing their job properly that is a concern to us.“”  Source

If ever there was a case for the New Zealand government top have retained State Insurance in state-ownership – we are seeing it now.

Corporations are fair-weather “friends”. They will supply us with services and products as long as it suits  them. When it no longer suits their bottom line, they will depart our shores, along with the hundreds of millions of dollars in profits that they have extracted from us.

And National wants more of the same?

I think it is high time we re-asserted our sovereignty and revisited the state’s role in matters such as  insurance.  We  simply cannot rely on the beneficence of the free market. (Did we ever?)

Something to consider on Saturday, when your marker-pen is hovering over which Party box to tick.

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At the TV3 Leader’s Debate last night, John Key asserted that he’ll be voting for SM (supplementary member) in the upcoming referendum because he preferred proportionality in our electoral systems.

Key repeaterd this in the latest “Upper Hutt Leader”, where he said,

I’m going to vote “no” to MMP and “yes” for Supplementary Member.

“My view is that, on balance, I would prefer a proportional system to first past the post.”  Source

John Key is either uninformed about Supplementary Member – or is being deliberately disingenuous.

Supplentary Member is not proportional. It is not even close to be proportional.

SM is actually a form of First Past the Post where ninety out of 120 Parliamentary seats are contested on a FPP basis. It offers the prospect of a return to unbridled power by the two main Parties, with minimal (if any) representation by smaller Parties.

If the Prime Minister doesn’t know this – that is concerning.

If he is aware of this, and still claims that SM is “proportional” – then he is deliberately mis-leading voters.

John Key has done this sort of thing before. He is increasingly revealing himself to the public as being loose with the truth

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Whether one accepts that the convo between the Two Johns was private or public (and this blog leans toward the preposterous assertion that one can hold a “private conversation” with 30+ journos about a metre away), the Prime Minister’s complaint and subsequent raids on media companies is nothing less than a complete waste of police time,

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It is also a chilling example of how a politician in high office can mis-use the power of the State to “make a point” and to intimidate opposition.

There have been previous examples of this government pressuring, ridiculing, and intimidating  those with dissenting views.

Is this the road New Zealanders want to go down on?

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Ahhhh, as we suspected,

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John Key is “warning the election could be closer than voters think“?  Pundits and bloggers have been voicing suspicion for the past month that National’s internal polling was showing results that were far closer than main stream polling has been giving us.

John Key has finally confirmed this.

If people want a centre-left, Labour-led coalition government – they need just go out and vote for it.

Yup. It doesn’t get simpler than that.

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Peter Thomas Mahon, QC (1923 – 1986)

5 September 2011 8 comments

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“Peter Thomas Mahon was a New Zealand High Court Judge, best known for his Commission of Inquiry into the crash of Air New Zealand Flight 901 (“Mount Erebus disaster”). His son, Sam Mahon is a well-known artist.

Mahon began his legal career with the Raymond, Donnelly & Co. He was mentored by Sir Arthur Donnelly. Mahon was junior counsel for the prosecution in the Parker-Hulme murder case in 1954.

After the crash of Air New Zealand Flight 901 with loss of all aboard on 28 November 1979, an accident report was released by the chief inspector of air accidents, Ron Chippindale, which cited pilot error as the chief cause of the accident. Public demand led to the formation of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the accident, consisting solely of Mahon. He produced his report on 27 April 1981, which cleared the crew of blame for the disaster and found that the major cause was the reprogramming of the aircraft’s navigation computer without the crew being notified. Mahon controversially claimed that Air New Zealand executives engaged in a conspiracy to whitewash the inquiry, covering up evidence and lying to investigators, famously accusing them of “an orchestrated litany of lies”. His book, Verdict on Erebus, an account of his inquiry, won the New Zealand Book Awards prize for non fiction in 1985.

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Mahon retired from the High Court bench in 1982.

In 1983 the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council held that Mahon had acted in excess of his jurisdiction and in breach of natural justice by going on to make findings of a conspiracy by Air New Zealand to cover up the errors of the ground staff.

In 1985 Mahon was appointed as Commissioner of Inquiry into the 1984 Queen Street riot. In the same year he published “Dear Sam”, a collection of his letters to his children.

In 2008, Mahon was posthumously awarded the Jim Collins Memorial Award by the New Zealand Airline Pilots Association for exceptional contributions to air safety, “in forever changing the general approach used in transport accidents investigations world wide.”” – Source
“Justice Peter Mahon accused Air New Zealand of an “orchestrated litany of lies” in his finding on the cause of the crash of the DC10 aircraft on Mt Erebus on November 29, 1979, which killed all 257 passengers and crew.

In his report released in 1981 he said DC10 pilot Jim Collins was not told of a last-minute change to the flight path co-ordinates, and neither he, First Officer Greg Cassin, nor the flight engineers, made any error which contributed to the disaster during a sight-seeing flight.

Air NZ challenged Justice Mahon’s accusation of a “predetermined plan of deception” and the Court of Appeal overturned the finding, saying the judge had exceeded his terms of reference.

Justice Mahon resigned, and died in 1986 but his comments echoed around the world.

Now the New Zealand Airline Pilots Association (ALPA) said it would posthumously present Justice Mahon with the Jim Collins Memorial Award for exceptional contributions to air safety.

“It is for his sterling work, in forever changing the general approach used in transport accidents investigations world wide,” said ALPA executive director Rick Mirkin. ” – Source

“The one-man commission, the late Justice Peter Mahon, was slammed by Muldoon who refused to table his 1981 report which accused Air New Zealand witnesses of participating in an “orchestrated litany of lies” on the witness stand…

… Justice Mahon found a navigation computer had been incorrectly changed so the plane was programmed to fly into the mountain, and that Air New Zealand witnesses had lied to cover up other mistakes that pointed blame at the carrier.

Muldoon responded with venom – the findings were potentially fatal to the Government-owned carrier – while Air New Zealand prepared an appeal against the lying accusations in court.” – Source

“… Successive governments refused, year after year, to officially recognise Justice Mahon’s accident report which overturned the assertions, made by the Chief Inspector of Air Accidents Ron Chippindale, that the pilots were culpable. With unassailable logic, Mahon proved him wrong. Justice Mahon’s report was eventually tabled in Parliament and became an official document in mid 1999, thanks to the efforts of Hon Maurice Williamson.

“That report absolutely clears the pilots of any blame. Yet confusion about what caused the accident remains in the minds of New Zealanders. It was to the advantage of many men in government, in Civil Aviation and in the airline that this confusion reigned for so long… ”

When the plane crashed, Captain Jim Collins left behind a wife and four young daughters. As well as examining the technical arguments around the cause of the crash, the book looks at the intensely personal impact the tragedy had on them…

Speaking on behalf of the family, Kathryn Carter, who was 15 at the time of the crash, says, “Our father and his co-pilot, Greg Cassin, were cleared of all blame by the Royal Commission. We want that to be understood and accepted by Parliament once and for all, and for it to be accurately recorded for New Zealand’s history.”” – Source

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Justice Peter Mahon. He arrived at the truth surrounding the Erebus Crash in 1979 – but it was an Inconvenient Truth, and it upset many powerful people in high places. The highest, it might be said, was the authoritarian Prime Minister of the day, Robert Muldoon.

Armed with nothing but his integrity and the truth he had uncovered, Justice Mahon stood against them all. I believe he will be remembered as one of New Zealand’s finest, most heroic people.

R.I.P. Peter Mahon, for you were an Honourable Man.

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Greed is good?

28 August 2011 54 comments

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As we look back on the last 25 years of neo-liberal “reforms”, including User Pays; the canning of “Labour’s” superannuation savings plan in 1975 (by Muldoon – after being elected into office with his infamous “Dancing Cossacks”  TV ad); and National’s continuing high popularity in the polls, despite their avowed proposal to sell-down 49% of several State assets,  – it seems abundantly clear who has been  pulling the “strings”.

No, it’s not Washington. Nor the Bilderbergers. Nor the UN/New World Order/Illuminati.

The answer is mind-numbingly far more prosaic:  it’s us – the Baby Boomer generation. The 1960s and 1970s rebellious youth  weren’t just an “aberration” – they were a clear signal that the Baby Boomers had arrived; could be inclined to  incredible selfishness (hence the term the “Me Generation”); and we voted individually for personal gain – on a collective basis.

Yep. We have seen the “enemy” – and it’s us; graying; self-centered; resentful of the young (who we’ve well and truly shafted);  and looking back at ourselves in the mirror, wondering where it all went wrong.

The case of  Surgeons Ian Penny and Gary Hooper, who tried to rort the tax system using Trusts  and companies – even though they had graduated BEFORE student loans and fees were implemented in 1992 – is the clearest example ever of our collective unbridled selfishness.

To re-cap;

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A court battle is over for two surgeons who challenged Inland Revenue over claims they tried to avoid tax bills worth tens of thousands of dollars.

The Supreme Court has ruled unanimously against Ian Penny and Gary Hooper, saying they underpaid themselves from their own businesses to avoid the top personal tax rate.

The issue arose after the previous Labour-led Government raised the top personal tax rate to 39%, compared to the company rate which was then 33%.

The orthopaedic surgeons openly paid themselves a lower salary than the market rate, arguing that they had a choice about how they operated their business.

They tried to challenge a Court of Appeal decision that found in favour of Inland Revenue, which said the surgeons had paid themselves salaries too small to be commercially realistic.

It said they were therefore able to avoid paying the top tax rate, while the balance of their businesses’ profits went as dividends to family trusts.

The trusts funded items such as a loan for one surgeon, and a holiday home for the other.

Inland Revenue said using those business structures to create artificially low salaries amounted to tax avoidance, saving each man between $20,000 and $30,000 a year for three years, beginning in 2002.

Supreme Court Justice Blanchard on Wednesday delivered a judgement supporting that argument, ordering Mr Penny and Mr Hooper to pay Inland Revenue $25,000 in court costs.

Mr Hooper told [Radio New Zealand ]Checkpoint the court has created a salary benchmark that is higher than the one countless private practitioners have been using.

He says they have been following Inland Revenue advice and calculating their salaries based on public hospital rates.

An Inland Revenue deputy commissioner welcomed the ruling, telling Checkpoint it clearly states and reaffirms what the department’s commissioner felt was the case all along. Carolyn Tremain says IRD has yet to fully absorb the implications and consequences of the ruling.

PricewaterhouseCoopers John Shewan, who appeared as a witness for the surgeons, said the case is important for individuals and firms. He said tens of millions of dollars may now be claimed by Inland Revenue from cases it still has open on this matter.

Source:  Radio New Zealand

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Specifically,

Surgeons Ian Penny and Gary Hooper set up companies, owned indirectly through trusts, to buy their surgical services and paid themselves artificially low salaries.

After 2000, Hooper’s personal income fell from $650,000 to $120,000 a year. Penny’s dropped from $302,000 to $125,000, and then to $100,000, while the income of their companies grew.

Source:  Dominion Post

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What makes this case of case of tax avoidance stand out is that none of it was ever necessary in the first place.

Dr Ian Penny received his Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor (MB ChB) of Surgery from Otago University in 1981.  He became a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in 1990.

Dr Gary Hooper received his Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor (MB ChB) of Surgery  from Otago University in 1978 and became a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in 1985.

In simple terms, they graduated as doctors in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Tertiary education then was still nominally free. Plus,  student allowances were available to most students,

“Up until 1992, nearly every student (86.4 percent) studying at a public tertiary education institution in New Zealand received a living allowance or grant while they studied.

 Prior to the mid 1970s, student support was based on a system of bursaries and scholarships. In 1976, a new system of government-funded tertiary bursaries was introduced. This included a study or living costs grant that was available to most students.”

Source: NZUSA

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Student fees and student loans came into effect in 1992, during the Bolger-led National Government, when Ruth Richardson was Minister of Finance (and coincidentally the same year that Shortland Street came on air).

In simpler terms, Dr Penny and Dr Hooper enjoyed the benefit of near-free tertiary education before fees were raised in 1992. They had no student loans to repay, as  medical students currently do, and may well have benefitted from receiving a Student Allowance.

Contrast their free tuition with that of medical students, in the 21st Century:  “on average medical students will graduate with around $80,000 of debt and nearly 90% will have a student loan“, according to the  New Zealand Medical Students’ Association in April, last year.

So with a free education; in receipt of student allowances; and no student loan; Dr’s Penny and Hooper were, as Revenue Minister Peter Dunne stated;

… the important thing about this decision is to bear in mind the scale of what was happening. This wasn’t people minimising their income because they were reinvesting in their business. This was people minimising their income because they were actually minimising their tax liability but still enjoying the full benefits of the income they were in reality earning.

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So not only did these gentlemen benefit from a free education – but they were now minimising their income because they were actually minimising their tax liability [whilst] still enjoying the full benefits of the income they were in reality earning.”

God, you’ve no idea how sick this incident has  made me.  Let me explain why.

Prior to the introduction of “Rogernomics” in 1984 (and National’s addition from 1990 onward),  education in this country had been free (or as close as possible to free) to nearly all New Zealanders. Education whether at Primary School or University was funded by the previous generation; our Mums & Dads; Grandmothers & Grand dads. The idea was terribly simple; education was a right, and not to be determined by ability to pay.

In turn, as we graduated from schools and Universities, we – my generation, the “Baby Boomers” – were to fund our children through their education, through our taxes.

Except, it did not quite happen that way.

In 1984 we unknowingly elected a Labour Government that had been taken over by a secret cabal of neo-liberals, conservatives, and proponants of the Free Market. A raft of  radical changes were implemented throughout the economy and impacting directly on society.

Despite public objection; mass protests; and even vocal opposition from within the Government by some Labour MPs such as Jim Anderton, Labour was re-elected in 1987.  Curiously, they had increased their majority from 55 to 57.

During Labour’s two terms (1984 to 1990), they cut taxes twice, and implemented a new tax in 1986, called GST.

National followed, implementing User Pays in tertiary education whilst  cutting taxes in 1996 and 1998.

In 2008, despite evidence that the world was plunging into a global recession, John Key promised that National would again cut taxes. As New Zealand went into deep recession; unemployment rose; businesses closed down – National cut taxes in April 2009 and October last year.

Most of the public, it seems, will swallow User Pays if they stand to reap a benefit from tax cuts.

The social contract therefore, was well and truly broken between our (the Baby Boomers) generation, and our parents/grandparents.

We had taken their gift – that of free education which they had paid for – but we decided not to pass it on to our children. Instead, we accepted one tax cut after another. And social services were either cut or User Pays applied, to pay for those tax cuts.

To my generation of fellow Baby Boomers, I say this; we’ve well and truly  shafted our own children. We denied them the very same opportunities of a free education that our parents had bequeathed to us. Instead, we voted ourselves seven  hefty tax-cuts; instigated User Pays; and left our children saddled with $13.9 billion in student debt.

Is it any wonder that our children our leaving New Zealand in greater and greater numbers? They’re not just emigrating to seek better paying jobs – they’re sticking it to us for our unmitigated greed. Whether consciously or sub-consciously, our children realise what our generation has wrought, and by god, they are not happy.

No doubt there are some folk who will cheer on Drs Penny and  Hooper. These people  feel that paying taxes is “unfair” and that it is unreasonable for the State to take the money that they have worked hard for.

Perhaps I should take a moment to remind these people what their taxes were, and in many cases  are still, used for…

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Inter-island Ferry, Aramoana

Dams and other power generation projects

Our first television broadcast system

Roading and highways

Hospitals

University education

Dental care for our Children

Our Police and justice system

Railways and other public transport

Schools

State Housing

Infrastructure such as power transmission lines

Social welfare and superannuation

Bridges

Postal and telecommunications systems

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Many of these assets no longer reside in public ownership – but they were originally built and maintained by previous generations of taxpayers; our parents, grandparents, et al.

As the Baby Boomer generation, what have we built and left our children?

$13.9 billion in student debt?

No wonder they are departing our shores…

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But I leave the last word to this expat Kiwi, now living in Australia,

A Victorian-based Kiwi with a student loan debt, who did not want to be named because he did not want to be found by the Government, said he did not intend to pay back any of his student loan.

The 37-year-old’s loan was about $18,000 when he left New Zealand in 1997. He expected it was now in the order of $50,000. The man was not worried about being caught as the Government did not have his details and he did not want to return to New Zealand.

“I would never live there anyway, I feel just like my whole generation were basically sold down the river by the government. I don’t feel connected at all, I don’t even care if the All Blacks win.

“I just realised it was futile living [in New Zealand] trying to pay student loans and not having any life, so I left. My missus had a student loan and she had quite a good degree and she had paid 99c off the principal of her loan after working three years.”

Source: Dominion Post

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Further Reading

Greed of boomers led us to a total bust

New Zealand’s wealth gap widens

Over-55s own most of NZ’s wealth

 

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