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Posts Tagged ‘Ruth Richardson’

Bill English – do you remember Colin Morrison?

4 February 2013 21 comments

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A message to the Hon. Bill English;

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English slams Shearer's speech

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From the NZ Herald on 27 January, uttered by Bill English,

On top of that, Labour still hasn’t apologised for their wasteful policies the last time they got their hands on the economy.

See: IBID

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Firstly, let’s review recent history in decidely more accurate terms,

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New Zealand Government Debt To GDP

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The IMF (International Monetary Fund) chart above shows that from 2000 to 2008, the Labour government paid down debt, from 33.4% in 2000 to 17.4% in 2008  (a near-halving of our sovereign debt) to  when National took the reigns of government.

Some will even recall that Labour Finance Minister, Michael Cullen, posted several surpluses during his tenure as Finance Minister,

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$2,300,000,000: Dr Cullen’s finest hour (29 May 2002)

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Cullen prepares to trumpet high surplus (21 Feb 2003)

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Cullen Unwilling To Share Fiscal Surplus Through Tax Cuts (18 Oct 2004)

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Hide attacks Cullen for hiding huge surplus (16 March 2005)

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Record surplus, but Cullen ‘won’t know about tax cuts until December’ (11 Oct 2006)

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Cullen confirms huge surplus (10 Oct 2007)

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Cullen quick to emphasise volatility after surplus hit (19 Feb 2008)

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Just as well that Cullen resisted strident calls for massive tax cuts. Instead, perhaps being the wisest man in the decade, realised that common sense demanded that we pay down our sovereign debt, rather than splurge out on an almighty cash-lolly scramble.

Had Cullen yielded to calls for tax cuts instead of addressing our debt, our current sovereign debt would probably be approaching  Greece’s.

But Bill English and other National/ACT sycophants don’t want us to know this. It makes Labour look good. And that’s the last thing they want.

After 2008, as National gave away tax revenue on the form of two unaffordable tax cuts in 2009 and 2010, debt skyrocketed from 17.4% to 37% of GDP.

Now, if  one was to use the same mis-information as Bill English, John Key, et al, I could shout from the roof-tops that the rise in debt was due wholly to National’s mis-management of the government books.

The reality, of course, is that the 2007/08 Global Finance Crisis – as well as National’s incompetance in giving away tax cuts we could ill afford – both had a part to play in our increased borrowing.

Secondy, let’s deal with English’s claim,

On top of that, Labour still hasn’t apologised for their wasteful policies the last time they got their hands on the economy.

Budget expenditures from the early 1990s to 2012 reveal an interesting story,

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New Zealand Government Budget

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The early 1990s (characterised by Finance Minister, Ruth Richardson) was one of massive cuts to health, welfare, sale of State houses,  and other social services. The same can be said of the late 1990s, where de-regulation; so-called “reforms“; cuts to state services;  and increasing User Pays led to growing poverty and the widening income gap.

Eventually, those cuts to state services had dire consequences. For example, the health sector was particularly badly hit,

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Claim many burned out by health sector reforms – (21 Dec 1996)

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More health changes tipped – (8 March 1997)

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Must pay for ‘wants’ – (19 July 1997)

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Cuts to hospital services expected – (8 Aug 1997)

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‘Serious flaws’ in Govt’s health funding formula – (31 Jan 1998)

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GP hits out at health reforms – (3 Feb 1998)

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Funding for Dunedin Eye Clinic Slashed – (26 Feb 1998)

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Shipley, Bolger sorry for deaths of patients  – (3 April 1998)

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Health cuts spell doom for services – (30 April 1998)

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Hospitals now owe $1.3 billion – (4 June 1998)

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Staff shortages could hit patient care, say nurses – (4 May 1999)

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Public hospital ills blamed on funding – (20 Aug 1999)

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Health spending rates poorly  – (24 Aug 1999)

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The Health “reforms”, along with chronic under-funding, had their inevitable consequences,

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Death The Northland Way (15 Oct 1997)

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Died waiting for by-pass  (6 April 1998)

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Rau Williams and Colin Morrison – both with entirely different lives;  living at opposite ends of the country; one Maori, the other Pakeha – both suffered the same fate. They died because government cutbacks on spending (see red square in  above chart) had reduced the Health budget, and as media reports above show – were impacting harshly on our society.

These two men – and  perhaps others who died quietly, shunning the glare of publicity – died on Bill English’s watch.  As Minister responsible for Crown Health Enterprises and later Minister of Health, English could not shift responsibility to anyone else.

At one point, English was forced to concede that the Health system and funding mechanism was “flawed”,

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English may review waiting list funding  (11 April 1998)

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English agrees system flawed (19 May 1998)

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Tragically, Mr English’s “Road to Damascus” experience was too late for Mr Williams and Mr Morrison and their families.

Is it me, or does  it seem that everything National touches turns into one, big, steaming cow-patty?

Finally, by 1999 the country had had enough. On 27 November, the country went to the polls and National and their coalition ally, NZ First, were roundly defeated.

The incoming Labour-Alliance government was faced with a crippled health sector (amongst other state services that had been cut back) that had been impoverished and  was struggling to perform it’s most basic core services,

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Cancer patients face string over staff shortage – (9 June 2001)

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Maternity crisis set to get worse –  (6 July 2001)

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Despair at lack of young doctors – (11 Nov 2001)

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Local cancer patients die waiting for radiotherapy – (17 Nov 2001)

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A crisis that could only be remedied by a hands-on government prepared to make appropriate funding decisions,

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Waiting lists for elective surgery cut – (24 April 2000)

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Health Minister will end user-pays wards – (9 July 2000)

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More money promised to fund GPs, health clinics – (17 Nov 2001)

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$1.5b injection for health – (9 Dec 2001)

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Upshot of this, Mr English?

Any increase in funding of state services was necessary. After savage cuts, National created a situation where our healthcare system was unequivocally unsafe.

In fact, it had  become lethal. People were dying for lack of appropriate medical intervention.

That was the legacy of the National Government, 1989 – 1999.

So before Mr English or any of his cronies complain that Labour  spent more than National did – damn right they did. And the increased health funding under Labour probably saved an unknown number of lives.

Tell us, Mr English, do you remember Colin Morrison and Rau Williams?

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Addendum 1

By the way, Mr English, with reference to your criticism of the Green Party regarding job creation,

And to make it worse, at the same time their coalition partners the Greens are up in Auckland busy working out how to stop everything they don’t like – which includes everything to do with growth and jobs.

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There’s no need to point the finger at the Greens and blame them for lack of growth and jobs. The  inept National Party are quite efficient at stifling the economy and creating rising unemployment,

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New Zealand Unemployment Rate jan 2012 - dec 2012

See: Unemployment rate lifts to 6.7pc

See: 8000 more jobless as rate hits 6.8pc

See: Unemployment up to 7.3pc – a 13 year high

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Economy may be going backwards

See: Economy may be going backwards

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No need to invoke the Green Party (who aren’t even part of the National-led coalition) – it seems National is quite adept at grinding  the economy into the ground.

Credit where it’s due, Mr English, credit where it’s due.

Addendum 2

The Bolger-led National cut taxation-revenue by implementing two tax cuts, in 1996 and 1997. (see: Reserve Bank – New Zealand’s remarkable reforms)

Why does this sound more and more familiar?!

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References

Reserve Bank: Reserve Bank – New Zealand’s remarkable reforms (4 June 1996)

OECD: Economic Surveys: New Zealand 1996

Treasury: Briefing to Incoming Government 1996 (12 Oct 1996)

NZ Herald: McCully: Jobs backtrack no surprise

Dominion Post: Key hands-on in MFat restructuring

NZ Herald: Defence Force plan to cut costs a failure – Auditor-General

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The National Party, common sense, and sausage sizzles

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

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I’ve been involved in politics, in one form or another, for much of my life. I think I have a fairly good ‘handle’ regarding politicians; their ideologies; and their Parties.

I’ve seen Muldoon come and go; Bolger and Richardson; Shipley and English; and now Key and English, try their hand at managing our economy and spending our tax dollars.

Without exception, folks, every single National Government, from Robery Muldoon onwards, has been an apallingly bad fiscal manager.

National’s modus operandi,

  1. Cuts short term spending, worsening long-term social problems, which will become more expensive eventually, as social ills remain unaddressed,
  2. Cuts state sector employees and services, then realises that essential issues still remain,
  3. Cuts taxes when we can least afford it,
  4. Implements fiscal, political, and social policies that impact negatively on economic and social indicators,
  5. Borrows from overseas lenders when it was never necessary in the first place (or reduced borrowing, had tax cuts not been implemented)
  6. And generally makes bad choices that, long term, will cost the taxpayer more.

So – how on Earth has National ever built up a reputation of being a “sound fiscal manager” of our economy?!?!

Because every time National has been in office, it has left the country in an absolute economic shambles.

From Ruth Richardson’s “Mother of All Budgets”, to Jenny Shipley’s and Bill English’s “slash and burn” of the health sector,  state housing, Police force, and other essential state services in the late 1990s – National  has proven time and again it’s ineptness.

This Party is utterly clueless when it comes to simple matters of cause-and-effect.

One thing, though, has escaped me utterly.

How have they  sucked in the public to effect a (undeserved) reputation of sound fiscal management?

Whilst National runs deficits,  Labour, in the 2000s, ran surpluses. (A fact National attempts to hide by clumsily  persisting in re-writing history.)

See previous blogpost: Labour: the Economic Record 2000 – 2008

Case in point; Dear Leader and his minions has made a great deal about slashing the state sector. National has made deep cuts into state sector services and sacked over 2,500 much-needed employees,

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

Full Story

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As 2,500 people were sacked from their jobs – all for a grand saving of $20 million,  National belatedly realised that their slash-and-burn was little more than a false economy.

It soon became apparent that many of the sacked workers were much-needed experts in their field, and essential personnel to make the State function smoothly.

National took “appropriate action”,

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

Full Story

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

Full Story

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

Full Story

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Two thousand, five hundred of our fellow kiwis lost their jobs for “savings” of $20 million.

The Economic Development Ministry alone  increased spending on consultants, contractors, etc,  from $6.7 million in 2008-09 to $19.2 million in 2010-11. Other ministries most likely spent several million on their consultants, contractors, advisors, and Uncle Tom Cobbly.

See: ‘Consultancy culture’ cost $525m last year – Labour

So much for “savings” of $20 million.

One can only try to imagine what those 2,500 people who were sacked by National, must be feeling right now.

So the question remains; how has National managed to paint itself as a “responsible steward” of the country’s economy? Especially when a cursory study of their real performance reveals otherwise?

Tracey Watkins, writing in today’s (19 May)  ‘Dominion Post‘, may have  offered a clue,

But while these sorts of measures might be an annoyance, they do not cause widespread pain.

And in a perverse way, Europe helps Bill English’s cause. It maintains a sense of crisis while the sight of workers marching in the streets only underscores the gentle and low-fuss nature of our own austerity drive.

This is why Labour has struggled so far to run a coherent argument against National’s management of the books – the danger has always been that protesting any cuts to date look not only shrill, but profligate. To voters, less is more at the moment.

See: Kiwis are tolerating moderate austerity

A sense of crisis “. It may well be that the Middle Classes have been panicked by overseas events. There may be an under-lying fear that – like households in tough times – the country needs to cut back on spending, to avert a Greece-like melt-down in our own economy.

There may be an underlying belief  within the collective consciousness of New Zealanders that, in “tough times”, National is better at cutting than Labour. In “tough economic times”, cutting expenditure may appear to the public as more of a priority than, say, job creation.

Such feelings are not necessarily based on any reality or logical analysis of the country’s true economic situation; nor of the side-effects of cutting back on State expenditure. These may be deep-seated feelings based on how people may view the economy.

Generally speaking, people have very little experience with macro-economics; Keynesian-vs-Friedmanite economic systems; nor any real understand of how government economic policies work.

For most folk, their only experience is running the finances of their own households. Doing a household budget; paying bills;  and balancing the chequebook is the extent to most peoples’ exposure to finances.

And yet, government finances is not like household finances at all. The former is more complex, with control over fiscal and taxation policy; revenue streams;  and policies that can work to generate income for the state. The State has access to borrowings (if necessary) not open to ordinary households. By widening the tax-base, the State can increase its revenue – no easy task for ordinary households.

In short, the State has options not readily available to households.

But  through a dumbed-down media which focuses mostly on superficial political issues; mindless entertainment; and on the Here-And-Now, the public have become low-information voters.

By not being aware of the true extent of the State’s abilities, the public are trapped in a narrow paradigm of  the State being akin to “household budgets”.

So when National cuts expenditure, services, and jobs – it appears to the public to be a “common sense” plan to follow.

The public are not so aware that austerity measures can have negatives impacts on our economy and society, even in the short-term. Cutting back on government economic activity means a drop in all-round economic activity.

It is no coincidence that following Ruth Richardson’s “Mother of all Budgets“, that unemployment, company liquidations, economic growth, and other indicators worsened.

This is a Party that I would barely trust to run a sausage sizzle. They’d get rid of the volunteers; sell the barbeque; pay themselves a hefty fee; and claim success,

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The ‘mother of all budgets’

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking Mother of all budgets

Prime Minister Jim Bolger and Finance Minister Ruth Richardson make their way to the House of Representatives for the presentation of the 1991 budget. Richardson was from the radical wing of the National Party, which promoted individual liberty and small government. This was reflected in the budget, which severely cut government spending, including on welfare. Richardson proudly proclaimed her plan as the ‘mother of all budgets’, but such was its unpopularity among voters that it – along with high levels of unemployment – nearly cost National the next election.

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

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In the above graph, note the two ‘spikes’ in unemployment. The first in the early 1990s, after cuts (through the “Mother of all Budgets”)  created a rise in unemployment. The second rise occurred in the late 1990s, when the Shipley/English government again cut government services.

However, unemployment fell after the election of a Labour-led government in late 1999.

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

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The implications of austerity policies should be crystal clear to everyone:  reducing government expenditure and activity in the economy dampens overall economic activity.  Everyone is affected – no one escapes the inevitable downturn.

Hence why the new French President, Francois Hollande, has rejected austerity policies for his country. President Hollande understands full well that cutting government expenditure will result in reduced state services; more unemployment; and a drop in economic activity and  growth.

As long as the public are aware of these facts, then they can make decisions accordingly.

Ignorance of these facts will be painful, as anyone with memories of the 1990s will attest to.

In this case, ignorance is not most definitely not ‘bliss’. And no one will be exempt.

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Additional

Dominion Post: Public service cuts get deeper

Bloomberg:  Hollande Vows to Fight Austerity After Beating Sarkozy

References

Te Ara: Story – Business failures and corporate fraud

Te Ara: Story – National Party

Trading Economics: New Zealand

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From 2011 back to 1991?

1 December 2011 23 comments

Even without a Tardis, John Key’s National government is set to return New Zealand to 1991, as it plans to cut spending and make more state sector workers redundant,

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Full Story

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Yet, the NZIER is warning of dire consequences  should National proceed with more cuts to state sector spending,

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Many will recall that it was precisely brecause of severe cuts to state spending in 1991 that made New Zealand’s recession so much worse at the time. Ruth Richardson even boasted that her budget was the “Mother of All Budgets”.

Economic data is presented here, in graph form, and shows the immediate conseqences that impacted on New Zealand soon after Richardson’s Budgetary cuts were implemented. Unemployment skyrocketed to approximately 11% – the highest since Depression days in the 1930s.

It is generally considered that Richardson’s harsh cuts unnecessarily deepened New Zealand’s recessionary effects. It caused considerable misery throughout the country as businesses collapsed; GDP fell; the prison population increased; and credit ratings agencies downgraded the country.

As John Key’s government lays plans for implementing more state sector cuts, it is clearly apparent that New Zealand’s economy is still struggling,

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And just to really drive home the fact that matters are becoming dire,  ratings agency Standard & Poor’s today downgraded the credit ratings of our major banks;  ANZ New Zealand, ASB, BNZ, and Westpac New Zealand,along with their Australian parents.

Things are not looking terribly flash,

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Whilst it is abundantly obvious that we cannot influence events on the other side of the globe, and that the slow disintergration of the Eurozone; the economic downturn in China; and America’s mind-numbingly huge deficit – that our government can still play a role in what happens locally.

First and foremost, now is not the time to be cutting back on state sector spending and government workers. Adding to unemployment will not help matters and will simply,

  • reduce overall consumption spending by unemployed civil servants
  • make it harder for 154,000 currently unemployed to find jobs
  • reduce overall economic activity

John Key needs to read up on our recent history and learn from the mistakes of his predecessors, Jim Bolger and Ruth Richardson.

He needs to understand that government cutbacks during a recession will not help – and will actually make matters much worse.

Instead, the incoming government should be considering the following;

  • Shelve all plans for further cutbacks
  • Abandon further cutbacks of state sector employees
  • Implement a crash training programme for those currently unemployed, removing barriers such as fees
  • Raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour
  • Compensate the increase in  minimum wage with a correlating tax write-off/reduction, for companies affected for one year
  • Increase the top tax rate for income earners over $100,000
  • Review Working for Famlies for those earning over $100,000

Some high income earners, businesspeople, and free marketeers may squeal at the above suggestions – but we either pay to keep our economy afloat and maintain high employment – or we’ll pay for  welfare, increased crime, social dislocation and other problems, as well more skilled Kiwis fleeing to Australia.

Why not pay to achieve positive outcomes instead of the proverbial ambulance at the bottom of the cliff?

Because either way, we will pay.

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Additional

Wellington hit with leap in mortgagee sales

Wellington furniture company in liquidation

Fourth National Government of New Zealand

The 1991 Budget and Tertiary Education: Promises, Promises…

Reserve Bank – Employment-Unemployment

Dept of Corrections: Prison sentenced snapshot trend since 1980

Annual figures for Bankruptcies and Liquidations since 1988

Chris Ford: National/ACT Coalition aiming to complete New Right revolution

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Greed is good?

28 August 2011 54 comments

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

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

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

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

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

To re-cap;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source:  Radio New Zealand

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Specifically,

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

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

Source:  Dominion Post

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: NZUSA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Except, it did not quite happen that way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Inter-island Ferry, Aramoana

Dams and other power generation projects

Our first television broadcast system

Roading and highways

Hospitals

University education

Dental care for our Children

Our Police and justice system

Railways and other public transport

Schools

State Housing

Infrastructure such as power transmission lines

Social welfare and superannuation

Bridges

Postal and telecommunications systems

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

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

$13.9 billion in student debt?

No wonder they are departing our shores…

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Dominion Post

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Further Reading

Greed of boomers led us to a total bust

New Zealand’s wealth gap widens

Over-55s own most of NZ’s wealth

 

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A lethal lesson in de-regulation…

18 August 2011 2 comments

More here.

De-regulation and an open, unfettered economy was the big fashion in the late 1980s (“Rogernomics”) and 1990s (“Ruthenasia”). It was argued by neo-liberals; the wealthy; and by segments of wannabee-rich middle class, that de-regulation was the new paradigm that would create an efficient; highly productive; wealthy society.

We would become the “Ireland” of the South Pacific – and Ireland at the time was doing extremely well, economically.

So the National government of the day, led by Prime Minister Jim Bolger, and with Ruth Richardson as his Minister ofFinance, continued what a Labour cabal consisting of Roger Douglas, Richard Prebble, Peter Dunne, Michael Bassett, et al, had started: de-regulating the economy.

The new mantra was “De-regulation, good. Government regulation, bad”.

It was a childishly simplistic notion, and one that would cost us dearly in terms of vast sums of money; destroyed dreams; and lives lost.

The years passed. The 20th Century turned into the new 21st Century. The public became tired of National, and elected a new, Labour government, led by Helen Clark. Labour had a hard task of paying off a decade of accumulated debt and resolving deep social problems that were afflicting the country; growing poverty; high unemployment; increasing cases of poverty-related disease; lack of support for the country’s mentally ill;  a loss of state housing (National had sold off 13,000 state houses during it’s tenure); and other pressing matters.

There were also two silent time-bombs waiting in the shadows.

In the early 1990s, changes were made to the Building Act 1991/Building Regulations 1992  with several  subsequent amendments.

Effectively, these amendments de-regulated much of the industry, permitting untreated timber to be used where, previously, only treated varieties could be using for house construction. New materials could also be used that had not previously been common in residential building, including a newly fashionable “Meditteranean style”.

Similar de-regulatory events were to take place in Health & Safety, in 1992,  with regards to mining. In 1998 seven dedicated OSH mines inspectors were absorbed into OSH.  The disbanding of the mines inspectorate group, and moving its functions to the Department of Labour, had saved about $1 million. Health and safety (mines)  inspector, Michael Firmin,  was the sole inspector of mines left.

The bombs were set, and the fuses lit.

On 26 May 26 2001, the first “bomb” went off, with a NZ Herald article  revealing that a growing number of new or near-new houses were rotting because of lack of water-tightness.

On 19 November 2010, the second “bomb” went of at Pike River mine, as a methane explosion killed 29 mine-workers.

Investigation into both the “Leaky Homes Syndrome” and the Pike River disaster have one, inescapable common factor: regulations that were once in place, had been removed; altered; or watered-down. In both cases, de-regulation had meant a lack of direct responsibility for ensuring that whatever regulations did remain, were not observed.

Hopefully, New Zealand has learnt a harsh, expensive, and deadly lesson about de-regulation. Regulations are there for a reason. Like the road speed limit. We may not always like the nuisance that rules and regulations provide – but they exist for our safety and our financial security. (When the Huntly West mine blew up in 1992 there were no fatalites. (Former) Chief coal mine inspector Harry Bell had closed it down 36 hours before.)

If we give away regulation for expediency, or because it fits some trendy political free-market ideology – then be prepared  for the consequences. Because as sure as day follows night; there will be consequences.

One thing I have noticed about my generation, the “Baby Boomers”; we seem to be child-like in so many respects. We are  impatient – we want it now. Until the Cullen Fund – we didn’t want to save for our retirement (the Fund had to bribe us with a $1,000 kick-start from the government – ie, us, the taxpayer). We accepted tax-payer funded free education from our parents – only to abandon it and force User-Pays on our own children, through Student Fees. Charming.

We ignore complicated social issues – in favour of displaced penguins and “Wellywood” signs. We lose interest in matters that demand our long-term attention – a fact that politicians are aware of, and exploit to their benefit.

By god, we need to grow up. Because, collectively, we are still making incredibly bad or stupid decisions based on self-interest and short-term gain.

Our lack of collective wisdom; our inability to see things long-term; our willingness to accept short-term gain – and never mind the consequences – should give us cause for concern.

Unfortunately, I am pessimistic that we will “grow up” any time soon. In fact, I await the next silent “bomb” that is ticking away, somewhere, in the shadows. How much will it cost us? And will we pay dearly, in lives?

Postscript: following the global banking crisis, Ireland is now bankrupt and a fiscal basket-case needing bail-outs from the EU to survive.

From “Nanny State” to “Daddy State”…

I don’t think there’s much question that  serious social problems in this country  are not being addressed in any meaningful way by this current government…

So is the Prime Minister, John Key, really  aware of what is actually going on in New Zealand right now?  Well, judge for yourself…

So what is National doing about soaring youth unemployment?

At their recent Conference, held in Wellington, they came up with this…

(Article abbreviated)

They’re going to clamp down on booze and cigarettes?!?!

That’s it?

Oh good lord! And people thought that Labour was “Nanny Statist”?!?!

I wonder who will be next to feel the iron fist of National’s Polit-buro state control? The retired? Civil Servants? Anyone using state hospitals???

Congratulations, my fellow New Zealanders: we have gone past Nanny State to Big Brother.

It might be worthwhile considering that,

  • Not all unemployed youth smoke
  • Not all unemployed youth drink
  • Even if they do,  Key says that they will still receive “a limited amount of money for young people to spend at their discretion“.  Like… on booze and ciggies?!
  • Even if they won’t have enough “discretionary pocket money” – what is to stop them stealing it? Or selling their Food Card for cash, and then buying ciggies and booze?

In the meantime, how many jobs will this piece of neo-Nanny Statism create?

The answer, I submit, is:

Even the NZ Herald was quick to acknowledge this simple fact in their August 16 editorial,

Yet there is also nothing in the Prime Minister’s announcement that creates jobs for young people. There, the Government still has work to do.”

Meanwhile, as National blames the young unemployed of this country for the world recession, and proposes to penalise them by tinkering with their only means of survival – the problem continues unabated,

The last time youth unemployment was this high was in 1992…

1992?

Wasn’t that the previous National government led by Jim Bolger, with Ruth Richardson as Minister of Finance? And didn’t she implement a slash and burn economic policy in her “Mother of All Budgets” that resulted in unemployment reaching over 10%?!?!

Why, yes. It was.

Are we starting to see a pattern develop here, folks?

It is abundantly clear that National has no clue how to address this problem. Attacking welfare benefits which keep people from starving to death, or more likely, breaking into our homes to find food, is not an answer. It is a cheap shot geared toward winning votes from uneducated voters who hold the illusion that living on a benefit is a cosy arrangement (it is not).

There are no policies being announced to create jobs, or to train young people into a trade or profession.

National should be throwing open the doors of our polytechs to train young people into tradespeople that the community desperately needs. With the re-building of Christchurch shortly to commence – where are the necessary tradespeople going to come from? (Most have buggered of to Australia.)

If this is the best that National can come up with, then, my fellow New Zealanders, we are in deep ka-ka.

Meanwhile…

Dr Mapp said the research science and technology was the way to create jobs, economic growth and a higher living standard for the country.

“To that end, it is vital that high-tech, exporting companies maintain their competitive edge in global markets.”

The grants range from $300,000 to $5.9m and run for three years.

They are valued at 20 per cent of the research and development spend in each business and provide a maximum $2.4m a year for three years.

Dr Mapp said they provide the businesses involved with more financial security over that period.

Businesses to get grants in the latest round were involved in  software development, biotechnology, manufacturing and electronics.

Wellington companies which received grants:

Core Technology: $629,400

Open Cloud: $2,394,920

Xero: $4,040,000

Xero was founded by Rod Drury in 2006,  who made $65 million in the same year after selling his email archiving system AfterMail. Xero purchased Australian online payroll company,  Paycycle, in July of this year for A$1.5 million.

Which begs the question as to why the government has given away $4 million of tax-payers money when the owner is ‘flush’ with $65 million and has enough capital to buy off-shore  companies elsewhere.

Is this a prudent use of tax-payers’ money,  especially when,

* government is cutting back on social services?

* government has cut back on youth training programmes?

* government is borrowing $380 million a week, and telling the rest of us to “tighten our belts”?

At a time when government is berrating unemployed 16 and 17 year olds for being on the dole and  “smoking ciggies”, instead of  providing meaningful training and/or employment, it seems that National is still “picking winners” in the field of commerce.

$4 million could go a long way in providing training, and a future, for many 16 year olds.

By contrast, how much do young people, living away from home, recieve from WINZ? It must be a grand sum, to earn the Prime Minister’s stern attention. The answer is:

It’s a shame they’re not “picking winners”  with our unemployed youth.