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“There’s always an issue of money but we can find money for the right projects” – John Key

20 January 2013 28 comments

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Key faces questions over extra Antarctica funding

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There are two issues involved with the above story.

Firstly…

The Government spends $26 million on climate research every year. The Prime Minister says that will increase.

There’s always an issue of money but we can find money for the right projects.”

Climate research is a fine endeavour, and this blogger has no problem with that.

What this blogger has a real problem with is when National’s quango’s come up with nasty suggestions like this,

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Doubt over savings from restricting ear treatment

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Or, National point-blank refuses to fund life-saving medication in instances like this,

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mum-not-prepared-to-wait-and-die

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There seems to be a multitude of “worthy causes” for National in invest our tax dollars in; subsidies for film makers such as Warner Bros; subsidies for the rugby world cup; loans for media companies (which they initially lied about); grants to businesses; advisors; consultants; staff bonuses; MPs travel expenses, and of course, salary rises for members of Parliament.

But when it comes to grommet operations for our children and medication for sick New Zealanders, the response is not quite as generous, as Tony Ryall ‘explained’ to me on 22 November last year,

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email-tony-ryall-pompe-disease-22-nov-2012

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And then explained on 5 December, explained  how he had pulled a neat little trick to fund National’s promised extension for Herception treatment, outside of PHARMAC rules,

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email-tony-ryall-pompe-disease-5-dec-2012

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(Note: in all fairness, Tony Ryall is perhaps the only Minister who has the balls to actually respond to my queries. The rest are either evasive, or like Bill English do not reply at all.)

Secondly…

In the above article at the top, TV3 reporter, Samantha Hayes, wrote,

It’s that variability New Zealand scientists want to investigate, using funds from a joint public and private venture – the newly formed Antarctic Research Institute.

See: Key faces questions over extra Antarctica funding

Pardon?

Why is the Antarctic Research Institute a “joint public and private venture”?

What does the private sector hope to gain from research by the Antarctic Research Institute?

On 21 August 2012, the NZ Herald reported,

The New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute was launched by Prime Minister John Key last night at Premier House.

It will operate as a public-private partnership.

The institute will be closely aligned to the crown entity Antarctic New Zealand and its chairman, Rob Fenwick, will chair the institute as well.

See: $5.3m gift sets up Antarctic research unit

About Mr Fenwick,

Rob Fenwick is an experienced businessman and company director with interests closely aligned to promoting sustainable development. He has had a long association with Antarctica: for nine years until 2007 he was a director and later chairman of Landcare Research, one of several CRIs involved in Antarctic research, and is a former chairman of the Antarctic Heritage Trust. In 2005 the New Zealand Geographic Society named the Fenwick Ice Piedmont in the Ross Sea for his work in Antarctica. 

He is a co-founder and director of Living Earth Ltd, New Zealand’s principal organic waste management business and is active in policy development around waste minimisation and climate change, and has been a member of several Government working groups in these areas. He is a special advisor to the Department of Conservation and was conferred with the degree of Doctor of Natural Resources, honoris causa, by Lincoln University this year.

See: antarcticanz.govt.nz/rob-fenwick

The Herald article goes on,

The institute’s director will be Professor Gary Wilson of Otago University, who said the goal was to strengthen Antarctic research capacity in New Zealand through international collaboration on research projects.

“Antarctica and the Southern Ocean hold the solutions to many of the key questions scientists and policymakers need to answer in order to manage the threats of climate change and global resource depletion.”

“Global resource depletion”…

One has to wonder what was so important that our Dear Leader, John Key, had to make the eight hour long flight – after collapsing at a Christchurch restaurant?! Surely not to return three bottles of whiskey to Shackleton’s hut??

Why is the private sector involved in a joint public and private venture with the newly formed Antarctic Research Institute? PPPs are usually formed  where there is the potential for profit by the private investor.

Or is it that Gareth Morgan has a point when he sez on his blog,

Taking care of Antarctica requires a constant diplomatic effort. John Key’s visit may look like the usual smile and wave routine, but the symbolism is much stronger. His presence is simultaneously reasserting our claim, bolstering our position at the negotiation table, and recognising the wonderful contribution the Scott Base installation has made for so long. Declaring to the world that Antarctica is important to us and we want it managed well is central to Mr Key’s visit. New Zealand has a long history of leadership in Antarctica.

See: Key Antarctica trip more than waving at penguins

Methinks there is more to this story than we’ve been told.

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Other blogs

Gareth  Morgan: Key Antarctica trip more than waving at penguins

References

Beehive Press Release

Antarctica New Zealand

Previous related blogposts

Children’s Health: not a high priority for Health Minister Tony Ryall

Health Minister circumvents law to fulfill 2008 election bribe?

Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key – Update & more questions

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John Key – keep your grubby hands of Local Body Councils!

17 July 2012 8 comments

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At a recent Local Government conference in Queenstown, John Key exhorted local body councils to “reign in” spending and “focus on core services”,

The Government proposes axing the community wellbeings from the Local Government Act to make councils focus on ”core responsibilities” and reduce the rates burden on constituents.  “

See:  Councils to pressure Govt over reforms

This theme of “core services” is one that National has been banging-on about since Nick Smith was Local Government Minister. In May of this year, Smith’s replacement as LG Minister, David Carter,  was interviewed on TVNZ’s Q+A.

To suggest that he was sending “mixed messages” was fairly evident. But interviewer Greg Boyd managed to elicit responses from Carter that revealed National’s obessesive mania for local governments to stick to “core services”,

GREG BOYD            Well, hold on.  It sounds like the Government’s wanting a bob each way in this.  They’re wanting to say they keep in touch with what’s happening with the rates, but they’re only to go and do core services at a local level or not.  Which way is it to go?
 
DAVID CARTER            We are not saying that councils can only do core services.  If you take my Christchurch City Council, for example, and it runs the Ellerslie Flower Show in Hagley Park.  You could argue that’s not a core service.  The council has determined that there is value in delivering that show for the people of Christchurch, and, frankly, I meet a lot of people on planes who are travelling from all over New Zealand to come to that.  The council’s decision is to run the Ellerslie Flower Show, and that is a decision for the council to make.  It’s certainly not a decision for central government to make or for myself as minister.

[abridged]

GREG BOYD            So you are limiting local government?  They are going to be in charge of very basic things and numbers and keeping an eye on rates.  You are limiting their scope quite a bit.
 
DAVID     CARTER       We’re certainly going to get local government to be far more focused on what activities it undertakes.   In the past, some councils have stepped too far and undertaken activities, Hamilton city, for example, with the Grand Prix racing.  I think that was an activity that went far beyond where local government should have gone.  It cost local government in that area a lot of money.  We’re not saying you cannot run race cars; we’re saying you need to think very very carefully before undertaking that activity.  And by putting these financial management tests in place, I think councils will think more carefully about some of those longer-term extraneous activities they’re undertaking than they did in the past.

See: Q+A Interview with David Carter 20 May 2012

So the upshot is;

  • Flower Shows – good
  • Grand Prix racing – bad

No doubt local government bodies will await further diktats from the Minister as to what is permissable and what is not.  (And it;’s laughable how National painted Labour as “nanny statist?!”)

Yet, National is not averse to spending tax-payers money on events that are not Central Government  “core services”,

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National had no qualms in spending $39 million of our money on rugby. On top of that, they supported the spending of a further $200 million of public money on the Games.

And National certainly doesn’t seem to mind when SEO’s paid out $54 million in “performance bonuses” to their staff in 2011, with power companies spending the highest.

See:  SEOs pay $54m in staff bonuses

Perhaps John Key and National should look at themselves first as to what they are spending our taxes on.

Especially when recent disclosures to Radio NZ reveal that private consultants have been paid  hundreds of millions of dollars for “advice” of dubious quality and necessity.

This blogger detects not just the sickly-sweet stench of hypocrisy on this issue, but signs of National’s propensity for heavy-handed, ideologically-motivated,  State interference where they are not welcomed, nor justified.

National has it’s own “core services” to focus on – unemployment, stagnating economy, low wages, New Zealanders leaving for Australia, and  deeply unpopular programmes of state asset sales, charter schools, mining, school league tables, alcohol abuse, etc .

National should be focusing in their own backyard – because from where I sit, they have enough of a mess to clean up, without peering over the fence onto other people’s “turf”.

We’re still waiting for those 170,000 new jobs, Dear Leader.

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National – what else can possibly go wrong?!

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A contributor to The Standard blog, ‘Jenny’, made a very simple – but insightful post, detailing National’s track record in the last three and a half years,

This is a government determined to gift everything they could possibly wish to the rich and powerful, and on behalf of this greedy sector force onto the rest of New Zealanders.

More Pokies

More drilling

More fracking

More booze

More junk food

A fire sale of public assets

More pollution

More corruption

More scandal

Less sovereignity

Less civil liberty

More toadying to foreign powers

More toadying to foreign corporates

More spying snooping and videoing of New Zealand citizens

More bail-outs

More tax cuts

More job cuts

More benefit cuts

Have they actually done anything worthwhile or positive?

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

Jenny posits the question, “Have they actually done anything worthwhile or positive?

Try as one might, despite inane rhetoric and vague promises, no National Party MP, functionary, or groupie could possibly point to any success achieved by John Key and his colleagues.

Not . One.

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1.Economic Growth

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National’s “Master Plan” for economic growth and job creation seems to revolve around four events – none of which have been particularly successful,

  1. The rebuild of Christchurch. Despite being an opportunity to upskill 160,000 unemployed and a major boost to the economy – nothing much is happening. Instead, National is content to allow tradespeople from overseas to come into the country and carry out  the work. With few apprenticeships, we are woefully unprepared for the looming demand for tradespeople – a damning lack of planning by National and it’s naive reliance on the “free market” to provide skilled workers.
  2. The Rugby World Cup – far from being a major boost, seems to have contributed very little to our economy. In the last three months of 2011, GDP grew  just 0.3% – half  that  predicted by economists. It seems that Dr Sam Richardson’s prediction, that $700  million was a hopelessly unrealistic expectation proved to be unerringly correct.  Who is ultimately responsible for National throwing $200-plus million of our tax dollars at this exercise in outrageous extravagance? Murray McCully? Steven Joyce? John Key?
  3. The Sky City/Convention Centre deal. Our illustrious Dear Leader promised 1,800 jobs from this planned project, in return for re-writing gambling legislation and permitting Sky City to increase pokie machine and gaming tables by up to 500. Potential social fall-out surrounding increased problem gambling was casually dismissed by both John Key and Sky City’s CEO Nigel Morrison.    Unfortunately, as with most of John Key’s figures and promises, the expectation of 1,800 jobs was as fictitious as much of what he says.
  4. Asset sales. With weak growth; a stagnant economyhigh unemployment; and New Zealanders continuing to escape to Australia, National’s one (and only) trump card appears to be the partial-privatisation of five state owned corporations. As has been pointed out, ad infinitum, floating shares in these SOEs will not contribute to economic growth; nor create new jobs (in fact,  it is likely to result in redunancies, if past privatisations are any guide); nor create real wealth. It simply shuffles bits of paper (shares) around from investor-to-investor-to-investor. And if investors need to borrow to buy these shares, we are using overseas funds for speculative purposes. Which sounds suspiciously like our love-affair with speculative housing-“investments”.

As Business NZ has stated, our economic growth has been ‘unspectacular’. And that’s coming from one of National’s own business allies. (Just as Business NZ seemed somewhat unimpressed as National’s lack of planning and direction last year, just prior to the election.)

Otherwise, National’s Grand Plan can be summed up as a reliance on a “two pronged” approach to growing the economy; a hands-off “free market” approach, and tax cuts. Not only have neither worked terribly well, but these measures have been counter-productive.

Tax-cuts  gave massive increases in income to the richest 10% of New Zealanders – whilst the GST increase has made life harder for the poorest and lowest-paid in this country.

Right wing cheer-leaders who bleat on about their rich masters “working hard and deserving  increased wealth” may be aspirationists who one day hope to become one of the Master Class – but I hope they’re not holding their breath. That day will be a long time coming.

Tax cuts have also resulted in a government budget blow-out. Borrowing $380 million a week, whilst claiming that National is “not borrowing for tax cuts is credible only to National; their salivating sycophants; and low-information voters (for whom “The GC” is the height of documentary-making).

Tax cuts have also not delivered the promised boost to the economy by increasing spending and consumption. This is not surprising, as the tax cuts were given to the wrong sector of society.

High income, wealthy, asset-rich families tend to use their tax-cuts to reduce debt or spend on investments (shares, kiwisaver,  etc) that do not directly help small businesses.

Low income, poor, families spend everything. These are the the people who will buy more food to put on their tables; clothes; shoes; medication; and other consumables. These are the people that small businesses rely on on for their custom. And the retail supermarket sector is suffering a massive drop accordingly.

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Middle income families continue to stuggle not to fall behind. Any tax increase they may have gained has been swallowed up by increased gst, government charges, increased user-pays, etc.

I think most people have since ‘twigged’ that National has indeed borrowed for tax cuts. And we’re having to pay back those massive borrowings by  cutting services; slashing the state sector; and selling our state assets.

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2. Asset Sales

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National’s asset sales programme has been an unmitigated disaster from Day One.

Since National first announced their decision to partially privatise Meridian, Genesis, Mighty River Power, Solid Energy, and Air New Zealand, this issue has been opposed by the public.

National has used it’s so-called “mandate” from last year’s election to proceed with their policy, and passed enabling legislation only last Tuesday (26 June).

Any notion of a “mandate” is shaky and open to interpretation.

Whilst the National-ACT-Peter Dunne Coalition has 61 seats, and Labour, NZ First, Greens, Mana, and Maori Party have 60 seats – the number of Party votes cast tells a different story.

National , ACT, United Future Party Votes Labour, Greens, NZ First, Maori Party, Mana, and Conservative Party votes

National – 1,058,636

Labour – 614,937

ACT – 23,889

Greens – 247,372

United Future – 13,443

NZ First – 147,544

Maori Party – 31,982

Mana – 24,168

Conservative Party* – 59,237

TOTAL – 1,095,968

Total – 1,125,240

The irony of the Conservative Party gaining more Party Votes than ACT and United Future combined – yet winning no  seats in Parliament  – will not escape most fair-minded people. Adding the Conservative’s 59,237 party votes to the anti-asset sale bloc, yields a majority of voters opposed to National’s programme.

It is only the current rules of MMP (now under review) that allows this quirk to take place.

Add to that, opinion poll after opinion poll showing  60% to 80% of respondents  opposed to asset sales, and National’s mantra that “We have a Mandate” becomes patently untenable.

A recent  NZ Herald poll, where respondents were asked to leave a comment, as well as a “Yay” or “Nay” vote yielded results that were thoroughly predictable,

For: 151

Against: 552

The National Party understands this only too well. Hence their desperate, ad hoc  schemes to bribe the public with all manner of ‘sweeteners’,

  • giving first option to buy shares  to “mum and dad” investors
  • a bribe of “loyalty” shares
  • promise of “affordable” shares  for investors

There is a considerable degree of arrogance in National’s pursuing of their asset sales, despite considerable public anger.

On 26 October last year,  Dear Leader  said,

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

On 3 May, as a 5,000 person march wound it’s way through Wellington, John Key grinned to reporters and cheekily said,

How many people did they have?  Where was it? Nope wasn’t aware of it. So look, a few thousand people walking down the streets of Wellington isn’t going to change my mind. “

And on 26 June, Key tried to dismiss TV3 journalist John Campbell with this demeaning insult,

No, um, and with the greatest respect to your financial literacy, you’ve proven that you don’t actually have any. “

Key said pretty much the same about Greens co-leader, Russel Norman,

With the greatest respect to [Green Party co-leader Russel Norman], I’m sure he’s a great bloke, he doesn’t know much about economics. “

It is fairly obvious that Key has very little time for anyone who opposes his views. In fact, he gets downright belligerent and  derisive.

Who does he remind me of? Someone else who used to belittle and deride anyone who dared disagree with him – especially in economic matters. Who else was famous for his arrogance? Another Prime Minister,

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Despite public opposition and several valid commercial reasons made clear that these sales will be financially disadvantageous to our economy, National carries on, oblivious to all but it’s own ideological fanaticism.

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This is a Party totally out of touch with the rest of the country.

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3. Welfare

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In 2008, the GFC (Global Financial Crisis) hit the world with a social and economic recession not seen since the 1920s/30s. Coporations like Lehmann Bros collapsed. General Motors filed for bankruptcy protection. Others had to be bailed out with billions of taxpayers’ dollars. Millions lost their jobs and homes, and unemployment skyrocketed. Europe is tottering on the brink of a domino-like collapse of their currency.

Here in New Zealand, unemployment doubled from 3.4% by the end of 2007, to 7.3% by the end of 2009.

When criticism is levelled at National’s inability to address our stagnating economy, John Key and Bill English point to the GFC, stating it’s not their fault,

We did inherit a pretty bad situation with the global financial crisis.” – Source

This is a global debt crisis and you certainly wouldn’t want to add more debt at that time unnecessarily.” – Source

The economic downturn that may occur on a pronounced basis in Europe is factored into our books.” – Source

But when it comes to those who are the casualties of the economic downturn; the unemployed, National suddenly sings a different tune when it comes to Cause-and-Effect,

The Government is considering requiring beneficiaries to immunise their children.” – Source

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett yesterday said contraception would eventually be fully funded for female beneficiaries and their 16 to 19-year-old daughters. ” – Source

Prime Minister John Key says beneficiaries who resort to food banks do so out of their own “poor choices” rather than because they cannot afford food.” – Source

Under the Government’s new youth welfare policy, announced by Prime Minister John Key at the weekend, 16- and 17-year-old beneficiaries would receive a payment card for food and clothes from approved stores.” – Source

And perhaps – worst of all – was  this piece of vileness from Finance Minister, Bill English,

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[click on image to go to TV3 website]

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English’s smirking disdain, for all those New Zealanders who have lost their jobs due to the global financial crisis, was plain to see.  Shame on him; his revolting attitude; and shame on every person in his electorate who voted for this arrogant little man.

The National Creed

1. The  Global Financial Crisis – a handy excuse for poor economic policies and mismanagement.

2. The Unemployed – a handy scapegoat for National’s inability to grow the economy and create new jobs.

3. If in doubt, never take responsibilty; refer to #1 and #2.

Latest redundancies;

Will drug testing be used to  “sort this lot out smartly”, Mr English?

And more bizarre is Paula Bennet’s admission that National “has ruled out universal drug testing of all beneficiaries, with drug and alcohol addicts being exempted from sanctions for refusing or failing a drug test when applying for a job“.

See:  Addicts escape beneficiary drug testing

Which means that if addicts and alcoholics are not tested – that leaves only those  workers who’ve been unfortunate enough to lose their jobs through New Zealand’s ongoing stagnating economy.

Adding insult to injury doesn’t begin to cover the humiliation which National intends to thrust upon workers who’ve lost their jobs.

And all because National has no job creation policies.

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4. Sky City/Convention Centre

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This is perhaps one of John Key’s shonkiest deals. It is no wonder that the Auditor General is investigating the Sky City “arrangement” – so I have little faith that the investigation will yield much that is incriminating of Dear Leader.

As Key stated with utter confidence, on TV3’s ‘The Nation‘ on 17 June,

KEY: The involvement I had, as Minister of Tourism was to go and talk to a number of critical players, and as part of a general conversation say to them, “Hey, look, New Zealand’s interested in building a convention centre. Did that with Sky City. I did that with people out at ASB Centre The Edge. I did that with Ngati Whatua. That’s not unusual.  I mean, and to argue that that would be unusual would be to say, well, look I have discussions with people in Whangarei about building a museum there. And I have discussions  with people in Auckland about building  a cycleway.

So now what we’re  talking about about is, ok, was there undue influence or was the process correctly handled, that’s what the auditor general  will say.

So let me tell you this, for a start off, ok, in terms of the expression of interest process, my office had absolutely no involvement, no correspondence, [ interuption by Rachel Smalley] no phone calls, absolutely nothing. So when the auditor general  comes in there will be no correspondence, no phone calls, no discussions, zero. “ – Source (@ 6.37)

That statement does not instill confidence in me. Dear Leader has just stated, on record, that no evidence exists of his meeting(s) with Sky City management. Key admitted meeting with Sky City’s Board in late 2009,

I attended a dinner with the Sky City board 4 November 2009 where we discussed a possible national convention centre and they raised issues relating to the Gambling Act 2003“. – Source

But what was said or agreed on, we don’t know. As Key has stated, “when the auditor general  comes in there will be no correspondence, no phone calls, no discussions, zero”.

This is not a very good  example of transparency. It is certainly not the “transparency in government”  that Key has promised this country on several occassions.

In fact, it’s dodgy as hell.

See:  Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How

In the same  blogpost ( Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How )  dated 23 April, this blogger outlined John Key’s somewhat dubious tactics for pushing through dubious policies,

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Promise Big Numbers.  It doesn’t matter if the numbers never eventuate because they were fictitious to start with. By the time the media and public realise the true facts, the issue will be all but forgotten. A week may be a long time in politics – but a year positively guarantees  collective amnesia for 99% of the public.

From December, 2010,

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Cycleway jobs fall short

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6:00 AM Wednesday Dec 8, 2010

The national cycleway has so far generated just 215 jobs – well short of Prime Minister John Key’s expectation of 4000.

In May, Mr Key said he expected the $50 million project, which involves building 18 cycleways throughout the country, to generate 4000 jobs.”Source

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Who can remember the initial cycleway project and the promise of 4,000 new jobs?

Precisely.

From March, this year,

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Key defends casino pokie machine deal

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08:23 Mon Mar 5 2012 – AAP

Opposition parties are accusing the government of selling legislation through an agreement that will see Auckland’s Sky City build a $350 million convention centre in return for more pokie machines…

…  But Mr Key says it’s a good deal for New Zealand.

“It produces 1000 jobs to build a convention centre, about 900 jobs to run it… ” Source

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In a year’s time, who will recall the promise of 900 new Convention centre jobs?

Who will care that only a hundred-plus eventuate?

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Well, it didn’t take one year. It took only a matter of  months. On 5 March, John Key asserted,

 “It produces 1000 jobs to build a convention centre, about 900 jobs to run it, and overall the number of pokie machines will be falling although at a slightly lower rate.”

See:  Key defends casino pokie machine deal

But then, on 5 June,  the NZ Herald reported,

Job numbers touted by Prime Minister John Key for a proposed international convention centre at SkyCity are much higher than official estimates.

Mr Key has said a deal allowing SkyCity more gambling facilities in exchange for funding the convention centre would provide 900 construction jobs and work for 800 people at the centre.

But the figures are much higher than those in a feasibility study done for the Government by hospitality and travel specialist analyst Horwath Ltd.

Horwath director Stephen Hamilton said he was concerned over reports the convention centre would employ 800 staff – a fulltime-equivalent total of 500.

He said the feasibility study put the number of people who would be hired at between 318 and 479. “

See:  Puzzle of Key’s extra casino jobs

Sprung! Another of Dear Leader’s “little white lies” uncovered.

Next ‘cast iron guarantee’ from Dear Leader, who said on his website,

SkyCity has agreed to pay the full construction costs of the centre – estimated at $350 million. The company has asked the Government to consider some alterations to gambling regulations and legislation.”

See:  John Key -Convention centre development moves ahead

Yeah, I’ll bet that Sky City has “asked the Government to consider some alterations to gambling regulations and legislation“…

In business, it’s called a ‘contra-deal‘.

But it’s seems that even this deal is not as “free” for tax-payers as Key has made out. In fact, it has been uncovered that  taxpayers are definitely ‘stumping up’ some of their hard-earned cash,

Budget documents reveal that if the plan goes ahead, taxpayers will contribute up to $2.1 million to ensure its design and facilities meet Government expectations...  The Prime Minister, however, is defending the budget allocation of millions of dollars towards a potential Sky City convention centre.

John Key says he has always said his preferred position is that no taxpayer money would be spent – and that if it does go ahead, it will have economic spinoffs. “

See:  Govt misleading public over Sky City: Labour

So… Key has (once again) mis-led the public, and his stock-standard explanation is that “if it does go ahead, it will have economic spinoffs .”

John Key  claims that “a new convention centre would bring 144,000 additional nights of Auckland stays for business tourists, who generally spent twice as much as other tourists“.

See:  Casinos safer than pubs, Key says

But as Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ, said somewhat more convincingly,

Tourists come to see the country and the culture – not the casinos. If tourists were really focused on gambling, they would be going to Las Vegas – not the Sky City casino venue in Auckland.

See:  Tourists Come to See Country & Culture – Not Casinos

What’s the bet that the forecast for “economic spinoffs” will be as accurate as National’s predictions for spin-offs from the Rugby World Cup or national cycleway?!

See:  Weather and World Cup fail to lift GDP

See:  Current account deficit widens to $2.7 billion

See:  Growth slows – GDP up just 0.3pc

How many times have we heard Prime Minister John Key make all sorts of promises that this or that will deliver jobs and economic growth – only to see the promise fail. Which is then  usually followed by an excuse relating to the global economic slowdown?

It’s getting rather predictable and tedious.

What Dear Leader has tried to gloss over and  dismiss is the inevitable consequence of increasing pokie machines: more problem gambling. Both John Key and Sky City CEO, Nigel Morrison,  have tried to trivialise this growing social problem,

The incidence of harm cited from Lotto is greater than that from pokie machines in casinos. Getting those facts across is difficult.  We’re not just on about growing our gaming machines.  We would like to grow our table games product and expand our operations to meet the growth of Auckland. “

See:  Casino boss: Lotto does more harm

Gambling addiction in many way is as pernicious – if not worse – than alcohol and drug additions. A compulsive gambler can damage not only his/her own life – but those around them. Houses have been lost; businesses crippled or closed down; families torn apart,  as problem gamblers suck others down into a whirlpool of uncontrollable gambling.

See:  Barred gambler coaxed back to casino

See:  Mum steals $330k from marae to feed pokies

From a Ministry of Health  report,

Overall, the prevalence of problem gambling in New Zealand adults was 0.4% (about 13,100 adults). Additionally, the prevalence of moderate-risk gambling was 1.3% (representing a further 40,900 people). In total, 1 in 58 adults (1.7%, or 54,000 adults) were experiencing either problem or moderate-risk gambling.

Other key findings of this study include:

  1. Maori and Pacific people experience more gambling-related harm than other people
  2. people living in more socioeconomically deprived areas are more affected by gambling-related harm.
  3. this study may help to inform the provision of problem gambling intervention services and public health activity, as the study showed that:
    • problem gamblers can be found in both urban and rural areas
    • Maori and Pacific people appear to be under-represented in intervention services
    • people experiencing gambling problems are more likely than other people to be current smokers, have hazardous drinking patterns, have worse self-rated health, and have a high or very high probability of a mood or anxiety disorder. “

See:  A Focus on Problem Gambling: Results of the 2006/07 New Zealand Health Survey

Interestingly, the above report, using 2006/07 data, and posted online in 2009, is the most recent Ministry of Health report available. Nothing more recent – and perhaps more damning of current gambling policies – is apparent on the Ministry of Health website.

Why is that?

On a more personal level, this blogger is aware of an elderly couple who were both addicted to pokie machines. Badly in debt, they were forced to down-size their family home and buy a smaller, more modest,  property. One of the couple died soon after, leaving the other who continued her gambling habit.

Not only has this elderly woman lost her surplus cash from the house-sale, but has gambled using equity in her current home.  She often ‘borrows’ money from her grown up children.

Her  modest house is deteriorating through lack of maintenance.

Not only has this woman lost all equity in her home, she is now more reliant on  both the State and her family.

Meanwhile, this article on Sky City’s most recent posted profits should be cause for concern,

”  Sky City Entertainment, one of the biggest gambling operators in the country, has seen a significant rise in profits over the course of the last year. The company attributes this growth to the earnings generated by the Sky City Casino in Auckland.

Over the course of 2011, profits for Sky City rose by over $10 million to $78 for the year. The company believes that the changes made to Sky City Auckland are to thank for this impressive profit increase over the course of the past year.

$50 million was spent on renovating the gambling facilities available the casino, but the company still managed to offset the costs with improved profits. In addition to building a new VIP lounge, Sky City also renovated other areas of the casino to make them more attractive to players.

Slots [pokies]  brought in the amount of increased revenue, seeing a rise by 17%. Non-gaming elements also helped to boost profits. Auckland’s recently-revamped hotels and restaurants garnered a great deal of attention from patrons.

It seems that the adage “you have to spend money to make money” is true for Sky City.  “

See:  Sky City Sees Huge Revenue Jump

If the convention centre is National’s only scheme to grow the economy and to create 170,000 new jobs – we are in deep trouble.

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5. TVNZ7

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Nothing best illustrates  National’s narrow vision of the role of government than the demise of TVNZ7. Nothing.

Whether the previous Broadcasting Minister, Jonathan Coleman, or the current Minister, Craig Foss – their attitude has been the same; market forces shall prevail – and public-interest programming shall be the responsibity of NZ On Air, who shall contract such programmes to current commercial broadcasters.

Except that this is a cop-out.

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The beauty of TVNZ7 is that public broadcasting was, in the main, focused on a single broadcasting platform. The public knew where to go to watch certain types of programming.

Just as the public now go to supermarkets to buy their meat, fish, veg & fruit, and bread – instead of going to a butchers; a fish shop; a  fruit & veg produce store; and a bakery. Imagine the uproar if John Key told us we must go to five different food retailers to buy five different sorts of foodstuffs?! Dear Leader would have a size 9 boot imprinted on his backside.

TVNZ7 fulfilled the same public demand; niche programming on a niche broadcaster.

Just as, currently we have racing on the TAB channel; Chinese programming on CTV; parliament on Parliament TV, etc.

Ironic that politicians have no problem broadcasting their “debates” (inverted commas used deliberately), deeming their squabbles and shrill screams a must have – but not public, non-commercial TV.

Or, that we can have non-stop horse racing on a free-to-air TV channel.

But we are not entitled to have access to non-commercial public TV.

Whatever concept National has of public television, it is clear that Broadcasting Minister, Craig Foss’s vision is different to the rest of New Zealand,

“…  the government was ‘committed’ to supporting local content through NZ on Air, instead of directly funding single broadcasters. “

See:  No help for titanically pointless bill

Having public TV through NZ On Air is akin to selling vegetarian/vegan food products in butcher shops. You have to go looking for it. It’s not easy to find. And it’s buried amongst ‘crap’ you’d rather not have to put up with.

And what makes NZ On Air funding of  ‘Media7/Media3‘  “public television” – when it will have advertisements peppered throughout?

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Take out the advertising of underarm deodorants; cat/dog food; toilet ducks; panty shields;  the latest 4WD monstrosity from Korea; promos for the latest US crime/cop shows; reality TV shows; home improvement shows; US sitcoms; and voyeuristic, soft-core porn like “The GC”,  and a 30 minute current affairs programme from TVNZ7 becomes a 20 minute show on TV3.

There goes our chance to focus on critical social issues, as commercial advertisers compete for our attention.

What next? Advertising in Tolstoy’s  “War and Peace”? Shakepeare’s “Macbeth”? Anne Frank’s Diary?

We are being ripped off in more ways than one. We deserve better than this.

But not, it seems, according to National; there is more than an element of vindictiveness in their decision to can TVNZ7. As if it was their opportunity to “stick it to us” after their embarrassing backdowns on mining in conservation schedule four estates; their attempt to cut teacher numbers and increase classroom sizes; and ongoing resistance to state asset sales.

The closure of TVNZ7 is a clue what National thinks of us. And it ain’t very pleasant.

See: Pundit – TVNZ kills ad-free channels to grow profits

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6. Education

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Current cutbacks to state and social services is a re-run of the 1990s. National’s cuts now, mirror those of last century.

Bolger, Richardson, Shipley, and Bill English  ran amok – slashing health, education, police, military, and anything else they could lay their cold, clammy, neo-liberal hands on.

At one stage, in the late 1990s, the health system was so badly run down that   patients requiring critical surgery were not receiving it – and were dying on waiting lists.

See: Died waiting for by pass

See:  Funding cut puts centre in jeopardy

See:  Myers warns few jobs, more poor, ahead for NZ

This year, as part of National’s on-going agenda to cut government services; reduce the size of the State; and to pass on savings  as tax cuts to the rich, National has cut staffing levels; departmental budgets; and services.

The New Zealand middle class tolerates this – until it affects them, personally.

Enter: 24 June – Minister Parata and her plans to slash teacher numbers and increase class sizes.  That was a step too far, and a teacher-parent-principal-Boards alliance fought back. Hard.

Bill English – a bloodied veteran of the Bolger-cum-Shipley administration of the late 1990s –  recognised the signs that a revolt of the middle classes was in the offing.   National’s merciless cuts to social and government services in the ’90s had resulted in an electoral thrashing in the November 1999 elections.

Upshot: 7 July – Government u-turn on cost-cutting policy.

This is now the second major policy u-turn by National. Their previous bloodied-nose, in July 2010, when Gerry Brownlee was forced to announce a back-down on National’s proposals to mine schedule 4 conservation land, was a stunning exercise in people-power.

In my previous blogpost (Why Hekia Parata should not be sacked), I argued that Educational Minister, Hekia Parata should not be forced to step down from her ministerial role. As I pointed out, “sacking Parata for policies that every other Minister has been implementing seems pointless. Especially when National’s essential policy of cutting expenditure and services would remain unchanged”.

However, recent revelations from OIA-released  document have revealed,

The papers for the education budget reveal class size funding ratio changes went even further than what was announced.

Education Minister Hekia Parata originally urged changes that would seen 1300 fewer teachers hired over the next four years than would have happened under the existing funding formula.

That plan to curb growth in teacher numbers would have seen a “a minimal net reduction” in staffing of about 260 after four years.

The Government eventually decided on a less aggressive plan to cap teacher numbers, with almost the same number proposed to be employed in 2016 as now.

That plan to save $174m over four years was agreed and written in to the Budget but Parata was forced in to an embarrassing backdown earlier this month, which cancelled the plan and returned to the status quo.

However Parata’s original plan was to cut $217m. “

See:  Deeper teacher funding cuts ditched

It appears that Ms Parata’s inclination was for even deeper cuts to Education services  than, (a) the public was initially aware of and (b) that her National ministerial colleagues could stomach.

This explains, in part, why Key torpedoed  Parata’s plans to cut education services; he was thoroughly exasperated with an an incompetant  Minister who badly overestimated her abilities and could not “sell” even a watered down version of her plans. He must have been spitting tacks that, had Parata’s initial plans to cut $217 million (instead of $174 million) gone ahead,  she would have found herself in a much deeper hole, and the fallout to National would have been much worse.

This blogger has come to the conclusion that Hekia Parata is way over her head, and should step down as Education Minister forthwith.

At any rate, she will be gone at the next cabinet re-shuffle.

Tea-lady might be a good, safe role for her?

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7. ETS – Another of Key’s broken promises

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John Key is adamant that National will not consider slowly raising the retirement age from 65 to 67, because it is a committment he has promised to keep,

I’ve made it quite clear it would be my intention to resign from parliament if I broke that promise to New Zealanders.”

See:  Govt against raising retirement age

This blogger finds it hard to understand Key’s reticence to “breaking” an election promise. After all, he’s broken promises not to raise GST; to retrieve the bodies of the Pike River miners;  to address growing youth unemployment; stem the flow of migration to Australia; grow the economy; and now, to implement an ETS.

In May 2008, Key stated,

Key outlined a series of principles an ETS should have, including…

… It should be closely aligned with Australia’s ETS.

It should not discriminate against small and medium businesses in allocating emissions credits and purposes. “

See: Nats call for a delay to emission trading scheme law

At the time, Key also stated,

This not about National walking away from an ETS, we support that. . . we just simply want to get it right and we now have the time to get it right.  “

That was four years ago.

Since then Australia has implemented it’s own carbon tax that will lead in to a full ETS by 2015,

The A$23-a-tonne price on carbon emissions started yesterday [1 July 2012] , directly affecting 294 electricity generators and other companies.

The federal Government is aiming to cut carbon emissions by 5 per cent by 2020, with the carbon tax shifting to an emissions trading scheme in 2015. “

See: Protests greet day one of Aussie carbon tax

By contrast, National has been delaying implementing New Zealand’s own version of an ETS, and has now “postponed” it until 2015.

And yet, four years ago, Key stated that New Zealand’s emissions trading scheme should ” be closely aligned with Australia’s ETS  “.

Our Aussie cuzzies have already started their carbon tax/ETS.

With National postponing the ETS for farmers, industrial and commercial polluters, until 2015 – that means that Dear Leader’s “postponement” will have lasted seven years – over two Parliamentary terms.  How long does Key need to ‘get it right’ ?

Ten years?

Two decades?

Perhaps the turn of the 22nd century?

Let’s cut through the BS here. John Key is not “postponing” the ETS – he is postponing it indefinitely. National has no intention of ever implementing it. So much for Key’s statement,

Ours is not a political agenda here, we want a good ETS that works.”

That deserves to be immortalised,

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See also: Tumeke – Blue ignores Red to pretend to be Green while turning to Brown to subsidize big polluters

See also: Tumeke – The Emissions Trading Scam and the audacity of Farmers

The sooner the Nats admit this deception, the better for the entire country. Until then, the only sector paying the ETS is… us, the public.

Which leads on to…

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8. Tax Cuts & Government charges

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In 2009 and 2010, National cut taxes.  The rationale, as National explained in their 2008 document,

In the short term, National’s tax package will give households confidence and some cash in their back pockets to keep the economy going and to pay down debt.

In the longer term, our tax package encourages people to invest in their own skills and make best use of their abilities, because they get to keep more of any higher wages they earn. It encourages them to look for and to take up better and higher-paying jobs that make more use of their skills.

See: National Party  Tax policy

However, what National giveth with one hand; National taketh with the other.

Any benefits from the ’09 and ’10 taxcuts have been more than swallowed up (for low and middle income earners) by increases in a myriad of government and SOE charges.

The most recent have been Family Courts fees, which have risen astronomically.

From July 1 2012, services which used to be free to couples in dispute, now incur considerable court fees,

  • Child custody disputes: $220
  • Property disputes: $700
  • Hearing of any application for each half-day, or part half-day: $906

Of all National’s user-pays regimes, charging couples who are separating; highly stressed; and where violence may be involved, is mind-boggling. We thought it was miserly when National decided to tax children in the last budget – but these user-pays Family Court fees hit people who are vulnerable in the extreme,

But Family Law Specialists director Catriona Doyle says most families try to avoid handing custody and property decisions to a judge and only use the Family Court as a last resort in irresolvable conflicts.

The few people who waste the court’s time by filing repeatedly or unnecessarily won’t be put off by the fees because they’ll either be wealthy enough to afford it or earning little enough to have the fees waived, she says.

“It’s going to hit the middle class and lower income families where $220 is a lot of money.”

Women especially will be hit hard, as they are often financially disadvantaged when a relationship breaks up, Ms Doyle says.

Rather than trying to keep children out of court, the ministry should be aiming to resolve conflicts before children are affected by them, she says.

“Leaving children in a conflict situation where the parents are at war is neglect and abuse. The kids who live in that situation are damaged.”

A judge should be the person to decide if a case is genuine or flippant, especially when children are involved, she says.

“It’s not something that should be addressed by Parliament or a court registrar”.

See:  Family court fees will hurt women – lawyer

Minister of Courts, Chester Borrows, stated plainly,

What we are trying to do here is have a disincentive for people to be able to bring these matters before the court. “

See:   Family Court fees tipped to hit low earners, children

(Note: As a matter of interest, Chester Borrows is the very same Minister who stated he would be buying shares in SOEs, when they were partially-privatised. See:  Conflicts of Interest? )

National complains that  court costs have risen  from $84 million in 2004/2005 to $142m in 2010/2011 – hence Family Court fees must be imposed.

This is faulty logic, and is penalising people who are attempting to sort out damaging relationship breakdowns.  Using Family Courts is preferable to taking the law into one’s own hands. Disincentiving people from using the law – which Parliament put in place to protect us all – is like disincentivising people from calling the Police if you’ve been burgled.

Instead, if we are being “encouraged to resolve issues ourselves”, find the burglar; beat the crap out of him; and retrieve our stolen property ourselves.  That is what Borrows is advocating.

Further using Borrows’ “logic”, National should implement high user-pays charges in public hospitals, as  ” a disincentive for people ” to use hospitals.

It sounds ridiculous? It is ridiculous.

It is also dangerous. Borrows and his idiotic fellow ministers are playing with peoples’ lives. Putting expensive, punitive barriers up at a time when families most need society’s help defies logic, common sense, and most of all, compassion.

But then – when did anyone ever accuse the National Party of being compassionate?

And will the Dear Leader, John Key,  take responsibility if something goes horribly wrong, and an emotionally-stressed family explodes into violence because they had no way out through the Family Court? Like hell he will.

This is a death waiting to happen.

On your miserable head be it, Mr Borrows.

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9. More on those tax cuts

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As an aside, National’s 2008 Tax document makes this derisable claim,

” This makes it absolutely clear that to fund National’s tax package there is no requirement for additional borrowing and there is no requirement to cut public services.

Jeez. No wonder people don’t trust politicians.

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10. Alcohol law reforms

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The latest offerings of irrationality from John Key’s Universe; evidently Dear Leader does not believe that minimum pricing for alcohol would work. He suggests (with a straight face, no doubt) that minimum pricing for booze would not work because it could drive people to drink lower quality liquor instead of reducing consumption,

What typically happens is people move down the quality curve and still get access to alcohol.”

See:   PM sceptical dearer booze will cut consumption

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Mr Key, how do I mock thee? Let me count the ways… (with apologies to Elizabeth Browning)

 How do I mock thee? Let me count the ways.
I ridicule thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when laughing at you hard
For the ends of Banality and Idiotic Government.
I mock thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and ecobulb-light.
I deride thee freely, as men strive for human rights.
I caricature thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I jeer at thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my voter’s faith.
I scorn thee with a scorn I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I sneer at thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if  The People choose,
I shall but take the piss better after you are voted out.

Why so contemptuous, you ask?

Because raising the price of  tobacco has been the number one tool of both Labour and National governments.

As recently as 12 June, John Key stated on a Fairfax online interview,

The Government is unashamedly trying to deter people from smoking through price, particularly young people who are very sensitive to rising tobacco prices. I know this is difficult for those that have smoked for quite some time, but for your long term health I can only encourage you to try and give up. “

See: Blogpost –  Fairfax; An hour with Dear Leader (@ 12.57)

So high-pricing for tobacco is useful for ” the Government is unashamedly trying to deter people from smoking ” – but not for alcohol?

Raising prices to deter smoking works. But raising prices to deter binge-drinking doesn’t?

It boggles the mind how Dear Leader can hold two conflicting viewpoints, simultaneously, without suffering a brain explosion.

Or is it simply that the liquor industry is a generous donor of funds for National’s election campaigns?

In the meantime, life goes on,

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See:   Ambulance base for Wellington party central

See:   ‘Pressure valve’ medics patch up night’s drunks

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

See:   Drunk kids flooding our hospitals

See previous blogpost: A kronically inept government

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11. Government Cost cutting = Economic suicide

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On 12 May, this blogger posted a piece on National’s slashing of our MAF biosecurity.

In part, I posted this dire warning,

Now, we have the prospect of  having entire suburbs in Auckland being contained in some kind of loose “quarantine”, after a Queensland fruit fly was caught in a pest surveillance trap,

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Considering that the Queensland fruit fly costs the Australian economy approximately  $160 million a year, this is a very real threat  to New Zealand’s own $5 billion annual horticultural industry.

Five billion dollars, per year, every year. All under threat because this government wanted to save a few million bucks by employing fewer biosecurity staff.

As if the discovery of a  painted apple moth in 1999; the varroa mite infestation of our honey hives in 2000; and other isolated instances of pests found in this country did not serve as a warning to us – National  proceeded to cut back on biosecurity staffing.

This blogger wonders sometimes (actually, all the time) what goes through the minds of our esteemed Honourable Ministers of Her Majesty’s Government. These are supposedly well-educated men and women, with support from thousands of University-educated advisors – and yet they still manage to accomplish the most incredibly moronic decisions conceivable.

National has put at risk this country’s  $5 billion industry – simply to save a few million dollars.

They have risked horticulturalist’s businesses; workers their jobs; and all the down-stream economic activity – to save a small percentage of billions.

This blogger has three pieces of advice for all concerned,

  1. John Key must  accept the resignation of  David Carter, Minister for Bio-security immediatly.
  2. National must reinstate biosecurity services to pre-2009 levels.
  3. Horticulturalists (and others who own farms and other agricultural businesses) should carefully consider whether National is working on their behalf – or for the sake of implementing false economies. What is the point of an orchardist voting for National – if National is going to screw his/her business by cutting back on essential government services such as biosecurity?!?!

Hopefully, this  fruit fly is a lone bug; perhaps a stowaway in someone’s bag or in a container offloaded at Ports of Auckland.

If so, once again we’ve been lucky.

But how long will our  luck hold out?

See previous blogpost: Bugs and balls-ups!

It seems our luck ran out some years ago,

The kiwifruit growers’ association is considering legal action over the outbreak of the vine disease PSA and says it can’t rule out seeking compensation.

An independent review released on Wednesday into how the bacterium came into New Zealand has found there were shortcomings with biosecurity systems, but it does not say that caused the entry.

The disease was first confirmed near Te Puke in 2010 and has infected 40% of the country’s kiwifruit orchards. It is expected to cost the industry $410 million dollars in the next five years.

Ministry for Primary Industries director general Wayne McNee asid the review did not determine how PSA came into the country but does show where improvements can be made.

NZ Kiwifruit Growers president Neil Trebilco says he can’t rule out that compensation will be sought by growers.

See:   Kiwifruit growers take legal advice over PSA

A damning report into the outbreak of kiwifruit virus PSA is another in a series of warnings over the biosecurity system that the Government has failed to act on, Labour’s biosecurity spokesman Damien O’Connor says.

The independent report was commissioned by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) following the devastation caused by the virus in the Bay of Plenty orchards with an estimated cost of $400 million.

The report, released yesterday, found “shortcomings” in New Zealand’s biosecurity system although it could not say how the incursion had occurred.

It said MPI could improve protections and must work more closely with industry groups.

The report also suggested resources be moved from low-risk industries to high-risk ones such as the kiwifruit sector.

O’Connor said there needed to be a complete overhaul of the biosecurity system.

The National Government cut biosecurity funding in 2009 and had accepted the growing risk caused by faults in the system, he said.   “

See:  Labour: Govt ignored biosecurity warning

Anyone with two inter-connecting neurons would’ve figured out very quickly that if a government cuts biosecurity then we put ourselves at dire risk of pests entering our country. Like the varroa mite. Or PSA bacterium.

With approximately  550,000 shipping containers and 4.5 million people entering New Zealand each year, it stands to reason that we are at extreme risk of unwanted organisms being brought into the country.

National was warned as far back as 2009, when 60 Biosecurity jobs were “dis-established”.  It therefore defies understanding as to why National believed that cuts could be made to frontline MAF Biosecurity without serious consequences.

Spelling out those consequences,

  1. Millions – even hundreds of millions of dollars of valuable export dollars lost,
  2. Jobs lost,
  3. Businesses ruined,
  4. And not one single government minister taking responsibility.

The only question now remaining to be asked: how many farmers and horticulturalists will vote for National at the next election?

Remember:  you get the government you deserve.

This time, it is farmers and horticulturalists who have been warned.

See:   Risks involved in cutting MAF Biosecurity jobs

See:   Farming at risk if biosecurity jobs cut, PSA warns

See:  Minister warned about biosecurity concerns

See:  Fruit restrictions in place

See:  Biosecurity savings ‘false economy’

See:  Biosecurity NZ webpage

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12. The Terminally Ill

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During the 2008 general election, Prime Minister  John Key adopted the Herceptin campaign.

Pharmac was funding herceptin treatment for women suffering from breast cancer only up to a nine week period.  Breast cancer patients wanted treatment extended to twelve months. Pharmac refused, stating there was no evidence that an extended treatment period would prove beneficial,

Pharmac CEO,  Matthew Brougham, said,

A fresh review of the science and other information has failed to convince us that 12-month treatments offer any additional benefits over the concurrent nine week treatment.”

See:  Nats pledge funding for 12-month Herceptin course

Enter,  John Key. As the 2008 election campaign swung into full force, Key leapt upon the issue,

National recognises that many Kiwis have limited access to modern medicines. We will improve that access.

“We will boost overall funding for medicines and speed up the registration of new medicines, with final approval remaining in New Zealand.

“These initiatives will be funded within the indicative health spending allocations in the Prefu [Pre-election Fiscal and economic Update].

“They are also further examples of our determination to shift spending into frontline services for patients, rather than backroom costs.”

See:  Key says Nats would fund 12-month Herceptin treatment

The election promise was one of many that Key made (along with tax cuts and the perennial “getting tough on crime), and on 10 December 2008, the Prime Minister-elect announced,

I am proud to lead a government that has honoured such a commitment to the women of New Zealand.

“The commitment was part of National’s first 100-days action plan.  I am pleased that the Herceptin funding policy effectively applies from the swearing in of the Government on 19 November.”

See:  Government honours Herceptin promise

Unfortunately, John Key’s belief that ” National recognises that many Kiwis have limited access to modern medicines. We will improve that access. We will boost overall funding for medicines and speed up the registration of new medicines, with final approval remaining in New Zealand   seems only to apply during election campaigns.

At other times, Key  does not seem to want to know.

Allyson Lock is one of five New Zealanders who suffers from Pompe Disease. It is a terminal condition.

There is medication available (called Myozyme ), but it currently receives no funding from Pharmac agency Pharmac.  It is an expensive drug, but without that medication, Allyson and her fellow sufferers will not survive.

See: Mum not prepared to wait and die

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Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking Blog Pompe

IN SEARCH OF CURE: Allyson Lock will travel to Brisbane every fortnight for five years to receive treatment for the rare incurable disease Pompe.

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Allyson and her group have appealed to John Key for funding for their medication – without success. In fact, Key wants nothing to do with Allyson and other Pompe sufferers.

At a recent “on-line  chat” with John Key, hosted by Fairfax Media, several people including this blogger attempted to put a question to the Prime Minister; why was National not prepared to fund medicine for Pompe as they had for breast cancer sufferers?

See previous blogpost:   Fairfax; An hour with Dear Leader

After all, Pharmac had expressed the same reservations regarding the efficacy of  Myozyme as they did with long-term  herceptin treatment. Yet, that did not stop Key from ensuring breast cancer sufferers had full access to a year-long course of herceptin.

John Key and Health Minister Tony Ryall have wiped their hands of Allyson.

It is not election year.

So there are no political points to be scored in saving the lives of five fellow New Zealanders.

I look forward to John Key proving me wrong; a link to this blogpost will be sent to media as will as the Prime Minister’s office. The rest is in his hands.

To Prime Minister, John Key;

Fund treatment for Allyson and others, Mr Key. They deserve no less than breast cancer sufferers. You can either oversee funding for their treatment – or attend their funerals.

Your call, Mr Prime Minister.

See previous blogpost:   Priorities?

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*

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Related blogpost

The wheels are coming off, and there’s a funny ‘plink-plink’ sound

A John, a Tony, and a Winston

Additional

David Cunliffe:  Speech – The Dolphin and the Dole Queue

Gordon Campbell:  Efficiency Is Not Your Friend

Acknowledgement

Thanks to ‘S’  for proof-reading.

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= fs =

Of Polls, Politics, & Pollution

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“Do as I say, Not as I Do”, is not a particularly savvy way to relate to an important electorate such as Epsom,

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Full Story

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It beggars belief that a Party leader could ask voters in a given electorate to vote for the candidate of another Party – whilst he himself supports his own Party’s candidate.  John Key has stated categorically,

“‘I’m going to vote for Goldsmith. I am the National Party leader and I am going to vote for the National Party candidate and give my party vote to National.Source

One wonders how National supporters in Epsom must be feeling.

The leader of their Party hints that they should vote for ACT’s John Banks, whilst Key himself votes for the National candidate, Paul Goldsmith?

And if Paul Goldsmith is the “sacificial lamb” – why is he standing as an electorate candidate anyway?  National could just as easily – and more honestly – simply not stand a candidate and mount a publicity campaign for the Party Vote only,

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In effect, National’s  electorate candidate is not really campaigning to win. And if he doesn’t want to win, why is he standing? To give  Epsom National supporters a “wink and a nod” to Electorate Vote ACT and Party Vote National?

And if such is the case – what possible legitimacy does that give ACT when they can’t attract electorate support on their own merits?

So much for ACT being a Party that encourages success through merit. Especially when they apply the merit-based principle to Maori:  Maori Must Earn Auckland Seats On Merit .

As the ACT statement sez;  “Let our bright boys and girls EARN their seats.

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ACT and National’s  machinations in Epsom are, of course, due to ACT’s low poll ratings. Practically every single poll has them around the 1.5-3.5% mark. Under MMPs rules, if they cannot cross the magical 5% Party Vote threshold – or – win an Electorate Seat, they will end up like  The Alliance and NZ First: out of Parliament.

(Despite what critics of proportional representation would have us believe, MMP is not a very ‘forgiving’ system to small Parties.)

The latest Horizon Poll makes for very interesting reading. Horizon is the only polling company that prompts Undecideds to state a preference. Under this system, the results appear to give a far more realistic result of Voter’s intentions, rather than the ‘fantasmagorical‘ results that have National at 53-55%-plus,

Horizon is the only polling company publishing results for don’t know voters.

Horizon’s results are for

  • Decided voters
  • Undecided voters with a preference

who are

  • Registered to vote and who
  • Intend to vote.

The poll finds

  • National has 36.8% of registered voters (down 2.7% since September 22)
  • Labour 25.7% (-1.1%)
  • Green Party 11.6% (up 0.9%)
  • New Zealand First 6.2% (- 1.1%)
  • Mana Party 2.3% (+ 0.3%)
  • Act 3.4%  (down 1.4% from September and down from a high of 5.3% in May shortly after Don Brash became leader)
  • Maori Party 1.7% (+0.7%)
  • United Future 0.4% ( 0% in September)
  • Conservative Party of New Zealand 2.2% (new party, first time measured)
  • New Citizens 0%
  • Other parties 1.2%

National has highest voter loyalty:  76.2% of its 2008 voters still support it. It has picked up 19.9% of Act voters and 9.1% of Labour voters (while Labour has picked up 7.6% of National’s).

The Greens have 68.7% voter loyalty and are gaining 2008 voters from the Maori Party (23.1%) and Labour (14.6%).

Labour has 63% voter loyalty, losing 14.3% to the Greens, 9.1% to National and 3.7% to New Zealand First.

The Maori Party has 30.8% voter loyalty, losing 23.1% of its 2008 voters to the Greens and 19.1% to Mana.

Assuming John Banks wins the Epsom electorate seat for Act, Peter Dunne retains Ohariu-Belmont, the Maori Party retains its four electorate seats and Hone Harawira retains Te Tai Tokerau, a 122 seat Parliament  would result, with a two Maori Party seat overhang, comprising:

National 50

Act 5

Maori party 4

United Future 1

Current governing coalition: 60 seats

Labour 35

Green 16

NZ First 8

Total: 59 seats

Mana 3

Horizon Research says a great deal depends on the support New Zealand First attracts at November 26.

Horizon polls have had the party at 6% or higher since November 2010. (Note the poll’s margin of error is +/- 2.2%).

Source

If correct, National is in trouble.  Their chances of a second term are not guaranteed, and judging by the public’s low opinion of National’s performance of the grounding of the m.v. Rena; the double credit-rating downgrades; the questionable veracity of the so-called Standard & Poors  “email”; and various promises made that have not been kept, John Key’s “teflon” image is definitely beginning to show signs of wear and tear.

And with the RWC behind us, and the public “partyed-out”, a return to politicking may be a welcomed diversion for many. Especially as people begin to focus on issues such as asset sales and the sales of farmland – both contentious and highly unpopular with the public.  In a way, the RWC may even strengthen opposition to asset/farm sales to foreigners.

After all, if we’re good enough to beat the world in rugby, then  why the dickens aren’t we good enough to hold on to our taongas?! Explain that, Dear Leader!!

On the other hand, though Labour leader Phil Goff has consistently polled lower than Key, his dogged determination to persevere and not fold under media scrutiny may actually earn him “brownie points” with the public.

Goff can wear the label of  “underdog” with real credibility. If Labour can play on this in a subtle manner, and show that Goff does not cave under pressure; that he keeps on like the proverbial ‘Energizer Bunny’ when all seems lost; and that he doesn’t rely on shallow charisma and meaningless smiles and utterances – he is in with a fighting chance.

God knows that lesser mortals would’ve probably chucked it in long before now, and call for a replacement from the “benches”.

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Another Horizon Poll has shown what many suspected would be the reaction from New Zealanders over the grounding of the m.v. Rena: that the government was slow of the mark and wasted precious time in delaying action,

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Source: Horizon Polls

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Taken in isolation, the grounding and response from government and statutory bodies would probably have raised no more than slight annoyance from the public.

But the grounding of the Rena is now the third major disaster this country has experienced; on top of the Pike River Mine explosions and the Christchurch earthquakes.

In both instances, central government made promises to locals that – in hindsight – may have been unrealistic at best, and irresponsible at worst. Public patience with the ever-smiling, waving, John Key may be wearing just a bit thin.

Then on top of all that, was the near-disaster of the Rugby World Cup’s opening night. The government had well and truly taken their collective eyes of the ball that night, and it is pure good luck that no one was seriously injured or killed in the mayhem.

Unrealistic promises and slow responses were only the beginning.

We also have the government intending to bring deep-sea oil drilling to our coastal waters. More than half the country by now must be asking themselves,

Just hang on a mo’, Mr Prime Minister! If we can barely cope with a single stranded freighter, sitting on the surface of the sea – how the heck are we going to cope with a major oil disaster that might be two or three times the depth of the Gulf of Mexico disaster?! Aside from hoping for good luck that nothing goes wrong, we’re not really prepared are we, Mr Key?

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To make things worse, is the disquieting suspicion that our de-regulated safety regime; lax building codes; and continual cutbacks to government workers are  contributing to a systematic running-down of essential services. Especially when even  emergency services are now starting to feel the blades of National’s  savage cuts,

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Full Story

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When the aspirational middle class Baby Boomers start to feel that their comfort zones are threatened, government politicians should take heed. That’s when we throw out governments. We don’t like our “comfort zones” upset. (It upsets our delicate tummies.)

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Now let’s really stir the political pot of discontent;   our youth seem to have re-discovered their own political power and realised that leaving matters to the Older Generation (us) may not achieve the outcomes they desire. God knows our generation has succeeded in wrecking the global economy; threatening the stability of the Eurozone; and bringing the once great super power that is the United States, to it’s knees.

Young folk have woken up to the world around them – and they are not very happy at what they find,

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Full Story

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The recent government interference in Student Union affairs (forcing voluntary unionism upon people who may not necessarily wish for it) should be a stark wake-up call to young people that National governments – far from being “hands off” and opposed to “nanny statish” behaviour – can be just as controlling as their counterparts allegedly were.

In fact, more so. After all, this “hands off” government did force almalgation on Aucklanders without any democratic referendum being conducted. National had no hesitation in passing legislation to ban cellphone usage whilst driving (but not banning  applying makeup or eating whilst driving). Then they lifted the driving age. And have begun liquor law reforms. And John Key is even now contemplating the ungodly “Nanny Statish” policy of making Kiwisaver compulsory!! Oh dear gods – whatever next?!

Oh, that’s right – National wanted to  extend Police powers to allow greater video surveillance in the community. (Which even ACT decided was a step too far.)

All in all, the gloss has worn away from this government, and it’s track record of the last three years cannot be dismissed with a smile and a wave, with a hollow promise chucked in for good measure.

And young New Zealanders are starting to flex their political muscle.

Not too bad, on top of winning the rugby world cup, eh?

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Priorities?

19 October 2011 66 comments

National Government priorities:

Amount spent by government on the Rugby World Cup: $39 million

Total amount of public spending: $200+ million

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Amount spent on  ‘plastic waka’: $2 million

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Extra amount spent on “party fanzones” to cater for extra crowds: $5.5 million

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Amount spent by government on 34 new ministerial BMWs: $???   (“Commercially sensitive” – but retail cost, $200,000 each.)

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Amount spent by MPs on accomodation and travel  in just six months: $7.69 million

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Amount required to keep five people alive, who suffer from the rare Pompe disease:  overpriced  (according to the government),

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It seems that this government can spend millions on rugby, party zones, luxury limousines, ministerial travel and other perks – but spending money to save the lives of our fellow New Zealanders is “unaffordable?

Well, at least this illustrates the priorities of this government like nothing else does. It is obvious what is more important to John Key and his colleagues in the National Party.

What makes this tragedy even more ghastly is that in 2008, John Key campaigned on behalf of  women suffering from breast cancer for Pharmac to fully  fund herceptin. Pharmac at that time had decided to fund only a nine week course – whilst campaigners were demanding a full 12 month period of funding.

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Source

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Perhaps the difference between Mr Hill’s case, suffering from Pompe’s disease, is that 2008 was an election year and National was campaigning hard against an incumbent Labour government, led by an experienced, politically savy,  and fairly popular  prime minister.

National of course, won the 2008 election and Key “made good” on his election promise to force Pharmac to extend funding for herceptin,

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This year, is also an election year – but National is high in the public opinion polls and John Key is considerably ahead of his nearest rival, Phil Goff.  John Key therefore has no need to “play to the public“. He can afford to be “somewhere else” when a dying man knocks on his office door.

This is a shameful state of affairs. This government can find money to spend on luxury items; spend-up large on a rugby tournament and party zones; etc – but $5 million is somehow “unaffordable”?!?! Only the most soulless government could behave in this manner.

How craven for a Prime Minister not to have the courage to meet a dying man. And how gutless to have security guards do the Dear Leader’s dirty work in turning away Mr Hill.

Perhaps it’s not the sort of photo-op that Mr Key favours?

Mr Prime Minister – I challenge  you to  extend full treatment to Laurie Hill and other sufferers of  Pompe disease. I challenge you to do for sufferers of  Pompe disease what you promised for breast cancer sufferers in 2008.

Hell, I’ll even close down this Blog if you do. It’ll be one less critical voice niggling at you and your government.

Are you up for the challenge, Mr Prime Minister?

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+++ Updates +++

An email sent to the Prime Minister and  Minister of Health,

from:    [email]
to:    Tony Ryall <tony.ryall@parliament.govt.nz>,
Prime Minister John Key <john.key@parliament.govt.nz>
bcc:    [email]
date:    Sat, Oct 22, 2011 at 10:28 PM

Sirs,

You may be aware that there are five people in New Zealand who desperately require assistance to treat their condition, Pompe’s disease. These people are dying from their illness and require a treatment of myozyme to survive.

Three years ago, you campaigned to have herceptin extended from a 9 week treatment, to a full 12 months – effectively over-ruling Pharmac. This was done at the desperate request of women suffering from breast cancer.

I ask that you do the same for sufferers of Pompe’s disease. I’m sure you know who these people are.

You are your colleagues were only too happy to spend $36 million on the Rugby World Cup. Plus another $5.5 million on extensing the “Partyzones” in Auckland. Well, we now need that same generosity of spirit to help save five lives.

You may do it from a senseless of generosity and knowing it is the right thing to do.

Or, you may do it because it is hardly the sort of election issue that you want clouding your campaign.

The important thing is that  the right decision is made – there are five people counting on you.

Regards,
-Frank Macskasy

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Useful Email addresses

Prime Minister, John Key

john.key@parliament.govt.nz

Health Minister, Tony Ryall

tony.ryall@parliament.govt.nz

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Additional reading

Editorial: Behind a penguin on priority list

New Zealand Pompe Network

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Acknowledgement

Thanks to Sharlene for bringing this issue to my attention.

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New Warnings: R.W.C.

16 September 2011 Leave a comment

Police and Fire Service have voiced strong concerns about the Rugby World Cup Authority  proposed expansion of the waterfront “Party Zone”, after serious overcrowding on the Cup opening night (Friday 9 September).

Just to go on-the-record, for future reference;

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The Radio NZ report above clearly expresses Police concerns,

“The police say plans to expand the rugby fan zone in downtown Auckland allow for a bigger crowd than would be safe.”

A Fairfax  article goes further,

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Specifically,

“But there is debate between World Cup organisers and the police over how many people should be allowed into the overflow area, with police saying it can only be properly managed if the numbers are capped at 8,000 and not the 10,000 or more officials say it can handle…

…Sergeant Gavin Campbell said police supported the application but believed a maximum of 8,000 people on Captain Cook Wharf, which is two-thirds the size of Queens Wharf, was a ”realistic number” to manage.

He also said conditions needed to include safety fencing around the wharf, extra security guards and extra lighting.”

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The NZ Herald reported Police and Fire Service concerns in the strongest terms,

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The article goes on to express specific Police concerns,

“…Their submission to the authority said the proposed changes increased the likelihood of someone falling into the water “from possible to probable”.

The national alcohol harm reduction co-ordinator for the police, Sergeant Gavin Campbell, told the hearing of several concerns:

* Temporary fencing around Captain Cook Wharf would collapse if 100 people pushed against it.

* The only lighting on the wharf – two floodlights – would create shadowed areas encouraging opportunistic theft and other crime.

* The counting of people entering the wharf had failed on Friday; with two gates it would only get worse.

Mr Campbell’s most serious objections were on the issue of security guards. Police had already been forced to cover for the “inadequate” provision of contracted guards on the waterfront, which significantly reduced their resources, he said.

An extra 140 guards were now being sought for trains, and not enough were available to man another wharf.

“The well is dry in respect of the security guards, and would be a concern if [the Party Central organisation] was to simply redistribute what has clearly been shown to be an inadequate resource [on Queens Wharf].”

Mr Campbell also questioned the capacity of Captain Cook Wharf. He said it was two-thirds the size of Queens Wharf, which had coped with only 12,000 on Friday.

Therefore 8000 would be a sensible capacity for Captain Cook Wharf.

Fire Service assistant area commander Steve Lakin suggested consultants be employed to establish how many people could safely be on Captain Cook Wharf.

But the Government’s Party Central representative at the hearing, Peter Winder, said Captain Cook had fewer buildings and more open space than Queens Wharf…”

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The proposal to consider expanding the so-called “Party Zone”, despite serious Police and Fire Service concerns, is being heard by the Rugby World Cup Authority.

The Rugby World Cup Authority is a government organisation, created under the Rugby World Cup 2011 (Empowering) Act 2010 .

The RWCA members are appointed  “…by the Minister for the Rugby World Cup after consultation with the Minister of Justice, Minister for Economic Development and Minister for the Environment.”  Membership consists of the following government appointees,

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Chair:    Sir Bruce Robertson

Deputy:    Hugh Rennie QC

Members:

Robert (Bob) Batty

Paula Beever

Lindsay Daysh

Whaimutu (Whai) Dewes

Alan Dormer

Rachel Dunningham

Andrew Green

David Hill

Gregory (Greg) Hill

Gavin Jones

David Kirkpatrick

Mark Lyne

Matanuku Mahuika

Leigh McGregor

David McMahon

Robert (Rob) Munro

Karyn Sinclair

Mark St Clair

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So let’s be totally clear about this: the decision to expand “Party Central” will be determined by the Rugby World Cup Authority. Membership of the RWCA is determined by central government, under Rugby World Cup 2011 (Empowering) Act 2010.  Any decision to expand the “Party Zone” on Auckland’s Wharf will be contrary to Police and Fire Service reservations.

Are we all clear on this?

Because if/when something goes wrong again, it should be abundantly clear to even the most ardent  National/ACT supporter where responsibility lies.

We were very lucky last Friday, on Opening Night. But that luck may not last forever.

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See also:

Minister in Charge of R.W.C. (Royal Wellington-based Cock-up)

What killed Rugby?

Just what we need

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Postscript:

I’ve been thinking…

National’s Very Kiwi Coup of the Auckland waterfront and RWC in that city, is a No Lose Scenario for the Left.

To explain;

Outcome #1: More cock-ups; public transport fails; people are seriously inconvenienced; public  anger grows; and a  repeat of the Opening Night fiasco results in this government being revealed  as the Emporer With No Clothes.

Result: Public scorn on National, who are finally revealed to be incompetant at not just “organising a piss-up in a brewery” – but at the more vitally important things such as job creation; building the economy;  stemming the outflow of our talented people to Australia, etc, etc, etc.

Outcome #2: The government runs a thouroughly efficient RWC throughout the country; the trains run on time; no one is inconvenienced; and we’re all Happy chappies!

Result: Yay!

But before anyone thinks that I’ve crossed over into the political “Twilight Zone” by morphing into a National supporter (*stomach heaves*) – the reason I cheer National’s effective management of the RWC is, because, we have clear evidence that the State can and does run things effectively and efficiently. The mantra of neo-liberals that only the private sector can deliver good outcomes is disproven – and in a very, very public way.

Thank you – National!

No Lose scenario for the Left.

Own-goal for the Right.

It doesn’t get any better, folks.

Now we just sit back and wait…

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Minister in Charge of R.W.C. (Royal Wellington-based Cock-up)

13 September 2011 3 comments

The government has launched, what is in effect, a “Very Kiwi Coup” in taking over certain aspects  of the RWC in Auckland; the “fanzone” at Queens Wharf, and

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Source

Listen to Murray McCully on Checkpoint

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However, it is worthwhile to note that central Government already held responsibility for several major aspects of this event. The Prime Minister, John Key, cannot easily dismiss his government’s culpability in last Friday’s fiasco with a smile and brief comment,

“I am more than happy to apologise to those individuals involved, but at the end of the day, the responsibility rests with the delivery agent that is in Auckland.”  Source

In fact, only two years ago,  Key was warned of severe shortcomings to RWC planning,

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Full Story

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In July 2009, the government received a report from the then-Auckland Regional Transport Authority (now replaced by the Auckland Transport Agency – but more on that in a moment) on Rugby World Cup transport planning. The report stated, in part,

“The impression is that the level of public transport required for RWC2011 is a little above normal. The levels of patron movement and operational standard [needed for the RWC] are in reality significantly above what is currently delivered.” Source

Why is this important?

Because Murray McCully holds several portfolios,

  • Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Minister for Sport and Recreation
  • Minister for the Rugby World Cup
  • Member, Privileges Committee

As such, Minister McCully holds a role in government over-seeing the smooth running of the Rugby World Cup event in this country. (Otherwise, why hold such a position in the first place?)

So for John Key to attempt to shift responsibility for oversight of the RWC planning for Auckland to the “delivery agent that is in Auckland” – then we are witnessing a certain degree of buck-passing.

The body overseeing transport organisation is the Auckland Transport Agency,

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This Agency was set up by central government in November 2009 and Transport Minister Steven Joyce said that “the Auckland Transport Agency will be responsible for all local authority transport functions, including roads and public transport“.

Of the ATA’s Board of seven directors, five  are appointed by the government and two by the  ‘new’, amalgamated super-city Auckland Council.

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The ATA is therefore a ‘creature’ of central government, and is stacked with a majority of Directors of  government appointees.

And finally,  Veolia Transport Auckland operates the Auckland passenger rail network on behalf of Auckland Transport, as per the current ideology that “private enterprise can deliver a better, more efficient service” than Council or State organisations.

Veolia was directly managing the rail system and had supposedly prepared for heightened demand for RWC patrons and other members of the public,

“During September and October 2011 we will be increasing our services to provide higher frequency and higher capacity rail services during the Rugby World Cup.”

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It therefore seems bizarre that Central Government has attempted to blame Auckland Council for the inadequate transport arrangements of last Friday. Even the low number of Police – 200 by one report – who courageously  managed a crowd of 200,000+ , could not be made the responsibility of the Auckland Council.

Last time I looked, police were under the command of the Police Commissioner (Peter Marshall), who reports to the Minister of (Police (Judith Collins) – not the mayor of Auckland.

It is obvious that a sporting event of this magnitude; spanning the entire country (not just held in Auckland); and requiring the full resources of the state; required hands-on over-sight by central government.

It is further symptomatic of the shambles from last Friday, that Murray McCully has only now called for more planning around the Qureen’s Wharf  “fanzone”,

“Over the weekend I held discussions with the Queens Wharf management team, including Auckland Festival Trust and the NZ2011 Office. Yesterday, I formally instructed them to form a plan for the accommodation of the public based on the large numbers we saw last Friday, and in the expectation that even without a major event operating, numbers might flow over from Queens Wharf.”  Source

It is extraordinary that he has only today realised that large numbers of people attending would require special planning. Unbelievable.

Murray McCully is the Minister for the Rugby World Cup. Unless he relinquished that role sometime in the last few days, responsibility rests with him. As do the government controlled agencies such as the Police and ATA. As such, he and his well-paid officials should be over-seeing the planning and co-ordination of state and local agencies for this event.

Otherwise, next time it may not end so well. We were lucky – very lucky indeed that no one was seriously  injured or killed. It was only by good lucky; the good nature (generally) of the crowd; and the cool heads of the police that prevented a tragedy.

As one person wrote, in an email to the Prime Minister,

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“Dear Mr Key …

You are extremely lucky that there was no death or serious injury from crushing or trampling in Quay Street during the opening celebrations.

“When we got off the ferry, Quay Street was packed so we were squeezed amongst all the people … It was not a safe feeling so we turned back. People were trying to move in both directions, both to and from the ferry and there were many people who were trying to stay still in front of the big screen to watch the … entertainment.

“A girl of about 12 being pushed beside me became hysterical yelling and screaming over and over `stop pushing me’.

“I saw my friend on top of the fence yelling at me to get to it and climb over it down to the lower floating pontoons. I eventually managed to get to the fence and was helped over and down (it was about a two-metre drop with a gap where I could have fallen into the water) onto the pontoons … It was along those pontoons that we eventually got to the ferry building where we could catch a ferry to get out of there.

“Party Central for 12,000 people for a city of Auckland’s size was ridiculous.

Jan Gillespie
Auckland resident “

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This is one cock-up that John Key cannot smile and wave his way out of.

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Continued here: New Warnings: R.W.C.

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